House hunting and the joy of ageing

 

 

HOUSE HUNTING AND THE JOY OF AGEING

 

 

 

I thought my house hunting days were over, but I was wrong. The call to the estate agent had been a strange one.

”I’m looking for a property somewhere near the town centre," I said.  The conversation followed the expected trajectory - it was the subsequent direction that flummoxed me. 

“What’s your price range sir?”

“Around two hundred thousand,”

“How many bedrooms?”

“One or two–one is good,”

“Flat or house?”

“Flat is fine–I don’t need a garden,”

“Any preferences on style?”

“How do you mean?”

“Old, new? Open plan…?”

“Well, I hadn’t given it much thought. I don’t mind really,”

It occurred to me how much I’d changed since the last time I’d done this. Twenty years ago I was very clear about what I wanted. The house would need to have a garden, not too big, with some seclusion from the neighbours. Four bedrooms, not five or three. Old, ideally Victorian, and full of character. I thought back to the time before that, the time before that move, and it was different again. I’d wanted something new, something that made a statement about my vitality, my intellect, my success. Nothing about the property, and everything about myself. That had been in my late twenties when everything seemed to be in front of me, and the present seemed so full of opportunity. When I was a student I recalled, it was mainly about the things that surrounded me–the posters, the books, the record player, the guitar–rather than the space itself. Where didn’t come into the equation. Now I just needed somewhere to live. A space that I could occupy. Nothing else mattered. I finished the call with the estate agent and sat back on the couch. I looked around the room. So many memories soaked into these objects, their own stories remembered by me, giving them history and purpose. When these things moved on (to someone else, to the charity shop, to the tip) they’d be wiped clean, like a deleted recording.

“Cup of tea,” I thought to myself and wandered into the kitchen. The radio was playing in the background and it occurred to me that my way of listening to music had changed. I let the radio pick the tunes these days. I had my favourites, usually seventies bands like The Who and The Beatles, and, when I felt the need, would pull an LP out of its sleeve from my small collection, place it on the turntable and listen. As the music flowed, I would drop my mental needle on to my own inner groove and replay the memories associated with the songs. Back in the Victorian house days, I’d been a collector- a hoarder of music. There wasn’t any Spotify or Alexa, so you built your own library. I had thousands of CDs and they told their own story. “Look at our wondrous scope,” they said. “See how multitudinous we are, how cultured our owner must be” they sang. Taking a further step back in time, how different it was once more. As a youth, I had little money to spend. Minutes and hours would be spent poring through record stores, searching for an LP that deserved to be exchanged for my pocket money. No carefree purchasing in those times, just a meticulous process of searching and finding and choosing. How things changed as you became older.

The kettle boiled, and I poured the steaming water into the teacup. Needing little more than warm water these days, the tea bag barely got wet before being pulled out. Even with my own sustenance, everything had changed. Now it was more a question of just keeping the body functioning with the minimum of fuss. Back in my forties, I’d quite prided myself on being a bit of a gourmet, even something of a decent cook. In my teens and twenties, it had been more around quantity than quality. Huge portions of chips wrapped in newspaper, the acrid smell of the vinegar and salt overpowering in their appeal to my senses. Endless pints of beer, drunk with no reference to thirst, quenching only the desire to conform. Those were the days indeed. I wandered back to the living room and sat at the table.

In the background some Vaughan Williams music was playing—symphony number five, I think. I’d always liked it. Effortless is the word that sprung to mind, a lark ascending with graceful ease through the notes. I pondered on how I seemed to be endlessly mining memories these days. It was almost as if I’d reached a point where I wasn’t really creating any new ones, just feeding off those I’d made over the preceding years. I had no recollection of concerning myself with the past when I was younger. Everything had been in the present, and if my memory serves me well, I had little comprehension or care about what might be to come. Growing older, the emphasis shifted again, moving gradually into an understanding of what I wanted the future to resemble, whilst still being conscious of the present. Now I seemed only to reflect on the past, with not a care for what was to come. And when I was gone, like the paraphernalia that surrounded me, all would be forgotten or discarded. As a melancholy descended, it occurred to me that perhaps this wasn’t so. Those memories were not only being carried by me but also by the people that knew me, even if they were different versions of the same stories. And those memories existed in other places. They existed in all the recordings of my life, the conversations, the photographs, the shared experiences. I switched the radio off and picked up an LP. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – an album called Deja Vu. It somehow seemed appropriate. I lowered the needle on to the spinning vinyl.

And I feel like I’ve been here before
Feel like I’ve been here before
And you know it makes me wonder

The voices brought back some memories. Good ones. I smiled to myself and sipped at the tea. Later that day, I called the estate agent. I told him I needed two bedrooms.


Just in case.

 

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