This old house

24 Oct 2018

Twenty five years ago I walked through my front door for the first time. I had come to view, with very low expectations. We were only moving because anti-social noisy neighbours made life intolerable. It had come close to fisticuffs, so we felt we had no choice. I felt bitterly resentful, scared of change. I lived there by myself for a time, it was low-maintenance, bills were just about affordable if-ever the optimist - I ended up alone again.

None of the houses I had viewed already came up to expectations, and I was pessimistic about finding somewhere in our price range that felt right. This house was round the corner, walked past many times. The position is lovely, on a footpath, a fantastic view, overlooking allotments built on land given to the town by Henry V111. The house itself, built in 1890, looked OK, nothing more.

The first thing that caught my eye was the William Morris fireplace shown in the photo, the original from when the house was built. I know one is supposed to be non-committal when buying, say little, but I could not keep my big mouth shut. As we moved around, I was giving cries of delight "A coal fire in the main bedroom, how lovely " "Oh I love those old sash windows".

When we sat down for a chat I was welling up. "Please promise you won't sell to anyone but me" I called out to the bemused vendor, as I reluctantly left 'my' house. In case you're wondering, I don't play poker, it never appealed to me!

I rang the agent with an 'offer' i.e.the asking price. She said the vendor had phoned already, saying they might hear from "a lovely but rather excitable lady".

That first night, exhausted from the move, sitting in bed with a massive pizza and champagne is one of my best memories.

The years since then have seen the best of times, and the worst of times. The sofa opposite the fireplace has found me sitting contentedly, snuggled up with the dogs. It has also seen me stretched out sobbing, punching and tearing at the cushions in utter despair. The bright cheery kitchen, where many meals have been cooked, with the afternoon play or The Archers playing in the background, also bore witness on the day I decided that stoving my head in against the yellow walls was the only escape from the horror show going on inside.

Yet I have never lost the sense of goodness that resides here. A friend said she always wants to take off her shoes when visiting, because it feels like entering a temple. That's not down to me, it is the house, and the imprint of those who went before me. I discovered that one of the earliest residents was the town nurse, and that the house doubled up as an informal A&E for years. People went there to be mended, patched up. Maybe that's what I hoped for. How I would love to travel back in time to see the previous owners, how they lived. As to the future, if I ever have to leave, I will do my utmost to see that the house goes to someone who will take proper care of it. Maybe someone who can't stop smiling and crying when they come to view. It deserves nothing less.

Is your home your favourite place, or maybe just somewhere to hang your hat? Whatever, I hope you feel safe there today.


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