My bracelet dates back to around the time my mother spontaneously opened a wool shop. It had been a turbulent time for Mum and I. My dad had moved out and my sister had gone to live with her now-husband. The wool shop was a short-lived enterprise, but I suspect she just wanted a distraction. The two of us were left in our big house alone, rattling around. The house had never been my mum’s choice. She’s an artist – she loves old and unique buildings, and so, now empty of the formerly fond memories of building a family there, she hated our home.
The shop was in a more rural part of Lancashire, half an hour from town. Mum didn’t mind the commute, as she enjoyed looking with envy at the cute cottages past which she drove. There was one house in particular that she labelled her dream-house. It was pretty weird to be honest. Imagine you’re by one of the canals in Amsterdam – lined with those tall, narrow houses with dramatic gables; now imagine they have knocked down all the houses but one, and shoved a cottage on either side. Now plonk that peculiar threesome onto a road side in semi-rural England. It would look pretty weird, wouldn’t it?
The house was for sale, but we weren’t really in a position to buy. It was then that the wool-shop came into its own – not through any formidable moneymaking, but because it had become a new gossip-central for the middle-aged women of the village. Soon we came to know the owner of the house, who actually owned a jewellery-making studio nearby. Flattered by Mum’s adoration of her house, she agreed to rent it to us.
The cellar of the house was accessible by a badly sealed hatch in the living room, from which mice would poke out their noses and creep out. Being totally enamoured by the house, Mum insisted that the mice were respected residents. It remained this way until the landlady warned of infestation, and several humane and Nutella-filled traps were soon strategically positioned.
Many of the most sad and difficult days of my adolescence are dominated by the happy memory of morning mouse-runs, taking any suspiciously heavy and wriggly traps to a field about a mile away. No matter how slowly I opened the little door, the mice would run out so fast that I could hardly see them. Mum doesn’t live there anymore, and though she is much happier now, the Mouse House is a fond reminder of how we made the best of things on our own. She had this bracelet made by our old landlady as a gift to take with me to university. It always makes me smile.