A letter to an old house

I got this idea from Mimi’s blog. (And by the way Mimi is a very talented artist.)

Dear 75 Hall Lane,

For 23 years I knew no other home. For 21 and a half years I lived in you, leaving only for nine short terms at university. Always, I returned to your cold, stone embrace – comforting but lonely.

For ten years, I had the little room, squeezing my games into the floorspace between the bed and the wardrobe, opening out the bureau desk to do my homework. After my brother married, I moved into the big room. I wallowed in the space but felt lonelier.

75 Hall Lane
Mum and Dad in front of your back door

You changed over the years. A knocked-out wall, fitted furniture, central heating. Outside, you metamorphosed from an almost country dwelling, your tranquility broken only by the occasional passing train, to a noisy, suburban house, bordered by main roads and topped by a motorway.

We’ve met twice since my parents left, but I haven’t seen inside or behind you. Your walls have been painted white. Your front garden has been concreted over, the pink hydrangeas gone. One time I saw a Christmas tree behind your front window, where my parents would have been embarrassed to light our Chanuka candles.

I can’t say I miss you. The house I live in now is bigger, has a larger and more beautiful garden and is quieter. Besides, the life I lead now is much, much better than the one I lived in and out of your confines.

I hope your current occupants are happier than I was then, and that you share their happiness. I’m far away from you now, but I haven’t forgotten you.


Home From Home – Days 1-2

They even say, “Look into my eyes, darlin’, are you from paradise?”
Well I tell ’em don’ I. No mate – Luton Airport.

Cats UK, 1979 

We land at Luton Airport in the morning, drop off our cases and go for a nostalgic walk in Richmond Park. The park is familiar to both of us, especially to D, who grew up in Richmond. Yet we marvel at it. There’s nothing like it where we live now – no vast expanse of countryside so close to a metropolis.

Our walk ends at Kingston, where D buys a waterproof coat-in-a-bag. I advise him against the black one because it doesn’t show up in the dark, so he gets the only other colour in stock – bright yellow. He’ll definitely show up in that, although he might be mistaken for a road worker.

On the train journey there and back, between Mill Hill and Hendon stations, I keep my eyes glued to the window. I have to see the back of the house where I grew up – even in the fleeting moment as we whizz past.

The next day is uneventful. The flight to Inverness, picking up the car, driving west. Even the drive to Achiltibuie – 45 minutes from Ullapool, including 35 minutes along a single-track road – is familiar to us. We stayed in Achiltibuie ten years ago. By chance, we have booked the same house we stayed in last time, although then we had our three children with us. Even this part of my five-and-a-half week trip leads me down memory lane.

On Day 3 the fun starts. I hope you’ll come back to read about it.