Playing house


I’ve lived in a lot of different places. At one point (as a PhD student) I was moving on average once a year. In the last few years I’ve settled down a bit, and stayed in one place for a while, but still none of these properties felt entirely like home. That’s partly because they were all rented, and consequently I had to put up with other people’s choice of decor and furniture. But I’m also starting to think that none of them felt like home because they didn’t make me feel like a Proper Adult.

In contrast, the house we’ve just moved in to is a Proper Adult House. It’s a typical semi-detatched suburban home dating from the 1920s or 30s. They’re not exactly in fashion now, which is a great shame as they are comfortable, spacious homes. After all, they were built in a time of increasing prosperity, when newly well-off shop-keepers and small business people started to move out of the city into quieter, cleaner, more rural areas, while still being close to their place of work. Perhaps people see that as being a bit smug and ‘Middle England’ now, but having come from a series of slightly grim flats in run-down areas, I see smug and Middle England as a bit of a step up. Some features of the house strike me as being particularly adult:

  • Stairs inside the house. I haven’t lived anywhere with both an upstairs and a downstairs part since I left home in 1988, so for me stairs are the height of sophistication. True, it is unexpectedly tiring when you’re used to a flat, and you are constantly finding that the thing you want is on the wrong floor, but it’s good exercise, and I love going upstairs to sleep.
  • A garden. The garden isn’t particularly big or beautiful, but it has plants, a small lawn and a patio. Before the weather took a turn for the worse, it was lovely to have our lunch or a cup of tea outside, scrunching our bare toes in the cool grass.
  • A washing line. You can’t beat the smell of laundry dried outside in the sun. There aren’t many household chores I actively enjoy, but pegging out washing on the line is certainly one. My mum tells a story about how she asked me to put the washing out on the line when I was little. There were already a few items on the line that she had pegged out herself, and as she watched from the window, she saw me studying how the T-shirts and trousers had been hung up and copying the method exactly, with a look of great seriousness and concentration on my face. I’ve loved hanging out the washing ever since.
  • A cupboard under the stairs. Everyone needs one of these. When you’re not using it to oppress teenaged wizards, it’s handy for all that junk which has to accumulate somewhere. Ours is empty at the moment, but I’m willing to bet that within a few months it will be full of mismatched shoes, plastic carrier bags, and bottles of exploding home-brew beer. Perfect.