fireplace with mirror

I was born in a house on other side of this street.

Our family have been in this area from the 1920’s.

In 1976 it was re-developed and they knocked all our terraced houses down.

We held out as long as we possibly could.

We tried to get them to put extensions on instead because we were a very, very, close-knit community,   5-6 streets where everybody knew one another. 

In our old house, at that time, we still had an outside toilet.  

We had a lean-to made of wood with a felt roof. There was a water hose and an outside tap as a very primitive shower system. 

It was your own personal space to go get washed. But you couldn’t have sat all day you know, like you can relax in the bath now.

That’s just basically the way it was.

view of ceiling to door  and street with decorative light

There is just me and my husband living here.

When we moved into this street we had one child and one on the way.

My uncle was also living with us. He had the same illness as my husband has now so he used to be in the back room.  

They wanted us to rent. Eventually they gave us a chance to buy –  once they got their money back.  

I bought mine at the right time. It worked out cheaper for me to buy in this street than to rent.

When I was growing up there were eleven of us living in a two bedroom house. 

There was granny, my daddy,  my uncle,  two sisters…. big bedrooms, small living room.  

We moved the kitchen out to the lean-to.

Downstairs there was a sitting room with the fireplace and a hearth and the settee etc.  

The coal-house,  they blocked  up and kept the coal in the yard.  There was a double bed there and bunk beds on the other side. You had to walk through it to get to the working kitchen.

So whoever was up first  – that was usually granny   and a couple of kids for school –  they slept in there.  

round mirror reflecting red flower and blinds

Upstairs was a double bed and a single bed in the front room, and in the back room – my uncle.

When Granny was getting up in the morning my uncle was coming home from work. It always worked out that there was somebody in.  

But it was great.  You never felt the over-load. You really didn’t.  

‘The aunts’ lived a few doors down. My daughter now lives in their house up the street.

Two old aunts, never had children, but Saturday and Sunday their house was never empty.  They worked all week and Sunday they were off all day.

Dinner was always in their house.  You went there and you got your fry and your chippers – as they called it. 

It was very close knit.  

window to street with blinds, swags and tails

It’s a good wee street..  good neighbours around us. Everybody’s just happy being here.   

In this street there wouldn’t be too many ‘new’ neighbours. If you go further across the road there will be newer people –  they wouldn’t be from the area. They would have been allocated housing. 

In this street you have both social housing and bought-housing.   I’d say there’s only 4 or 5  renting at the most.

It worked out grand for us, and it’s great that our kids are getting that chance too. 

houses in street through window

You can’t really tell the difference in this street between a rented home and one that somebody owns.

You can tell that’s a bought house because she put in her own windows, and he has his own door.

Those are Housing Executive doors. You can see how different people have different ways of doing things.  I think it’s just people’s style.

My young lad was in a two-bedroom  house and then his family went up to 6 –  he has 6 children.

A friend of ours had a house across the street and was looking to downsize so I said why don’t you swap? 

It meant the furniture, windows, built-in  wardrobes and everything that he wasn’t able to take weren’t going to waste.

They literally swapped with one another and bought each other’s homes. It worked out grand. 

It’s great that you know who your neighbours are and everyone is very friendly.

You wouldn’t get an awful lot of noise or anything in this street.  It’s quite quiet. I work in the area too so I kind of know everyone. 

‘The Troubles’?

‘The Troubles’ were on the road or at the back.

We never had any problem in this street as there was no rioting round here. Every neighbour looks out for everyone else.   All the neighbours are great.   

ceiling rose and light, swags and tails on window

When I first walked in I looked at the place and I thought: my living room round there was a bit bigger and a different shape.

It was quite hard to adjust to it … and the fact that you were going into the hall before you could get out anywhere.

I thought yeah…you’ve got an extra room here but you’re cut down in size. 

 So, then we had to make more space for ourselves and do a couple of wee adaptations. We did it straight away.

The first thing we did was: my husband ran these mouldings in the ceiling.

He worked at the building game, he was a plasterer by trade, and did all the covings so we could put our own mark on the house.

decorative objects

When we came first it was all… brown doors… and brown doors…. and cupboards.. cupboards in the hall.  

You were opening doors and doors… and there was no character to it.  

Even though we were still renting at that time we thought: we can do without these.  So basically although the space was limited the storage space didn’t really suit us.  

We got there in the end. It took us a good bit to get it to this state. 

There was a bathroom and a kitchen –  it wasn’t a big kitchen but it was like hi-tech compared to what we had round the old house where  we only had geysers.

Here we had running hot water. 

 We had the glass fronted fire, but the door was always black in it.  It was a nuisance.  We took ours out and changed it over quite early to oil.  

We had horrible wooden windows and the wood just rotted.   You were forever painting them so we changed them.

You have to keep up with a house. 

solid wooden floors in sunny hall

These are solid wooden floors.

I get a guy out every 16 to 18 months. He buffs them up and polishes them and does a brilliant job.

I’m going to put them down in the middle room there and the room opposite. It means that the whole house will have solid floors.  

And I’m getting a (seam-free) marble floor for the kitchen.

We’re all on the one floor so basically it’s easier to go straight through  – and it’s better for my husband, it’s more practical. 

When my uncle died the two oldest girls moved into his room.  

wardrobes and bed reflected

We said: we will let you decide what colour you want to decorate it…..

It was tangerine orange and electric blue!  And across there they had all these celtic stencils.

And I thought: is that going to come off my walls? And it never did so J. skimmed it all again.  

And I thought, thank God because we could never ever get rid of it.

The upstairs conversion J. did that himself. That was  20 odd years ago.  

We were able to make the changes because my husband did building work.

My father-in-law made the modifications to the kitchen, moving it from one side to the other – taking down walls. Because he knew all about the structural stuff. 

brown kitchen cupboards, fridge and TV

We added on about 3 feet to the kitchen.

He came and lifted the whole window out and built it up with brick and then we got the patio doors put in the opposite way.

We moved the kitchen from one side to the other and planned out  the space so it would work better for us.

Because you know what kind of environment you’re working in, and you know what you are doing. 

We have had eight kitchens.  

When we first moved in here the first kitchen was a white one.

Then I went from white to grey then I went from grey to dark oak.  And then I went to a farmhouse kitchen pine and  cream….. and then I took that out.

I had the granite worktops.

I convinced myself to pay the money for the granite worktops and because I’m paying such big  money I’ll never change it. But  I got fed up looking at it.  So I took it out.  

The extra 3 foot made a hell of a difference to us.

The kitchen was very cramped. The washing machine and dryer are outside,  so there’s no flooding. It suits us.  Everybody sits at the table.

This is J’s seat, and my daughter sits there and so forth….me up here, my son down here and his 3 kids.

father's seat and belongings on kitchen table

He has limited walking ability but we are all on the flat here so in the house he doesn’t use a wheelchair. 

My husband took a massive diabetic turn and then a few more turns.  

The shower was too high for him.  We got a drop-down seat  but it is not manageable because going in and coming out is very slippy.  We got special shoes but it’s not safe.  

We are going to take it out and put a new one in. 

He gets very tired.

Even he was just going in for a  shave its a big effort for him to do one thing and it exhausts him.

It took him from yesterday morning to 4 o’clock just to get showered and shaved. What was an easy task before is now a big thing and he would have to lie down for a good while afterwards. 

bathroom with disability rail

We bought drop down bars for the bathroom and the toilet. There’s a ramp at the front door.  We got it made into steps.  But all we have to do is lift the steps if we have to use it.

We used to barter for work.

His friend would come here to do some joinery and he would go to his to do some plastering.  

His other friend was a plumber.  My husband plastered all his house and then he would do any plumbing work that I needed. Never cost me anything. It was brilliant!  

But I’ve lost my bartering power. So now I have to pay people to get work done. 

The house itself is comfortable, it suits me. The street and location is good and it’s pretty central to the city centre, close to work, close to motorways –  that makes a lot of difference. 

I can walk to work and into town.  I’m close to doctors, hospitals everything and there are loads of parks so I’d never move anywhere else.  

We did buy another house but moved back here. We were out for only a few weeks. 

kitchen utensils hanging above cooker

Every morning I’m on the go from  about 7am.

The normal routine is: put a  wash in, put the  dryer on.. get the breakfast dishes and stuff like that.

The young ones… they will all go out to school. Even if they weren’t staying the night they’re in here in the mornings.

Then I would go round to work.

I start getting dinner and stuff done for them coming in for 5:10pm. It’s like a regimen. 

mirror reflecting window and street

My home is the only thing I have an interest in. That’s where the money goes. Everything goes into this.

What matters is: that is comfortable and the people are comfortable in it .. and that they are all fed and watered. 

People come and go all day.

Our four kids are very close. 

Those cushion covers were actually two sets of curtains. They happened to be on offer  90” by 90” for £30.  So I made six red cushions and the swags and the tails.  

That’s just the way I do it. I would just pick up wee things or get a bit of material and when I get the time I throw up what I can… or change my colours about.

 I would be into changing a bit here and there… swapping stuff around. 

gold mirror and vase reflecting room

We decorate more or less every year, paintwork… everywhere.  

We do it around Christmas…in November.

I had a big steel container out there for all the furniture and we did a big clear out from top to below, everything.

What I didn’t need got skipped – or I gave it away.  

I just changed everything about and changed the suite and did what I had to do.   

I changed to gas – for three days!  Three days I lasted – and then got them back to take it out.

I hated it… couldn’t cook with it or anything. I didn’t like it at all.  

My range cooker wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do and I had to change it.

brass bed beside window with blinds and curtains

I have plenty of towels and sheets and stuff…. that’s another addiction. I had to stop.  I buy them just for the sake of buying them. 

If I clear out a cupboard I say I’m not going to buy any more. Next thing: I look, the cupboard is as bad as ever again. 

I can’t be doing with a TV and wouldn’t have a TV about me… there are nothing but dust collectors.  

J. has TV in here, a TV in the kitchen, a TV in his bedroom.  He loves Netflix.

wooden interior door in sunlight

‘Dust free’…. isn’t that my moan?  It’s a terrible house for dust.

What’s the kitchen like?

Every morning you get up it doesn’t matter what you do you, or how you mop it, you can see a film of dust. When you run a brush over it…   there’s the dust again.

That floor has been replaced 5 or 6 times.

My brother-in-law put that floor down not even a year ago.  It’s the amount of traffic.  There are loads of people in and out of that kitchen. 

At 5 O’ clock you come back here and you will see how empty it is….   Dinner is at ten past five every night.  There’s at least eight of us here every night for dinner.

On  a good day I normally have my daughter, her son, myself and my husband, my son and three of his kids.  

On a Sunday we have more because it’s ‘Sunday Dinner’.   I normally do mine about 3pm.  

There’s not many do a Sunday dinner now.

kitchen with cooker and large table

It will never be an empty nest here.  

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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