Behold, I am making all things new

I'm a sucker for renovation shows - proper ones, I mean, not silly ones fixated on moronic conflict and ludicrous speed. I like the ones about real families creating over periods of months and years spaces they will actually live in. So I'm a fan of Grand Designs, and I've enjoyed the first two episodes of Caroline Quentin's Restoration Home, though it does resemble some of the more irritating British reality shows in being a tad repetitive and inclined to drama. It compensates amply with its attention to history and architecture, and its slightly earnest message about the salvation of Britain's heritage.

I think it's the element of salvation that gives the best renovation shows their zest. There's something richly satisfying about watching someone bring order, beauty and memory out of loss and disrepair; about watching the miraculous reversal of natural decay, and the recovery of something once entombed. It's more impressive than the ex nihilo creations of new build, and often more compelling because of its excavation of human stories and attachments. In the process, some figments of the past are restored to use, while others are laid more decorously to rest. In both, the past inhabits the present as the human family inhabits present and past at once.

Behind these felicities is, I think, the deeper recognition of a divine preference for salvage. The final phase of creation is not destruction but re-creation. In nature as in supernature, death follows birth, but rebirth follows death, and morning follows evening. It's the divine pleasure to re-purpose, to retrieve treasures from dust, to seek and save the lost.