It’s been a funny couple of weeks. All was going well, my Y6 son left primary school for the last time and because I finished work early that day I was able to pick him and his sister up from school. It was a surprise. They were delighted. As was I, and in a fit of sentimental bonhomie I invited four or five of the mums and their children round, an all back to mine if you will to delay the inevitable goodbyes for a couple of hours longer.
All seemed to be going well. Everyone seemed to be happy with the arrangement, children who normally got lifts wanted to walk home with us. The sun was shining, life felt sweet. The mums were going to have some coffees with lots of chat, the little ones would play in the garden and the older boys could play Call of Duty. Yes, yes I lose all manner of gold star parenting points allowing my child to play this hugely inappropriate video game but every other boy in the class seemed to have graduated from Minecraft to Black Ops and Harry’s dad said we couldn’t make him be the only one who was left out. He pointed out my own father banned me from watching Starsky and Hutch and The Professionals and did I want this for my own child? Again a debate for another blog, probably called “Never did me any harm just mentally scarred for life!”
Then I got round the corner, it was immediately apparent something had happened. One boy was walking off by himself. Several of the other boys were huddling around my son. “He was out of order” said one boy. “Can’t believe what he said” another reassured my son.
What had this boy said? What utterances could have soured the day so rottenly and rapidly. Turns out he said “No offense (the prefix of all major insults) but it will be really boring at Harry’s house because it’s so tiny.” Excuse Me? What? My son was so incensed he didn’t even want this boy in the house. I wondered what did it matter how big your house was if you are all huddled round a screen playing computer games?
But it hurt, the comment from the boy really hurt. I am very conscious that our house isn’t a big house, that possibly our house is the smallest in Harry and Nina’s classes. I am mortified that Harry has a friend with an eight bedroomed mansion with a swimming pool in the back garden and what will the mum think of me if she drops Harry off up our little road of tiny and not particularly attractive houses?
A few years ago another boy in Harry’s class said that we had the worst house out of the three friends. I must admit that stung too. But I shrugged it off. What did 7 year old boys know? Another visitor then also pointed out how small our house was. The message was getting harder to ignore. Thanks everyone for mentioning that we were recreating the Old Woman and the Shoe nursery rhyme, that Julia Donaldson’s Squash and a Squeeze is not just a story to us.
I am not in any way gifted in making a house look good. Clothes I am great with, I know colours, patterns and how to make the best of my figure. But houses, I am severely interior design challenged. When if comes to putting rooms together, I can’t to do it, it never looks good. We had a cleaner once, she could arrange all the cushions on a bed like she was interior styling for a magazine. And so effortlessly. Oh I watched with envy, and thought surely this is not beyond me? When I tried to recreate it, a blind man suffering from Parkinson’s and juggling chain saws would have done a way better job.
Plus I have an ability to make a mess by just getting out bed in the morning, my children appear to have inherited this trait too. Every day life for me looks like I live in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It it not as if I am not busy all day every day, cleaning and tidying up but I never seem to make the place look any better, I am just fire-fighting. It’s the home equivalent of a payday loan. All the time, effort and energy go to clearing up mess and there is never anything left over to actually make it better.
I have never been able to do it. But everyone else around me seems to be channelling Sarah Beaney, Kirsty Allsop and Kevin McCloud. Did I just miss out on the appropriate gifts from the home improvement fairies? Is it too late for me? Can I never have a good looking house and garden? I know I curse Margaret Thatcher for relaxing the building regulations when she was in power. Since then new homes every year have lost a square foot in size. According to Ikea we live in the smallest houses in Western Europe and their new advert addresses this by trying to flog us storage solutions, the old bijoux is beautiful message.
I admit I have tried them all, clear plastic boxes, wicker baskets, hessian floppy affairs. Things that had always looked charming in someone else’s house but now in mine looks like, well just more clutter. I suspect my problem is more about what is in the storage not what is surrounding it. I love life, I love what my children produce, and they work on a volume principle. Everything interests me and I find that passion very difficult to box in, to contain, to order. And writing this, well I wonder, do I really need to? You can’t take your house with you can you? Life is about memories and experiences and feelings and sensations and do you know what I think I am doing very well on those, very well indeed. So as I turn from the computer to go hug my children and see what they have produced since I have been writing this I see a life being lived fully and very happily. Can you really ask for anything more?