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Conversation in a Tea Shop - 1933

In a 1933 issue of The New Era Illustrated, a nostalgic conversation in a tea shop reveals the transformative joy of homeownership as Glover shares his enthusiasm for his new home built by Buxton. The encounter highlights the changing dynamics of friendship, the pursuit of personal happiness, and the pride in acquiring a piece of the suburban dream in the 1930s.

Glover and I used to live in the same block of flats until a year ago when I moved to another district. We were friendly enough when we were near neighbours and saw a good deal of each other in the evenings, but somehow we dropped the acquaintance after I moved away. The fact is that my wife and I were rather tired of the Glovers: they were always complaining about something, and Glover used to come in and grumble to us by the hour, just because he had nothing better to do.

But when I ran into Glover last week in a City teashop, I hardly recognised the man at first, he looked so brown and cheerful. I don’t think I would have been quite sure that it was Glover at all, only he came running across to my table as soon as he saw me, greeting me so hilariously that everyone in the place smiled at him.

“Your summer holiday seems to have done you good,” I said. “I’ve never seen you look so well—and how have you managed to keep your tan right on into the autumn? I got burnt a beautiful brown at Hastings, but it's all gone now.”

“We didn’t go away at all this year,” he laughed. “We’re saving up for a small car, so we stayed at home, and just went off for odd days hiking – my sunbathing was all done in the garden.”

“In the garden? At Windermere Mansions? Do you mean that flat roof under the scullery window, where Mrs Glover used to hang her washing to dry?”

“We don’t live there now – we moved out in the Spring. We’ve got a real garden now, at least, it’s going to be a real garden when I’ve had time to develop it a bit more. This year, we had to plant quick-growing things, of course, just to make a show, but I’m reading all the gardening papers – it’ll be the finest garden in the road in a few years’ time. I put in quite a lot of time gardening in the long summer evenings, when I wasn’t playing golf, or bathing—”

“Where is this place, Glover?” I interrupted. “I know you were always keen on golf but when you lived in Windermere Mansions you said there wasn’t time to get to the links, except for at the weekends. Have you moved right out into the country, for the sake of being near links?”

“I moved out for about a hundred different reasons, and all of them good ones. I’m living at West Ewell on the Ruxley Lane Estate – it’s just like living in the country, in many ways, for it’s a most delightfully rural district, but we have all the advantages of living in town. Gas and electric light, of course, and a good bus service, and shops within easy reach, and it only takes me an hour to get from home to the office.”

“But you can’t rent houses on those new estates, can you?”

“I’m buying my house. It’s the most sensible thing to do. After all, Heathcote, I don’t want to pay rent for the rest of my life.”

“Isn’t it a big responsibility, Glover?” I asked dubiously. “It must make a pretty big hole in your income – or have they made you a partner recently?”

“Costs me less than living in Windermere Mansions,” he laughed. “The price of my house is £975 freehold, and I paid down 10 percent in cash – I’m paying off the balance in weekly instalments which amount to less than the rent of that poky little flat. And repair bills aren’t going to come to much each year: my brother, who’s in the building trade, went all over the house before I decided to buy, and he says it’s a thoroughly sound job, and that every bit of material that’s gone into it is of the finest quality.”

“But what sized house can you get at that price, Glover?” I said doubtfully. “I’ve often thought of buying a house myself, but I don’t want to buy until I can afford a place that I can feel really proud of – no rabbit hutches for me.”

“There’s plenty of space in my house,” he explained. “We have a really big lounge, 17ft 6in by 13ft, with a fine bay window, and a good-sized dining room – it's in Tudor style with a beamed ceiling and panelled walls – and a kitchenette which makes housework an amusement, my wife says. It has a tiled dado, and a tiled recess for the 'ideal' boiler and the gas cooker, and a deep porcelain sink. And upstairs there are three bedrooms – ours is the big one over the lounge and has a bay window, too, and we have a large spare room, and a jolly little bedroom for Peter – and a bathroom of course, with a tiled dado like the kitchenette.”

“Much more room than you had in the flat.”

“Much more room and much more comfort – and the housework is done in half the time. When we moved in, we found that there were gas points fitted in every fireplace and electric power points in practically all the rooms so all the cleaning’s done with a vacuum cleaner and we have gas fires in the dining room and our bedroom, and a little electric heater for Peter’s room.”

“How is Peter by the way?” I asked, remembering the small peevish boy who has sometimes come to play with my own children. “He’s fine. There is no doubt about the place suiting him – he’s as brown as a berry, and as happy as a sandboy. And they’re building a school on the estate so he won’t have far to go when he’s old enough.”

“You’re making me feel quite enthusiastic about this place, Glover,” I said. “I think I’ll run down and see you – and the wonderful house – the next time I get the chance. What about this Saturday?”

“I won’t be at home this Saturday, I’m afraid. I’ve got to go to a business dinner party at the house of our managing director, Mr Symes. Curiously enough, he’s just bought a house, built by the same man who built mine – Mr W Buxton – only his is a larger house, with four bedrooms and a garage, and cost him £1,250. It’s in a charming district, about a mile from Sanderstead Station, and looks out over the recreation ground. If you’re seriously thinking of buying, Heathcote, you might have a look at that estate too, though we should like you to be neighbours of ours.”

“Don’t jump to conclusions, Glover,” I laughed. “I am seriously thinking of buying but in spite of your glowing description, your house mayn’t appeal to me at all – I may find some glaring disadvantages when I see it.”

Glover signalled to the waitress to bring him his bill. “I must clear off now, Heathcote,” he said with a cheerful grin. “But I’ll see you on Saturday week. And next year we’ll have a competition of growing roses and vegetable marrows. I’ve got a few months start of course, but we can decide on some sort of handicap.”

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