One year. 100 articles. So we're having a Reader's Party. Come along to Upsidecrown.
Built on an Indian burial ground
25 September 2000
Do come in.
Did you have any trouble finding us? No, it is rather imposing, isn't it. Very - forthcoming. As far as buildings go. Mm.
This is the hall.
Sometime in the winter of 1998, the damp in the house destroyed several of my CDs and books, those which were leaning against the wall. It wasn't the only time that the house had shown its inhabitants who was boss - we already knew that all doors and windows had to be kept open at all times to allow a freezing airflow through - but it was the first time that it'd aggressively shown control. Not enough just to live in it; you abide by its rules, bitch, or the Beck collection gets it next.
Lovely, isn't it? Those are the original plaster mouldings on the ceiling; they've been there since it ws built. Lasted well, but that's quality workmanship for you. Very welcoming - it's the first sight that you'll see when you get back after a hard day's work, sir, and you'll be very grateful for it.
It's a familiar bedtime story - respect, worship and kowtow to the building that you live, eat, drink, work, rest and play in, or it will bring its vengeance down on your head like a bag of newdead mackerel. Or a soggy copy of "Surely you can't be serious, Mr Feynmann!". Great and glorious works of literature and celluloid have been grafted from and sculpted around man's subservience and relationship to his living abodes; in "The Shining" Jackie-boy may have been caretaker of the Overlook, but the hotel took care of him; the house of "House of Leaves" destroys a family without even sweating its undercoat. The well-loved themes are all there: love, despair and jammed locks that prevent instant access into the warm living-room womb away from a rainy night. [On a side-note, there are buildings in mainland Europe that have vents in their roofs which give the impression of eyes - the house looking down at you impassively as you struggle with the Yale. If eyes are the windows of the soul, are windows the eyes of the house?]
Such power wielded by a manmade object: he creates the building that then controls him. Turn the picture sideways and see the slave-master relationship jump out at you, and even enhanced by the confusion a house owner has over his role. But I bought the house, I'm paying the mortgage on it; I decide how the taupe and bullsblood colour scheme is executed and how the skylight is going to be fitted into the playroom; it's mine mine mine! Yet all it needs is a crack in the roof or split in the wallpaper, and the whip is cracked. Child, know your place.
Do you like the view from here? It is an unusually large window for a kitchen, but you'll agree that the glorious landscape wouldn't be the same if seen through anything smaller. The previous occupiers didn't seem to appreciate it so much, but there's no accounting for agrophobia. Some good well lined curtains should control heat loss, if that's what you were wondering about. Now a kitchen like this - just imagine the feasts that you could prepare here for clients and friends. A professional man like yourself, sir, must need a hearty meal after a full day of meetings and transaction, and wouldn't your wife be delighted to prepare that here for you? Wouldn't any wife?
Up the stairs her; the bannister's been freshly polished. Past the landing.
Slaves can rebel. The effect of a poor master - dodgily dressed, foul of mouth, having an insufferable fondness for naked jelly wrestling - depends on the ego of the slave. The whip-me beat-me mindset brigade will feel that having such a shitty owner is only as much as they deserve. The girl-/boy-power embracing bunnies know that this ain't so and will fight, at most for their freedom and at least for a new master. And so it is with houses; either accept your lot of living in a damp-infested dwelling where CDs have a 3 month shelf life; or rage, rage against the dying of the Electric Light Orchestra and buy a dehumidifier. Or move.
But a good master: oh my children, and that's a different story. Though possession is nine-tenths of the law, and possession with intent to supply is illegal, and you are possessed, aren't you happy to be so? To belong to a good dear man (or woman; let us not forget la maison or la casa) who protects you from the world outside, who looks after you better than you could look after yourself. And after enough of this pampering (even though they own you, your family and your everlasting soul, for what else is a mortgage for?) isn't it simply all that you deserve?
These good master buildings are everywhere, acting as homes and workplaces. The Oxford and Cambridge colleges; the Regency architecture of south-coast and midlands towns such as Brighton, Royal Leamington Spa and Bath; the fuck-off grandeur of Chancery Lane and the Law Courts around the corner; any palace or cathedral that isn't crumbling like cheese - can you just imagine the ego-trip, the utter self-satisfied smugness that comes from living or working there? Cradled and snuggled all day, every day, knowing that to even spend a day in such glory must mean that you're someone very special indeed.
Yes; the master bedroom. The bed is antique but still in prime condition; the en-suite bathroom is very lovely too. Full power-shower, enough room to relax in properly. Isn't that what you'd need sir, after a hard day's work, a luxurious jacuzzi followed by a session in the king-sized bed with your lovely wife? Isn't it sir? See the embossed wallpaper, the wonderfully high ceilings, the light, sir. The light coming in through the enormous bay windows? Sir? Isn't it perfect - everything that you and your wife need at the end of a hard day or a hard week, sir. You do want it sir; you do need it. You are worth it.
Skipping down past any of these noncarbuncled wonders is a stunning; maybe that's all that they should be there for. Building envy, home superiority; all of these things are bad and ugly things and not to be encouraged. Put them all in council flats and throw away the key. Leave the stone and the light for the birds.
I'll show you out, sir. Do call us with an offer if you're interested.
Drive safely now.