I may soon be featuring in someone else’s house history and it feels weird. My brother recently spotted that our childhood family home was up for sale and looked up the estate agent’s website. Nowadays anyone can browse through the intimate details of any property on the market whose details are online, nosey neighbours and former occupiers included. So at a comfortable distance of 170 miles, I took a look.
The first thing that struck me was that a shade over a million pounds seems an awful lot of money for a 2-up 2-down cottage even if it is in south-west London in a housing recession. I think my grandfather paid about £300 for it, but I may be wrong. Perhaps it was the insight of putting a fancy balustrade round the flat roof over the former shop and calling it a ‘roof terrace’ that has added considerably to the price. However it was inside that the memories came pouring back and one in particular.
When the arrival of two children forced my mother to give up the shop at the front of the house, the area was converted into living space and part of the wall removed to allow light into the room behind. A pole that was essentially a not-very-decorative acroprop was inserted in the opening as a support, and I have a photograph of myself aged about six and wearing an extremely complex Christmas hat with streamers, sitting on the step next to this pole examining one of my presents. For a million pounds I would have expected that pole to have been replaced, but it’s still there bolted to the floor. Elsewhere, the brace and latch door into the back kitchen is also present, although I expect the bath that was in the kitchen has been relocated, together with the loo that was to all intents and purposes in the former pantry. The ivy leaf diamond trellis wallpaper has gone of course and I couldn’t see whether there was still that patch in the dining room ceiling where my mother put her foot through, shedding whitewashed plaster onto the table below.
I delight in finding interior shots of my client’s properties to add to their house history. Now I have the opportunity of offering the occupier of my childhood home images from my own archive. And that does feel strange.