Chapter 22: Suzanne – August 1976

Suzanne and her father, Jack had been in the Pimlico house for a month.  The arrangement suited them both and they had settled into a routine that fulfilled their needs for both company and solitude.

Suzanne had found the house during a Saturday trawl of the estate agents.  A Georgian five storey terraced house, in the middle of Pimlico on Westmorland Terrace.  It could be perfect for their needs and they should be able to afford it with only a small mortgage for her to pay.  She had viewed the house and liked it immediately.  More important, she could see that with some structural work it would provide the flexibility of joint living space and private quarters that they wanted.

The sale of the Oxford house had gone through almost immediately the house went on the market in March.  Her father then surprised Suzanne.  Once he had approved the new house he elected to leave for a visit to Australia to visit an old friend who had emigrated to Sydney over 20 years before.  She was impressed and pleased by his intrepidness and waved him off from Heathrow on the start of his adventure.

Suzanne completed the purchase of Westmorland Terrace and, organised to a fault, had the builders in the next day executing the modifications that she had had an architect design for her.  The plans that the architect had produced made the most of the tall thin building, opening up rooms and letting in lots of natural light.  When the house was finished they had a large dining kitchen on the lower ground floor with French windows out onto the postage stamp patio garden.  On the same floor, at the front of the house there was a large study, cum snug, for Jack.  The ground floor provided a spacious sitting room.  At the back where the old kitchen had been there was now a guest bedroom and shower room.  The first floor was made into a spacious bedroom and bathroom for Jack and the second floor the almost identical layout for her.  The top floor was to be a hobbies room for Suzanne, a roof light adding to its usefulness and appeal.

The architect had maximised storage opportunities in her design.  Bookcases were to be built into the alcoves either side of the fireplaces in the reception rooms and likewise clever layouts in the bedrooms allowed for built in wardrobes.  The studies were both lined on one wall with a combination of shelves and cupboards to meet any storage eventuality.  Suzanne, in keeping with her architect’s advice, had all the wooden floors polished and repaired where necessary and kept the decorations very neutral in a palette of whites and creams.  The patio was newly brick paved and a raised border built against the end wall for a few plants to suit her limited gardening talents.

Suzanne took a few days off work to supervise moving her meagre belongings from the Earls Court flat and to arrange delivery of the few pieces that her father had decided to keep and store, his desk and the old scrubbed pine kitchen table being the largest.  These tasks complete she planned her shopping spree; a combination of Habitat, Heals and John Lewis should do it she thought finishing her list.

By the time Jack returned from his big adventure in Australia the house was well nigh finished.  The lower ground floor looked sensational the blonde wood of the kitchen units and the oak of the floor relieved by white painted walls featuring a couple of giant, colourful framed posters beneath which sat a large squashy sofa.  The chrome and black leather chairs brought from her flat, the contrast really effective, surrounded the old kitchen table.  The French windows stood open to show the pocket size patio garden replete with potted plants and a small wrought iron table and chairs, perfect for reading Sunday papers on a nice day.  In his study Jack’s desk was placed so that he had light from the basement window and his boxes of books had been arranged tidily on the bookshelves.  Suzanne had bought a big comfy swivel chair and a cheerful patterned rug to warm the wood floor.

For the ground floor living room Suzanne had used a lovely rug from the Oxford house that she hardly remembered; here it provided a strong feature for the otherwise neutral colour scheme. Suzanne picked out a couple of prints in red and ochre, which complimented the main colours of the rug.  She’d bought three medium sofas that sat around the fireplace with occasional table between and a large coffee table in front; they were covered in cream linen loose covers with a scattering of bright cushions.  She had put the bed from her flat in the guest room and it looked cosy covered in the orange throw and red cushions.

In her father’s room she had kept the furnishings simple and masculine, the covers in a burgundy colour that she knew he liked, and a natural wool carpet for warmth.  She had bought matching towels for his bathroom, which was big enough to contain a separate large shower cubicle as well as the large traditional freestanding bath.

Her own rooms, which she showed him proudly, were configured in the same way as his own but she had chosen softer colours. A French style sleigh bed was covered in a patchwork quilt in pinks, reds and whites splattered with flower and bird prints that she had made herself.  The old chair from her flat set by the window for reading.  Her bathroom was much the same as the one downstairs so they just glimpsed this on the way to a final stop in her loft room.  Here she had chosen to have a big table, which had been awkward to get up the stairs, now here it provided a central working space beneath the new skylights.  She would use it for working, but also for writing, painting and sewing all of which she enjoyed doing in her leisure time.

Jack was awestruck by his daughter’s practicality and taste.  He thought she had made a brilliant job of the house and he told her so.  They spent a lovely evening together happy in their new home, and with lots to talk about had a late night.

The final additions to life in Westmorland Terrace came courtesy of Rebecca.  She had arrived for super clutching a large wicker basket, which was emitting squeaks of protest from its inhabitants.

‘House warming present’ she announced, hoping that the new arrivals would be warmly received.  ‘Here.’  She passed the basket to Suzanne, ‘Take a look, they are soo cute!’  Suzanne opened the basket on the kitchen floor to reveal two small kittens, a tabby and a black and white; their eyes round with curiosity.  Suzanne lifted them carefully out from captivity and watched them as they skittered around the kitchen inspecting everything, occasionally distracted by an ear that needed a scratch or a tail chasing interlude.

‘Come and see what Becca’s brought us’ she called through to her father in the study.  Jack came through and greeted Rebecca who he hadn’t seen for some time and admired the antics of the kittens for a while.  He liked cats.  They had had a pair not dissimilar from these when Suzanne was a toddler he reminisced to the girls.

‘Do you remember darling?’ he asked Suzanne.

‘Yes of course, they were around until I went to school.  Weren’t they called Cain and Abel?’

‘Yes that’s right they were.  You do have a good memory.’  He smiled benignly at the two friends and volunteered to open the bar.

‘Great stuff, thanks Dad, meanwhile I’m going to take Becca for a tour of the house.’

‘Please’ Rebecca responded springing to her feet, ‘I love this room, by the way; can’t wait to see the rest.’

Rebecca was genuinely impressed by what her friend had achieved in the house.  It was lovely.  Suzanne shrugged off the praise and attributed the success to the brilliant architect that she had used.

‘It cost far less than I thought it would and she solved so many problems and came up with innovative ideas that I never would have thought of.  I would definitely use her again, except I probably won’t ever move.’ She qualified.

The tour finished they returned to the kitchen to join Jack who had their drinks ready.  Suzanne put the finishing touches to the meal while Jack described what he had seen of Australia and related some of his experiences there at Rebecca’s request.

They all watched the antics of the kittens with amusement as they listened to Jack’s exploits and the girls exchanged news.  Choosing names for the kittens then emerged as a priority; the black and white one proved quite easy as he had a distinctive black marking across the top of his head and eyes on his otherwise white face.

‘Zorro!’ said Suzanne, inspired.

‘Oh, brilliant Annie’ Rebecca nodded her agreement, ‘he looks just like a bandit!’  Naming the tabby required a bit more effort as they felt a theme was required.  The game provided much amusement as they dined on a very good Moussaka that Suzanne had prepared and drank some first class burgundy.   Finally, after a few suggestions that were met with groans of derision from the other participants, Rebecca cried,

‘Ziggy!’ she was a fan of David Bowie and the name seemed to go with Zorro, though way off the original thought track.

‘That’s it’ endorsed Suzanne, ‘Perfect, Ziggy and Zorro, I’ll have to get a poo tray and baskets for them tomorrow.’  Suzanne had put some newspaper down as a temporary measure and had tucked them up on a warm blanket for sleeping purposes when, exhausted by the excitement of the day they had curled up in a ball together on the sofa and fallen asleep.

Rebecca decided it was time for her to get back home to bed and said her farewells to Suzanne and her father.  Suzanne hugged her friend goodbye on the doorstep thanking her profusely for the kittens; she thought they would be great company for her father while she was out at work.

‘Take care of yourself Becca, you look tired and much too skinny’ reprimanded Suzanne with affection; she was worried about her friend and thought she was probably working too hard.

‘I will, don’t worry Annie’ she responded, thinking inwardly that this may be easier said than done.  Her relationship with Dylan was not at all what she had expected or hoped for.

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