Home improvement is a state of mind

A GREAT and terrible truth has finally dribbled through to my consciousness. It only took 40 years.

The house is never going to be finished.

None of the houses I’ve ever owned were ever finished. I’m going to be finished before they are.

Even the fence will outlast me. I’ve just finished it. My wife said: “That’ll see us out.”

Great God, I am more expendable than a fence!

I blame myself. I could have built it of old bedsteads and baling twine, like farmers do, but I built it with treated timber and galvanised screws. It will need renovating when I’m 138 years old.

Why do we do this? There are nomadic tribes that carry their homes about with them. They’re made of sticks and skins and they roll them up when they move. They don’t have constant family debates about whether they should add a deck or a spare room.

And it doesn’t end there. If you ever really did finish the deck, someone would suggest it needed some steps up to it; or bigger doors; or a roof.

And when I finally lose heart and move somewhere else, the next owners will come along and take off the roof, or the doors, or the whole bloody deck, in the name of improvements.

Well I don’t want to improve my house. I just want to live in it and be comfortable. I can be comfortable without a smart fence or a deck or a spare room. If I’d never start I’d never have to finish.

In the past 40 years I have owned 10 houses. None of them were ever finished. At least, not until we decided to move.

That’s when you give up trying to do-it-yourself and you get a man in. Or possibly a whole construction company.

Three weeks later the house really is finished – but by then the contracts have been signed and you’ve got three weeks to enjoy it before the new owners throw you out.

Five minutes later you’re in a new place where you argue interminably about a new room on the side or an extension out the back.

Within a month you’re teasing the wallpaper off to see what’s underneath. At the end of a fortnight you’ve ripped the wall linings away with a crowbar and it’s all downhill from there.

What we never grasp is that there’s no an end to it. We live in some kind of private dream where our visions are of the house we live in when it’s finished… a carefully tended lawn with specimen trees; polished timber balustrades and balconies with roses growing up them; doors that open onto scented boudoirs; staircases that sweep down into ballrooms.

Even if we live in a trailer park!

Home improvements aren’t a necessary economic culture. They’re a state of mind. Like paranoia, or obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

We feverishly knock bits off and add bits on with some notion at the back of our minds that when we’ve finished we’ll have a party, or a beer, or a rest.

But we’ll never be finished!

The fence is completed. Now I have to do the drive. Because it’s old and grotty and it spoils the effect of the fence. Then the façade of the house will spoil the effect of the driveway, so we’ll rebuild that.

No. Not we. Me. I’ll rebuild it. Our conversations always start: “Why don’t we…”

But it’s always me who ends up with a hammer in his hand.

If I’d realised this 10 houses ago I could have handled it differently. Married a Mongolian, maybe, and lived in a yurt.

I reckon the ancient pharaohs had the right idea. They had these enormous places built… filled with fabulous treasures — pyramids they called them — and they didn’t move in till they were dead.