A couple of years ago I wrote about my history of moving house, an event that featured regularly throughout my childhood and even into my twenties. I have a horrible suspicion I may finally have become a grown-up as in the past 15 years I have lived in just two houses, both of which I bought with
my own borrowed money.
That said, there was a house that was a constant for the first 30-odd years of my life, a house that I always loved to return to and for some years harboured dreams of owning and living in as an adult. There was nothing outwardly special about this house; to the casual observer it was a perfectly ordinary 1930s semi in a Bristol suburb. To me as a child however, it was a rich playground, full of special places as familiar to me as my own bedroom; the oil cloth around the carpet in my Nana’s bedroom that became a beach for the animal figures I played with, the little landing that she called the ‘Juliet balcony’ where I made tents with sheets and clothes horses, the anteroom leading off her bedroom where she kept her sewing box which was like a treasure trove to me and (don’t judge me) the amazing old-fashioned pantry in her tiny kitchen that I would sneak into and just look at the contents, fascinated, for hours. I still really want my own pantry; my current kitchen has a bricked-up window that probably belonged to one when the house was built and trust me, I have given serious consideration to reinstating it.
Sadly, when my Grandad eventually went into a home just over ten years ago, the house had to be sold and I wasn’t in a position geographically or financially to be able to buy it myself, although I have been lucky enough to inherit two of my favourite objects from it – my Nana’s sewing box and my Grandad’s piano. A few years ago I had an urge to look the house up on Google Maps to see if it had changed at all. The emotional tsunami that hit me when I saw the same cracked concrete driveway that I had taken my first steps on as a toddler was totally unexpected; I was quite literally reduced to tears instantly – and I don’t cry easily.
I’m often struck by the contrast with my own children’s upbringing, which by its nature has been very settled; Alice was barely a year old when we last moved so remembers nothing of her first home and emphatically doesn’t want to leave this one, which she considers her family home. Having transformed the house almost beyond recognition from the one we moved into, that sentiment is completely fine with me as I have absolutely no intention of moving out of it… for now.