diamond geezer

 Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Ten houses I've lived in
(listed in chronological order of construction)

Property 1: 1880s 2 bed terrace
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the oldest. It was a proper two up two down with a titchy kitchen added onto the rear at a later date. These days I like to tell people I lived in a house with an outside toilet - a chilly cubicle round the back of the shed with its fair share of spiders - but a previous owner also added a bathroom on top of the kitchen so I didn't need to use it. The front door opened straight into the front room because the house didn't have anything as grand as a hall. The stairs were a precipitous flight squeezed between the front and back bedrooms with a patch of wall to hang coats at the bottom. The back garden was also the longest of any house I've ever lived in - first lawn, then rows of vegetables and ultimately a compost heap and an unkempt apple tree. Last time I went back the house'd been significantly extended with a third bedroom in the loft and a fourth on the way, because character always has potential. It's now way out of my league, but it'll always be my oldest house.

Property 2: 1890s 3 bed terrace
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the coldest. You entered from the street straight into a long windowless hallway, with what would have been a parlour at the front and what was still the dining room behind. A steep step led down into the kitchen, which was blessed with as few facilities as anyone could get away with, and beyond that an overgrown garden which was never for spending time in. Phone calls were taken on a party line in an alcove under the stairs. These days it's an archetypal house type, found all over London and all over the country, with three upstairs bedrooms capable of repurposing for a multitude of alternative uses. The bathroom proved inordinately chilly during frosty weather because it was the only room without a 2-bar electric fire. Last time I went back they'd replaced the front door with something a lot more uPVC, but the green tiled porch still had a bit of Victorian class.

Property 3: 1900s 2 bed flat
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the most transformed. Technically it was flats but it didn't start out as flats, it was some administrative building and none of the internal spaces were meant to be lived in. You walked into a vestibule that might once have been used for clocking in and headed up a set of stairs that might have been original or might have been added after the interior was gutted. Once past the front door a deceptively long hallway stretched out ahead, with the kitchen and bathroom appearing first and other rooms to follow. Sometimes if you tapped the wall you hit a solid pillar which must have been keeping the next storey up and sometimes it just reverberated like knocking on plasterboard, which was probably what was happening. Some curtains would have been nice but they were never provided. Last time I went back the letterboxes looked much shallower than the originals, and I still reckoned the security camera by the door was a disconnected sham.

Property 4: 1900s 3 bed flat
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the noisiest. The road outside was always busy and a nearby church with bells was prone to disturb the peace. It's the only time I've ever lived above a shop, hence you walked in round the side via a musty staircase that must once have been connected to the main business. I liked to imagine the living room as the shopkeeper's parlour, its focal point the fireplace rather than a TV set, and beyond that a kitchen that still had too much of a scullery about it. Someone with an eye for a profit had split one of the rooms in two with a disturbingly thin partition, which also made the central heating work harder, and the upper storey had a real attic feel to it. Last time I went back there was a To Let sign outside and a hint that additional subdivisions might have taken place within.

Property 5: 1920s 3 bed semi
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the most quintessentially suburban. The front gable featured five geometrically-arranged tiles and the bay window six leaded panes depicting something unidentifiably floral. You walked up to the front door past a garage that wasn't initially used for parking, and frosted glass ensured you couldn't see into the hall without being welcomed inside. One ground floor room was mainly for dining and the other for TV, but their functions increasingly overlapped as the years went by. The bedrooms were hierarchical from master round to box. The house benefitted from an extension with a utility room and a workshop, while the garden included a greenhouse, a bird table and a silver birch. Last time I went back they'd torn the trailing rose from the pebbledash, but more unexpectedly they'd finally repainted the garage.

Property 6: 1960s 2 bed apartment
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the only one with a military past. It was built as an off-base annexe for the families of American airmen, so very much out of place in its immediate setting, with a flat roof and walls that seemed to be mostly glass. You walked into a ground floor hallway which was mainly somewhere to store shoes and collect mail, then walked up a set of sleek curving stairs to the main body of the house. Every floor was wooden and every wall was white. For anything social you turned left, and for cooking right into a slim kitchen focused around an electric hob it was easy to hate. A further double flight led up to a landing any commercial builder would have turned into a third bedroom. Last time I went back they'd replaced the flat roof with something more angular and less prone to leak, indeed the builders who did that would have turfed me out had I not left of my own accord.

Property 7: 1970s 3 bed house
Of all the properties I've lived in this was somehow the most ordinary. It was the first house on the right as you turned the corner, with six paving slabs leading across a small rectangular patch of lawn to the front door, plus a mini lockup for keeping the mower in. You walked into an airy hallway that allowed you to bypass the kitchen and step straight through into a large square living room which was very much the main focus of the house now that separate dining rooms were a thing of the past. Upstairs only the master bedroom had much space, with little wriggle room in the others once you'd added a bed and some drawers. It wasn't the first house I'd had with a shower but it was the first that'd been properly fitted. Last time I went back the communal parking out front seemed to dominate more than before, and someone had placed a potted conifer by the bins.

Property 8: 1980s 3 bed bungalow
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the most extended. It had a conservatory out back to make the most of the morning sun and an extra bedroom added on the side to facilitate easier sleeping. You arrived across a sweep of gravel beside an ornamental bed, and entered through an alarmed door between a pub sign and a fuchsia. The main room was L-shaped with the TV at its apex, and the three-piece suite was often shuffled round so as not to wear out the carpet. The modcons in the kitchen were partly camouflaged behind wooden doors and the provision of a separate bathroom and toilet allowed for greater flexibility in everyday routines. It's not the doorbell I'd have chosen but it certainly made itself heard across the house. Last time I went back the daffodils had been replaced by something hardier and the tree by the telegraph pole had been hacked to a stump.

Property 9: 1980s 2 bed flat
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the only one with sash windows. It slotted symmetrically beyond a set of parking spaces, one each, with a rarely accessed garden area round the back. You entered past a wall of letterboxes that weren't as secure as they should have been and wound round a set of narrow steps past a communal meter cupboard. Once beyond the front door the hallway was as minimal as possible to leave sufficient space for rooms with a genuine function. One room contained more IKEA shelves than style guidelines would recommend, and another a double bed that could have been better used. The shower unit was always a bit shonky so should have been replaced earlier, and the view from the kitchen window was restricted by nextdoor's wall. Last time I went back the shrubbery looked frankly pathetic and my auntie's curtains were no longer on view.

Property 10: 1990s 4 bed detached
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the only one that was new the day I moved in, the only one with a double garage and the only one with a jacuzzi out back. You entered via a hall with a boastful number of doors, with all the CDs in the room to the right and the high-backed chairs round the glass-topped dining table straight ahead. The living room existed to show off the widescreen TV and the kitchen had sufficient hiding places to conceal a kitten. If it was a power shower you wanted that was upstairs, and the luxury of being able to turn two bedrooms into offices turned out to facilitate adulterous duplicity. The snagging list I sent to the builders included "Kitchen roof still has missing tiles", "Gap left under window sill in downstairs cloakroom" and "Windows not finished off with putty and sealant as in show house". I have never been back, nor do I ever intend to, but that's dream houses for you.

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