Having to queue to get to work by car is only marginally less annoying than having to queue to get home again. My route to and from work is actually quite picturesque, although not in a pretty countryside sort of way. It takes me along a lovely, tree-lined residential road with beautiful and very large properties on either side. Queueing, sometimes for as long as 20 minutes, gives me time to gaze at the lovely homes, watch the progress of the very many improvements and extensions being built and, of course, to speculate about who lives there.
After about a mile the road cuts across another wide avenue and just on the other side, as the road sweeps down a short hill, there was a modest bungalow. The house stood out for several reasons. It was very small. The blue paintwork of the doors and window frames was old and peeling and the lace curtains in the windows never changed. The large gardens around it were very overgrown with huge untended bushes and trees which encroached on the semi -circular drive in the front. On the right of the house there was a tiny detached garage and in front of the old wooden doors was an ancient little caravan, an old motor bike and side car and one of those tiny three-wheeled cars. I googled the strange little car and I think it was a BMW from the early 50s, so surely quite rare.
Over the 10 years or so that I made my daily commute past the house, the caravan had disintegrated and crumbled to a heap, battered by the weather, and the bike and the little car just rusted where they stood. What a waste! They definitely looked to me as though they might once have been valuable. In the last couple of years, students began to park their cars in the drive. Rude, I thought, did they have permission? I assumed that the house must have been abandoned because I had seen no sign of life at all, not even a light in any of the windows.
Then, one dark winter’s afternoon, I saw her. There was a dim light on the porch and an ancient, stooped lady made her way slowly across the yard to the rubbish bin. She appeared to be wearing a long white nightie. In the half light, it looked for all the world like a wedding dress!
Now, I admit that this may have been a figment of my imagination, but of course it sent my mind racing. Had she been there alone all this time with no one to care for her or to help with the house and garden? Was she sitting forlorn in the half darkness, in her wedding dress, like poor Miss Haversham, jilted at the altar? Or had she been left all alone after a long and happy marriage, one half of a devoted couple with no children to comfort her when she lost her beloved husband? I’d say that he must have been a collector of the old vehicles, an enthusiast who would be horrified to know that they were just left to go to wrack and ruin over the years.
Sadly I’ll never know. Just a few weeks ago, to my horror, I saw bulldozers moving onto the site on my way to work. By the time I drove home again, the house was gone and by the next day the rubble had been taken away. It took no time at all to wipe out the bungalow, vehicles and all, and turn the whole area over. It’s now a plot of land with only the little garage and the rubbish bin left standing. I never saw any sign of a removal van, nor do I think the vehicles were taken away, so it looks as though everything – a life and all its trappings – was just swept away. It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye, and I admit it did cause me to well up one day in my queue. If what sat on that property was a mystery, the mystery is infinitely greater now that it’s gone.