The highs and lows of cellar life, from pickles to spiders | Jack Marshall's column

My home is technically a four-storey property.

By Jack Marshall, Reporter
Monday, 7th December 2020, 7:00 am
The cellar pickles
The cellar pickles

Sure, one of the floors may be a completely inaccessible attic and another may be all but useless by dint of being a pretty damp and very cold cellar. But read ‘em and weep: four floors.

My last home was a new build. Literally brand-spanking new; a freshly-constructed, never-before-lived-in home, all gleaming white walls, plug sockets which had never been switched on, and dodgy new turf in the garden.

Going from that to a proper old-school home with a proper old-school cellar was a leap.

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The cellar is tantalising: there’s so much space down there. I could add a whole other layer of living to my home. A reading snug or a home cinema. A bar area or a home office. But no, it’s just a breeding ground for spiders.

It’s also a point of fascination for two members of my family.

My niece loves the cellar. She’s almost four and is therefore impossibly cute, a picture of big eyes and smiles and loveliness. When she last visited, she asked if she could go down into the cellar and then - with a confident curiosity most adults would kill for - strode down the stairs.

(Side note: another manifestation of her confident curiosity came during that same visit when she asked if she could explore the rest of the house and I later found her in my bed pretending to sleep.)

The other family member for whom the cellar is something of an obsession is my dad.

As is typical of a man of a certain age, my father has taken to pickling lately. I’ve chalked this down to a right of passage for those nearing retirement; a revealing inclination towards preservation, of wanting to slow the decay and halt the creep of time’s ravaging impact.

Or maybe he just likes pickled onions.

My cellar has been earmarked as the perfect pickle home. Which, to be fair, it is. Now, whenever he comes round, he asks ‘how are my pickles?’ as he heads down to check on the mishmash of mason jars as if something will have changed since he last looked.

He’ll make an abundance of ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ noises - less intelligible noises than my niece made when she was down there, actually - and then make a dad joke about how he hopes I’m turning the jars every day or so before eating one of the ‘well spicy ones’ and making more noises.

Having a cellar is ace.