It bemuses me to say “down the lane” and mean it quite literally. Our tiny, hidden street is a mini-community, and that suits us well. Appearance-wise, it couldn’t be more different than the condos we last lived in, which were built in 1980. These houses are at least 150 years old. But there are some similarities in that, like our condo, you usually are not on the street unless you live there, so you come very quickly to know your neighbors. Unlike our condo, however, there are seemingly ancient remnants everywhere. For example, just outside our kitchen, I can see the remains of a brick wall through the skylights. It may or may not help support this house, which is unattached, but the original structure it was part of is long gone.
Our neighbors seem to be a mix of long-timers and new renters. Esme, who lives closest to us in a house that makes me think of the French country side and smile whenever I walk past, raised all four of her children in her house .She has weather-beaten wood shutters and a wild, overgrown container garden out front. You have to look very closely to even find the containers, and that’s part of what I love. It’s almost as if she created a patch of soil from the pavement. She told us an older couple who live in one of the middle cottages have been here the longest, and called them the King and Queen. Avril and Steve are a young couple who live a bit further down the lane in one of the very renovated houses like ours. They have a very young baby—a beautiful girl just a few weeks old–and are surprisingly relaxed for new parents.
Every day, returning from the village, we round a stone wall to get to our lane. A pear tree from a garden on the adjacent street hangs over the wall, dangling its fruit. We spied an apple tree as well when we peered over the wall. It is catty-corner to a small cottage in the middle of a renovation. One day we met Gerry, who lives in the house with the pear tree and is renovating the cottage. Did we like rhubarb, he wanted to know? Gerry is tall and thin, perhaps 6’2, with hair and bushy eyebrows the color of straw and a seemingly-permanent ruddy complexion from working out in his yard. He took great pride in giving my mom and me a tour of the cottage he is renovating. I think, if I recall what Esme said, that he is a retired garda (police officer) who owns a bit of real estate in the area. Later in the afternoon, he came down the lane later that day with goods from his garden:
It was such a lovely gesture. There was an unexpected guest as well, who seemed as curious about the boys as they were about him, but I felt he would be happier (as would we) back over the wall of our garden.
We decided to make my mom’s apple cake to bring to Gerry as a thank you. For those of you who’ve had it, the apple cake is a simple one but everyone loves it. It is usually moist and delicious. I dug out the oven manual and narrowed down our control panel to one of two models and thought I had figured out the correct setting. Everything else was just conversion–cups to ml, Fahrenheit to Celsius. The ovens are fan-assisted, which means things can cook quite quickly. Well, this is what happened to our cake:
I was very disappointed. I don’t think I’ve burned anything like that, ever. I had better success making a strawberry rhubarb crisp, which isn’t as delicate as a cake.