Creak, creak, creak. Silence. Although a deep carpet covers the floor, my feet can tell with absolute precision where the old Victorian flat ends and the modern extension begins. Because creaking floorboards suddenly give way to the impenetrable silence of concrete.
It used to bother me that my flat was only two-thirds period. Since I first put my toe on the property ladder, I have rather been taken by the romance of living somewhere old. A place where the wooden boards, the tall ceilings, the thick walls hold memories of lives past. Where I could picture who slept in my bedroom two hundred years ago?a lady of the house, a maid, a swarthy housekeeper?wondering what they had looked like, what they had held dear, hoped for, feared. Where I’d be lulled to sleep by the incessant tick, tick, tick of a gluttonous woodworm family?descendents of the original Victorian colony, no doubt?intent on enjoying their pantagruelic meal of beams and doors. So I hopped from Victorian to Edwardian and back, harvesting memories and woodworms with the bacchic abandon of the true collector.
But ageing lessens the appeal of the old. One day I hit the wrong side of thirty and suddenly failed to see the charm of damp patches the size of the Pacific Ocean, penicillin growing in the windows and a perilous journey down three rickety flights of stairs to reach the banshee screaming his lungs off in the nursery at 3am. And I started to wonder about the comfort of new builds. I saw one in Fulham a couple of months ago. A lateral flat with an ideal ‘bed-to-banshee in under 30 seconds’ layout, spaceship-style insulation and designer radiators with individual heating in every room. The perfect contemporary home, titanium and steel, glass and slate. All of which could be mine at little more than my pack of old wood (with concrete extension). I salivated more than a Pavlov-trained Boxer.
As I walked back home, I worked out how I’d sell my home at that asking price, pay so much in fees, offer that much. I opened the entrance door with my head full of numbers?and the weary Victorian bones of my flat welcomed me. Creak, creak, creak. And I suddenly realised that, despite fashionable slate floorings, supermodel radiators and triple paned windows, I can’t live in a home that is all silent all the time.