Dread words: ‘We’ve got the builders in.’ They’re delightful in themselves, and we adore the Jack Russell that comes with one of them. The problem lies in us. About five years ago, it would seem, a tsunami of consumer goods broke over our house, and I feel Canute-like in my attempts to make the flotsam-bearing tide retreat. We’re trying to recolonise the basement flat. Having ceased to be a flat in 2008, it became a playroom, and if we can remove the kitchen and an internal door, we should be able to reclaim some Council Tax. While at it, we’re de-toddlerising the decor.

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A modest ambition, but we must empty the rooms first. Not so easy. The old sofa and sofa bed, installed by our first tenants and left by them, wouldn’t go through the front door. Tired and much bounced-upon, they still possessed some fight, stubbornly refusing to break down beneath a sledgehammer. Having fought our way to the previously inaccessible bathroom, we found it full of old beds, broken robots, unplayed games, some of my old notes. Emptying the bookshelves has filled 30 removal crates. So much stuff-and all of heirloom status. ‘Murderer of childhood memories,’ cry the boys, as the Sharpie squeaks ‘Rubbish’ on another packing case.

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