Monday, November 14, 2011

Home is where the heart is?

I detect a change, albeit one occurring at a glacial pace.

For the past five months I've been living in the house I grew up in, supported in part by the state and in part by my parents. I like this house, it's a good house. It's a medium to large Victorian family home of which my parents are the current trustees. It's old and rambling with layers of archaeology beneath the floorboards and wallpaper. It has a large, welcoming kitchen and a long and somewhat unkempt garden, reflecting the interior of the house. My parents have made modifications over the years - mostly putting right the vandalism inflicted upon it in the 1950s and 60s. Some day, that duty of care and responsibility will pass to someone else.

A while ago, I felt that any house I lived in would be measured up against this one. I wondered if I could ever truly love another home. I've spent years exercising my imagination thinking about what I'd do with it, given a free hand and unlimited budget. There are plenty of puzzles to be solved in an old house and I took great pleasure in visualising how I'd adapt the floorplans, landscape the garden and generally bend the property to my will, as I have with other homes too. But perhaps if I wish to exercise my imagination on a building, it should be one without baggage.

My parents moved in here when I was two and my dad was a year younger than I am now. We make our own life choices but a degree of comparison is inevitable. With no assets, no career and modest debts, to live the (not immodest) lifestyle that I grew up with, seems completely unattainable at this point.

Slowly, as the nights draw in, I am becoming less comfortable in what has been my only permanent home in this country. I am feeling more claustrophobic, more ill-at-ease, more aware that in two and a half months my wife will arrive in England and my relationship to everything here will change.

On the positive side, I have visited other people's homes, ones that differ in size and shape from my parents', ones without gardens or views of the South Downs and actually thought, "I could see myself in something like this". Job and money notwithstanding.

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