Last week I had a meeting with a business contact – a supplier who I’ve known for a while. He runs his business with his wife, and I have become friendly with them both over the years, building rapport over our similar-aged children, as parents often do.
He travels a huge amount for work and, this time, he had not been home in months (although he had spent time with his family in various locations around the world). It was obvious he’d had enough. I sympathised, as I too have also been living out of suitcases for months. We spoke about our children turning 17 and how soon they would be leaving home, travelling or heading off to uni. We congratulated ourselves on their confidence while dreading the moment when it comes. It was a situation he described as “staring into the abyss”.
I was genuinely worried that I, and this big ex-forces rugby-loving man, would start weeping right there and then. We are watching as the drills bore ever closer to the deep well of misery, that will one day soon drench us like black rain. That feeling of dread heightened by our current states of displacement, like ships finding themselves too far from safe harbour with a storm gathering on the horizon.
Back in June, I sold my little 2-bed terrace. Between GCSEs, work and money management, I thought it would be less stressful and more savvy to sell my house, and then purchase later as a chain-free buyer and arrange a new mortgage with no other debt. I could do this because my parents’ house is close by and we could stay there in the interim. My parents live in Scotland most of the time now, so there’s plenty of room.
However, this is also my childhood home and it’s absolutely full to the rafters with a lifetime of memories and clutter. So now I live among ghosts and boxes – some days it’s like being swallowed by the past. We planned to be here for a few months. Now I’ll be surprised if we have moved out by next Christmas.
The first house we were buying fell through, when I found out at the last minute that a block of flats was going to be built flanking two sides of the garden. I am now working through the second purchase but it’s a tortuously slow process. We want to do some work on the new house – considering planning permission and builders, we’re looking at another 6-9 months.
The delay has made the fantastic seem unrealistic. With work and good budget management, this could be my dream home, the fairy tale home I have romanticised, with storage space and sockets that have been fitted properly. It’s a lovely Edwardian house with original flooring, in a nice area with a village feel. Good area to invest – I base that assessment on the fact it has a Pizza Express but no Waitrose yet. After years of living in my perfect-for-two terrace, I want friends and family to have somewhere to sit, somewhere to stay. I want to walk into the kitchen and feel like Nigella fucking Lawson. I have always been timid about dealing with builders and big projects, and have watched in awe as friends have arranged extensions and new flooring and landscaping. I feel the acute lack of a partner – my ideal man would deal with DIY and contractors. I have no practical skills but have decided that I have to grow up if I want to live in my Barbie Dream House.
Don’t get me wrong – I realise complaining about staying at my parents while I’m buying a new house is hardly Cathy Come Home. But I can only be authentic about my own experiences – I don’t believe anyone ever achieved happiness by reminding themselves of the misery of others. I admit being dismissive in the past when people have complained about temporary accommodation, thinking that as long as you have a roof over your head, you should be grateful. In a very important way, these months have taught me the difference between having somewhere to stay and having a home.
There is a constant sense of frustration and not belonging. I will never again take for granted the ability to control your own environment, to feel relaxed within your own space. Obviously I am aware that my feelings are exacerbated greatly by anxiety, making monolothic every moment I have to root through five boxes to find something I need.
I am hopeful that my updates on the house saga will be positive and full of progress on plans and Edwardian gothic interior design. But right now, I feel like me and my 14 year old self are occupying the same space, like an episode of Doctor Who. Maybe I just need to work out which one of us is supposed to be giving the other advice. Maybe this is my chance to lay some ghosts to rest.
[Image from: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org]