A 'villa' is how the builder's hoarding had described the new home near the extremes of the Great West Road, and Mable and Jeff had loved it from the start though neither knew at first how it was to be purchased. With adjoining gables that gave it and its mirror partner a surprised look, as if to say 'you!' it hid behind saplings that one day would have copper nails hammered into untidy un-municipal trunks by way of secretive arboricide. Even the lustre of the zinc-coated dustbins gave promise of a new world where HV Morton had said London ended.
Beige-tiled fire-surrounds and standard British fire-grates sang songs of home and home-making, as did the larder with its half-height meat-safe. This was the only place to raise a family, this suburban outpost: if only.
Then a continental war intruded, and Jeff was surprised to learn that the neat border on the pages of the Collins Atlas were marked not with printers ink but his own blood, smeared across the Lowland retreat to Dunkirk.
The cast-iron combined door-knocker and letter-flap rapped out the intruding call of the telegraph girl and her unwelcome news.
Mable herself had 'a good innings', they said in later years, though they wondered at the clutter and the lack of mod-cons. The round-pin electrical sockets, the bar-heater low on the bathroom wall, and over-painted iron window-frames cried out for a reforming visit from a B&Q card-holder. The estate agent's caress was complete with the injunction 'in need of some attention', as had been Mable for most of her life.