Come with me on the world’s weirdest house viewing… | Jack Marshall’s column
Viewing a house is a pretty weird thing at the best of times.
You’re in a stranger’s home, silently critiquing the place they feel most comfortable, invading personal space imagining how you’d change everything without a second thought.
Now throw into the mix two other bizarre factors: one, you used to live in the house as a child 20 years ago; and two, you’re ferrying your parents about digitally via a scatty Zoom call on your phone so they can eye-up the home they once owned from a few time zones away.
I knocked on the door that I walked through for the first time as a four-year-old in 1998 and waited. The property - sold by my parents in 2003 - had recently come back on the market and they were curious to see it again.
A friendly lady answered. I reassured her I wasn’t mad but that I’d like to show the two weird people on my phone around if that's okay with her and also I used to live here as a kid so it’s bringing back a lot of memories but anyways how long have you lived here and is there still that weird cat-flap in the cellar?
She looked taken aback but took it like a champ. As she showed me and my phone around, I tentatively tiptoed across familiar floorboards and through rooms in which I’d learned to read and write (badly, but I don’t need to tell you). The living room in which we’d had a millennium party, the bedroom in which I had sleepovers with mates I’ve not seen for two decades.
We went outside. Backing onto woodland, the house sat exposed to thousands of branches and trunks which had seemed impossibly massive when I was eight – in my memory, these woods were home to the biggest trees in the world. Now they were terrifyingly regular.
Looking for the rope swing me and my brother had spent countless hours on, I spotted it in a tangle of brambles and pointed it out. “Oh, I always wondered what that was,” the lady said.
Despite tentative designs on making an offer, my parents decided against it. Nostalgia had gotten the better of them. Still, that lady will never have another viewing like it.