The Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Heritage for Society (Faro Convention 2005) identifies cultural heritage as a ‘resource’, but often it has a less utilitarian emphasis when met on an emotional level and touches upon the intangible aspects of heritage that feature more and more in academic and professional discourse.
“To them Howards End was a house: they could not know that to her it had been a spirit, for which she sought a spiritual heir.” Chapter 11, Howards End, E.M.Forster
A wily estate agent might well promote a ‘character property’. What does this mean? Simply that it is old? That it is unique?
There is a house for me that has a character, a personality, much like E.M. Forster’s Howards End. My Grandmother’s house.
It is a straightforward case on paper. Grade II* listed, multi-period, original features.
For me? It is a story teller (tales of where priests hid), a trickster (a symphony of nocturnal creaks and groans enough to send even a teenager scuttling to her grandmother’s bed), a secret keeper (mis-spelt faxes folded inside Catherine Cooksons) and more than anything a teacher.
I learnt that:
a. 1960s flower power and golden velvet are perfectly matched;
b. Glen Miller and Shirley Bassey accompanied by wild knees, twirling arms and kicking ankles = “the girl who danced through the war”;
c. smoking is an individual art form (clipped bird-like, long sucks. hollow cheeks, sideways mid-speech).
“Houses have their own ways of dying, falling as variously as the generations of men, some with a tragic roar, some quietly but to an afterlife in the city of ghosts, while from others the spirit slips before the body perishes”. Chapter 31, Howards End, E.M. Forster
My Grandmother died in 2006. I saw the house for sale online the other day. – No lumpy horse-hair chairs. No flower power. No orange crayon graffiti by a child twenty years long gone. – Faux fur rugs. Neutral walls. Candles in the hearth where once settled fag ash, twisted chocolate liqueur wrappers, and embers. I’m mourning.