Sunday, 11 October 2015

Empty houses

are strange things.
Our neighbours have been away in Hungary for the last nine weeks. They arrived back last night but the house was empty all that time. They stopped mail deliveries so we didn't have to empty the letter box. We tossed some stray bits of advertising into the bin and, as they instructed, just left the rest. 
They are never very interested in the garden so the weeds have grown above my knees. Rose petals are scattered across the weeds.  The place looked deserted. They are fortunate that nothing happened. 
Next door to them is another empty house. The husband died and the wife is in a nursing home. She wouldn't be eighty yet but she is mentally just a little off balance. We were watching out for her earlier and were relieved when her children were able to find her a safe place. That house looks a deserted mess too. It has been that way for a very long time. As a couple they weren't coping. 
At the end of the next street is a house which has been empty for years. Someone comes in and mows the grass occasionally  but nothing else has been done to it. Again, the elderly couple are in a nursing home.
If I go on along my regular route to and from the shopping centre, the post office and the library there are two more empty houses. There was activity in one the other day. People moving in? The neighbours didn't know. They hoped people would move in. It is not good to have empty houses like that
Across the way, down the very short "street" which leads to "the court", there is a small "unit", a single bedroom "flat" or "apartment" in a group of such places. It was empty for eleven years. After the woman who owned it died her son, the sole beneficiary of her estate, would go in each week and "check" it. He didn't do anything else. He kept the electricity and the gas on. It was almost as if he expected her to come back and go on living there. The cost of doing that must have been immense but it seems he could not bring himself to do anything. Eventually he was persuaded that someone else needed housing and that his mother would have expected him to do the right thing and see to it that the refugee family now living in it had a home.
But I go on looking at these houses. I want to massage them back to life, to tell them that they can still shelter humans and animals.
It seems as if empty houses stop breathing.

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