In Praise of Old Houses

I've never lived in a modern house
Where everything works as it should,
Compact and clean, with paintwork pristine;
I’m not certain I would if I could.
There’'s nothing appealing re: touching the ceiling
In a box on an eighth of an acre.
Nor would a garage, be it ever so large
Induce me to be its caretaker.
It isn't sufficient to be heat-efficient
Or to have super-power in your showers,
If the walls are so thin that your close neighbour's din
Keeps you wakeful and fretful for hours.

In the US they’re building these mansions
With kitchens the size of a block.
By the kilowatt-hour the power they devour
Would give General Motors a shock.
With a house that extensive, it gets, like, expensive.
Thank God, you’ve a cheap housing loan.
You've your own private part, but you’re so far apart
That you chat with your family by phone.

No, houses now new will get older,
As we who live in them grow old.
That hasty erection will need fresh protection,
That hot water tank will grow cold.
Home theatres will be superseded,
The heating and drains need replacing.
Once the kids have left home and you're all on your own,
What an echoing barn you'll be facing.

I’ll settle for age and high ceilings,
For a roof with occasional leaks,
For the visiting mouse in our historic house,
And for waiting for workmen for weeks.
The paintwork is chipped and needs fixing,
The wiring is ancient and frayed;
We’ve been here for so long that the plumbing’s gone wrong,
But at least the mortgage is paid,
I call it an elegant splendour,
The proportions are human, just right.
The walls are in brick, reassuringly thick,
And you can’t hear the neighbours at night.
As the planet gets hotter and hotter,
And the tempests and hurricanes blow,
Them that espouses these flimsy new houses
Will be homeless, and where will they go?

August 2005