Tuesday, June 12, 2012

House

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?

14 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear it's gone mate; I don't often think about the house I grew up in, but know I'd be sad if it no longer existed. It's amazing how much emotion we invest in assembled building materials. Old cliché though it may be, home is very much where the heart is and Cam will love his house unconditionally.

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    1. It was a weird feeling the day it went, and of course it came simultaneously with a realisation that I have little to remind me of it.

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  2. I looked at the house I grew up in on google streetview the other day and I had to keep checking I was on the right place in the street - it had been extended so heavily that I didn't look like my old house. I only knew it was the right house because I recognised next door.

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    1. Were the extensions hideous? I dislike it when people ruin a house's aesthetics for the sake of more space. I suppose it's dictated by need though.

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  3. Anoop Singh-BestJune 12, 2012 at 7:24 PM

    The house I grew up in (in India) had a lot of land and when it was sold it was split into several plots and more houses built on that land. Somebody (not us) made a lot of money breaking up my memories and selling to the highest bidder.
    I'm just glad it's 4000 miles away and I can't see it now.
    And yes, I do cry over the lost home sometimes...

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    1. More people into less space just seems to be the way things go. I'm sure someone's made a mint off the redevelopment of my parents' old place, but it wasn't them!

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  4. My house is still there, it's pre war terrace and survived the bombings of Plymouth dockyard. The weird thing those is, they still have the same net curtains up from when we moved out. I was fifteen when we moved, I'm now 43!!!!!!!!

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    1. That is a little weird! They must be high quality items though, built to last :-)

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  5. This made a a little sad to be honest. Ive often Google Mapped my old house (i live in cornwall my childhood him in Gloucestershire) it's still standing and infact looks better than ever. I remember the damp and the cold of that house but i loved it and look back on it fondly even with some the bad memories i have from there.
    I hate the idea of it being torn down.

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    1. Yup, it was a sad day for me. Funny, because I'd thought I wouldn't care at all. Weird to think back to all the memories I have of the place.

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  6. I have a friend whose entire history keeps getting demolished. The hospital he was born in, his childhood home, and his school- all gone. He is starting to get paranoid...

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    1. Sounds like the Langoliers are coming for him! Eek!

      The hospital I was born in is definitely still there. I know this because it's where my son was born :-)

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  7. Both houses I grew up in - one after the other, not at the same time - are still about. I remember the first time I went into my first house, just after my parents sold it (our old neighbours were friends with the new people). I got really upset that I wasn't able to go up to 'my' bedroom. It may be bricks and mortar, but a house / home is part of the story of your life, I don't think I'd like it much if either of them got razed to the ground.

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  8. Nice blog! My house in rural Ireland was build in around 1749. We have a certificate of purchase showing that it came into my family's possession in 1812 for £49! It has walls about three foot thick and is freezing in the winter (we have central heating but it was installed in the early days and has never really worked properly. We have a pub on the bottom floor and we all lived upstairs. My parents and younger brother and sister are still there. Tens of thousands of people must have passed through this building over the years. It's been the scene of many a party and wild night, traditional Irish music and people stumbling out the door at midnight. Like your place, it was a happy home. But these things can be a burden too. The thought of selling it is almost unthinkable given its history in our family.

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