I recently stopped outside my childhood home and wept.
My parents lived in that house for 28 years and I have so many memories: of family dinners; birthday parties; sliding down the bannisters; playing badminton until the sun set; and goading the dog.
My parents moved house once they were absolutely sure all their kids weren’t coming back and, although I’ve moved on – having lived in many houses in my 20s, 30s and 40s – I still think of my childhood house as ‘home’.
Just sitting in my car and staring at the front of the house was an emotional experience.
Here’s my property timeline:
During my gap year, ‘home’ was a Bedford Truck as I recently wrote about here. From there I went straight to Manchester University, where I lived in a very cramped flat with seven other girls, in a block of four flats.
The decor was minimal to say the least. I think the look they were going for was ‘prison chic’. But design wasn’t a priority for me at the time, I was just happy to have a bed to crawl into after a long evening in the student union bar.
After University, the easy option would have been to return ‘home’ to my parents, but I had a taste for independence by then, and so joined my University friends on their first adventure in the capital.
Six of us lived in a huge Victorian house in Streatham Common, South London. It was grand on the outside, but scratch beneath the surface and all sorts of horrors emerged, not least of which was the fact that the landlord had built an illegal extension over the main drain.
The impact of that wasn’t clear until some clever housemate flushed a towel down the toilet. A few days later raw sewage started spewing out of our kitchen sink.
As there was no point flushing it and having it go around all over again, we just chucked it into the back garden, until that become a no go area!
I moved out shortly afterwards and moved back to my heartland of North London.
Highbury was my next stop. A friend and I lived in a tiny house, no bigger than a garage – because it had in fact been a garage in a former life. We didn’t pay any council tax in that house because the council didn’t seem to be aware of its existence!
Muswell Hill was next. A lovely leafy suburb only eight miles from central London but with a village-y feel due to the lack of a tube station. This was where my sister and I finally got onto the property ladder. It was a great flat, with high ceilings, Victorian fireplaces and other original features.
After six months of bliss, new neighbours moved in downstairs. The first sign of trouble came when they started polishing the floor at 1am, with an electric sander.
They just had a completely different schedule to us. We were in bed by 11pm most nights and they were just getting started. Their parties usually kicked off properly at around 3am. We tried politely asking them to keep it down, they just laughed. This was not what ‘home’ was meant to feel like.
In the end we had to sell the flat in order to get a decent night’s sleep.
Home for the next few years was in Wood Green. The first weekend after moving in, we were prevented from leaving our road by a police barrier, trying to contain a BNP march. I knew I wouldn’t be there long.
After my husband and I got married, we had the proceeds from two property sales to invest. We found our dream house in Islington – we just knew as soon as we walked through the door that this was going to be our new home.
It was spectacular – 4 bedrooms over 4 floors, but only affordable because of the work that was needed to make it habitable. We had to replace all the windows and install central heating. The previous owners had heated the house using the two real fireplaces, but having moved in during October, we soon realised this was not going to work for us.
Our two children were brought home from hospital to that house and I loved it there.
The need for better schools for our children prompted our most recent move four years ago, back to Muswell Hill. We live in an unspectacular house, but it’s perfect for us here.
The kids are happy and thriving and I feel like I’m part of a community for the first time in my life. I know our neighbours, the local shopkeepers, the pub landlord and I feel so at home.
I hope we’ll be able to stay long enough for our kids to feel how I felt, looking back at my childhood home; that this was where we put down roots for them, and where they made enduring friendships and happy memories.
Hive has made a lovely video about Coming Home which you can watch here:
To win your own special coming home experience, courtesy of Hive, worth £1,500. Just comment on Hive’s competition post on Facebook and tell Hive why someone you know deserves to win an unforgettable coming home moment. The competition opens on 24 March and closes on 6 April.
What do you think makes a house a ‘home’? Please share your thoughts below.
Much love, Vx
[Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hive]