Jackie Bird’s Column
“Like an ancient tree, the older we get the more we need our roots for sustenance and stability.”
Moving house is reputedly more stressful than divorce or starting a new job, so to make life more interesting I’ve just encouraged my parents, who are either side of 80, to up sticks. Not only that but it’s the first time they’ve actually done it, having moved to their current home when John F Kennedy was President. When I told my brother they were moving you’d have thought I’d informed him I’d just done the old dears in for the inheritance and buried them under the patio, such was his shock. “But that’s the house where I grew up,” he wailed, as if it was Lanarkshire’s Graceland. If I’m honest I’m surprised my parents took to the idea so readily, but the fact that the once quiet road has become a race track for the central belt’s buses played a part. Added to that, the Himalayan stairs to reach the front door meant there was a constant fear a trip to A&E was only a miss-step away. I’ll be sad to leave the old place too as every inch of it has a memory. Growing up my brother and I turned our tiny garden into Wimbledon, a show-jumping course, even a concert stage, depending on whatever was on the telly at the time. On summer nights we were occasionally allowed to sleep out under sheets stretched across the clothes line, and even in our prized tent when we eventually got one second hand. I recall entire summers throwing two balls against the back door until mum said it was giving her a headache, or playing kick-the-can until it got dark with hoards of the other kids in the street. Nowadays only a tiny few of those original neighbours remain, and the only people racing up their stairs are their grandchildren or even greatgrandchildren. It’s a measure of how times have changed that those gardens, with a patch of grass and a whole lot of imagination, have long ceased to be playgrounds. Incidentally, in case I’m painting too rose-tinted a picture I should add that for every delightful day Bruv and I played happily there was another where we ended up hammering the living daylights out of each other and being sent to bed early. Memories aside, the actual physical move from the house will be a doddle as it’s so small. My own children can’t believe I shared a room with my brother until I moved out and rented a flat, and quite frankly neither can I. Back then I enforced a border in the room with a wardrobe and a net curtain; pictures of Donny Osmond in one half and the Battle of Britain with a squadron of Airfix planes hanging from the ceiling in the other. Despite the fact they’re not packing up from Blenheim Palace my mum and dad are fretting about the move. It’s a whole new world of estate agents, home reports and lawyers. I know I’m going to have to gag my dad when someone suggests a valuation that’s less than he thinks it ought to be. Try telling him the house he’s lived in and maintained for over half a century is worth about the same as a luxury car. But by far the most poignant thing that’s happened is the people who have lived in the street for the same length of time who’ve dropped by to say how sorry they are that my parents are leaving. The older you get and the more life changes around you, it must be nice to have some constants, and is no doubt a bit of a blow when they go. Eras have to end. My old school is now a housing estate and many other haunts of my past have been wiped off the map and now the family home will soon host new inhabitants. Oh how I’d love to be a fly on the wall when they take the wall-paper off and discover not only our heights marked down the years but my dad’s running commentary on the state of the world when that particular room was being decorated. Like an ancient tree, the older we get the more we need our roots for sustenance and stability. Having my parents in the house where I grew up and being able to visit it on a regular basis has been something I’ve taken for granted. So if you’re reading this and are about to buy a small, muchloved house in Lanarkshire, be reassured that the stranger in the car occasionally peering into your living room isn’t a malevolent stalker, but a friendly blast from the past.
“When I told my brother our parents were moving you’d have thought I’d done the old dears in for the inheritance and buried them under the patio such was his shock”