Published by Colin Hazlehurst at Smashwords
Copyright 2009 Colin Hazlehurst
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At the far end of a quiet, half-forgotten road in the old city of Oxford there stood a large house which had been empty for many years. The paint on the doors and windows was cracked and flaking and scarcely hid the rotting timber beneath. Tiles had slithered down the roof during winter storms and smashed below on the border of gravel that surrounded the house like a moat; but a moat that had offered little defence against the elements. Several window panes were cracked and some were missing altogether. Inside, although rain had ruined one or two of the first-floor rooms, it was still dry on the ground floor. In short, the house was shabby, run-down, and badly in need of some loving care.
The gardens, once formal and neat, were an untidy mix of overgrown shrubs and wild flowers. Ground-covering perennials fought each other for space and light and water. Mallow and buddleia, forsythia and hydrangea, once regularly pruned, were now uncontrolled and spreading wildly. In what used to be a well-tended front lawn, thistles and cow parsley and dandelions competed with the uncut grass which now reached its full height; in one corner, an invasion of comfrey was choking all in its path. The lawn to the side of the house was another battlefield on which opposing armies of Himalayan balsam and rosebay willowherb advanced on each other.