‘You know, darling, she’s got that quality, she just lifts a room when she walks into it.’ I knew what the Thesp meant when he said that of a friend of mine. She does, as does the Thesp too. Virginia Woolf wisely noted some people are radiators and others drains. The Thesp emanates warmth from every fibre of his being and if anyone can lift a room it’s him. It’s one of the reasons I like having him around.
I remember a grand dowager telling me once about the two ladies who ‘did’ for her at her Scottish estate: ‘They’re completely hopeless at cleaning and ruin anything you give them to wash, but they always arrive with a smile on their face and it stays there all day. So hard to find these days and at my age, I’d much rather that and put up with a bit of dust.’ I rather agree.
Properties, largely determined by the people who inhabit them, can have a similar impact on us. There are places that I’ve walked into and immediately wanted to leave; such is the atmosphere. By contrast, I walked in to a house at the end of last week and lost my heart to it. The house, of course, had enormous charms; wider than the average London townhouse, the family kitchen leading onto a private garden that in turn leads onto a communal one.
It faces west and the late afternoon sun streamed a dappled light through the trees into this Victorian gem. It has the grand proportions of that era when Britain was at the height of the empire. Generous hallways, high ceilings, a feeling of invincibility and solidity. An assurance that all was and would be well in the world.
Those are the bones of the house. What raises the house to the exceptional though is the feel of the place. The couple that live there have raised four children in it and there is a palpable sense of a happy home filled with laughter and joyful memories. Family photographs cover the loos and ground floor rooms while the elegant first floor drawing room feels like a room in a country house facing onto lawns and trees.
The décor is stylishly unique and shows the owners’ strong visual sense and innate style. We sit outside together and discuss theatre, film, books and life in general before turning to property and what could possibly replace this abode.
I find myself having to resist prolonging the conversation, as I don’t want to leave this enchanted house. I know it’s not just the bones of this very good house, it’s the history, memories and ongoing lives being led there. This is a happy place, and they’ve made it such. I believe Virginia Woolf would declare them radiators.