This Is Where I Keep My Bits And Bobs…

Its true that we have moved house a few times, several times, more times than we should have, but on the up side we’ve kept Tim the Shifter in business.

We’ve moved up and we’ve moved down, we’ve had seven house moves so far, stayed the longest for seven years, the shortest for eleven months, we made £130,000 profit on one house and £200 on another and we’ve been in this one now for five years, its getting close to a record.

In between all of those house moves we’ve looked at almost every house in this suburb of Leeds, we’ve certainly looked at every house style and its a standing joke among our friends that whenever they mention a person and the address that they live at we can usually say “Oh yes, we looked around that one when it was last sold”

And we’ve seen some sights I can tell you.

We once viewed a house that was genuinely up for sale, although we did have to check with the estate agent afterwards that the owner actually did want to sell the house and didn’t just get some perverse self satisfaction from letting people wander all around his gaff – he was the archetypal computer geek just as computer geek were venturing out into the mainstream society from under their university rock where they’d been hiding.

This one actually was a lecturer at Leeds Uni and his house was, how can I say this most succinctly, I know, a shit-hole.

Imagine a large greasy slob of a man, surprisingly a single man, lives in the house all by himself, looks like he has never washed himself in a year and never washed anything in his house in ten years, imagine that this slob of a bloke bought the house in the late 1970s from a couple who had owned it from new in 1958, and the couple he bought it from never changed anything from 1958, not even the curtains, so neither did he, but unlike the first couple, he let things get dirty, let curtain poles fall from the wall when he tugged them too hard and then never bothered to fix them back, let the tea dribble from the teabag as he made a cuppa and never bothered to wipe it up – for ten years.

Imagine a house where you wipe your feet – on the way out.

Now normally when you go to view a house the owner welcomes you at the door, has tidied up a little, has given the place a lick of paint, will proudly show you around – the slob didn’t, the slob sat in his living room and when we rang the doorbell he just shouted for us to come in, so we did, and we hesitantly ventured from the hallway into his living room to find him sat on an old sagging settee leaning over a coffee table upon which was perched a computer monitor and keyboard, but watching one of three TV sets that were lined up against the wall opposite – and this was in the days before flat screen TV’s.

There wasn’t an inch of floor space that wasn’t taken up with piles of books but not even books that you’d fancy reading, these were university books for geeks to read and then stash on their living room floor, “Have a look around” he whined in our general direction and without looking our way at all waved a hand towards the rest of the house.

So we did, we went back out into the hall and Suzanne whispered “Lets go” but I wanted to have a look at how this slob of a geek lived, and he didn’t let me down for every room we went in was dirtier but more littered with junk than the rest, it was like a filthy Steptoes Yard, if such a thing were possible.

Surprisingly we didn’t put an offer in for that one.

And on the same house move we looked at a similar house of a similar layout that was owned by a diamond or drug smuggler.

I can only assume that he was a smuggler as he had spent twenty or more years building little cupboards and hidey-holes into every cavity in his house. he was actually a nice old bloke and so was his wife, not a nice old bloke but a nice old woman, they had known my mother and when they spoke of her they said “Theres this lady with the German Shepherd Dog” and I had to keep reminding them that it was my mother and more importantly my German Shepherd dog that she walked through the day when I was at work.

We sat in their living room and they made us coffee and they wouldn’t stop talking and we had to keep reminding them that we had come to view their house and not to move in here and now and then after an hour or so, and after we’d heard all about the nice old man’s heart complaint and how they were moving to a bungalow close to the hospital that was treating him so that when he had his imminent next heart attack he’d be able to crawl through the gates and not have to wait for an ambulance, after all this and after he’d told us that as a carpenter he had worked for the company that built this whole suburb in the 1950s and indeed had worked on this very same house, the house he bought after working on it, and while he was working on it he and his builder mates had made some “adjustments” to the basic design.

He reached over his head from the chair he was sitting on and pressed a part of the wall that just looked like a part of the wall to me until it suddenly sprung open revealing a secret cupboard four inches deep in the cavity wall, “I keep my bits and bobs in there” he told us and like you do when viewing someone else’s house we nodded wisely and remarked at what a good idea that was having a secret cupboard in your living room for your bits and bobs while at the same time thinking, “thats a bit strange”.

The house was full of secret panels, as he took us slowly around the house, slowly as only a man who is just one breath away from his next heart attack can be, he would press various parts of the wall in any random room and whole parts of the wall would hinge open to reveal another cavity wall cupboard for his bits and bobs, the most bizarre of these being in the bathroom where he had one of those normal mirror door medicine cabinets (and in his case it was full of genuine medicine) that everyone has in their bathroom, but his mirror door medicine cabinet was also the door to a secret cupboard hidden behind it, the whole mirror door medicine cabinet hinged forwards to reveal – bits and bobs.

We left the house several hours later and walked home silently, each with our own thoughts, and then when we got home the wife said to me “So what did you think of that house then ?” to which I could only reply, “He’s a fookin lunatic isn’t he ?” and she agreed.

I often wish that we had bought that house, it was well over twenty years ago that we viewed it and if we had bought it I think we’d still be finding secret cupboards even now, maybe we’d even have lost our children in secret cupboards in that house…

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