In the course of my soon-to-be-34 years, I’ve lived in no less than 20 homes. This includes university flats and all the places that we settled, for just a short time, as kids. I’ve always found it easy to move on, to leave behind memories, people, places. So when, in 2007, we bought our first proper “grown-up” house together, I was determined that this would be forever. Well, maybe for a bit anyway.
It’s not just me, my brother would equal that number. My parents too. It’s just the way we are built, through my father’s career and the itchy feet within our DNA.
All the places that I have laid my hat hold memories, some great, some bad, some utterly desperate. They range from Edinburgh to rural Galloway to the USA and most recently, Essex. Until we moved here (here being Leigh-on-Sea), I had no real emotional tie to anywhere that I’d ever settled. But it hit when, not too long ago, my husband mentioned briefly that the company he now works for may have places overseas (for the benefit of our families reading this, we’re not going, ok?). Normally i’d have jumped at the chance. I burst into tears. Like, properly sobbed. Snot bubbles and everything. “But, I love it here, please, PLEASE don’t make me”. Slight overreaction to what was just a passing comment. But one which made me realise that finally, I am home.
This house is just your average 3 bedroom, semi-detached place in a suburban, tree-lined street. Built in 1912, it’s a flipping miracle that it’s survived this long. As I sit here this evening, having mopped up the latest domestic disaster, I honestly wonder if this house is my brick-built nemesis.
In our 5 years ownership, we’ve endured (to name a few…) a serious fire, a total replacement of the roof, a gas leak, a surprise £2000 water bill, an exploding toilet, hefty cracks appearing, water inside the walls, burst lead pipes…..you name it. Not to mention the time I drove the new car straight into the front bay window (Human error. Although not this human, not my fault, you see?).
We have cried, screamed and absolutely hated the evil walls of this money-sucking-hell-pit (and the insurance companies, loss adjusters and the builder with the blowtorch). When I gave birth to my dear little daughter in our lounge, I told my husband that it might go some way to healing our somewhat volatile relationship with this place (I wasn’t even off my head on gas and air when I said this hippy stuff either!). Perhaps her arrival would bring some much-needed joy and positivity to these walls. I know that the day we move from here, I’ll be sad to leave behind our memories of meeting her.
The house is on the move, built on sand, it’s shifting slowly, silently cracking. If you lay a ball at one side of a room it rolls straight across all by itself. I console myself with the fact that if it’s been here 100 years then it should last a bit longer. But perhaps, one day, we’ll get our sought after view of the Thames Estuary when the house shifts the 500 feet along the road to get one. At least our neighbours’ house is moving too. And we really like them so if we all slip down the hill to the sea together then so be it.
I still love it. The biggest changes in our lives have happened here. We made a home, made friends, started a family. And as a friend reminded me today, I’m one of the few Scots living in England that’s not sitting in a doorway swigging a can of Special Brew. I know that I’m lucky to have such a lovely home at all, despite the tumultuous times.
And so as we approach 2013 and our 6th year here, I wonder what it will hold? Be gentle to us, dear home, for our nerves, hearts and bank balance can take no more!