I had completely forgotten my column.
This takes a lot. I’ve failed to write of course but I’ve been ill or away and generally I post despite these things. This week nothing was wrong, although I was a touch busy.
Just before Easter we got the keys to a house the fiancé and I had fallen madly in love with. We’d seen several forgettable homes and one we now refer to as “the house of immitigable suffering and evil.”
I’m not overly superstitious but I do trust my instincts. I also like horror movies and have sworn that I’d not last five minutes in the Amityville house (despite loving those windows!). The house of immitigable suffering and evil was that to a tee; both the fiancé and I felt it.
Perhaps that was what made us so susceptible to our current home. Not only did we step over its threshold into a warm and welcoming space but we both got an intense sensation of “I AM A HAPPY HOME.”
I feel a little silly writing this but we count the house as a family member. As we sat drinking gin cocktails in the garden (reader, this is why I’m marrying him!), the fiancé remarked that he felt that we were the somewhat errant teenagers under the watchful eye of our parental home. I certainly feel cosseted and safe within these walls in a way I never have within bricks and mortar before.
So what has kept me busy? Renovations!
We worried about how the house would feel (yes yes we are insane) but I think it understands. As we uncover the lazy and cheap (plumbing), the inept (plastering) and the frankly criminal (pulling up Victorian tiles and pouring concrete through the hallway) and pour our love and finances into restoring this house, we feel ever more integrated into it.
With an old house you appreciate you are but a passerby. This house is 106 years old and could live for hundreds more. We are but one family passing through. Sure there is a sense of ownership but we also appreciate that this house will outlive us.
So humbly we asked to be long term residents.
We aren’t fixing up for resale. We are creating a dream home. Just as the fiancé and I found each other and wanted to create a life together, we set out looking for a home to house us and our family.
The boys (my stepsons) love it and tonight the fiancé and I enjoyed cocktails on the sun soaked decking before heading in to eat gammon, egg and chips (you can take the girl from the North...) in front of a recorded episode of Grand Designs. We put the fire on and the kittens blissed out in front of it as we sipped wine and postulated on budgets and timeframes.
I swear this house is magic! Despite the living room being stripped of wallpaper and painted with turquoise bond-it (think ugly turquoise paint with sand thrown at it), it feels cosy and welcoming. We like to think it understands; understands that we’re trying to restore it to its glory days and fill it with our family (large and complicated), friends (sporadic and alcoholic) and pets (inquisitive and incontinent).
We aren’t simple. We are many and noisy and still figuring things out. But we hope there’ll be a wedding soon and maybe a baby thereafter. And we promise to open windows to ventilate and to keep the pipes warm in winter.
We’re all eager to love this house and we need a steady backdrop to our lives. This is the third address the fiancé has had with his sons since leaving his wife and it’s my fourth address since moving to Gloucester in April 2009. The chickens grew up on a battery farm and the kittens are the bastard offspring of a rebellious imp rather too young for motherhood. I think we’re all ready to lay roots.
Today is the end of week two. So far all wallpaper has been stripped (seeing the plaster falling down everywhere) and two rooms replastered. I’ve been painting the walls with the gritty sealant that provides a good base for the plasterer, I’ve demolished the cupboard that housed the old boiler and had endless meetings and appointments which have seen the paint, carpet and tiles chosen. I also cleaned, tidied, cooked many meals and relocated our bedroom to the freshly plastered nursery where sandalwood burns to hide the smell.
Project managing is fun (juggling as I am around my teaching commitments) but I forget things. I sent the blinds for the kids’ rooms to our old address and bought a light for the study forgetting we have a dimmer fitted and I forgot it was Thursday until it was late. It was late and the fiancé had had a meeting at the elder stepsons school so I was babysitting (read; drinking sherry and building Ikea traintracks).
It’s nice. I’m now in the position where the fiancé says he has a school meeting and not that his mum is having them as he’s busy. I love my life. I love my house and my job and my man and my kids (step and feline). But Christ it’s tough sometimes. I’m happy and enjoying it but I think I’ve lost my brain. Last night the eldest stepson was ill and I was managing the calls to NHS and then the out of hours GP and nearly cried when I couldn’t remember his date of birth. At one point someone asked “I’m sorry, what is your relationship to the child?” and I blurted out “I’m um, about to marry his dad. Is that ok?” (They laughed and said it was perfectly ok, they just needed to put something in the box).
This house is our big box with people and chickens and kittens and hopes and dreams and carpet samples and fabric samples and paint charts and my furniture and his guitars and mini weetabix with chocolate chips and Ted Ted and Woofy and Alan the stretchy man that cost like 50p at the weekend and Danny wanted a bouncy ball and Billy wanted Alan and now they fight over him and why has Satriani (the black kitten) gone up the chimney?
Can I put an alarm in my iPhone that says “It’s Thursday Kathryn”?