Sunday, 10 June 2007

My mother's house

My grandparents bought the house where my mother now lives in about 1930, when it was just built. It was part of the development of the London suburbs and people like my grandfather, from poorer parts of London, saw it as a way to move out to a more peaceful environment and at last own their own home. (Prior to that my grandparents lived in rented accommodation in Camden Town, which is now trendy and desirable but then was rough and definitely a down-market move for my grandmother!) They moved when my mother was a toddler and lived there all through my mother's childhood. The houses had big gardens and all the neighbours grew their own vegetables, the children played together outside and all walked to the local school together. My mother was 11 when the war started and for a while they stayed in the house and continued as normal. There was an Anderson shelter built in the back garden and when the air raid sirens sounded the whole family trouped into the garden and slept semi-underground. Sometimes neighbours shared shelters to make it more bearable. (In a hot, dry summer a strange bare patch appears on the lawn outlining the foundations of the shelter as most people just covered them over with soil after the war ended.) My mother talks about how scared she was when she heard the sirens, and at one point things must have been quite bad as embedded in the floorboards in the front bedroom is a piece of shrapnel that flew through the roof during an air raid. For some time my mother and grandmother were evacuated and lived in Shropshire while my grandfather stayed at home, but this did not seem to last long and they all returned before the end of the war. The house and family survived and my mother lived there until she got married at the age of twenty eight. For a couple of years she lived with my father in a rented flat above the shop where he worked but then I came along and it got a bit cramped. At this point my grandparents decided to retire to live by the sea and sold the house back to my mother and father at a 'family rate', which is the only way they were able to afford their own home. I moved there when I was about 2 years old and shortly after my sister and then my brother arrived to make it a busy and noisy family home. (It only had three small bedrooms so I shared with my sister while my brother had a 'box' room to himself). We played in the garden, met friends in the street, charged round on our bikes and went to the same school that my mother went to as a child. One by one we grew up, left home and then returned to live there for brief periods after travelling, when relationships broke up, in between house moves etc! My mother and father continued to live there happily until he died 22 years ago and since then my mother has lived there alone. Over time the house has got sadder; the decoration is faded and grubby, the electrics are dangerous, the plumbing no longer works, the roof needs replacing and the garden has got overgrown. This combined with my mother's knees has led her to finally decide to move and she has a buyer for the house and a new home in a retirement apartment close to my sister. All being well she will leave the house for good in 2 weeks and the house will leave our family the week after. I hope it will be in good hands.

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