I love my home, it’s where I’m happiest. It’s not special…. but it’s special to me.
I used to be a real mad collector and this house was full of antiques. But after my son died, 23 years ago, I thought ‘what’s the point?’. It’s more minimalistic now, but there are still bits that are important to me.
We have lived here for 46 years – me and my husband and my son. We were married 51 years past in September. My 2 boys were born with spina bifida in 1975 – twin boys. My son was in a wheelchair all his life, so our life was completely organised, focused you know, on routine at that time. When you lose someone like that it just changes your whole outlook – it’s just entirely different. But, when you have other family you have to move on.
I was born in a thatched cottage, four miles out the road, and moved to this town when I was 10. I went to work as a hairdresser and married a man from County Derry. We lived there for 6 years and then I trailed him back across the bridge to County Antrim.
My cousin built all these houses. We are happy we picked this site – because we love it. 23 children grew up in this street. Fantastic. Everybody moved in around the same time – within 2 years… Absolutely fantastic place to live. But now, sadly, there are no children….. This neighbour is here longer than me, and my next-door neighbour about 30 years.
This house cost us £4,500 – but that was in 1971. It was a struggle, you know. We almost didn’t buy it because it was £500 more than we expected. When I think of it now….
When we moved in there was no upstairs – just downstairs. Two bedrooms – that was the cheapest way to do it. We had 3 children inside 2 years and 4 months so it was a big change. We put on one room upstairs and moved up there and the boys were downstairs. Eventually, when the boys were a bit older, we put on this extension and the other room upstairs, and we moved up there. Then I got ill and I couldn’t manage the stairs. We put in an ensuite in the main bedroom upstairs so I could be up there, but come down once a day.
There wasn’t a lot of money about but you made do. We lived with that black asphalt on the floor for 3 or 4 years. In those days you didn’t go and add it on to your mortgage… you didn’t think about it. We didn’t have a big social life or anything so you had to be happy in your own house. And we were happy.
This is the extension, it is more modern. We spend all day here. But when my son’s here, he spends most of his time in here. We very seldom use that other room.
Because my son was in the wheelchair we put in a ramp for him at the back that meant he had access straight out. He was about 10. We put in a disabled shower for him around that time. The house is completely adapted to suit us. It was adapted to suit the children’s needs when they were small and as they grew up it had to be changed a bit. I was going to take the shower out when my son died but my other son uses the disabled shower as well. It’s no great, big modern shower but it works, it functions for us. We tried to keep it as a normal family home as possible. And that’s how it is.
I myself developed rheumatoid arthritis and had a session in a wheelchair. So, the ramp was good. It’s great to have that when you are a bit older. I can still manage the stairs. There’s been quite a lot of changes – but not because of style or fashion. it was to suit our needs.
Our social life is here. For both of us ..bowls, badminton….There’s just a good community. It’s near the town – which I can still drive into. Everything is on hand. We like the people who live here and belong to a local church. The boys went to school here. My grandson went to school up the road and we cared for him every week day for the last 11 years. He is the new generation – and still loves to come and stay. His toys are still here….. To me it’s the right place for us.
I have a big family connection. Lots of cousins, I think I’ve 52 full cousins. They are still round here. I go down the street and I have a fair idea of most people in this town.
This room is where I spend 75% of my life. My computer is here and my linen. I have a few bits and pieces of textiles and I sew a bit. We’ve all got our own wee space. That wee room of mine, I love it.
To me there’s nothing quite like linen – although I’m a big fan of William Morris, Arts and Crafts. I just have an interest in textiles in general. I used to give talks on Irish linen. The Old Bleach mill made textiles up until the ‘30’s. My mother worked down at the Old Bleach as a 15 year old up until she got married and then she went back when I was 11. She loved it and she collected all the memorabilia. I inherited all her linen and I just love it. I love to work with it.
When I looked for material to do this place up I was influenced by the Old Bleach 1930’s penguin pattern. I would have gone with trends very much when I was married first but now I don’t. I was married in ’66 and was a child of the sixties so I still love the sixties. Who doesn’t love the sixties!
There was a white television.. white coffee table. That’s how it started off….this was hessian and the floors were plain carpet and the white television… it was very ‘in’. I see things in books from the sixties that I actually had.
The one thing I don’t like about this house is that fireplace. … There was a very sixties fireplace. It was the style that was in then – sometimes I regret taking it out, I would never do that again. I hate this fireplace. I would put in a plain white fireplace. We put in a back boiler but we never use it and, since I got arthritis we don’t light the fire. I’d paint it but my husband … men like natural wood. And I would paint these doors. I put these doors on and they don’t match. It’s a hodgepodge. But it’s OK. It doesn’t bother me at all.
I choose most things but if my husband didn’t like something he would say. This suite was bought in an auction. It was red velour and I had it covered. I’d love to change in here and make it more modern but I say: “What’s the point”.
I like the fashion today. When I did this room up it was gold paper with gold and cream and red curtains – 15 years ago – we had peachy colour carpet and we decorated again… just painting over the paper which we thought was ok. It’s a bit more up to date. We got this covered but the carpet is top-grade so I just can’t justify taking it up. It’s on the stairs. I don’t like the carpet any more. I like the neutral shades that are in now, I’d like a nice grey carpet.
My mother made that before she was married. About 1930. There’s lots of wee bits like that…..
There’s a few bits in there.. the basket at the top was one of my mother’s wedding presents,1941. There are some things that are still important to me….. The blue china came from my husband’s mum. It was the first china that I got my tea out of when I was going with him. Things like that mean something to us. …. That’s Alfred Meakin. I went on a binge of collecting all that stuff…. I look at that now and think: “what did I collect that for?”
Friends, who have very good stuff in their house, say to me “ I don’t know what’s going to happen to all this stuff”. And I look at them and say. “ Do you know what’s going to happen to it? It’s going to end up in a skip”. They nearly have a heart attack. My son calls this stuff “ trumpfery”. Mother’s trumpfery. So that’s what they think about it. I don’t mind. If they throw it out, they throw it out.
This is my mother in law’s dining table in my kitchen. That’s another thing I treasure. It was in my mother in law’s house since she was married and I just think… how many people have sat at this table and how many have eaten off it. I wouldn’t just throw it out.
My house is certainly not as modern as other people’s but I think it’s practical. It works as well.
My husband does the garden. We have quite a big garden at the back and it’s getting too much for him. He’s 78 and he’s been out there all this week. We get someone to cut the hedge. But we still spend a lot of time. See in the spring morning in the month of May I go out in my bare feet and walk round my garden and I’m in heaven, I love it. We‘ll cope with it as long as we can. That’s the best way to go on.
We could do with a new kitchen, it’s well worn, but we’re not going to bother.
I have my original bathroom – believe it or not…. sky blue. I love it. That sixties thing is still in me. We changed it around and put a bidet in. People say why don’t you put in a nice white bathroom? Why would I bother? We put new tiles on the floor and new tiles on the walls. Apart from that it’s original – we had to replace the toilet and had trouble getting it.
This is the room we built first. It’s newly done up. That is the colour of carpet I’d like through the whole house. We have a fantastic view from here. We can see right out over the town. …that’s where I grew up. You can see the Old Bleach chimney. I do like this room, it’s bright and cheery.
….It’s too big, it’s far too big and I would have moved, maybe 10 years ago, to a smaller house that would do our son when we pass on. My husband said. “No. I couldn’t cope with all that moving” and see now… 5 years… 10 years later on… I couldn’t move. You do – you shouldn’t – but you do become quite emotionally attached as you get older. I would find it very hard to live somewhere else and go past here and see someone else living here.
You have to be happy in your own home. I love my home. You go away, you come home you say you had a good time but it’s nice to be home again – and I think that’s important. This is my space and this is me. And even though we have had problems in our family to cope with, we are happy here. I always say: “This is my favourite place on earth”.