My parent’s house has never looked so good. The garden paving has been cleared of weeds by the Lovely Wife in a systematic campaign carried out over a sunny North East day in a successful way that attempts to keep them at bay using chemicals never really achieved showing that getting on your knees with a sharp knife and a strong attention to detail is not really beatable (and probably better for the environment). The Sea Holly, a massive thistle like thing I very nearly pulled out as a weed is magnificent in a shade of prickly purple and covered in bees; most of what I have planted over the year has survived the heat and is looking healthy enough.
Inside the house the clutter of a lifetime has mostly gone. The removals people have been, efficiently removing the furniture we want to keep to a mysterious location (OK, a temperature-controlled facility in Longbenton, but I do like to think of it as the massive warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Ark of the Covenant finds its resting place). The ornaments we like are packed up and stored elsewhere; the rubbish has been cleared by David and his teenager Josh, working for a lovely local business we will be using when the final moments come. The Lovely Wife has cleaned everything and now the house has minimal furniture and ornaments tastefully arranged in that way that reminds you of those adverts which show houses that cannot possible be being lived in on a regular basis, but have just the right amount of fittings that allow for the fact that many people have no imagination and need to be informed that ‘this is the bedroom’ or ‘you can put you family pictures here’.
People have asked me how it is going, how I am managing getting my childhood home, and the happy marriage home for my parents ready for sale. It is not an easy question to answer. In practical terms, it has gone very well. We have been organized, we have had some great help from a practically skilled good friend fixing minor but glaring problems which has been invaluable (thank you, you know who you are). There has been a certain pleasure in getting everything as beautiful as we can, as a tribute to Dad and Mum… And of course, it has been deeply upsetting for both of us. In fact, now that we have more or less finished anything we can do – now it is up to the Estate Agent to a certain extent – we look around and have very mixed feelings about selling. For a brief moment, a few weeks, this is our ‘other’ house and we will miss it and all the memories that it holds, even in its current slightly unreal state. This year we have effectively lived in two houses at opposite ends of the A1(M) and in many respects have been more part of the community in Pelton than in St Albans – whether that be enjoying moments of relaxation and ridiculously cheap (but rather nice) beer at the Newfield Inn around the corner, or being reminded what it is like to be almost the youngest people in a church community of about 35 rather than one that number 100s. We’ll even miss the COOP in the village and its surprisingly good Brie. In my mind I think we have had our chance to live in a different place and while I am looking forward to getting back to something like normal I do think 2018 will have left some fundamental changes – I will not say scars – in how I at least see things.
The house will not be ours soon, but I think it will leave something of a permanent legacy for us, practically and otherwise.