Saturday, 28 June 2014

Wonderland

Hello everyone! I suddenly have 1000's of things to blog about, but realise I really can't let this subject go without a blog mention. So here we are.

My big current news is that Hywel, I, and Restrained Elegance have moved house. We were getting awfully cramped in our old quarters, and though it was a convenient location for London, none of us actually visit London very often really, since Hywel works at home, I work all over the world, and Restrained Elegance is technically in Chicago anyway.

So we made a list of things we all needed from anywhere new. This is what it would need;-

1) To have an outbuilding to house Restrained Elegance, so that it could spread its wings.

2) To have plenty of outdoor, private space to facilitate outdoor shooting, and peaceful nude sunbathing.

3) Be near to a station so collecting models wouldn't be an issue.

4) Be near enough to motorways and airports that I could get to work without trouble, and come home again regularly.

5) Be beautiful, our old house wasn't really.

6) Be within reach of good quality walking; both of us love hill walks.

7) To have a big kitchen, since we cook and entertain a lot.

8) Not be 'Listed' and therefore under the control of local Conservation Authorities.

So, armed with this, we started our search in Shropshire, one of the UK's most rural and beautiful counties, and bordering on Wales, which is of course where Hywel is from. Gradually we found ourselves looking further and further West, and nearer and nearer to Wales, since the countryside gets lovelier and lovelier, and the houses get cheaper too.

And finally, we found the particulars of a house that simply didn't seem as though it could be real. Twice the floor area of our Berkshire house, beautiful in the way that only Georgian buildings really can be, and with the sort of grandeur that we can normally only get by hiring a place for a Restrained Elegance shooting week.

The downside was that it was over the border into Wales, which made me suspicious that it'd simply be too far from a motorway for me to be able to ever make it home between shoots. But we decided to go and look at it amongst other houses in the area.

We waited for the agent in the drive, gazing at the grand glazed porch with rambling roses growing around it. Something must be terribly, awfully wrong with it I thought, and vowed not to get excited - the agent would have to disclose anything that'd come up in previous searches, so I was guessing that there was some kind of catastrophic systemic problem with the fabric of the house. I also noticed that the front door, while wide, was extremely short; anyone over 5ft 9 or so would have to duck to get in.

But the agent arrived, we did indeed duck as we went in, and we found ourselves standing on a fine, patterned, tiled floor, with a wood-floored study to our right, and a gorgeous little sitting room with marble fireplace to our left. Down a few stairs and we came to a large kitchen with more than enough space for a big dining table (which has been our wish for ages). Down a few more stairs and we were in the utility room; a massive space with three, THREE floors. Restrained Elegance couldn't have asked for more storage space anywhere really.

I gathered myself to ask the question. 'Why hasn't it sold? And why isn't it on the market for more?'. The estate agent looked a little embarrassed, and we waited to hear about rising damp, beetle infestations, hauntings... 'People don't know what to make of this...' he said, pointing to a small door in the utility room's wooden wall. We followed him, and found ourselves in...

A stone dungeon. Seriously. A network of tunnels with a cave-like cell through an archway, and a wooden staircase marching up towards the ceiling. Hywel and I couldn't help it, we started to laugh. 'What would you use it for?' asked the courteous but slightly baffled agent. 'Well, we're fetish photographers' Hywel explained.

Up the staircase we found a bedroom which had been decorated like... Ancient China. Of course? What ever else? The other side of the landing, there was a master bedroom suite with huge dressing room and old fashioned bathroom (with pale green fittings - odd indeed). 'This is my favourite bit!' enthused the now excited agent; he showed us through a door in the dressing room. Beyond lay a huge square room, lit only by skylights, but bigger by far than any of the other bedrooms. 'And look!' the agent was in a corner, tugging on a ring in the floor. A trapdoor opened, which led (I'm not even lying) down to the DUNGEON!!

On the third floor we found offices with views of a far-off castle. And exploring further downstairs, we discovered a dining room with carefully painted murals of Japan on all the walls - with bright birds, blossom on trees, and mountains in the distance. It was extraordinary.

In the Victorian conservatory, I could bear it no more. I tried to make an offer, but Hywel quelled me before the estate agent noticed. He was right, we needed to discuss it really.

The garden was another lovely surprise. It's not big, but it's close to being private, with only a couple of trellises needed to make it totally so. But best of all, it has a canal running along at the bottom. Just so romantic - and we have a boat we'd be able to launch straight from home (a privilege that'd cost somewhere around a million pounds in the South East, I think).

So lunch at a local cafe was a rather rushed and fraught affair, and we went straight to see the agent after lunch and made an offer.

And several months (and lots of boring awful legal stuff later) we've moved in. It's worth noting that there is no outbuilding, we're an hour from a motorway and the house is, in fact, listed. So our list got a bit ignored in the end. But my goodness, so far we're all happy. Hywel has space for all his books, and places to walk when he needs thinking time away from his computer. I have a house which has a more beautiful architectural style than I ever dared to hope I could possibly own. And Restrained Elegance hosted its first shoot here yesterday. And the house is, so far, a dream to shoot in.

Not only this, but our super friends, Strict Mistress Zoe and Michael Stamp (who runs www.bars-and-stripes.com) have moved just down the road. So we have ready made kinky neighbours. Michael actually kindly crewed for us yesterday, and we're hoping to do lots of stuff together professionally as well as for fun.

So I feel as though we're living in Wonderland. Of course there'll be problems, and the problems will be expensive given the age of the house. But I feel very happy and content for now, and as though I'm really home for the first time in years. Which is ironic since I've so far managed only 6 nights sleeping here, I've been working in China as well as all over the UK. But I don't care. It's lovely.

And the whole wonder/Narnia-ish ness of the experience so far is only exacerbated by the fact that Hywel opened a hatch in a downstairs ceiling just now. And discovered a hugely high, vaulted roof with ancient pulleys and rusted industrial equipment screwed into the huge old beams. So we have a room we didn't even know about.

We'll do our best to help this house translate itself into higher level work for Restrained Elegance, Elegance Studios, and for fun for our friends, so that we won't be the only people enjoying it. You'll be hearing from it very soon :)

Thanks as always for reading,

Amelia/ariel (who is more or less used to ducking to get through the front door now)