Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Finding the House

I am trying very hard to remember what my first impressions were of the house I now know as home. Well, for starters, it was a lot bigger property than I had ever imagined I could afford, much bigger than the Cotswold cottage we had at home in the UK. But that said it was packed to the gunnels with a hotchpotch of furniture, all of it old and rather tatty, which actually reduced my appreciation of the size of the place. On that furniture lounged various members of the owners' family.

I was shown around by the daughter and son of the old woman, whose house this had been and who had died some seven years earlier. Since her death the house had been used as a chalupa by her children and grandchildren. Nothing much had been done to maintain the place in those seven years and one suspected not much had been done for many years before. Indeed everything had that make-do-and-mend look that I had come to recognise in many Czech properties, where an absence of money and access to DIY materials under the communists had led to sometimes brilliant inventiveness and more often to some very weird contraptions. This tradition has continued as a visit to the local DIY stores will vouch. Fortunately in the case of my house this seemed to have been combined with a degree of laziness that meant that the damage was limited, with the exception of an abandoned attempt at creating a shower (on the landing of all places).

In the large front room downstairs there was a sitting area with huge television and a kitchen made of punched metal (see above). Such a kitchen in the UK would have been a collectors' item, and would probably have been at a high specification of design, this cheap Czech version merited no such interest. Next to the stove was a door into the bathroom where there were two boilers (heated by wood), as the family had installed a new one and not bothered to remove the old. At the back of the ground floor were two cellars which were built into the hill behind and the door to the lower cellar.Upstairs were five rooms, one of which was being used as another sitting room. From the landing an open stair led into an enormous loftspace, so large that it could accommodate a reasonable-sized flat, but when I saw it first was a general dumping ground for broken furniture, old carpets etc. From the roof beams hung old duvets, which thanks to mice or martins were emptying their contents on to the floor. My friend told me that traditionally in Winter the roof space was used for drying the washing - it was as if the old lady had left her bedding up there to dry and never returned. The roof beams were huge compared to British ones and there were lots of them. The roof was covered with grey tiles which were beginning to fry and I noted would need replacing.

Despite the fact that I had said I didn't want to do any work on my Czech property purchase the potential of the place really appealed. Despite the tat and clutter the house spoke to me and it said "Take care of me!" and I listened in a way I had not done in any of the other places I had looked at.

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