Friday, October 13, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Having decided that we need to move to a house, somewhere in the same area but with a bigger bedroom for the child we keep in a cupboard and a second bathroom for the child who's traumatised by using the same bathroom as her father in the mornings (yes, I know: social services) we've been keeping our eyes open for possibilities even though we were aiming to put our place on the market after Christmas. However, a strong contender has just come up so last week I went to see it on my own and tomorrow we're all going, with a builder in tow to see which walls can be demolished without the whole thing collapsing.
This has led me to think about what my real aspirations are for a new house. Yes, of course I want Annie to have room for all her Sylvanian animals, and Jordan (and Richard) to have a bit of privacy; but for me personally, the list is something like this:
  • I want 4 toilets. That's one each, and everyone has to clean their own. No more arguments. Brilliant!
  • I'd like one of the toilets to be a big downstairs loo with a big bookshelf where I can keep all those interesting / quirky books that say to visitors, 'look how interesting and quirky I am'.
  • I'd like unlimited storage space for shoes. Every woman's dream.
  • I'd like an underfloor heating / cooling system, that senses how hot or cold my feet are and automatically adjusts to my (no-one else's, obviously) particular needs.
  • The children's bedrooms should be soundproofed, but there should be an intercom from the kitchen to their rooms so I can call them for food etc.
  • I want a balcony out from my bedroom with a vista of Capability Brown landscaped parkland. Seems unlikely, in inner-city Bristol.
  • I want a serene room, preferably all white with a digital projector and a great sound system. Lots of squashy beanbag chairs. An icon. And nothing else.
  • I want a big kitchen with a great big table that will accomodate lots of friends and family.
But really, more than anything, I want a home where people feel able to kick off their shoes, curl up in a favourite old chair and be themselves.

At the 'Blah' event on emerging church that ran in the summer, one of the points raised that stuck with me was the need to 'teach' hospitality. It's a bit sad that any teaching is required. But it made me think, what have I got to learn in this area? I've always thought of myself as very hospitable, but really, I reckon it's very much on my terms. I want people to come, but only when I'm ready for them (cushions plumped, mess tidied, lipstick on). I want people to eat, but only when the food's up to standard. I want people to feel welcomed into our family, but only if I manage to give the impression that I never shout at the kids, we never row over who last cleaned the toilet, and we only ever read / watch edifying books / TV programmes.

It made me think about homes I've visited where I feel instantly 'at home', and what makes me feel that way. The sort of homes where you can literally turn up unannounced but not feel a burden. Where friends don't feel they have to entertain you, but can just as easily sit and watch a rubbish TV programme together as listen to your latest news. Where you're not treated like royalty, but instead are invited to help with the washing up.

I think the basic lesson for me is: control freakery does not good hospitality make.

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