Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Goodbye house

Today my childhood home is handed over to its new owners.

My parents have owned that house for around 25 years and I have lived in it all of the life I'm able to remember. My dad decided to up their already stretched budget after meeting the headmaster of the local school and deciding this was the man he wanted to oversee his small children's education.

It was FILTHY when we moved in. A wooden parque floor so dirty my dad thought it was plain concrete until they started cleaning it. The back room had housed a large dog, whose wee ad pooled under the carpet and whose paws had ripped the paint off the door.

Backing onto a local park, it was the envy of some of my friends. We were able to grab bikes or just wellies and play where my parents could literally bellow off the balcony that it was time to come in. When locked out, we became expert climbers as we scaled the eight-foot alley gate, hopped the garden fence and braced across the old outside loo roof to ascend to the balcony. The neighbours never worried, 'Is someone breaking in?!', 'No, it's one of the Amazonian women tribe whose forgotten her keys again.'

Over the years mum and dad invested in a loft extension and, more recently, a kitchen extension, to accommodate three rapidly growing girls who turned into grumpy teenagers and then women. One by one we left, my older sister returning briefly after university and then my younger sister and her boyfriend moving in again when dad had the stroke and mum needed support. I moved out the week before my 21st birthday and have not lived there the seven years' since. I never moved for though. While my sisters have lived in Manchester, Norfolk and Walthamstowe between them, I always remained close by. I still live around a mile from that house and have always come home frequently for cups of tea, to reassure moomin that I wasn't killed by the car that hit me last year, to cook for my dad once a week when he was ill (and sneak him out to the pub) and, recently, to tell my parents that they were going to be grandparents.

The local community that sustained us all through various massive upheavals is all around and many are sad that my parents have chosen to leave, but although the house remains, much has changed.

When we moved in the neighbours were mainly older couples who had lived in the area since the war, even when new people moved in we all knew them. I babysat for local children when I got old enough and on Christmas day people would gather to sup champagne in the street together and comment on how big each other's children had got.

With rising property prices and a rebranding of the area as a 'village', the only people who can now afford to buy in my parents' street are those working in banking, whose looking to rip the houses apart and resell them and no one knows who these neighbours are, because they rarely talk to us 'oldies'. The local school that so impressed my father has gone from strength to strength and there are far too many children vying for the spaces that inevitably go to those who can afford to live yards from the gates.

My parents have had their bikes stolen twice in three years, burglaries are on the rise and last week a girl was raped in the park I played in as a child. It's time to leave.

My parents chose a couple with a toddler who are planning to expand their family, in the hope that the house would become a family home once more.

I'm sad that my parents will no longer live round the corner and that Eenie, when he or she comes in April, will never walk round the house I grew up in, but I understand why they sold it. Following dad's stroke it became financially necessary, but it also means a clean break. Their children are adults, and it's about time my parents followed their dream.

Goodbye house, I only hope that the next family likes you as much as we did.

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