Why this famous author is leaving his beloved Norfolk home, for sale for £1.15million
PUBLISHED: 16:09 10 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:09 10 October 2018
Author Carl Gorham is renowned for his book The Owl at the Window, a moving and uplifting story of surviving grief after the death of his wife. Now, he talks of the next chapter in his life as he is selling his beloved Norfolk home. Property editor Caroline Culot went to visit him at Highfield House, Lower Bodham, near Holt.
It sounds like a cliché but author Mr Gorham really is starting a new chapter in his life.
And that new chapter centres around selling the home he and his late wife Vikki fell in love with over a decade ago. They bought it when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and the house became a huge comfort to him and his daughter Romy following Vikki’s death.
Now, with a new partner Emma, who lost her husband to cancer, and having incredibly been given the all-clear himself from throat cancer, Mr Gorham is selling Highfield House and moving on. He’s not going to be far away as he, , his daughter, Emma and her two children have found a new home in nearby Holt.
He feels the time is right, having lived in the house a decade after his wife’s death.
He said: “Vikki died on our way back from a big holiday in Australia. She was never ill in this house, so I only have happy memories here.
“Some people feel they have to move straight away, but I felt the opposite, that I wanted to stay.
“The house became almost like a person, which said I can bring joy in your life, I can help you laugh again.
“When it comes to the day we physically move, I will be sad, it will be a wrench, but what it has given us is freedom, so much freedom and space. You don’t have to worry about making any noise; Romy has the freedom to dance and I can play the drums, you can suddenly decide to have 25 people to come and have a picnic and sit around the pool, you can have fun here and it’s not a precious house, it’s very practical.”
The Gorhams moved to Norfolk from Greenwich, London. Vikki was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 and they rented a cottage in Blakeney for a holiday and then began looking for something for weekends, which took them to Great Walsingham. However, the motivation to move permanently was to give Romy a childhood “running around and in and out of boats,” rather than a London education and they really did fall in love with the house back in 2002-3.
The house, once a pair of Victorian cottages added to over the years, was actually sold and the couple only managed to buy it years later when it came on the market again and after another sale fell through.
“Vikki fixated on the fact that this house was to be our home,” said Mr Gorham. “She even wrote a letter to the owners, she was very driven. She had this instinct that this should be our family house; no one has a crystal ball and she knew if the cancer came back, it wouldn’t go away again.
“So we just grabbed everything we ever wanted. We only had 18 months here before she died in Hong Kong, after falling ill on the plane back from a big holiday in Australia.”
The years following this saw Mr Gorham, a widower in his forties, create the best life possible for him and his daughter, now 17. The accomplished writer, best known as the creator/co-writer of the cult animated sit com Stressed Eric, works in his study, a space at the bottom of the back stairs facing a large bay window so overlooking the garden, not too much of a distraction, but giving lots of light.
Next door is the music room; Mr Gorham’s mum’s uncle was blind jazz pianist Sir George Shearing. “I was going to go to the Berklee School of Music in Boston but then I had that one teacher who was inspiring and I ended up going to Oxford studying English.
“But I play the drums and it’s a great release when I’m stuck in the office.”
In the library next door is a modest bookcase with Mr Gorham’s numerous awards; he wrote scripts for 1980s TV comedy Hale and Pace as well as The Owl at the Window, his story of bereavement and loss following Vikki’s death. He is currently writing a sequel to this as well as exciting plans for a film based on a story which came from this book, about the Cardboard Mummy.
He has much to write about following a whirlwind year in which he himself got diagnosed with throat cancer, yet was given the all clear.
One local award on the bookcase has special meaning, the prize for biography and memoir at last year’s East Anglian Book Awards. He was unable to attend because of his cancer treatment so his agent picked up the prize on his behalf. However, he will be attending this year, invited back to present an award.
Going through into the library and you see two floor to ceiling bookcases filled with tomes, as reading is, unsurprisingly, one of Mr Gorham’s great loves. He himself reads all kinds of books but particularly loves Raymond Chandler and Patrick Hamilton as well as another local author, DJ Taylor.
The library also boasts one of Mr Gorham’s favourite possessions, a leather Eames chair, modelled on the original created for Hollywood director Billy Wilder and purchased by his first book advance. No one is allowed to sit in it, he jokes.
From here, you go into a very modern kitchen with sleek white units; Mr Gorham and his late wife took up the carpets and put down wooden floors as well as changing the kitchen and all the en suites to create a “city feel in the country,” as he says.
They also converted a second sitting room into a dance studio and gym as his daughter always loved performing and is a dance and drama student, hoping to go to acting/dance college.
The house boasts a large feature staircase which divides into two with a galleried landing and off this are six bedrooms. What is remarkable about this house are the wonderful views from every window. His daughter’s bedroom has three windows; looking out over the fields and it’s just beautiful.
Outside are three acres and because the house sits in a dip, it is completely secluded and boasts the most incredible woodland walks, a beech maze ideal for children and a large clearing, where the sun seeps through the trees which is so peaceful and has given Mr Gorham so many hours of contemplation and inspiration.
Other areas have been used for little camping expeditions and a fire pit has seen many nights gathered around for late night musings.
Overall, this has been a house which has created the happiest of memories for a family going through so much pain and it has been an integral part in the healing process. But it’s time to leave, rebuild a life in another house to create more joy and pass the property on to a new buyer.
Highfield House, Lower Bodham, is for sale for £1.15 million with Savills on 01603 229229 jointly with Brown & Co Cockertons on 01263 711167.