We recently moved into a new house. The previous elderly owners, on the circuit board, christened each room with names like ‘Dining Room’, ‘Breakfast Room’, ‘Snug’, etc. – names that become increasingly alien as the functions of rooms evolve with a family of three small children. A dumping ground for toys, for instance, has become the ‘Play Room’, although the logic behind this name, i.e. that the room contains toys, could be applied to any room in the house as convoys of plastic ponies line saddle-boards, Lego robots set up bases on window ledges and lockers, and bags of assorted playthings, including the odd missing key or bankcard reader, are deposited on every floor.
Then there are the more surreal arrangements that have even less regard of room nomenclature: a dozen paper female faces adorned with stuck-on jewellery each one ‘having a rest’ on its own cushion distributed across the ‘Sitting / Living / TV Room’ floor; a fluffy toy cat imprisoned in a metal frame removed from a vegetable rack in ‘The Yellow Room’.
In summer the conservatory is ‘The Warm Room’. In winter the conservatory is ‘The Cold Room’. It is sometimes referred to as ‘The Yellow Room’ but there are two rooms papered in yellow and this can be problematic.
Rooms where we eat disregard the time of day – the breakfast room is also where we dine.
The spare bedroom is sometimes named after the one who spends most time there. ‘Granny’s Room’.
As a child two new rooms were added to our family home. Only one was christened ‘The New Room’ – a name it still carries today. The other was a former garage, therefore not technically a new room, but its transformation was such that it needed a new name. My mother proposed, or imposed, ‘The Utility Room’. It sounded overly technical at the time, and my brothers and I initially put up some resistance but eventually it grew into its new title.
Even further back there was my mother’s mother’s home which had three rooms downstairs and a tiny hallway. There was the ‘sitting room’ with its faded Fragonard over the fireplace, the kitchen with its pipes and condensation, and a third sparse room, named with a simplicity I can only aspire to; it was known as ‘The Room’.
I once enquired as to why ‘The Room’ was named so; nobody could tell me the answer. It had just always been ‘The Room’. I guess its function changed over the years: my uncles’ bedroom, and then when everyone had moved on and she could no longer climb the stairs it became Nana’s bedroom. And finally before ‘she’ left the house for the last time it was where we held her wake.
But one fact remained constant throughout all those years. It was always ‘The Room’.
by Jonathan Brennan (www.aptalops.com)
Originally published on The Bogman’s Cannon