Monday, 12 December 2011

Renovating and renewing

Isabelle of In This Life has just been fantasising about household renovations, and this got me started thinking about what I might do if I am able to stay in my home.

It is a big house, and apart from having had the outside painted, the garage extended and the plunge swimming pool filled in, and turned into a garden, the sinks replaced with stainless steel instead of stainable porous white plastic, handrails wherever possible, stairlifts installed, and air conditioning, blinds and curtains fitted to help control the overheating of the house caused by the fact that it faces east/west and thus gets fearfully hot, no decorating has been done.

Heavens! That sounds like quite a lot. But wait, there's more, to consider, that is.

If I were to splurge according to what is needed to be done in the house and to my own tastes I would:

  • Rip out the carpets. Put new carpets in. Those on the floor are unlovely, tired and unhappy, and badly fitted.
  • Have the tiled floors fixed. They really need it, and it shows. Many tiles are broken, or wobble when walked upon. This would cost heaps.
  • Re-tile the laundry and adjacent toilet.
  • Get better blinds.
  • Fix the wooden window frames which are greatly the worse for wear.
  • Replace the vanity unit in one of the bathroom, as it is rotting.
  • Replace the kitchen bench surfaces. They are rather unlovely and are rather battered. Dr P, who despite having a chemistry degree appeared not to understand some practical consequences of the theory, such as the melting point of plastics, and who put hot saucepans directly on the benches, causing damage.
  • In fact, fix the whole kitchen. The bench level is higher than the window levels, evidence of really stupid design and planning.  The window frames in the kitchen, dining room and the upstairs sitting room were installed back the front, which means that instead of rain falling away, it can trickle inside, as the slope is to the inside and not to the outside. In the olden days building inspectors should have picked up that sort of idiot mistake, but once things stopped being actually inspected, and were merely ticked off, they got through. So theoretically they should all be replaced.

It always bothered me that the house was allowed to deteriorate. I would have kept it in better order.  Bearing in mind that from from this day forward there is no one to tell me what to do or to veto my decisions, theoretically, at least, from some future date I can make such decisions of wherever and whatever, I will be able to do (to some extent anyway) what I damn well please.

The house across the road, on the other corner was sold recently, and the new owners have moved in, and have started some improvements and renovations. I looked at the house before it was sold, out of general interest, and attended the auction. (Everyone does this as in this city the contemplation of real estate is a predominant passion.) I had not actually met the couple, but as I watched from my balcony at the weekend while garden rubbish was being removed, they saw me and we waved at each other. So I went downstairs, and went across and knocked on their door, bearing a welcoming jar of cumquat marmalade, and we all said hello. They have two small children, aged three and one. Their names are Baxter and April. (Sigh!) The children are lovely.

Although this is said to be a very active and sociable neighborhood, full of community involvement, in fact it is not easy to meet, or to get to know people. In part, this is due to the fact that it is an old area, with very small blocks of land, and no one has front gardens. So you never see people out the front. The backs of the houses have lane exits, and what little space there is accommodates the car, and roller doors. I walk through the lanes to get to the main road and to walk to the bus stops, but it is relatively rare to encounter a neighbour.

Across the road there is a school, and next to it is a large complex of units, but all the residents leave their houses from the back.  Thus there remains the side street. I exit from the rear of the house, which means onto the side street, and I know several of the neighbours, but getting to know them depends on our being outside together at the same time, and the ensuing general conversations. Across the lane lives a very old and deaf lady in her mid 90s, and she never remembers knowing me, although I chat with her daughter when she visits at the weekend, if we happen to coincide. The house next door is used as a a professional premises, and I have got to know the couple. I know the couple down the far end of the lane, having chatted to them from time to time as their house was renovated, and indeed, they kindly witnessed my will for me - that is, as it turned out,  a good way of getting to know people.

Dr P was not sociable towards his neighbours, and so he did not know any of them. After he died it occurred to me that I should tell my neighbours of his death, so I telephoned next door, and called to see the other neighbours. It felt weird, knocking on doors to say that my husband had died, but I am glad I did, as they have been kindly and helpful. And I like to build and maintain connections with people.

All this makes me wonder how I would manage if I were to lose the house, and leave the neighbourhood and perhaps the city. And start all over again.

It is an odd thing. I have lived in houses at the end of a complex, and in a street opposite a hospital but without any direct access to it. Thus there has never been an abundance of neighbours. None of this was done on purpose. Perhaps if I have to move it might be advisable to choose somewhere with more neighbours. However, neighbours are among the very many of unknown factors which surround so many of our choices. It is all rather daunting, as I am actually quite shy.


Friko said...

Lots of thought coming together here. Lots of ifs.

You want to make changes if you can. You might have to move. You don't have much contact with neighbours.

How about thinking of moving anyway, to a place where you could actively make new friends and get to know people? Some place like my village, where you can't leave the house to go to THE shop and come back home in under half an hour, because you've had to stop and talk to several people on the way.

A new house might also answer some of those renovating questions.

A new start, that's my plan, if and when I have to think seriously.

molly said...

I'm inclined to agree with Friko---a clean slate might be the best way to go!