From generation to generation – learning life lessons

Published on: 1 January 2017

Biddy Collyer had been living alone in a two bedroomed house in Norwich city centre for 15 years and during that time had a number of lodgers, all male. Last year she knew that a young friend from church, Suze Rose, wanted to move from Dereham where she had been working and living with her parents since leaving University. Biddy invited her to move in while she completed her training as a Beauty Therapist. Twelve months on, the reflect on an experience of house-sharing across generations.

Biddy: “What did you expect it to be like? Was it a big thing to move into my space?”

Suze: “I was intrigued how it would work out. You are in someone else’s home, and it is not your parents’, and it is not a family friend. I can just go and have a sulk, but I know I can also come and talk to you about God as well, and check things out. It helps me because I could not live with my friends. They would drive me mad!”

Biddy: “For me, it is companionable and I enjoy having you here. It is different because you are not one of my daughters, so I can probably disclose more of myself.”

Suze: “I think there is a misconception of living with someone older. It is easier to open up. You give me your opinion, a fresh perspective. I bristle when my parents are telling me something.”

Biddy: “It is a special relationship isn’t it really, because it’s close without being family and it is not the same as living with your peers.”

Suze: “It feels like we are walking alongside each other, in different situations, but very similar paths.”

Biddy: “It does feel like a God fit doesn’t it? That this was right for this time.”

Suze: “Absolutely.”

Biddy: “It’s about a year now. We did start to pray together in the evenings and I am wondering if we are going to get back to that. What do you think?”

Suze: “What I like is that there is no pressure, sometimes I am not in the mood, but I also know that I can come and sit with you and God is in that conversation. I love praying with you and I think that is something important.”

Biddy: “For me, what I really appreciate is having somebody that I feel comfortable with in the house. I enjoy being around you. I don’t feel like you but I can recognise a lot of my younger self in you. It is really good to have someone with a totally different life to mine. Most of my friends are my age, retired and not working and you bring something fresh in each time you come home.

Suze: “I love that. That’s lovely.”

Biddy: “But you do, so that opens my horizons as well. You bounce in. I like that and if you get moody, I can just ignore you! It’s nice to have someone check out how you are, someone who is interested, especially as my daughters live in London.”

Suze: “I feel I have learnt how to communicate better. Being here is teaching me skills I never had before and I know I am changing and becoming more responsible around the  house even if I do drop the occasional mug. I think this is preparation for marriage because I am learning how to deal with someone who is not family.”

Biddy: “How do your friends react to the fact that you are living in an older person’s house?”

Suze: “Most of them say how cool it is when I explain what you are like. You don’t feel like an older person. If I need a glass of wine I get one poured out for me at the kitchen table, but then we can go and pray. I don’t believe in living together before marriage and this is a safe transition from living at home. I waited nine years for the opportunity of being able to move out of my parents’ house. This is such a special place for me. Friends are surprised that you let me use the whole house and don’t expect me to just live in my room and it’s not like that at all. This feels like a house share, and is definitely much more homely and loving than anything that they have. I am also cooking and eating better which has come from watching you in the kitchen.”

Biddy: “I wish I could copy you. You are so much more controlled with your diet than I am.”

Suze: “You should see me at Biddy’s Tea Room!”

Biddy: “It’s amazing that you should work there and live with me.”

Suze: “This works, and I think it is unique. I feel so blessed. I feel that God has honoured my decision not to live with someone before marriage, but I needed to move out and give my parents the space they needed. I think it takes special friends to live together, and I need to have my own space, even though I am an extrovert. I need to nest.”

Biddy: “You have certainly done that!”

Suze: “And also this transition is important because I realise I had been protected, because I was so ill. So moving here, although it is only a few miles away, has been huge for me. I don’t think I would have been able to move out straight into my own place. But when I have had worries, I haven’t bolted back. This is really helping me to have security in God and get used to things changing.”

Biddy: “What would you like me to change. Is there anything I do that you don’t like?”

Suze: “I would just like you to turn your radio down!” [They collapsed laughing].

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