The thing I notice most of all as I view potential new homes, is that they are all spaces for love. It can take many different forms. Some houses have photos of the children everywhere, and bedrooms tailored to their tastes and interests – wall decorations, teepees for reading, film posters and bedding emblazoned with their favourite TV characters. Some have been enhanced by DIY – customised storage, fancy lighting, a beautiful and complicated decor – some of which has been cherished well beyond its normal expiry date. Sometimes it’s the garden which has been looked after while the house gently decays. Sometimes the rooms reflect the owner’s passions – a well-used cooker, musical instruments, rows of DVDs. I’m sorry to say that very few houses contain many books!
The ones that move me are the ones where someone obviously died. The decoration hasn’t been maintained, the furniture is old and battered, but children have put in new central heating, or an adapted bathroom, or simplified a garden so that a parent can be comfortable, and stay in their own home until the end.
Sometimes the structure of a house has been neglected, or a garden has gone to seed (or worse, been put under astroturf or gravel), but there’s always evidence that something has been cherished. Someone’s heart has been in this home. walk into it, treading softly. It feels quite privileged to be able to think about taking it over.
I was going to think some more about ‘those who disappeared’, in this post because there are a lot of ambiguities in that phrase that I need to explore, as I think of starting in somewhere new, and I thought I would follow up with a review of David Morley’s Fury, which has a very pertinent take on the subject, but I was caught off balance by the process of house viewing (and selling). I thought I’d strike a warmer note while I can. So here is an indication of some of the loved things in my house:
From the Garden
A tomato should be warm,
the skin loose as on a granny’s hands,
fine as satin, but electric bright
with hoarded sun, a blaze.
The scent of that twiggy stalk
will cling to your hands all day
Your knife must be sharp.
When the edge is only a little blunt
the silky skin puckers and the cut
is ragged, the flesh bruised,
and all the sweet fluid lost.
You pierce the skin, and slice.
Red circles fall under your hands.
Seeds cling to the core, suspended
in a jelly carapace, a swim of juice.
Salt grains, fragments of crushed
black pepper, sweet balsamic sting
of dressing – summer on a plate.