The house was white and pink and yellow inside - a sunshiny house in a sunshiny coastal town in South Devon - an area often described as the English Riviera, mainly because of the balmy climate. Looking at the house from a distance you would first notice the spectacular clifftop location then the big, big windows, which meant that whoever lived there, stayed or visited would enjoy a panoramic view of the coastline with the distinctive russet-red cliffs. Devon sunsets can be particularly spectacular and of course there is the sea, always the sea.
At ten years old, the house was just beginning to grow into itself, develop its own character and idiosyncrasies. Sometimes it can take a while for houses to become homes - like people, they need love and nurture in order to be comfortable with themselves. This one was definitely a she-house - full of plants in decorated pots, chintzy sofas, white-painted furniture, paintings, books and photographs, and outside a tiered garden and stone terrace from which vantage point you might just be able to glimpse the unique railway line constructed on the sea wall linking Exeter with Paignton.
This was a happy house until one freak April day when the temperate Devon climate forgot itself and nature produced a few days of weather more suited to the wild Hebridean islands. The trains stopped running as angry waves roared and crashed over the sea wall. Then on the worst day, the tides relentlessly attacked the cliff face and slowly, almost imperceptibly, the tiered terraced garden began sliding downwards dragging the house nearer and nearer to the cliff edge. The foundations shuddered - windows, doors swung open as the house teetered on the brink, lurching like a sinking ship - desperately trying to hold on to its contents before they were swallowed by the hungry sea. Then the storm passed as quickly as it had arrived and calm was restored once more. Watery sun struggled through the clouds and all that could be heard was the faint swish of the sea, tired now, resting, spent.
But the extent of the damage was immense. Apart from the loss of the garden and the boundary wall , inside the now-precarious house that no one would want to live in before major renovations had been carried out, crockery and china had been smashed in the impact of the land-slip, furniture upturned, books and paintings strewn everywhere.
The walls were stained and damp and even if they could one day be restored and re-painted in the original colours, the house would never be the same sunshiny happy place it once was. It had lost its heart and soul. Only one thing was later found undamaged and still in place and that was a framed reproduction of an oil painting by Turner which hung above the fireplace in the living room. The painting was called `Sunrise with Seamonsters' - all pinks, yellows and whites and more sunrise than monsters.
Perhaps, after all, this could be seen as a symbol of hope for a house that, for the present at least, was no longer a home.