13 Apr 2014

Living in a box: an anniversary

Last Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of our move from my beloved Brighton to the new-build 'box'. My mum keeps telling me off for using 'box' pejoratively; I'm actually using it fondly! I do see our house as a big beige box, but also as a space that we've already put our mark on and a place in which we still feel excited about future projects.

I can't decide if it feels like less than a year or if it feels like we've been here for ever. I do not miss Brighton one bit. I still ADORE the city by the sea and we visit a lot (far more time is spent on the pier nowadays - grim), but we moved to make life easier. And it is.

In the spirit of one of my favourite television genres - the ubiquitous and frankly cheap countdown programme - here's my current top ten reasons why the box really is a gift (see what I've done there?...)

1. Our own path, front door, letter box and hallway. You house dwellers may snigger at how easily pleased I am, but after years of living in a flat in a converted house containing five properties, I LOVE receiving our own junk mail and not having to walk past the latest pile of random tut that's been left out by other residents.

2. A 'playroom': a rather grandiose term for the funny little room on the front of the house that even the developers didn't know how to market with a positive spin. It is home to basically all of Dexter's toys and his precious train tracks and it's Ikea storage heaven for his piles of jigsaws, games, cars, etc. The boy loves to play in there and it means his bedroom stays pretty tidy as it's just used for sleeping.

3. The kitchen: our main room on the ground floor. This is my domain - not in a 1950s sort of way, but more a 'heart of the home' way. I love having a big kitchen table to work at, dump things on and have family meals together. I was brought up in a family that valued eating together. I have been told on more than one occasion by parents of delightful students I teach that their only 'secret' to good parenting is eating (and talking) together. I am still perennially faddy when it comes to food projects, so it's not about the daily creation of gourmet feasts, but just the sitting down together. Breakfast nearly always involves all of us together at the table and it just feels right to start the day that way. The kitchen is also home to a television, radio and ancient sofa. As it's right next door to the playroom and downstairs loo, I've little need for the rest of the house until bedtime!

4. Outside space. Our garden is tiny and frankly, after the wet weather we've had, is really not looking its best. We need to start to sort it out. Regardless, with the onset of spring and its longer days and warmer temperatures, I am still not over the novelty of opening the patio doors in the kitchen onto our own little haven. Plus, the front of the house looks onto a small meadow and the children's park, so there's a lovely sense of space and green.

5. A twenty minute commute: does this need any further elaboration?

6. Three toilets: I'm not showing off. Multiple loos seem to be mandatory in any new-build, irrespective of size or budget. One on each floor is great for lazy folk like us, guests in the house and will undoubtedly be invaluable when I finally attempt full-on potty training with the boy...

7. A sense of community: people chat, folk smile, we know neighbours' names! This is nice.

8. Being slightly out in the sticks makes us more pro-active about getting out and about. We have to drive to most major places, but that does mean we are more likely to plan ahead for visits and outings. Sometimes, having Brighton on our doorstep meant that ironically, we didn't always embrace all it had to offer, or we'd walk into town and do the same old things. Here, we're more inclined to go for a walk in the forest or to a neighbouring village, particularly if there is a tearoom to be found.

9. A blank canvas: a new-build literally doesn't even have toilet roll holders (there's three to buy, remember) and so it is great fun having to think of themes, schemes and colours for each room.

10. Space for guests: whether it's just for a cuppa on the way home from work, a Friday night curry and sleepover, weekend lunch, or my entire family for a week - the quirky layout of our tall, higgledy-piggledy house comes into its own. The box is at its best when its full of family and/or friends. And that, after all, is what makes a house a home.

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