A country lane. An iron-wrought gate. It opens automatically. The car silently glides up the winding drive. A turning circle in front. The car stops. I emerge.
Walking forwards. The doors open, and I enter. The high-ceilinged entry hallway is bathed in light streaming through the high windows above. This is an old house. Hidden passages, though you wouldn’t know it without a careful eye. Wood panelled walls. A library. Several living rooms. A conservatory, a large kitchen to name just a few. The pipes rattle as you draw a bath. That kind of house. A house, with character. With a presence. Even standing there now I can feel the house. It’s looking at me, and sizing me up, as much as I am looking at it.
I didn’t have much stuff to move from my old place. Mostly books and clothes. A minimal amount of furniture. And whilst I could tell that the house wouldn’t have a problem with books being housed inside its walls, it might not be quite as happy with having a refit of its electrics and plumbing.
When you end up owning a house like this, you have to negotiate with the house itself as much as with the seller. If the house doesn’t like you then you’ll have a hard time changing it. Sometimes it will want to change, but other times, like now, a house might be resistant to being brought into modern times. And when a house is in that kind of mood you might suddenly encounter unexpected issues whilst renovating. Issues that would cost a fortune to try fixing, only for them to recur again and again. Damp. Subsidence. Rotting roof beams.
It’s funny how people say that objects sometimes have a mind of their own. They never realise how close they are to the truth. But every saying has to start somewhere with some truth to it.
I know that to renovate this place for the modern era I’m going to need to first get to know the house. So I set about living in her, as she is used to being lived in. I fill her with books. I work around the limited electric points and make do with using logs fires for heating. I get to know her quirks and explore her passages.
Eventually I feel I’ve gotten to know her. And so I start doing some re-wiring. Stripping her down slowly. one room at a time, where possible. I know she likes her period fittings, so I’m careful that new sockets will keep to the existing style, even if there are now far more of them. By the end of this her electrics will be far more suited to our modern needs.
The hot water and heating system proves more of a challenge. She is reluctant to let go of the traditional wood fireplaces, and no amount of experimenting seems to go without resistance. problems continuously occur, as I feared. Eventually, having realised we are at an impasse, I decide to communicate directly with the house. Usually this isn’t necessary, in fact although it’s documented and taught how to perform this rite; there is no record of it having been performed in living memory.
Having found its core whilst first exploring and getting to know the house, I begin the preparations. Runes are sketched on the floor of the library in the middle of the house. Circles. are inscribed, and herbs are prepared.
The following evening, just as the moon is rising I perform the. ceremony, summoning the house to take on a form I can directly communicate with. As I complete the summoning and open my eyes, a fox is there. to greet me.
The fox tilted its head to one side and I blink.
“Not what you expected?” the fox asks from behind a grin.
“Not… exactly,” I stumble out “I expected a more human appearance”.
Bother. This was going to be more difficult than I expected. There’s a reason the saying is that someone is as sly as a fox.