The Way We Lied

And when I returned it looked the same. The ancient listed house had barely changed since my parents left ten years ago. It was still shrouded in ivy and wisteria, peering under timbered windows through the avenue of yew trees. I walked slowly down the gravel drive, the stones crunching beneath my measured pace as I tried to judge whether anyone was on the site.
Halfway along I stopped, feeling the spring sunshine on my face, watching the light brighten the daffodils and the sparkling white narcissus. Small birds were chirping and darting between the shrubs and a woodpecker was drumming on the stag headed oak. I closed my eyes and the sounds recalled an earlier time, a time thirty-five years before when we first came here.
After protracted negotiations with a difficult vendor, a damning survey and with the help of anxious estate agents, my parents had driven down ahead of the removal van to claim our keys. And we had stood in this very drive, surrounded by nodding flowers, and opened our arms wide to embrace our new property, an old manor house only half a mile from the village. This is all ours now, we had cried and my two brothers and I had run around in high excitement, exploring the gardens, the orchard, the paddock and the old overgrown tennis court.
But now, although it still stood largely unchanged, I knew that the once secluded house was soon going to be surrounded by neighbours. Many more families will live here once the new houses are built in the grounds. There will be small gardens and the paddocks will be tamed by suburbia, caged by panelled fences and dotted with prim geraniums instead of wild meadow grasses and buttercups. I imagined their children playing on brightly coloured plastic climbing frames and swings instead of crawling on their scabbed knees into leafy camps under bushes or scrambling up decaying trees.


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