By Rebecca Holmes
We’d gone full circle, but somehow this house move felt quite different
Whoever lived in this house before must have loved it. The double glazed windows have diamond leading, always seen as “class” round here. The neat courtyard at the back is a veritable sun trap. The place needs a lick of paint, but where doesn’t?
We loved our first house. I can still feel the tingle of excitement, the spring day we moved there, nearly thirty years ago and three hundred miles away.
Student days over and careers embarked upon, our lives stretched out into the distance like the dual carriageway we sped along, in the hired van with the sum total of our possessions in the back.
Pale pink blossom filled out the cherry trees in the garden opposite. The old man next door grew marigolds from seed and donated trays of them for our garden.
I left without a backward glance
Today the only colour is the dark green of the rhododendrons across the road, bordering the park planted for mill workers to have somewhere to walk on Sundays. At school, those of us not “hockey team material” were sent on cross country runs there. Our fifteen-year-old voices echoed as we yodelled to each other across the valley.
Three years later, I left without a backward glance. That’s what you do when you’re young and impatient.
Later houses were never quite the same. Less an adventure, more another rung on the ladder, or because we needed space for the family. By the time we moved to a new detached with en suite and massive kitchen, complete with “island”, the process was a blur.
No question of an island in this kitchen. En suite? Well, there used to be an outside toilet. I always wanted a stone house, but pictured a seaside cottage, or farmhouse. Not this terraced version, on one of umpteen parallel streets rising up to the moors. And not back where I came from.
The house became an albatross
I felt a pang of sadness when the For Sale sign went up outside that executive detached, the pinnacle of all we worked for, but only a pang. The house was just that. A very good one, admittedly, but that was all, even before it became an albatross. Funnily, with this one, I can almost sense it holding its breath, as if wondering how we’ll get on.
The doorbell jolts me back to reality.
“Hello, love. I hope you don’t mind me introducing myself while you’re moving in. I’m Jack, with your free welcome pinta. If you’re interested in placing a regular order, your milk will be on the doorstep at five-thirty every morning – rain or shine.”
Jack is the image of how a milkman is supposed to be, jolly and smiling. It was the same when we moved into our first house, and our second. None since, though.
I’m signing up when the sound of an engine struggling with the steep gradient makes us both look round. The dark blue lorry lumbers into view at the same moment as Mark, puffing up the hill with a white carrier bag.
Let’s go home, we agreed
“Let’s go home,” we’d agreed, four months ago, when he’d been made redundant, with my hours already cut. “The kids are grown, and we’ve never really settled here.”
“I’ve got the fish and chips,” he calls, his face red with exertion. It’s as well there are plenty of walks on the moors. We both need the exercise.
He’s just reached our compact garden when our neighbour’s front door opens. A man of about our age appears with two tomato plants.
“I thought you might like these,” he beams, after we’ve introduced ourselves. “I always grow too many from seed.”
Inside, I lay my palm against one of the walls and imagine all the people who’ve lived here before, glad we’re among them.
So what if we’ve ended up in the sort of house my grandparents grew up in? It might not make us a model for social mobility, but we’re still lot more comfortable than they ever were. I feel as if a burden has been lifted.
And not only that, but the old tingle is back…