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Thursday, 9 August 2012


I look out at our ordinary garden every day. Most days I don't even really notice it any more. It's funny to think how excited I was when we moved to this house, our first ever house, our first ever garden. I got my husband to film me hanging out the washing on my very own washing line. The first time I filled a vase with cut flowers from my very own garden I felt like a proper grown up. 

Sadly, the euphoria about the garden has worn off. I have turned out not to be a natural gardener. I do not have a green thumb. I swear when I walk past a flower bed all the living things in it wilt in my wake. 

So, I often don't pay much attention to the garden, since it just reminds me of my shortcomings, a bit like avoiding the mirror when you know you're looking as rough as a badger. 
At lunchtime today though there was a glorious spell of sunshine and I sat out with a coffee and found myself staring at my daughter's playhouse. 

We bought it when she was three, I think, seven years ago. We tacked pretty floral wallpaper inside. There was a teeny bench, a table and a play cooker along with lots of toy food. Plastic roast chicken, chips, peas, a cake cut into slices. Sometimes we would have proper breakfast in there. I would drink my real tea while my daughter poured dirty water into a plastic cup; "Cuppa tea Mummy?".

Some sunny days would see troops of small girls in princess outfits making endless pretend toast, or writing on the blackboard, sometimes just screaming and running in and out like maniacs, throwing water at each other, slamming their fingers in the door, folllowed by tears, hugs, elastoplast, sweeties, the usual. 

I realised looking at the playhouse today that last summer was the first summer that no-one played in the playhouse. It had been gradually neglected in favour of going out on bikes, or playing swingball or just lying on the grass. Because it wasn't used we started "temporarily" storing odds and sods in it.

I looked in it today for the first time in months. The pretty wallpaper is still there, curling a bit, and so is the blackboard. The bench has been unscrewed and is lying in pieces. There are boxes of bird seed and an old cabinet. The cooker and all the plastic food were given away a while back.

Gradually, its function has changed. When was the tipping point I wonder? If I plotted the lifespan of the playhouse on a graph, when would I get to adjust my specs and point with my pointer and say "This is when the playhouse was no more."?

Of course it's impossible to know. It was a gradual thing. Just like gradually you prefer to get home to your own bed rather than sleep on someone's sofa, or you  gradually stop listening to Radio 1, or you gradually become able to have alcohol in the house without drinking it all. 
I asked my daughter whether she thought she would play in the house again and she was pretty doubtful. I then asked what she thought about us giving it away. She hummed and hawed and then said; "Can we keep it Mum? I know I don't play in it anymore, but it's my playhouse."

(First posted on my other blog http://therealshequeen.tumblr.com/ on 17 April 2012.) 

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