Every area has its share of eccentric characters. When I used to drive past a row of old, rambling family houses on the run in to my local town, I’d nearly always see an old lady out at the front in all weathers, pruning her roses and trimming her hedge, or turning over the soil with a rusty spade. She had wild hair and wore a threadbare cardigan that was several sizes too large for her. Most people round here recognised her, even if they didn’t know her name. Suddenly she wasn’t there any more, and word filtered out that she’d passed on, been found in her bath by someone or other. Those houses are huge. Most get turned into flats these days, part of that modern, dismal attrition which strips the aesthetic out of provincial towns and turns them into the merely functional.
Some friends of mine with a large family were looking for a new home. They trawled through all the bigger houses in their price bracket around town, including the one that had belonged to the eccentric woman. Afterwards, the mum asked her four-year-old which one he preferred. He replied that he liked the one where the old lady was smiling at him from the bath.