I've lived in this house for 21 years, since 19 short years old.
It's changed several times and in various ways, with me twice moving out then returning. I arrived at the start to an upstairs flat in the wake of minor disasters. Myself due to crutches and metal in my leg, the flat due to recently-disappeared amenities. When I needed the loo I went downstairs to our neighbour's flat, itself full of rubble from our collapsed bathroom floor.
It's no longer two flats - we converted it back to a house. What used to be my single-student-staying-up-all-night kitchen is now my baby son's bedroom. The sitting room, where I laughed and played and danced and slumped, is now my bedroom.
My memory is atrocious. People tell stories of memorable adventures and I look at them blankly. But I remember one morning, or possibly a series of several transposed events, 5am or so. I'd been up all night and was sitting in an old-fashioned wicker chair, my feet on the living room windowsill, listening to Enigma and watching the sun rise. It was still a flat, and this was my sitting room. The carpet was somebody else's used shag pile, which had sounded attractive in the Loot advert but was a pain to bring home and fit. And far from being the foot-sinking luxury it claimed to be it was dusty, dirty, crumb-filled and had dead insects collected about its roots. It got sticky.
There was a bed in the corner, the spare bed, used as a sofa. I covered it with an old curtain - rosebud pattern, the centre of each bud a hole. In some previously-hanging state, the sun had sought those flower-centres out - something to do with the nature of the dye, I surmised - and rotted them away.
The whole flat was like that. Faded beauty, make do and mend.
And now it is a house with a family, and no single party girls in sight. And tonight, as I aimed for the curtains on my way to bed, I paused. I remembered. I changed my mind. I didn't want to close the world away and lie down on my orthopaedic mattress. I wanted to draw up my ancient wicker chair, leave the curtains wide open and watch the quiet world. Like all that time ago, of which I remember little, but those window-side moments have stuck. Why them, and not others? What was indelible about those small snatches of time?
It's not the same place. I can stand with the same feet on the same floor and remember being here, at this view, in this night. But it wasn't here. It was another place, a one that lives in my head. A one connected with here, but not here. The passage of years has taken it as far as though it were miles and miles ago. I have moved through this space and each step on the same-worn ups and downs has moved me further away.
Even the ceiling is lower.
But that former me and all those others besides are here in the air and the walls, and they make this house be what it is - a pulsing repository for all that has gone before. 138 years of history. I could live to be the age of my grandfather - a century old this year - and still my life would be nudging just half of the story of this house.
It holds me in its bricks.
I like that.
Maybe Because I’m a Londoner
19 hours ago