I grew up with verandahs. Not decks, which are platforms attached to houses, with or without guard rails, and unroofed. Decks are usually too hot, too cold, too wet or too windy to enjoy, and eventually they become covered in bird poop.
Verandahs are different. They are platforms attached to houses but there the similarity ends. A verandah has a roof and can be an extra room, but it isn’t a conservatory, which has to be properly furnished and lived up to, and often turns out to be a disappointment. A verandah is more friendly and forgiving – it accepts an old sofa and a couple of gaudy pots, gumboots and a wet umbrella and doesn’t turn up its nose.
Verandahs love children. Babies can have afternoon naps in their prams out there in almost all weathers. Toddlers can play safely, protected from sun and rain. Wet towels and bathing suits can be flapped free of sand and draped over the railing to dry instead of mouldering in the laundry or garage. In summer when the sun is high in the sky verandahs are shady and cool. In winter the sun is low enough to peer under the roof and warm the bones and the spirits alike.
A deck looks good in real estate brochures. People say, how lovely, a deck! It turns out to be almost useless both as an amenity and a decoration and is simply an appendage. Verandahs however …! Verandahs of my childhood were spacious enough to play on and even to sleep on. We three kids slept on ours in a little town called Gulhek (Iran) and there was still heaps of room. The one in the attached picture was upstairs and stretched the whole width of our house in the seaside town of Shioya (Japan). There was room for toys and furniture, cots and carpets, and all the upstairs rooms opened onto it. That’s what I call a real verandah.
It’s a place where you can wander out with a cup of coffee and survey your world. It is a place to eat breakfast on a summer’s day. To read the weekend papers and finish the crossword. To hang the laundry on the emergency line when it’s been raining for three days, or to air the summer duvet after it’s been at the top of the cupboard all winter. To sink down on the battered old sofa with a cold beer and look out over the garden after a day spent on your knees weeding. To listen to the blackbirds singing their hearts out against the roar of the sea pounding the shore a couple of blocks away. To enjoy and to remember.