As they say, if these walls could talk... | Jack Marshall's column

It’s an unspoken rule that, if you see a home you previously lived in go up for sale, you have to scope it out online and then make a series of gurning faces and disappointed tuts.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 7:00 am
My front door, which - unblievably - was once someone else’s front door

There’s no exception to this rule. The feng shui could be amazing, the rooms flowing and dripping with positive vibes. The decor could be gloriously tasteful, colour schemes meshing effortlessly.

It doesn't matter: it’s different and you hate it and put it back how I remember it now, please.

People don’t like change. As a rule, we react childishly to it because it’s uncomfortable and makes us fear the future energy expenditure and brain power-usage which comes with adapting.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Change means new stuff to learn and new stuff to get wrong in front of other people, which we hate because it makes us feel daft and raises the chances we’re going to make a lemon of ourselves in front of Steve.

That’s why, when you move into a new place, a big step is ‘making it your own’ - aka, creating a safe-space where things make sense. History must be erased. ‘This is how things are now’, you think, mentally marking your territory like a dog with a cocked leg.

For our own comfort, we slip smoothly into a presumptive mindset of places not having a history. But the phrase ‘if these walls could talk’ is an aphorism heavy with connotations for a reason.

The house I live in is a proper old terraced house with stone stairs, a cold cellar, hardwood floors, and a stone chimney-and-fireplace combo which looks like it could survive a few rounds with a peeved-off brickie armed with a sledgehammer.

It must have had goodness-knows how many owners: actual people who cooked, slept, read, yawned, bathed, cried, shouted, sulked, laughed, danced, thought, and existed right here. That’s weird to think of.

A reminder of this was brought home rather emphatically recently.

As I sat outside in the sun, a woman walked past on her way to pick her kid up from school. She said hi before adding that she’d lived in the house for six years. She’d called it ‘The Doll’s House’ and only moved out because she needed more space. ‘Ah, lovely’, I thought.

Then she dropped the atom bomb.

“I won’t traumatise you by telling you my son was conceived in your bedroom,” she said, traumatisingly. Two minutes later, she walked past again with her son in tow. “Look,” she said. “Mummy used to live there.”