The Gingerbread House, Clinton, Ohio

Home is where the DIY is

The Gingerbread House, Clinton, Ohio

The Gingerbread House, Clinton, Ohio

I’ve been thinking a lot about home this week. Mostly because we’re in the early stages of putting our house up on the market, so we’re looking at what we need to do to make it appealing to a buyer, and talking about what we’re hoping for in our new home.

We’ve been in this house for six and a half years, now. It was bought in a bit of a rush – we were renting a few towns away and our landlord decided to sell, quite suddenly. The letter giving us notice came when I was away in Wales, helping organise my grandfather’s funeral. Not the best ever timing.

So, we had to move quickly. We knew that if we wanted to buy, we could only afford a house in the town where the husband works, which was a good hour’s drive away from where I was working. The husband did most of the house viewings on his own, and came home one night, very close to our deadline for giving up and just finding somewhere – anywhere – to rent for the next six months, pulled out the camera and said, “Now, you’re going to hate this house. But bear with me.”

It was hideous. The walls were painted varying shades of purple, in patches across the lounge. The spare room had two walls painted pale green, two painted pale blue, and the door painted a mixture of both. The kitchen had a dark, ugly carpet that stuck to your feet. There was rotting furniture and curtains in the bedrooms. Worst of all, the archway between the lounge and the kitchen had lights embedded in it. And it was shaped like a coffin.

That’s right. Somehow, my husband convinced me to buy a house with a Coffin Portal.

In fairness, it was by far the biggest house we’d seen. The husband promised me he could make it home, and we got it at a bargain price. And then we spent the next three years solid doing it up.

Inexplicably, though, the Coffin Portal lingered. It became a talking point at parties. Friends travelled from far and wide just to admire it. Everyone wanted their photo taken standing under it, holding a posy of flowers and looking dead. There was talk of bringing in a smoke machine.

 Then, when I was about five months pregnant with the daughter, I announced very firmly that I would not bring a child into a world where such hideousness existed. It was time for the Coffin Portal to go.

Our friends have never really forgiven me.

I write about home a lot, in my books. In Room for Love, Carrie moves home to the Avalon Inn after her grandmother dies, and faces a struggle to make the Inn not just a financially viable business, but also her home. A task complicated by the people who already call it home, and don’t want to see anything changed. In An A to Z of Love, home is the town of Aberarian, facing huge changes and needing the whole community to pull together and save the things they love about it. And for Mia, home is the A to Z shop, and her best friend Charlie’s restaurant, StarFish. And maybe Charlie himself…

I think it’s because, in romance stories, finding the person you’re meant to be with is coming home. You could be anywhere in the world and still be home, as long as they were with you.

My heroines tend to struggle at the task of finding that one person they can make a home with – for them, the place is easy. It’s the person that’s tricky. Neither the Avalon nor Aberarian can really be home for Carrie and Mia until they find love and let it in the front door.

So, back to my own house hunt. What are we looking for in our new home? The daughter wants it to have a slide in the garden. The husband is desperate for an actual driveway, and maybe a conservatory. Me? Well, I’d like a separate dining room, and a bigger bedroom for the daughter. But all I really need is somewhere to put my grandparent’s Welsh dresser, a spot to set my laptop, and a house that feels as much like home as this one has.

Flickr Photo Credit: tbower