We’ve seen fridges, shoes and lawnmowers, pulled camping chairs from cars. We’ve dug up wood and plastic, glass and metal bits, found grocery receipts. The outbuilding was full of filing, doors and wooden floorboards. And found beneath the spider’s wreaths a black-filled old wash basin – a brick-built hole sunk in the ground now a congealed and furnaced wastebin. A painted swing set, seats rotted plastic, that I bent up in our skip. Then so many tools, billhooks and brooms, one holding the back door shut, and – oh – the filthy lean-to with its rank door-hanging blanket. Though in this cobweb haven there’d been a large pink chest of drawers, which Jenna would have loved to save had it not fallen apart on the way outdoors, the wood heavy with damp that burned so bad and stunk the garden for hours. Plus all the ceilings we tore down, me punching plaster with scaffold length, the countless splintered lathes levered off with hammer through the gap rent. Thank God Mick did the bathroom, for our trusty roofer started, and brought down on him and his son the soot a chimney fire left. There’s still nails in the attic beams to claw out from their moorings, the window up there shedding light on the links between three buildings. A jug turned up, a gutter trough, and how I am bereft, to think the statuette I found I later smashed in blindness – stacking tiles of Cotswold stone that had come off the roof, careless in my hucking moves and not looking carefully enoof. Enough… Enough scrap metal came from the ground to pay Andy to remove, the two abandoned cars I mentioned with their cargoload of shoes. I’ve also talked about the brambles, perhaps decades without enemy, but not remarked on the stalwart vine that still lives on despite injury – though to be fair it looked like hair, petrified and winding, and doubtless hadn’t fruited much since Major turned his keys in. Not everything, it’s surprising, that we found in the garden, was destined only for the skip, some of it we’re still admiring. One or two bits left inside have found their place around us, like the fire surround (it’s painted now) or the Rayburn, despite the rust. But wonderfully, financially, we gained from our archaeology when ebay helped the house pay its way, be it spare guttering or a chimney. (And yet our finds they weren’t restricted, to just inside our boundary, for we snatched a deal on a cast-iron steal of a fireplace hauled from a shed) There’ll no doubt be, forgotten to me, a dozen other prizes, that Jen will know – in fact there you go, another memory rises of an aged motorbike that a local pub landlord liked. And how could I neglect to tell how we were welcomed in, by our community figure elect, the wiry John Deacon. Funny thing was I knew his name, a reputation on the fame of a tricksy wicketkeeper, from my having played in Shrivenham [say it posh] before we’d even moved here. Our house was once his brother’s place though long it’d been kept so poor, and so to show his gladness now he gifted us the perfect back door. To put it thus it’s clear so much has been given by this house, that could have otherwise found itself left forever to go south. But most of all (though our gain’s not small) regardless of the value, the benefit I’ll most be proud is of the man it turned me into.