My cousin Dorothy recently sent me a photo of a pastel painting by our cousin Annie Heller. It shows the back of what was once our family cottage—Thorpe View—in Walberswick, Suffolk, UK.
The painting made Dorothy cry. The painting made me cry. It is so lyrical and emotional in its rendition of a beloved dwelling. The pigs lived right next door over the stone wall. On rainy days, the smell of pig manure would permeate the air. We got used to it. Thought of it as part of the aromatic atmosphere. Okay, maybe we lit out on our bicycles on “those” days, farther away from the pigs, to catch tadpoles in the marshes. We took in a different earthy smell, one with squishy grass—lots of it—and if the sun chose to come out, that grass would light up, a bright Kelly green.
At Thorpe View, when the weather called for it, which it often did, there would be a constant coal fire burning in the fireplace. When you looked out the living room windows, you could see who was coming and going in the village, there being only one main street. I liked to be in that room and hear the horses clop by, and glance out to see who was on top.
At Thorpe View there was a long rectangular wooden table in the living room where we ate meals and played games. It had all sorts of little nicks and notches in it, which gave it character. I liked to feel the grooves with the tips of my fingers, imagining how they got there.
When you went out the door of the cottage, you would find yourself exactly in the place my cousin Annie painted.
Here is her pastel painting of Thorpe View: