Monday, August 13, 2007

Some forever, not for better

I've said it before, but it bears saying again - the old house looks so SMALL! I still can't get over the whole perspective issue. The whole of Tumby Woodside seems to have shrunk, in fact (and it was never exactly big in the first place). But number 2, Chapel Road, especially.

The place has changed completely since I last saw it - the front hedge is three times as tall, so you can't see the house from the road. There's a new fence that stops you seeing through to the back garden, there's a new brick porch around the front door, and what used to be the lawn is now all gravel. And TINY! It's a few steps from one end to the other of what used to be the lawn - it used to be big enough for a full-scale football game (if I could bully my brother into playing football with me). While Nick was talking to the current owner's father and preparing to film me going into the house for the first time, I was picking out the few bits and pieces that are still the same - the bit of concrete marking one side of the driveway, the cherry blossom tree (now surrounded by other plants rather than standing on its own), the little hole at the corner of the hedge that you can hide in if you're small enough, the old roof tiles that don't match the newer ones on the other houses in the row (my dad didn't want to waste the money on getting them replaced - a decision vindicated by the fact that apparently they've just started leaking in the last couple of months). There wasn't much, and it was all too small, but it was good to see the few little familiar bits.

The house has just been bought by a London policewoman called Alex. She's still in London until she gets promoted to sergeant, when she'll be able to relocate to Lincolnshire. And judging by the dumbbells in the bedroom, you won't want to tangle with her when she does - I couldn't life them with both hands! So the house is pretty much empty right now, just a few bits of furniture, all the wallpaper's stripped off and it's waiting to be redecorated all over. It was Alex's father, Ron, who let us in and obligingly waited in his car while the TV crew did all the filming. She also has a brother who was in The Boot Street Band. The pictures and knick-knacks that are in the house already are all police-themed.

But the previous owners have done a heck of a lot of things to the inside of the house - for some reason they've blocked off the door between the lounge and dining room and knocked another one through at the other end of the wall. The fireplace that my dad built himself is all gone, and there's just a few scraps of the old wallpaper on the lounge walls. What used to be the dining room is now a kitchen, and what used to be the tiny kitchen is now a sort of study. They've moved the back door along the wall too, and replaced it with French windows. The bathroom's still the bathroom, but the fixtures have all been replaced. I was just marvelling at how small the rooms were - how did we fit the piano, record player, sofas, armchair, TV, shelves and things into the lounge and still have so much space? How did we enact so many epic Action Force adventures in the minimal floor space of the dining room? And yes, the kitchen was always cramped, but it doesn't look like it could ever have fitted the sink, wasing machine, cooker, fridge, freezer and a bit of space to walk between them.

And upstairs, my bedroom looked like a cupboard! No furniture in it at all, but it's so tiny now, I couldn't believe it. Likewise my brother's room, although the view out to the kitchen roof is familiar - nobody's replaced the tiles there, either, even the couple that are broken or the wrong shape. Funnily enough, the only room I didn't get the shrinking feeling is my dad's room - obviously, because that's the one room in the house I didn't spend much time in when I was little. It's weird, but that room is still the size I remember.

And as for the garden - there's a wooden summer-house out on the front, the old brick shed is still there but the garage and bike shed are gone. The grass is neatly cut and flat, there's no blackberry bushes. The hedges there are also ten feet high - the previous owners really liked their privacy - and there's a new row of tall trees hiding the back garden from anyone in the fields behind. But duck behind the trees and there's a couple of feet of the garden I remember, overgrown and wild, before the wooden fence which, wonderfully, still has the rusty metal pole tied to it. I never knew what that pole was for, but you could hold onto it and stand on top of the fence in the corner of the garden where we had our base (Bjorn House, with "Bjorn" pronounced in a strictly English way). I looked for the old wooden flooring, but it's either gone or overgrown.

It was a strange experience - tiny bits of the house are still the same, the rest is so different it's scary. I still sort of think of it as the place where my dad's living, and I can pop down to see him any time. It's weird to see that it hasn't just stayed the same all these years...

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