I’m thirty years old this year (14 th of July, I like real ale, #justsaying). I still live in the town I grew up in. The town where it is easy to trace one side of my family’s roots back over two hundred years. I don’t feel a huge amount of attachment to the town itself, but there are things in it which I can remember from when I was little.
A couple of months ago, one of those things, probably the most important one, disappeared.
The house I grew up in was built from scratch by one of my ancestors. It was an old house by the time I was born, handed down through a couple of generations and a little worse for wear. On winter mornings there was ice on the inside of the windows. The dark shadow of damp crept across the ceilings of the bedrooms. There was no bathroom, and the only toilet was outside. Downstairs the wiring was only up to running a mini-oven, upstairs the wiring only went into my parents’ bedroom. There was no central heating.
I was occasionally embarrassed by some of the above, mostly the lack of a bathroom, which seemed weird to the children of the management types in modern houses who made up the bulk of my friends.
But despite its shortcomings, our house could not have felt more like a home. The accumulated belongings of my mum and dad, me, my sister and my brother were on display throughout, the trappings of a twentieth century life far greater than the storage capacity of a nineteenth century house. The kitchen table bore the marks of being eaten at by me and my siblings, as well as the other family members who had gone before us. The open fireplace in the lounge was as much the focal point of the room as a flat screen TV is to many today.
We grew up in that house, our parents looked after us in that house, we fought, played, behaved and misbehaved in that house.
Now that house is gone.
It’s been a long time coming. My parents moved away five years ago, selling the house (and, more importantly, the large patch of land it stood in) to a developer. The house remained there while planning permission for new buildings was wrangled over, growing more dilapidated with every passing day, but still standing.
Then, just before Cam entered our lives, we walked past the house. Except there was only half a house to walk past. I looked into my childhood bedroom without having to use a window, because the exterior walls no longer existed. I remembered some of the things that had happened in that room, happy things mostly, and it made me sad.
The following day the rest of the house was demolished. Reduced back to the individual bricks it had been well over a hundred years ago.
When you see property programmes and the people are looking for a house “with character” they are talking about a house like the one I grew up in. They probably want it to have a toilet though.
The house we live in today isn’t like that. It’s a reasonably modern, reasonably standard house. Even so, I hope that by filling it with fun and happiness and life it will come to mean to Cam what my old house meant to me.
Is the house you grew up in still intact? Do you ever get to see it? Do you ever think back to the time you were there and smile, or cry?