Monday, September 18, 2006

Open House Weekend

"650!"

"How many did you say?"

"650! That's how many people came through my house yesterday. I now understand what the phrase 'shock and awe' means."

"We were meant to be open to the public from 10am to 5pm, and when I peeked out the front door at 9.30 they were already queuing down the road."

"Why did you do this crazy thing?"

"Open House asked us is we would participate in their 'Open House London' weekend. Since our house had featured on Grand Designs, they wanted to add us to their lists."

"But it's usually big buildings like the Gherkin and the Foreign Office."

"True, but they like to include houses too--interesting ones. And since our has no internal doors or walls; half the roof is glass and the entire back wall is glass and opens right into the garden, people think it's interesting. Still, I was thinking in terms of a few neighbours, half a dozen or so turning up for a look round, but no...."

"What did you do?"

"The idea was that we'd let groups of 15 in and give them a quick guided tour, about 20 minutes, but of course I talked too much and it took longer. Eleni would point at her watch and I would gently urge them to the front door.
Having started at 10am, we didn't stop until closing. Every time I looked outside the queue had grown. 100 or 150 waiting patiently."

"No lunch break?"

"Are you kidding? There'd have been a riot. One couple waited an hour and 45 minutes to get in!"

"You must have stopped sometime?"

"Nope. There wasn't time. I had to make my tours shorter, stop thinking of fresh jokes and stick to a short script I'd composed and move 'em along. My voice was cracking.
Every so often a piece of orange would appear in my hand. 'Eat,' Eleni would say. A cup of coffee and 'Drink,' she'd say. I was on autopilot. But don't get me wrong, it was great fun. And I liked seeing people enjoy the house."

"What were they like?"

"Every one was very personable. And all sorts. The youngest was 2 weeks old and the oldest was a spry 92 year old lady. One family came from Wales. Some just came to look, having seen the TV programme; others came to get inspiration and ideas. They all seemed to have a good time and most said thank you."

"Did everyone get in?"

"For the last couple of hours we had 80 an hour going through. It was the only way we could cope with numbers. But we did it--everyone in that queue saw the house, plus a few stragglers who came late.
At the end we were shattered. We just couldn't believe how many came.
One neighbour had asked what we would get out of it and Eleni said it was the chance to see the house as new and fresh again through the visitors' eyes. For a while we stopped taking it for granted. We liked that.
And although we live in a private house I realise it is quite a public space as well. It's strange hearing people talk about your own house in detail and with knowledge."


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1 comment:

Caz Mockett said...

Wow, that's an immense number, John.

As one who was very much awed when I first saw your house, I have to say I understand the interest in it. And yours and Eleni's obvious passion for the place definitely shows :-)

I whizzed round a couple of places on the Saturday of LoH weekend, but sadly wasn't able to see anything more on Sunday, as I was already busy.

Glad you had a good time! How did poor little Chang cope with so many new faces?