Monday, 9 January 2012

Spend it like the 70s 3: When we get a bigger house...

When I was a kid there was this theme running through the family dialogue. "When we get a bigger house..."
My parents would aquire stuff to prepare for moving to the next destination. My dad's aim was always to save up enough to buy the house he'd lived in as a schoolboy during World War II, which you can read about here if you like. It didn't belong to his family; he'd been sent to live with an elderly doctor, his grown-up daughter and his second wife in a tiny Teesdale village. At the back of his mind, my dad always planned to live in Carrowcroft, which is why my mum's modernish 60s house is filled with Victorian furniture. Dating from when I was 11, my parents always lived in the same place. The thing about Carrowcroft was that it was a long narrow, unlit road away from all the things my dad liked to do: go to the theatre, get the train to London, poke about second hand book shops. The house he had, the wrong one, was in the right place. The right one was in the middle of a very beautiful nowhere.

I realise that I've been planning along the same lines. The text I learned by heart - buy lovely antiques, get books, aquire skills, take up hobbies - always prepared me for the next (bigger) house. Unless we win the Lottery, I think it's fair to say that the next house will be smaller. I'm going to have to memorise a different script. I buy Lottery tickets - despite the scorn I occasionally see in my friends glances - because:
1) You have to be in it to win it.
2) We win every month indirectly, because the Heritage Lottery Fund pays Nick's wages so they deserve our support.
3) A long story about my grandad and the football pools. Shortish version: he won just enough to make up the shortfall to put a deposit on a house when the builder increased the price at the last moment. £25 was a lot of money in those days, as we always have to say when we tell that story.

Another thing I noticed this week. We were out in Chelsea because we'd got vouchers for a cinema chain and the only one showing The Artist was in the Fulham Road. When we came out we went looking for somewhere to eat. The restaurants looked fine, but the customers scared me. All the men were wearing brightly coloured cords, brightly coloured v-necked cashmere jumpers and checked poplin shirts, and they had wavy hair. I just don't fit in with the upper middle classes. Down the King's Road it's more cosmopolitan so we got a table at the New Cultural Revolution and ate dumplings with a Spanish family one one side, some young British people on the other and an Iranian family over the way. Much more up our street. I'd thought that if I won the Lottery I might have fancied living in Chelsea, but now I realise I'd rather stay here in Ealing. (And I'd put in a bid for Carrowcroft.)

People have gazed astonished at the amount of stuff I've aquired. (Most of it is mine, let's be fair.) Many of them have said, "You need a bigger house." We don't. We need less stuff.

On Saturday some nice people took away 13 boxes and seven bags of stuff to sell on their website. Shared proceeds. Phew. Today I took some rather late Christmas presents to the post office. (It took me longer to knit them than I'd planned.) And I dropped off a bag of random stuff at the British Heart Foundation shop, including a men's belt that both the nephew and the husband deny owning and no-one else has ever claimed.

So now we're planning for the smaller house, the one we get when we stop earning and still haven't paid off the mortgage. It's taken off some of the pressure I hadn't realised I'd been under.

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