On Wednesday, we took possession of our new house, after months of conveyance, and to some extent indecision on my part. I was away this week but I've paid the price in ferrying carloads of 'stuff' today. We haven't moved in; we are migrating over the next week or so. But by next Saturday we should be fully installed.
It's a lovely old house, bigger than our last, with a large mature garden, but not so big that that I’ll feel uncomfortable. We are very lucky, and of course the kids are excited and Jane is organising like a mad thing: cleaning and sorting and deciding on this and that and the other. I particularly like the shed, as does Dylan, the rest is incidental!
I'd forgotten what a hassle moving house can be: my lists of people to contact runs to three pages and that's just service providers and banks and the like. As for the expense, aaggghh! – in addition to the stealth tax called stamp duty, I seem to have paid out thousands and I can't see an end in sight. It had better be worth it, I moan to myself on bad days. Actually, I'm sure it will be.
In fact, now we've got the keys, only one thing is worrying me: the drive has iron gates!
Apart from their Gothic appearance, there is something about the psychology of an urban house with gates that mildly disturbs me. Let’s be honest, they have no practical function - they are not going to keep any undesirable out, and it's not as if we have cattle wandering over from the park. In fact they narrow the drive (which isn't so big as to justify gates in the first place) and I'll bet it won't be long before someone catches their car turning off the road.
So what's the point of them?
I worry their real purpose is to make a statement. Gates in an urban setting don’t say ‘WELCOME!’; they say 'grand' or 'keep out' or 'prat lives here' or 'don't bother trick or treating’ or ‘I’m scared of you’. None of which I'd want people to think about me or where I live. And yet at least one current neighbour has already commented – in jest of course, but I suspect with hidden meaning.
So I’m for getting shot of them. Sadly, I won't win this argument. The gates are regarded as an original feature, and as such have iconic status in the eyes of estate agents, putting ‘value' on the house. I shall, however, in my curmudgeonly way, refuse to use them, and perhaps find ways to jolly them up for the occasional blog post photograph.
For the real value in a house, is the quality of the living that takes place there. And because of that I’m praying there is no inverse relationship between size and happiness. We’ve outgrown our current home, but in the fourteen years we been here, we’ve had more joy and good fortune than I could have wished for. I am moving a little over a mile and yet I shall miss this place; the walk to school, my tiny study, the oversize bike shed, and the absence of gates…