Now that the house was almost fully functioning (don’t get me wrong – there is A LOT still to do/finish and even when we do there are barns and woods and by then the house will need redecorating – the kitchen already looks like it could do with a lick of paint!) we had more guests putting in requests to come and stay.
I remember reading an article written by Daisy Waugh years ago about why they finally sold their house in France. It was because she got fed up with people using it like a hotel and having to spend all her holidays cooking and cleaning for other people. And I also remember thinking – well that will NEVER happen to me cos my friends are not annoying posh people like hers and I love them all. And I do. And in fact it feels really quiet chez White when there is just us there. And as the house got more furbished – it became much easier to have larger groups of people all at the same time. And in Easter 2013 we hosted our biggest house party to date.
Many years earlier (too many to start counting but put it this way ER was the ‘hot new TV show’ at the time) I had shared a home in South West London with a group of total strangers I found via a thing called Loot. It was a listings newspaper that came out every week and people would place adverts in it for flat/house shares. These were the days before the internet when you actually called people up using a landline to arrange appointments to view. And so I went along, 21 years old and just out of Uni to look at a house on a street called Cavendish Rd in Balham. I ran into two people called Darren and Isobel on the way in who had just graduated from Cambridge and were looking for a place to move to in London. And that was that. We decided we sort of liked the look of each other and we sort of liked the house so we took it and moved in together. We found two others and our five bed house was full and the ‘Cavendish Rd’ gang were born. The later additions via moves, different shares etc included Dan, a fellow Cambridge Grad and Petra my now best friend and at the time, colleague of Darren. And those three years learning to be a grown up were some of the most fun of my life. Like Uni days but with a bit of disposable income. We lived mostly on a diet of Chardonnay and Covent Garden Soup Company soup. And we got promotions, changed career directions, fell in love (not with each other – phew) and because we had each other, it was OK that our boiler broke every winter. Or that the furniture in our big, ugly, rented house looked like people may have died on it years earlier. So, when, in 1996 I was offered a job in Australia, the decision to leave Cavendish Rd was made with a very heavy heart.
But, it was a promotion and it was AUSTRALIA! I had to go right? But as the Cavendish Rd crowd waved me through to departures at London’s Heathrow I sobbed into my passport and wondered if I’d made a terrible mistake.
But everyone’s lives moved on – the house share broke down and people graduated into smaller flats with working bathrooms. We all became proper grown ups. Darren even got married and before long everyone else did too. And then we had kids. Two each. And so that we didn’t lose touch with one another we arranged (and still do) every year to go away for a weekend somewhere with all our kids and we refer to it as the Cavendish Rd Weekend Away. Twenty adults and twenty kids.
And somewhere in the midst of all of this, someone suggested that a Cav Rd sub group could come over to France for Easter. And so that’s what they did. There was a bit of overlap which meant Darren, Dan and I plus our partners and kids could sit in my kitchen in SW France and wonder if we could ever have imagined all those years ago that one day, twenty or so years hence, we’d still be friends. And our wives, husbands et al would be friends. And our kids would be friends. And we’d be friends with each other’s kids as they grow older and develop personalities of their own. And Dan’s daughter Suki taught Seb how to play backgammon. Then Seb taught Suki how to shout ‘poo poo head’ really loudly at your parents.
And Dan taught Peter and I how to play bridge and got really cross when we beat him and his wife Louisa (beginners luck)
And on Easter Sunday we had a feast that didn’t involve any Covent Garden Soup Company Soup at all. See. We HAVE become grown ups!