A trip to my past life

It always amuses me when watching British television programmes about house renovations and real estate, how the Brits like to call the pokiest, plainest, little lounges "reception rooms".

The term conjures up Georgian scenes in Bath when genteel women gathered in grand reception rooms and did turns about the rooms flashing a bit of scandalous ankle while cruising the joint for suitable husband material.

My brother used to ridicule my mother for pretentiously referring to our family lounge or sitting room as "the drawing room", for when you look up the definition of a drawing room, first in usage in 1642, it described a room to which the owner of the house, his lady wife and a distinguished guest would withdraw for privacy.

There was not anything terribly private about our drawing room but there was some attempt at style with floral-covered furniture, which had to be kept nice for Sundays when the grandparents would drive out from Christchurch to Rangiora and we kids would perch expectantly on the window seat that housed back issues of Life and Time magazines kept specially for school projects.

We would hover, the family holding back till the welcome sound of the tea wagon would rattle in, bearing the lightest of sponges top heavy with whipped cream and other delights, the best china wheeled out for cups of Bell tea.

Last week I went back to this house that I had first been brought to from the maternity hospital in a washing basket.

I was walking through the park, peering at the house through the trees, when I saw a nice old gent walking up the drive. I babbled out my connection to the place as he waved me up the drive to his wife, who kindly invited us in.

Sure, the house had been altered with a big farm kitchen and other additions, but my tiny bedroom, even more Lilliputian than I remembered, was just the same. And, joy of joy, the drawing room was intact and they had kept the window seat where the sun, as it always did, streamed through.

People talk in hackneyed cliche about being transported back in time but that was exactly what happened.

It was Sunday morning and I could see my hilarious father wearing nothing but his underpants and a Masonic apron strapped round his waist dancing through the drawing room to Bert Kaempfert's catchy Swinging in Safari while my mother tried her best to be po-faced and put a stop to it as he broke form and introduced us to the secret Masonic handshake, which we all thought hugely funny.

The lady who lives there now was so warm and inviting, and spoke of her great happiness with the house as I told her about my mother's various gardening attempts at a grotto, a mountainous rock garden, a fish pond, not to mention the playhouse, and when my grandfather came to live with us, the addition of "the Artist in Wood's shed".

Thank you so very much to that lovely old couple for allowing me a whisper of the past and obliging me in the knowledge that my childish reality was not a corny fantasy and that first house was and is a good house that just keeps on keeping on.

The Press