Geeks2

The lingerie tycoon’s house

AshwoodPlace1
Downsize Abbey

There’s nothing quite like finding out your parents have moved into a house built by a lingerie tycoon.

I blogged last year about the 8 things that happen when your parents sell up.

Well, it happened –they sold up (finally!) and six months ago moved about 200 metres up the hill. I call the place Downsize Abbey as it’s a rather fine, Grade II-listed building, converted into apartments and packed with the decorative details beloved of the Arts and Crafts movement, including oak panelling, ornate plasterwork ceilings and ceramic-tiled fireplaces with brass canopies.

You can imagine the hazards of bringing two young boys home, one of whom is a human fidget spinner. He simply cannot, will not, sit still.

In the bathroom, there’s a framed, old yellowed newspaper advert for scientific lingerie. The corset ‘secured’ the wearer with a magnetic ribcage and was the brainchild of the man who commissioned the house as his family’s home. (The Derry family moved into their mansion, complete with mullioned windows and diamond-patterned brickwork under steeply pitched roofs, in 1929.)

Frank Derry sold his underwear invention as a ‘cure’ for rheumatism, gout, sciatica and lumbago – and much else besides, including “nervous troubles, mind wandering, involuntary blushing, and loss of willpower”.

I can just imagine the kind of lady it might have appealed to: a woman with big hair, a wide lipsticked mouth, a husky laugh and, once she’s donned the garment under big clothes, a waspish waist.

Not only did Frank Derry become a corset king, but he also took over a mail order business that became the largest mail order corset house in the world. Its successor company still exists to this day, selling a wide range of ladies’ fashions.

All rather fascinating, I thought – a predecessor surely to Spanx. Clever man.

corset

Geeks2

8 things that happen when your parents sell up

As if there weren’t enough house moves already going on (EK wives will know exactly what I mean), my parents dropped a bombshell on us a month or so ago.

“We’re selling the family home!” said my mum, trepidatiously.

Well, okay she didn’t exactly say it like that, but that’s what I heard!

“You’re what?” I said, going into shock as I imagined mum excitedly packing everything up. They’ve been there nearly 30 years, and it’s the house I lived in, came back to for weekends and many a Christmas, and, since becoming an expat, have stayed in every summer for long periods with my own kids.

We’re ‘vacationing’ at the house right now, and there are at least eight things I’ve learnt about parents downsizing.

  1. When you tell the children their grandparents are moving, they take matters into their own hands.
Parting with the family homestead and its memories is hard for all generations
Parting with the family home and its memories is hard for all generations

2. I’m suddenly attached to everything in the house.

"Could you keep it? Just for a little bit longer?"
“Could you keep it? Just for a little bit longer?”

3. As well as all the clearing out I’m doing in Dubai, there’s another few tonnes to sift through here.

So much stuff

4. I’ll spend at least 10 minutes reading every single letter from my childhood penpal.

The lost art of letter writing needs special attention
The lost art of letter writing needs special attention

Which means I’ll be done sorting everything out in … 10 years.

5. To keep all the photos and certificates or not? That is the question.

Full disclosure: Most of the certificates are for participation
Full disclosure: Most of the certificates are for participation

6. You hide down the bottom of the garden when some people look round … then get talking.

And find out their kids go to the same school in Dubai as your own
And find out their kids go to the same school in Dubai as your own

It really is such a small world.

7. You go to make one last mark on the height chart … and discover he’s outgrown it.

height chart

8. You go out with your family for the day and realise that your home isn’t going anywhere.

Worthing pier