I have so many happy memories of Cross Tree House. The house itself, which is large and rambling and comfortable, with stone flagged floors in the hall and dining room, leaded windows looking onto a walled garden at the back and a green lawn and a privacy-guarding hedge at the front, a narrow corridor upstairs which runs nearly the full width of the house, bedrooms opening off it, with a floor of polished boards which swell and sink like a wooden sea, so warped are they with time. The house has an actual green baize door between the dining room, which presumably had been the original servants’ quarters and the family living areas at the front, and bell pulls in some of the rooms. It faces southeast, so gets the sun in the living room in the mornings, when it is lovely to sit with tea and toast and the papers, relaxing at the start of the day.
The other delight is the way it’s furnished. I’ve already mentioned the beautiful oak furniture made by the owner specifically for the house, but it has so much else as well. Every room is furnished as if the house were a home, with comfortable homely furniture and delightful little knick-knacks scattered about. The owner is married to an artist and he and his wife collect art; much of their collection by local artists, including many of her paintings, are hung in the house, adding to the feel of a much-loved family home. It always felt like that to me, anyhow, particularly since, over the eighteen years we visited, the owner, John, became a friend.
And I have so many happy memories of good times there with the people I love the best, including of my fiftieth birthday when about twenty people jammed into the house and Hilary and the rest of the family presented me with a wonderful gift, an oak bench made by John especially for me. On the back of it he carved my initials and the logo of the house, an oak tree with the trunk and branches made out of a stylised cross.
I knew I wanted the house logo as one of my tattoos, particularly as this year is the last time we shall visit Cross Tree. John is selling it, and although the new owner may also rent it out, without his furniture, his paintings and above all his kindness and generous welcome, it wouldn’t be the same. We shall have to find a new home. But a little bit of Cross Tree will come with me in the shape of a new tattoo on my left wrist, the Cross Tree logo, very slightly amended so that the trunk and branches are no longer a cross, but a T for Tigger.