The cynical French epigram “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (The more change she is paid [when shopping], the more a lady will choose…)* describes it nicely: someone who has money left over from his purchase of a house will use it to choose additions and alterations and then, unsatisfied with the change he’s got out of it, will bowl the whole thing over and build a new home for himself on the cleared site.
Many of the houses I recall from my childhood and later years have been destroyed by their new owners.
Of course the new owner is entitled to rebuild, and – who knows? – the new house may be more comfortable. It is not cheap to maintain an old house, and some new houses may be measurably better in every way. Even so, it is sad to see a place you knew and loved simply discarded like a worn-out shoe.
The house I grew up in and where we spent the first 30 years of our married life was bulldozed by its new owners.
The beach house my parents built when I was a child was badly damaged by termites, which had penetrated the concrete foundations. This was discovered too late for the house to be saved and it had to be torn down.
My paternal grandparents’ house in Adelaide was bulldozed by the people to whom it was sold.
My maternal grandparents’ house was extensively renovated after their death. Although parts of it remain unchanged, the re-modelled house has quite a different feel to it.
The house of my mother-in-law, in Albury, was sold after her death. Then her pretty garden was cleared. Soon afterwards the house itself went.
My children liked playing in the garden, my son took some of his first steps clinging to the front fence, and there was the most magnificent and prolific lemon tree in the back garden.
Greg’s maternal grandparents’ house in Castlemaine, which he remembers as a lovely old place with chooks and a vegetable garden, has gone. Next door there’s now a car-wash. Down the road is a large estate of new houses, all made out of ticky-tacky. They all look just the same.
There is an exception. The house of Greg’s early childhood in Ballarat still stands. Out the back Greg can remember a large stable. It’s still there.
For the most part the houses as physical structures have gone, but I will continue to remember them as warm homes I used to know and love.