Sunday, 20 May 2012


The viewing. We had booked 7 house viewings in one day, and were running behind schedule. 'Our house' was our second to last viewing. We had about 5 minutes for a quick look round before our next booking, which was kind of ok, as it was just around the corner. As we entered the house, it was like going back in time - to an era before we were born, but one we were too familiar with, when visiting the houses of elderly Aunts, or Grandparents. The atmosphere of calm and security was gently enveloping, as the tour progressed, we navigated ourselves around the rooms, upstairs, downstairs and outside. The house had only come on the market the day before, so we were the first prospective house-buying visitors. We liked it very much, although it needed rather a lot of renovation.

It was as though the owner had just stepped out for a moment to give us some privacy to view their property without hindrance. I thought, "how kind."
A nightie was hung behind the door in the master bedroom  upstairs. There were three packets of cough sweets placed on the kitchen side. Everything was in it's place.
The truth was very different. Audrey, who had lived here for over 45 years, had suddenly been taken poorly, was admitted to hospital and died after a few days. Although this was such a sad fact to know, this place felt like one that had been loved.
We bought the house that evening.
When I entered the house for the first time after our purchase, there was someone already busying in the kitchen. Margret. She explained that she held a key for Audrey's house - they had been best friends for over 40 years, and Margaret lived next door. She was trying to pack up all the glassware into newspaper, to be given to charity, and she hadn't quite finished before I had arrived. She had packed up all of Audrey's clothes the week before, and tried to clear the house as much as she could. Audrey had a brother who was visiting later in the day (to collect a dining table, a couple of chairs and a fan), but most of the organising of the disposal of personal items and furniture had been left to Margaret, as far as I know.
I said that I would help pack up the glass ware and take it to the charity shop. We chatted for a while made a drink, and looked out of the kitchen window together. Margaret told me that all the daffodils in the back garden had been planted to give Audrey 'a nice show' in the Spring ... it was such a shame that she never got to see them. I immediately warmed to Margaret, and felt so sorry for her loss of a dear friend. It was in my mind that over time, we may become friends, too.
In clearing the rest of the glassware from the kitchen cupboards, I came across a Homemaker plate, and a Staffordshire jug, and also a small deer ornament that was left alone in the dining room. I decided to keep them as an inheritance from Audrey, a small mark of respect, that she, and her late husband Albert's memory, would dwell within these objects, as long as we lived here.

Margaret and I are now great friends, and she still holds a key to this house. We talk about Audrey and Albert from time to time. The stories she has told me ...


  1. This is my favourite post to date. On one hand it seems quite poignant, but on the other it is full of hope as you discovered not only the perfect house but also a true friend in Margaret. I love the fact that you have kept the three items belonging to Audrey.
    I am re-reading a book called Home Possessions at the moment and there is a lovely phrase about people who collect – ‘Saviours of lost objects and disappearing worlds’ – this seems to sum up you and your trio of objects rather well.

  2. I'm touched that you said it's your favourite post, P. To be honest, it's taken me a while to write, as it is quite poignant. It's been such a wonderful project so far. Audrey and Albert have played such a part in our lives in this house - as they made it their home for so long before we did. Amending Albert's DIY jobs (usually carried out with 4" screws, no matter how big or small!), and small discoveries such as a telephone number underneath layers of wall paper, tiny finds of dated newspapers and bits and bobs of 'treasure' here and there, have all made it so much more of a personal journey.
    Margaret is a wonder. She's an oracle on the 'old'days living in this street, as she's lived here for so long. She's also the best neighbour anyone could have. I'm lucky that it's me.

  3. I think it is quite rare in today’s society to find not only a house that was lived in for so long, but also a neighbour of equal longstanding who knew the previous occupants – a lovely connection between the past and present.

    Was it their first home I wonder? and did they raise a family here?

    It is not now possible for me to live in a house as long as A & A, I am already on house number five (or 6 if I include our other house), and I am certain that I will move again someday. Perhaps Albert saw the house as his life work – or maybe they just loved the house so much they had no desire to leave.

  4. p.s we must remember to list another coincidence - I also own a Homemaker saucer (not plate) as part of my collection.

  5. Yes, I think that is quite rare - especially these days, when people move around much more than previous generations. It's funny, Margaret said to me that Audrey had promised her, that if anything happened to her, she had instructed her brother that it was to be bought by a nice young couple, at under no circumstances to a builder!

    House number 5 - that is more than my 2 (purchased), though have rented many, many more! I'm sure that I'll move again too, though when I don't know.

    I don't think A & A had any children, but must check with M about that. I think A was very proud of his house, and after telling you the story of the geranium, am definitely thinking about restoring the porch to it's original use.
    Would like to think they liked it here enough to live out their days. Another Albert story later regarding old age ...

  6. Homemaker plate and saucer noted - also I was so impressed with the Home Possessions book, have put it on the Tour Research page - !

  7. I'm so pleased that Audrey got her wish and the house was purchased by ‘a nice couple’ who now appreciate it as much as her and Albert.
    Whilst I have loved and enjoyed living in all my previous houses, I don't think I have ever felt as attached to any of my homes as Audrey did to hers; maybe that sort of attachment is only possible after 45 years? The only sentimental attachments that I have are for the objects within.

  8. I think you are right, P. To live for so long in one place is quite unusual. Although, saying that, my parents lived in my family home in Southampton for 41 years! They moved in the year they got married (1962) and retired to Pembrokeshire and into their second home in 2003. You mentioning that, has made me make the connection - how bizarre is that?


Blog Archive