Monday, November 1, 2010

When Home is... Your Neighbourhood

A month or so ago, we suddenly got cold feet about renovating. The reality of three to four (or six?) months of living through it seemed a little overwhelming. One of the mothers at my daughter’s school told me that they used a camping shower in the backyard when their bathroom was renovated (for four whole weeks...), another told me that if we didn’t move out we would be lucky to finish the renovation still married. Obviously, both comments caused concern.

I’m not a camper and the thought of showering in our backyard which is bordered by three other houses and quite overlooked is not really the same as open-air showering at the beach or in the wilderness, is it?

And there is no way our budget is going to allow moving out. It will barely allow for the actual build, we’re discovering. There goes the marriage.

So, we decided to take a look around. But moving will mean leaving this suburb. A suburb we have grown to love. Yesterday we had lunch with friends around the corner and afternoon drinks with friends up the road. I go to the supermarket, bookshop, cafes and always bump into someone I know. The school is a five minute walk away and the preschool another five minutes. I realised how hard it would be to give those things up.

Now that I have children and spend my days walking around the neighbourhood rather than driving out of it to an office every day, I’ve realised for the first time since my own childhood that the neighbourhood has also become home.

I have a couple of friends who are thinking about moving and to get a bigger house or a larger block of land they will have to move further away. Their partners are fine with leaving the suburb – yes, the commute is greater but they will have more outdoor space for the kids – but my friends are not. It’s not their houses they are sad to leave, having definitely outgrown them, it’s their neighbourhoods and the lives they have made within them.

All the negatives about leaving centre around the neighbours, new friends made at the park around the corner, or the local playgroup or cafe. Their sense of home encompasses more than what lies behind the front gate during this stage of their lives.

And ours too, we’ve decided. We’ll have to take the chance on our marriage and living in disarray for possibly more weeks than I care to consider. We love this house, renovated or not, but more importantly we love where this house sits; in a spot we definitely want to sit for a while longer.


So while I sit, I have also been busy talking to some interesting people about home lately. Stay tuned for interviews with Pip Robb, owner of Armchair, Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan founder of the amazing American food blog The Kitchn, Fiona Chandler from storage box company Fiona Kate and Isabel Gillies, author of the absorbing memoir Happens Every Day.

I am also about to interview international best-selling author Kate Morton on her thoughts of home and how she manages to create characters out of the houses she writes about in her books. I’m looking forward to hearing about her own 100-year-old house...

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