The Flat

I don't own one property, let alone two, but I do have a second home.  That place is 34, Avenue Victoria, Scarborough, known more simply, to everyone in my family, as The Flat.

My maternal grandparents, great aunt and uncle bought it in the late 70s, not long after I was born, so it has always been part of my life.  Easters, Summers, October half-terms, we came to Scarborough and we stayed in The Flat.

It was a quintessential part of my childhood: its look, its smells, its sounds.  Even falling in a fishpond in the nearby Italian Gardens as a small boy didn't dampen my love of the place.

But of course I grew older and moved away and didn't have the inclination to go there any more.  Post-18, my visits became scarcer and scarcer, although Mum kept coming up, and many other family members too.

And then both Grandma and Grandpa died, in fairly quick succession, and The Flat suddenly acquired a whole different meaning.  Though having been in family ownership for more than two decades, almost nothing there had changed - the pink bathroom with its funny taps, the kitchen with its wonderful little oven.

The kitchen, The Flat.
It was the closest thing to time travel, the last tangible, structural link back to two people whom I loved very much.  And though they may be gone, they are still here, where things are as I always remember them*, and must always be so.

Over the last few years, I've brought various friends and colleagues to The Flat.  Almost all have remarked on its uniquely homely feel, how it is a throwback to the recent past, like one of those National Trust domestic houses.  Even the decorator I met yesterday, coming in to re-paper the back bedroom after a leak from upstairs, remarked on how retro it was, and how nice.

As a palaeontologist, and working on the geology of the Yorkshire Coast, I also have a different retro reason to come here. This week, I stayed in The Flat alone for the first time ever, but the friendly ghosts were with me: the books, the games, the pictures, the people.  I slept soundly.

Walking up the stairs to the front door, the place retains its own aroma, the one I smelt carrying a bucket and spade down to the beach, or a cricket bat to the park.  It also retains the doorbell, which poignantly says "Riley / Stead" beneath it.  Grandma and Grandpa may have been gone for more than a decade, but here they live on.

The pink bathroom with the funny taps.


*though the swishing, swooshing front door has just been removed; replaced thanks to fire safety regulations.  I don't understand how a glass-and-wood door was more dangerous than what appears to just be a plank of featureless MDF, but what do I know?
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