When I moved into the cottage, I knew that it had been a holiday home, and that it had been owned by the Ellis family for many years. Whenever I came to view the house before I bought it, the sun always seemed to be shining, and it seemed to have an atmosphere of warmth and serenity.
I hadn't really thought much about it - there were lots of reasons why I liked the house - until my son's girlfriend came to stay at Christmas. Almost the moment that she stepped over the threshold, she said she thought the house was a very happy place, and I was intrigued that she had picked up on this.
I've never been a great one for supernatural theories. I've heard - and no doubt you have too - of the Stone Tape Theory, which holds that the events that take place in a building become somehow imprinted on the fabric of the house.
It's an intriguing theory, but I've always thought that there was a more practical explanation. When people are happy in their homes, they tend to look after them, or at least use them in a way that makes the house feel comfortable and relaxed. When they're not happy, they don't. That's why holiday rentals always seem a bit stark - there are no family photographs or personal items that show that one individual has put their stamp on the place in order to create a refuge from the world outside.
However, I like to think that my house has always been a happy home (doesn't everybody?) and I used to wonder about the Ellis family, and who had which room, and imagine the children playing in the garden and so on.
Norman Ellis bought the house in the 1970s, according to Terry, the local builder. Terry is my source of information on most local issues, and he told me that before Mr Ellis, it had been owned by a rather eccentric character called Oliver, who had a plantation of Christmas trees in the front garden. Apparently, this Oliver person was a bit of a miser, and instead of spending money on food, he would creep up the lane in the middle of the night and steal eggs from his neighbour's henhouse. Charming!
Norman Ellis and his first wife had three children: Mandy, Nick and Penny. After the death of the first Mrs Ellis, Norman married again and it was his second wife, Sue, who handled the sale of the house on behalf of herself and the three children.
I know it was a huge wrench for Sue to sell up, and I worried that the children might resent the idea of me making changes to their beloved holiday home. Perhaps it might not be too tactful to write about my activities on my blog?
I needn't have worried. The day after I moved in, a card arrived from Mandy, who now lives in New Zealand, welcoming me to my new home. "You don't know it yet," she said, "but you have not only bought a house, you have inherited a whole new extended antipodean family!"
Sure enough, Mandy and her brother and sister have followed my progress at Awkward Hill, very often commenting here on the blog, and always in a very encouraging and positive way. At Christmas, Mandy sent me this picture of her family, all together for the first time in 10 years.
From left: Mandy's husband Don, her sons Ben (18), Lachie (16) and James (24); Mandy herself; her son Sam (20), her daughter Natalie (22), Vickie (her brother Nick's wife), Nick, and Mandy's sister Penny. She wasn't kidding about the extended family!
Nick and his wife are hoping to come over to the UK in July, and pay a visit. I really hope they make it to Gloucestershire, because it would be great to see them, and to ask Nick about life at Awkward Hill.
So, is it their happy memories that make this house such a lovely place, or the good vibrations they are sending me from New Zealand?
One final thing. When Mandy started reading this blog, I assumed that the estate agent had told her about it, but the story was a little more complicated, as Mandy explained in her email:
"When I first arrived in New Zealand 28 years ago, I worked on a thoroughbred stud farm for a wonderful family who have become my second family. They have all stayed at Bibury over the years and love it as much as we all do.
"One of the sisters lives in Australia and obviously has far too much time on her hands as she found the website and spread the news to us here. Your blog is giving meaningful pleasure to many people in all corners of the world. I think one of the most amazing things about the internet is how it can unite people all around the world without being complicated."
I couldn't have put it better myself!