This blog is not going to be about the ideal layout and paint colours in the place I want to live. Rather it is about a place, almost existing, which has squatted resolutely in the back of my imagination for almost as long as I can remember. I believe, though my mother has no memory of it, that I visited this place (or at least it's direct predecessor) before it took up a spot in my dreams.
The place I remember visiting was an old house in England that belonged to a friend of the family. It wasn't quite big enough to be called a manor house, but it was certainly where I think somebody posh might live. I remember it had a big hall with double doors and a large staircase in the centre leading up to the floor above. The gardens as well I remember, with several long greenhouses and more than one lawn or field. The whole place was somewhat decrepit, as there was only one rather old man living there on his own, so some of the greenhouses and much of the gardens were untended. Inside the house I remember that there were things, that honestly is the crux of this memory, a huge number of things of a marvellous variety.
It is at this point where I think the house in my head begins to diverge most definitely from the house which I actually visited. I remember paintings on the walls, I remember large fish pinned up there too, but I also have a sense of glass cases filled with items on display. Clockwork marvels and old toys, fancy jewellery and delicate models. In some of the side rooms these things, all interesting to various degrees, might be piled up high, with rocking horses in front of old chests in front of collections of antique weapons. It feels very clear to me now as I describe it, and I know that I have dreamed of being there many times, but I also know that I have never actually physically seen this place, at least not a place that was anything other than a pale shadow of what lives in my mind.
I have read various stories which make me think of this wonderful home. Hogwarts in the Harry potter novels has some elements which are reminiscent. The most striking to me was the castle in the Gormenghast books, with the huge rooms filled with old heirlooms and once beloved items, along with the whole place's general sense of decay and being past its prime. Other things occasionally bring it up, computer games (like Resident Evil and Eternal Darkness) or even things like the X-Mansion in X-men, but never to quite the same degree.
Why then, am I writing about this now? Well I have tried to put this place into novels and short stories many times (I can think of six examples off the top of my head) with various degrees of success and I find now that it looks as though my next novel takes place in this mansion. As a result I've been thinking a bit about what it is, what part of my head it is that has built this place and likes so fervently to go there. I have many theories, perhaps it is some representation of a part of my childhood wonderment which has been lost to the adult world, maybe it is a how I see the muddled mess of my heritage, perhaps it is just the method that my introverted childhood mind used to catalogue the world around him. All of these are nice, but none of them seem to fit fully.
The idea which I keep coming back to is that perhaps my liking this imaginary house is like dragons or horses. What I mean by that is that there are certain people (of which I know more than a few) who will like pretty much anything a lot more if it just happens to contain one of their favourite things (dragons or horses being particularly concise examples). I believe such favourite things are a path set in the mind very early on in our lives such that when we re-encounter them later on in the context of movies or books, those fictional things are suddenly bathed in just a touch of the warm glow of childhood, they gain some of our love for that other, older thing. As a result there is no meaning to be gleaned people liking these things, it doesn't indicate anything about their personality except that to them those things mean more. Perhaps this grand old house is touched in that way for me and I hope that will translate into an extra jolt of energy in my writing about it.