I’m house sitting in a house that was built in the late 1920s and renovated just 8 years ago. The current owner told me that it is an airplane bungalow. I had to look up what that meant. An airplane bungalow has one or one-and-a-half stories in the middle of the house which look like the cockpit of an airplane. Usually the upstairs of the bungalow would be one or two rooms, in my house there are two bedrooms and a bathroom. I don’t think the house looks like an airplane but it’s a nice idea. My house has two wonderful porches, one out the front and one at the back. The front porch is covered by a sky blue roof and has space for a round table with four wicker chairs and a sofa with pretty blue and white cushions. There are two ceiling fans for those hot Virginia days. The back porch is for chasing the sun in the summer months.
When the owner of the house bought it she took a leap of faith. The house had ‘good bones’ but everything else was shot to pieces. It had been a house where college students lived – a frat house – and everything in it was either dirty, broken or graffiti-ed. There were mini mountains of bottle caps in the basement.
But now the house is warm and comfortable and it is my home for the next 3 months. I am learning to love its idiosyncrasies and I think it is beginning to like me too. I wasn’t sure at first. The first night, the radiators began to leak. It was New Year’s Eve but two kind gentlemen responded to my frantic call for help and stayed until the boiler in the basement began to behave itself and the leaks stopped. The second night three light bulbs stopped working. I’m hoping we are friends now.
In the kitchen there is a table from Les Deux Magots, a Parisian cafe where Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre came to write every day and the likes of Hemingway and Picasso and Joyce gathered. I like to sit and imagine that one or more of these brilliant people rested their elbows where mine rest now.
There is every appliance and utensil known to woman in the kitchen but strangely not one wooden spoon. I’ve learned that its possible to burn the ends of spaghetti when using a gas burner and I’m getting used to making tea without an electric kettle. Actually I like it.
A glorious chandelier hangs over the dining table and throws its gentle light on a cabinet gleaming with china and crystal. A handful of Chinese vases, now lamps, sit on polished oak and cherry tables and the walls are lined with oil paintings in thick gold frames. Mirrors bounce sunlight across the pastel pink and blue and green walls and handprinted tiles from France and Portugal spread sunshine in the bathrooms. It is unlike anywhere I have ever stayed and it is utterly charming.
Stepping into somebody else’s home is a strange experience, especially if you have only just met the somebody else but this is the essence of housesitting. It works because there’s mutual need and mutual benefit and plenty of trust. I travelled thousands of kilometres to stay in this house trusting only the few photographs that I had seen online. The owner of the house has allowed me, a complete stranger, to live in her home as if it was my own. It’s a great privilege.
But the best thing about this house is my neighbour. How kind do you have to be to come over on a cold dark night with a just-out-the-oven bowl of pot roast for someone that you’ve only just met? And then to come back again with a bag of chocolates that was forgotten the first time. That’s how kind she is and tonight I’m grateful for the kindness of strangers and excellent pot roast.
Categories: An American Adventure