...my house is falling to bits.
Since we moved in here about eighteen months ago,the boiler has broken (twice), the washing machine has leaked across the kitchen floor, the kitchen ceiling has leaked (numerous times), the shower has broken, there has been a wasp’s nest in the ceiling and the TV aerial has broken. Just the other week we discovered a new leak in the kitchen (a pipe this time) on the same day that the kitchen door fell off its hinges. Then the boiler broke (again). Then a whole lot of water came through the kitchen ceiling.
It is just that kind of house. It is disintegrating very slowly. It is the kind of house where doors regularly fall off their hinges, where pictures or mirrors or bookshelves or coat-hooks spontaneously leap off the walls as if possessed by some (otherwise relatively tranquil) poltergeist. It is the kind of house where everything is slightly rickety: the leg of the dining room table is liable to fall off, none of the cupboard doors will close properly, and a number of them always seem to be missing a handle. It is a dysfunctional house: the bathroom window won’t shut, the back door won’t open, the drains in the back yard are mysteriously designed in such a way as to prevent water from actually going down them, so that the back yard is a perpetual swamp. Everything is slightly crooked: it is a house devoid of straight lines or right angles. It is rife with health and safety hazards: my personal favourite is the plug extension crammed dangerously with plugs and various mysterious wires which sits, conveniently, adjacent to the kitchen sink.
I know these kinds of problems are not particularly unique - they may indeed be universal to people renting houses. Believe me, I have lived in some very special houses before. Shoebox-sized flats with dirty carpets and views of petrol station forecourts. Rambling student houses full of endless piles of mouldering washing up and supremely disgusting bathrooms. But there does seem to be something extra-special about this house. Nothing about it is ever quite how it should be. After all, showers are supposed to be a constant temperature, not alternately freezing cold or boiling hot, though mysteriously behaving quite normally whenever anyone comes round to fix them. Skirting boards are not supposed to be slopped with drips of various different colours of gloss paint. Flooring is generally supposed to cover the entire floor, and not to expose occasional areas of concrete, as if someone just got bored when laying it and wandered off halfway through to superintend some other DIY disaster. Bathroom taps should not be stubbornly green, regardless of the quantity of elbow grease applied when cleaning: it is also helpful if the bathroom door closes, particularly when you have visitors. Kitchen counters should not be covered in old speckly grey and white vinyl: whilst the principle of ‘not showing the dirt’ works well enough for say, hall carpets, it is not generally well applied to kitchen surfaces. Bathrooms should not be painted in four different shades of bright blue paint, as if someone got a bit carried away with their child’s poster paints. Piles of dust bunnies should not mysteriously accumulate in corners of the room apparently seconds after extensive dusting and hoovering has taken place.
It is a house behaving badly. Sometimes I feel like this house and I are locked in a battle of wills: my only weapons a succession of J-cloths, furniture polish, the slightly aged hoover, a scrubbing brush. I’m not sure that I am winning.
We keep trying. Today I have been trying to improve the house. I have done some washing and cleaned the kitchen. We have moved our giant rubber plant, which was looking a bit unhappy, to a new, sunnier location where hopefully it will stop trying to pretend it is deciduous.I have made a resolution to go out and buy picture frames for all the things which need framing. At some point, I may even go and cut the hedge, which has not been cut for weeks and is almost reaching Sleeping-Beauty-castle type proportions. But it isn't enough.
We have resolved to move out of our house soon, which in some ways is a shame. After all, it is quite a pretty house. It is on a very nice quiet street with views of trees. It has some good features, like big (draughty) windows, and an original fireplace in the sitting room. It has a jungly little garden at the front where I can watch birds and squirrels going about their business. When people come round they always say “ooh what a nice house”. Some of them even like the freakish blue bathroom.
But I have dreams of other houses. Cool, light, clean beautiful houses. Houses with lovely sash windows and polished floorboards and sunny kitchens and windows boxes full of red geraniums. Houses with perfect white bathrooms. Houses with black cats snoozing on the windowsill. Houses with clean white bed linen and fluffy fresh towels. Houses that smell delicious: of furniture polish and cut flowers and clean washing and something baking in the oven. Houses with proper cupboards and doors that close and ceilings that don’t leak...
Today, I'm looking at dream places to live. I love these pictures of fashion designer Betsey Johnson’s New York apartment (images from an old copy of Elle Decoration) though it’s perhaps a bit on the crazy maximalist side and might be hard to live with on a daily basis. And it definitely wouldn't go down well with my boyfriend who is a true minimalist and would happily furnish our entire house from Muji plus the odd design classic given that we had any money to spend.
But I would like to live in a place like this one, or this one... or perhaps in a treehouse, or maybe even this extremely cute 'chicken coop' house designed by artist J Morgan Puett - I'm not sure about the interior decor, but I love the outside though I suppose it might be a little small, and perhaps indeed chilly at this time of the year: