Thursday, March 15, 2007


I was born in the UK in 1967, and at the time my parents lived above a shop in the West Wickham high street. After I turned two we moved to a detached two-storey house in a quiet street near the station. It had an enormous garden, gurgly radiators powered by a boiler, and was the site of my first Goodies and Doctor Who experiences way back in 1971 or 72.

When I was eight we shifted to Spain, but my parents kept the UK house and rented it out. In 1983 we moved back in for six months, before selling up and shifting to Australia.

Anyway, ten minutes ago I happened to be browsing UK real estate - something I do perhaps once every couple of years, purely for nostalgic reasons - when I spotted our old house on the market:

An interesting fact: Before my parents bought this house it belonged to an english actress who - I believe - appeared in one of the early Bond movies. I remember my dad mentioning it in the 70's, so I'll have to ask him who it was next time I see him.

My dad laid that curved driveway, and there used to be neat box hedges below the ground floor windows. I distinctly remember water-bombing my best mate's sister through those windows above the entrance, and I also remember sitting at the window top-right at around 5AM in December 1981. We'd just arrived in England after a 3-day drive from Spain, via France and Andorra, and I was listening to english voices on my brand new walkman clone - in stereo, no less - whilst the smell of hot paint wafted up from the radiator burning my knees. Outside, yellow streetlight glistened off the rain-speckled windscreens of cars parked in the road below. Everything was different and yet familiar: I was used to the heat of Spain, spanish radio, marble floors instead of carpets, single storey whitewashed houses with thick walls, sun-warped wooden window frames and elaborate metal grilles instead of mock-tudor and small panes of glass in steel frames. And yet, I'd grown up in the UK, in that house, and so I was home.

If you think those two conflicting lives were confusing enough, throw in 20+ years living in Australia. It's hot, but we have carpets. Window frames are aluminium. Winter is in July, Summer in December. They speak English but the architecture and weather is mediterranean.

I only hope my kids are storing their own special memories of our current house.

Back to West Wickham: at UKP679,000 (Approx A$1.6m or US$1.26m), the old house is selling for almost ten times the price we sold it for in '83, and exactly 68 times what my parents paid for it in 1969/70.

Update: Found some old pics my parents took in the early 70's:

This one is July 1971, 12 months after moving in.

Same day, right hand side of the house. That's me in the white jumper and Paul Mycroft in blue. I was almost four years old in that shot.

My dad's Mustang out the front (no driveway, see?)

12 months earlier - 1970, same house as purchased.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


Priya said...

Wow, 68 times what your parents paid. That is amazing. My childhood home is now a set of townhouses, so very few trips down nostalgia lane for me - better than it becoming a car park I guess! :)

On another topic, I've had to put a hold on your 3rd book at my local Brisbane library - all 5 copies are out simultaneously. At least I'm first on the list which is something I guess!
All the best.

Julia Buckley said...

Looks like a lovely place to grow up Simon. I've been feeling a bit nostalgic for home lately too.

Pity you live so far away or you could've pretend to be a buyer and had a nosey round.

Anonymous said...

Blue was always my colour.

Imelda said...

Beautiful house! 68 times the price doesn't really surprise me; property prices are insane over here at the moment. In the two years since we bought my current home, it's increased in value by about £30-40,000!

Oh, and I'd like to show you a quick bit of appreciation for yWriter--it got me out of my sad little writing hole and made me organise myself!

Simon Haynes said...

I loved living there, but I don't think I appreciated just how special it was until we moved to a tiny villa in Spain. Kids are adaptable though - the new place was exciting, I had my own air rifle and I could roam for miles (or even kilometres) without parental interference. By the time I was ten or eleven I was off camping with a mate for two or three days at a time, only popping home to steal more food. We had a tent we'd put up in a field, and we'd spend most of the day gathering wood for cooking fires, or heading off to the council tip 10-12 km away for some useful junk.
Anyone who's read Just William would get the idea.

By the way, you think house price there are insane? My place is worth 3-4 times what I paid for it nine years ago, and most of that increase occurred in the last 2-3 years. Western Australia is a mining state, and we're digging it up as fast as we can.

-Kelly M. said...

That's a gorgeous house, Simon. You were lucky to have lived there. My childhood home still stands (in fact, my parents still live there), but it'll probably be gone in ten years. Small developments get trampled beneath commercial enterprises these days.

Especially where they live. But that's what memory is for, right? :)

Peggy said...

I love what you can find on the internet - you never know when you'll stumble across something that will bring back happy memories. It looks like it was a lovely house to grow up in.

LJCygnet said...

That's a very beautiful house. I love that style of architecture.

I recently drove by the house I lived in until I was ten ... the current owners are not taking care of it. Depressing, particularly since my father and grandfather largely built it themselves. Ah, well.