And mine needs a new moat.
Home is the place we retreat to. Walls are lined with love ready to cocoon us and always there is a door to close on the ugliness of the world outside. It is a place where we are safe, loved and protected by the very act of creating a sanctuary for our soul.
For most of us, that security is something we take for granted. Something we hold dear, deep inside and forget to acknowledge until our little brick worlds are threatened by forces stronger than any amount of love or DIY can conquer.
This morning I was lying snuggled up in more quilts than are really necessary for a warm May morning. Busy watching the bright sun paint lacy petticoats on my ceiling, worrying about blackbirds and thanking the Lord that Finley had obviously decided to have a lie in. I was calm. Quietly grateful. And Ok. I was Ok.
And then the house shook with the force of a mans fist.
I lay still. Scared. This was no ordinary knock. No gentle morning delivery from Postman Steven or neighbourly call from a friend. No. There was aggression in every bang. Demanding, threatening and liable to force the glass panelled door off its precarious hinges at any moment.
Creeping out of bed I pulled back a fraction of the curtain and saw a big man standing in the garden. Another hammering on the door. Two gigantic men in mean uniforms. Ready to have my guts for garters by the looks of it.
My heart was beating so fast I could feel it jumping in my mouth. You know how it feels to hear a noise in the middle of the night? A
noise that sends goosebumps dancing all over your body and has you
lying so still that even your own heartbeat compromises your hearing? Petrification in a Eygptian cotton duvet? That is how it was.
So I got back in bed. It seemed the wisest thing to do. I wasn’t wearing any clothes. I was naked. Exposed. And there was a three year old little boy asleep in the next room who must be protected at any cost. All this at seven thirty in the morning.
It must have been obvious to the rest of the street that these men were debt collecters. Whisper it, Bailliffs! Come in their big van to collect God Knows what and take me, Finley, my nine hundred year old Tv and microwave with them to the poorhouse where they would force feed us porridge and make us sleep on horsehair mattresses.
I rang Mark and shouted in the kind of whisper that leaves your throat wretched. I ranted about him leaving which made no sense at all, but drowned out the banging and made me feel better, because for sure I couldn’t imagine what these men wanted and for the umpteenth time in twelve months I felt exhausted with the sheer stress of stitching life together and watching the strain show in every seam.
And then before I knew it he was there. Standing at the end of my bed. A demand for a parking ticket of old in his hand. A sheepish look on his face. One more nail in a coffin he was banging shut from the inside. I got up and drank the tea he proffered and wondered how much longer I would be forced to wade through the detritus of our relationship.
I don’t know why I am telling you this. It goes against the laws of propriety to discuss financial issues in such a manner. We abhor the stigmatisation of debt and yet turn away from it, secretly appalled when we come across it in others, sipping tea and changing the subject. It is I suspect the last taboo. But I wanted you to know because after Mark had gone, I got Finley dressed and left the house for the day. Though the likelihood of a repeat visit was gone, home, our safehouse was draped in silly shame and I had to escape it.
You see it doesn’t take much for our home to become the enemy. Bailiffs knocking on the door when the rest of the world is asleep. A mouse playing croquet on the rug. History written on the tiles. A leaky roof. Burglars in stripy t-shirts. The stench of discord. An invasion of ants or even the relentless buzz of a single wasp…
So we have to find a way to respect the darker side of homemaking. We have to pay bills, fit locks and insulate rooves. Keep termites and debt collectors at bay and re-decorate when the scrawl of one memory after another begins to take it’s toll. We have to build our moats with care, foresight and thought for all that goes beyond the next puttery treat or ounce of frilly fripperie.
Life may be hard but we owe it to ourselves to honour the walls that for the most part protect us.