Three and a half years ago a pregnant lady and a very tall man came across an advert on a house rentals website. It showed a charming cottage, tucked away in a little village within driving distance of their respective work places. It cost the same to rent as their town centre flat. They were excited.
As the couple were shown around the little cottage they exchanged smiles. They knew this was to be the house they would bring their baby back to. It was perfect.
A few weeks later, on a freezing day in December, the couple collected the keys to the little cottage, their new home. Walking around the rooms excitedly, they planned where their baby’s cot would go, what to do with their bookshelves and where to put the TV. Then they went to explore the village.
They found a pub, nestled between a canal and a lake, with a roaring fire and a tempting menu. They toasted their future with a beer and orange juice (the lady was still pregnant) and booked a van to carry their furniture.
On a dreary January morning, a big van pulled up outside the cottage. The couple tumbled out, with friends and family, lugging sofas and beds, shelves and clothes. After a day of carrying and unpacking, they shared a huge portion of fish and chips, sitting amongst boxes of books and kitchen utensils.
A knock on the door the following morning signalled a welcome from their new neighbours. A little boy handed the lady a card. As she watched him toddle away, the lady wondered if he might become a friend for her baby, due to be born that summer.
You can pack a lot into three and a half years. A baby, a wedding, a new career. The couple were happy. They made new friends and discovered a whole new life beyond their town centre existence of pubs and nightclubs.
A little girl was born in the summer after the couple moved in. As they arrived back from the hospital, the lady showed her baby around the little cottage that was to be her home. The thick cottage walls sheltered the baby girl from the hot sun outside. It was peaceful.
The little cottage became the scene of many firsts; first smiles, first words and first juddery toddler steps. As the baby girl grew, she referred to the little boy next door as her “big brother”, copying him in everything that he did.
On sunny afternoons, the pair would wander into each other’s gardens, playing in paddling pools, imaginary building sites and sandpits.
The family stored away memories of their time in the little cottage, first as two, then as three. They remembered the barbecues in the garden, the Christmas dinners in the dining room and the cosy evenings in front of the log fire.
And they took those memories with them to their new home, 200 miles away, near the sea. It was time for a new chapter in the family’s life.
But they would never forget that little cottage, or the friends who lived in that village.
It would always be the place where their story started.