Hands up, who started singing? I know I was as I was typing it, so if you weren't I salute you. I didn't know it was a Clash song, I had to google that, but I knew the words - and more than I've included here. Surprisingly though this isn't a musical post, it's something more literal, should you move or improve?
No doubt, something that crosses most of our minds at some stage. I know when we were thinking about replacing our kitchen, we knew that although our kitchen was getting tired, it wasn't completely broken. But we also knew that by the time we wanted to move on, it would most likely be in the completely broken, so we decided to go for it and enjoy the new kitchen rather than just have a new one put in just to sell the house.
But I'm not going to talk about that in this post either, I'm going to indulge in some nostalgia today and we're heading back to my previous house, which was the first house I bought on my own. It was an Edwardian style house and a probate sale, and I suspect that the owners had had the house for a very long time.
We're heading back to 1993 and while I'd just bought the house, improving it was essential. Every room needed bringing up to date and the garden needed completely taming. I've found a load of old photos, but sadly not all of them just yet, and I'm still deciding which to share with you today. They've brought back so many memories that I think I'll be sharing all of them at some point and looking out the ones that I haven't found yet.
I'll give you a taste of the work we undertook, but as the sun is shining let's focus on the garden today.
I'll leave the rest of upstairs as the back bedroom has its own story, as we replaced the bomb-damaged ceiling. Yes, I know I said 1993, but the ceiling was battened which was typical of bomb damage. That gives you an idea of what I took on, and I don't think I knew just how much that was until we started. Thankfully my dad, a veteran tradesman and my brother, an electrician along with my ginger cat, Quickly were willing to take on a lot of the work. I kid you not about the cat, every time there was DIY work going on he was there helping out, the other cats (I had three more) made themselves scarce, just like normal cats.
In the dining room, you can see work is still underway, but that built in cupboard was my pride and joy. I personally, and painstakingly, scraped years and years worth of paint off of the original in-built cupboard, and it turned out rather well. The curtains behind the glass were a genius idea as they hid a multitude of sins, but I remember mum thinking how old-fashioned they were, as it was something her nan would have had.
We'll leave the kitchen too, as I don't have the "after" pictures yet, I must have them somewhere and that can be a whole blog post on its own. Let's head out into the garden, in 1993, it looked like this:
Yes, it was quite the mystery garden. We knew from the gardens next door that there was more to discover, but we also knew that we needed our secateurs to find out exactly what! There was a path on the right-hand side that was just about squeeze-through-able, but as with all gardens, it continued to grow. The birdbath looks great with its ring of yellow plant doesn't it? Only thing was the plant was planted in a plastic washing up bowl that had perished, so as soon as I investigated further it disintegrated in my hands. I'd forgotten that until I saw this picture, funny how our memories are tied into photos isn't it?
There was a garden shed though, right outside the back door:
It wasn't long before the brambles had at least been cut down, something that was a regular task over the next few years, and taming was a little way off yet. But with them cut down and a clearer pathway beginning to emerge it was time to start building a new shed. I think my dad was in his element as he made the frame out of angle line, or grown ups meccano as I often called it.
And I'll have you know that that slant is just an illusion of camera angles, it was perfectly straight. I know I measured it plenty of times, as dad has a habit of preferring things with a bit of a lean. The windows were old ones that dad had from I'm not sure where, but he was right, they did come in useful one day.
We'd found the breeze blocks you can see scattered around the photo in the garden, on the left-hand edge. I think some of them went back to where they came from and others I found new homes for. A strange thing to have discovered in all those weeds.
But it wasn't long before the new shed took shape. The door was from an inbuilt cupboard in one of the bedrooms, so small that a coathanger didn't actually fit in sideways, and so useless as a wardrobe. But pretty useful as a shed door. The wood that was added to the metal frame, was from my brother's dogs kennel, which they no longer used. He had two alsatians, so it was a fairly big kennel.
How I'd wished I'd hung onto that zinc bucket and butler's sink, but sadly I didn't. My re-use tendencies clearly had left me at this point. I'm not sure where the crazy paving slabs came from, but I do remember collecting bottles to add some interest to the round-edged patio. That was something else I'd forgotten about, I was adamant it had to be round, and well here we are again creating circles in this garden, although this time in grass.
And so the garden started to take shape. This was the garden that got me into gardening, partly because it was a challenge and partly because it was hard to not get into gardening after I'd seen - and contributed - to the work bringing it back under control.
And as with anything, my garden continued to evolve. Net curtains were added to the inside of the shed, not because I was house proud or anything, but because the dark window used to reflect the spotlights from the football ground over the road and give me the heebie-jeebies. Trellis was added to the front of the shed to soften it further. Turfs were laid when we were confident that the brambles had lost their grip, and a new fence was erected, on the left-hand side as you look by me and dad and on the other side by the now new neighbour.
You wouldn't quite believe it's the same garden would you?
And I think this garden is a fantastic example of what you can achieve if you choose to stay and improve. I think there'll always be a time when moving on is the right thing to do, but for me, if I fell in love with a house, had invested time and money into it, then if there were no other factors I'd choose to improve, rather than move. But then again I've only ever lived in five houses, maybe that's a factor too.
So would you move or improve?
Slater and Gordon Solicitors have recently undertaken research to help you make up your mind. I don't think it that surprising that 61% of people said they'd renovate rather than move, but I am surprised that only 35% consider location as the most important factor when choosing a new home. Or maybe I've just watched too many TV programmes of the same name, same name, same name. I would think that location is one of the things you can't change about a house so it's important to get that right, but I also suspect that if the right house comes along and you fall hard for it, then location could easily go out of the window!
Let me know what you think, and if you're in the move or improve camp, I'm keen to know.
* This is a collaborative post, but all views and opinions are my own.