Monday, 30 June 2008

'Home Sweet Home'.

Fuelled no doubt by our move in the not too distant future I worked it out that I have lived in over twenty residences. (Is that really all retired people have to do with their time!) Note I said residences not homes for it is beginning to dawn on me in my dotage that there is a subtle difference between a house and a home. A house evidently is a structure, a building, something that serves as an abode, a clinical, somewhat abstract concept. A home on the other hand conjures up a far less nondescript image, defined in one dictionary as 'Any environment or haven of shelter, happiness and love.'
Sir Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855) wrote over one hundred and twenty dramatic works, including at least eighty operas. Yet he is remembered today only as the writer of the song 'Home Sweet Home.'
'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.'
The more I thought about Sir Henry's sentiments the more I became intrigued with the puzzle as to when a house becomes a home. The division if you like is blurred but were all of the places I lived in houses or homes? Or were they indeed both and why are some better remembered than others; for surely every abode is home at the time? A taxing conundrum for my inadequate, incomplete and rather worn brain.
We, my mother, sister and I moved to a tiny terraced house in the village shortly after the war. (We had been living with an aunt and her family at the other end of the village.) The terraced house was tiny with few mod cons but was undoubtedly treasured by my mother. I remember little of my early existence, the hissing of the gas lamp and the silverfish scurrying round the hearth being two memories etched on my mind. The privy down the garden also remembered, though less fondly. The night riders undaunting cheerfulness as they humped overfilled pans down the path filled us children with awesome fascination, the pan's contents spilling down the carriers' backs an everlasting reminder of the basic nature of village life after the war.
A move to an end of terrace council house a few years later was a move up the ladder for the Stevens clan yet I can remember little of the nature of the house. I remember my mother always working, permanently tired yet uncomplaining. I remember too the austere utility sideboard and the Cherry Lady whose lonely presence suggested ornaments were low on the agenda. (My mother in 1948 earned £38-8-9p per year as a part time school cook, working two and a half days a week.) Plus scivvying for well off families in the village brought extra money. Uncompromising backbreaking, poorly paid work necessary to survive in hard times unsympathetic to widows low down the social scale. In 1953 my mother paid the price for a life of toil and drudgery. She died of pneumonia, aged forty six; I was thirteen years of age, my sister eleven.
The small terraced house no longer exists. The council house is now privately owned, with ornate walls, double glazing and a conservatory; undoubtedly worth a fortune in much sought after Ockbrook. We children were poor but undoubtedly loved and no doubt happy, for I have only fond memories of childhood. Despite our poverty, our mother ensured we lived in places that provided 'shelter, happiness and love.' Definitely homes and not merely houses.

1 comment:

Marian Dean said...

Hi Ken
Nice to meet you, found your blog entirely accidentally (fate?) (divine intervention?)
However am glad I did, haven't read all yet but the ones I have have been most amusing, nostalgic etc. I too remember terraced houses, back to back and a ginnel through. It was in Ashton under Lyne and there were cobbles... Oh the pain in the ankles! I remember my Mam moaning. She thought we were well posh when we moved to Southport on the coast, and the streets were tarmac... no more cobbles. Shame! I live in the South now, that took some adjusting to life I can tell you after the friendliness of the northern people, but it is what you are used to that counts, so I mustn't nag about the southerners. I think we are about the same age zone, so I have every confidence I shall enjoy your blogs. My husband thinks I am a bit mad anyway, he just can't get on with computers. My grandkids call me gadget-granny.
Keep up the good work.