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The House by the Marsh paperback by William Blyghton, published by Panacea Books, Devon, U.K.




One morning just before lunch, Caroline stopped breathing. Bereft and alone, a small madness fell upon William. Fleeing to his flat in London, he locked himself away and grew a beard.

     Some months later, whilst reluctantly attending a dinner party, William saw her, and felt that perhaps Providence had plans for him after all. Jennifer, however, saw things differently.

     Quite by chance, although nothing is by chance, William came to live in Suffolk, in the house by the marsh, and here a sense of ease slowly enveloped him. With each ebbing of the tide, his madness seemed to diminish. And yes, Providence did have other plans for him, plans which set tongues wagging in the village.

     But some saw the deep sadness that William carried, and they opened their arms to him, challenging preconceptions of love, friendship and community.

      The House by the Marsh by William Blyghton lays bare the almost taboo subjects of grief, love and hope for men and women in their later years. With humour and compassion the author peels back the defensive layers of apparent competence to reveal a vulnerable humanity, and shows the miraculous effect of Love in all her guises.


The House by the Marsh

It was as if he were walking into a dream, a dream made especially for him. The house stood above the marsh on a platform set upon wooden piles, and with a veranda around three sides. Its outer walls were weather- boarded and painted the colour of the reeds in winter. The roof, which was sloped at the eaves to overhang the veranda, was tiled, and at one end there was a turret carrying a weather vane in the shape of a sailing boat. The windows and the front door were painted white and were triple-glazed to keep the house warm against the cold easterly and northeasterly winds from the sea. Behind the house, its garden ran into woodland, birch and pines, and beyond that, beyond its boundary, were open fields and pasture.

     William walked up the steps and put the key into the lock, turning it clockwise. It opened with ease, as if it were a well-oiled lock made especially for turning. Leaving the door open, William stepped into the house. Inside, the rooms were painted in neutral greys and off-whites, ‘Elephant’s Breath’ and ‘Skimming Stone’. The floors were of oak boards and the living room-come-kitchen, which was open to the underside of the plastered slope of the roof, was large and comfortable, with two armchairs and a large sofa. It was kept warm by a wood stove that stood in the middle of the room, its shiny metal flue rising up and through the roof, and outside capped by a metal hat.

     The house was all on one level and there were two bedrooms and two bathrooms at the back, one large with a bath and the other small and with a shower. At the front was the study Roderick had told him about. Its window overlooked the marsh, looking out towards a shingle beach and the sea, and the room was fitted with worktops and bookshelves. Along the rear wall was a campaign bed, cream in colour and painted with strands of leaves and flowers. The house was silent and still, and it welcomed him.

     Slowly, William turned around and looked through the open front door. From the front porch of the veranda, there were wooden steps down to a gravel path between pots of lavender set on a shingle bed that led towards, and then through, the marsh on a boarded walkway, which in turn led to the beach and then the North Sea. On this day, the sea was no more than a faint unfolding of waves upon the beach. On other days it would be very different, often roaring as the cold easterly and northeasterly winds first whipped up the crest of the waves and sent them crashing onto the pebbles and then sucked them back, carrying the loose shingle of the beach with them as the tide rose and fell. But, today, everything was still and quiet.

     William sat down in one of the armchairs and put his head into his hands, all his energy gone. For the past year he had been holding himself together, his body tense, his feelings held back, trying, trying hopelessly to love and be loved, for once to be at peace. Now the house, the marsh and the sea were welcoming him. Refuge. Quite suddenly, he began to weep. He could not stop. The sadness, the hurt and the loss poured out of him in gasping cries of anguish and grief.

     “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he cried. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

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