My house is almost the same age as me. This might explain why I find it so hard to accept that it needs work. Just as I can ignore my greying temples, creaking limbs and need for occasional physio, I have been pretending that our leaking shower, inefficient heating and threadbare furnishings are really all just in perfect working order, all they need is a bit of gaffer tape/wooly jumper/throw cushions and they work just fine. It has been a pitched battle between my spouse and I over the last few years as to what does and does not need to be done, but I have grudgingly accepted that a vast programme of cosmetic surgery is needed, for the house, and sadly not me.
The news of the revamp was greeted with much joy by our eldest child, who had long been telling me that our house looks abandoned, a claim I refute by saying actually it looks occupied, most likely by that kid from The Sixth Sense or a lonely cartel footsoldier caring for fifty thousand cannabis plants with only an army of grow lamps for company. When her friends were coming to visit she would tell them to just look for the abandoned house with the collapsed gate posts, because who needs Eircodes when you have a notably dilapidated house in an era of Grand Designs and Rooms to Improve.
Houses are built to last, humans, slightly less so. It was one of my dad’s wishes that we would live here, although I don’t think he would be too pleased to see how I have left it fall into disrepair. Just as my children run wild within the house, chaos rules without. I have also lost control of the gardens. Dad was a keen gardener, and I find myself standing knee deep in nettles wondering how I failed to pick up any of his skills, or even learn the difference between a weed and a shrub (if there is any). I try to tell myself that I am helping the planet by rewilding the garden, gifting it back to nature by only mowing it on a bi-monthly basis, encouraging bees and bugs and rats and whoever the hell else wants to live here by just staying out of the garden as much as humanly possible. But now we are fixing the house up, the pressure is on to sort the garden as cheaply as possible, which means I will do it using my Lidl hedgetrimmer and the miracle of fire.
I still marvel that my dad was able to do so much with the grounds, given that much of it lies on a 45 degree angle and the mower he used weighs as much as a Sherman tank. He used to say that the garden was his gym, but I only ever had visions of him clutching his chest and keeling over the mower some day. In the end, it was the quiet drama of cancer that took him. Even when he was terminally ill he would potter out into the garden and poke about with a shovel, or just find a quiet spot and sit there, enjoying the fruits of his labours. I find no joy out there and would napalm the whole place to the ground if I could. I seem to have missed out on picking up his gardening skills, or his financial acumen, and I am struggling to manage a house that befits a bigger, better person than me. But it is home, and I have to get better, as a parent, as a gardener, as an income generator, because the refurb isn’t really about making the house great for us, but making it ready for the next generation. As a parent, and as a gardener, I am an enthusiastic sower of seeds, and little else.