A new dawn, a new neighbour, a new kitchen
Poor old house. I can almost hear it groaning through the adjoining walls as the banging and drilling, the sawing and sanding, the breaking down and tearing up begin all over again. Yet another new neighbour means new paint, new carpets, new bathroom suite and, of course, a brand new kitchen. Even though the one being ripped out was put in just three years ago. White units, so very 2007!
The house next door has changed owners six times since we moved into the terrace. Admittedly we have been here a very long time – so long Abba was topping the charts with Dancing Queen (or so it says here) the month we were moving in. Come to think of it that doesn’t seem so long ago but the same year Concorde made its first trans Atlantic commercial flight and Apple launched their first computer.
Those were the days … building societies insisted on deposits before lending money to young couples, people bought records and a computer was so big it would fill an ensuite bathroom (though no-one had ensuite). Just about every other house in the street was a B&B and the one next door was pretty rough.
Now there are no B&B’s, even the upmarket guest houses have turned into stylish private houses and only two other families have lived here longer than us. Why do some houses seem to hold on to their occupants? Our house has changed hands only four times since it was built in 1860. Next door, people come and go with increasing regularity and with them come and go their kitchens and ensuite bathrooms.
We never intended to stay in one place for so long but I like the feeling of continuity (if not the decades of clutter). Thanks to our lovely neighbour on the other side I know a little bit about the previous owners who had lived here for more than 50 years. Very intriguingly, they held bathroom parties to which guests arrived by climbing the drainpipe on the back wall – sadly the building society made us replace the old cast iron bath with claw feet but in a cupboard in the bathroom there is still a fragment of the original wallpaper. And the family left their handsome clock in the hall because it had been there so long they didn’t think it right to remove it.
So our house has always been a home though property prices round us go through the roof. It was a stretch for us to buy the place during the recession of the 70s (1970s I mean); even more sobering to think that if we wanted to move into the street now we wouldn’t be able to afford our own house.
I like to think that the next owners might also be looking for a home. Maybe like us they would live with the old kitchen for a year or two. In our case that included a distinctly dodgy museum piece of a gas cooker. In fact we didn’t get round to a fancy fitted kitchen until 2000. By that time Madonna topped the charts, Concorde had only three years to go. Apple of course is still going strong, even as I type. And so is the kitchen.