12 January 2018

30th anniversary.

Today is a special anniversary of major proportions. We moved into this house 30 years ago. That's almost half my lifetime spent in the same house in the same street in the same part of London. I really cannot believe three decades have passed since we moved in.

In 1987, Greg and I decided to up-size our home. We were at that time living in a two-bedroom  apartment (well actually a maisonette for those who know what one is) just a few streets away from where I live now. We wanted more room. The second bedroom was filling up with all sorts of stuff you don't know where to put and we we wanted even more room. We also wanted to start a family. We were both in good jobs and could afford the extra mortgage, so we went for it. 

We looked around and found this crazy modern house on six levels. I've written about it before here. From the outside it looks as if it is on 3 levels, but because the front of the house is higher than the back of the house and the staircase winds its way though the middle, there are six half-levels with mostly just one room on each level. We fell in love with it. It needed a lot doing to it, as the previous resident was an elderly lady with dementia who had a penchant for throwing cups of coffee at the walls or soiling her bedroom carpet. The live-in carer obviously didn't think much of housework and the grime all over the kitchen tiles was so thick, you needed a chisel to remove it. But this did not put us off and it meant we could get it at a reasonable price, albeit with a 16% interest mortgage. (It makes me laugh at talk of young people not being able to get on the housing ladder nowadays with mortgages as low as 0.5%. They don't know the half of it.) 

The view from the windows was amazing, considering we were in the heart of London, and we were young and full of ideas how to turn it from its Cinderella state into the Princess of Town Houses. It had what we called the "oooh" factor, as it was an unusual layout and shape. (Now it has more of an "aaaargh" factor as my aging knees negotiate all those stairs, particularly if I climb to the top of the house, only too late to realise that what I needed to bring up is still 5 flights below! Carrying the vacuum cleaner around is no joke either.)

We made an offer and waited six long months to move in, as buying and selling was made more complicated by others in the chain. In that time of waiting, we experienced the great storm of 1987, when many trees in the area were blown out of the ground, including some in the street where we planned to move to. Fortunately our house managed to stand upright all through that. After all, we didn't want to add bricklaying to the long list of renovations we planned to do ourselves.

On 12 January 1988 we moved in and were in heaven. Our plans were to do up the house quickly and move on, making a profit. We started on the kitchen, chiseling out all that grime and putting a new one in all by ourselves. But life got in the way. Both our jobs were quite demanding and we had little time to devote to the renovation. By the time, we could, I  found I was pregnant and moving on got put on the shelf. As Kay grew up, it made sense for us to stay put. She was an only child. I'd had her when I was forty and we didn't want to risk a brother or sister for her, as I was quite a museum piece for having had a child at forty in the first place. Nowadays that is not so unusual, but then it was. "Elderly Primagravida" I think they called me, which did not sound in the slightest bit flattering. The communal gardens that belonged to the settlement of town houses was ideal because Kay could play with other neighbouring children, so had friends on tap: far better than if we moved to a conventional property where she would be all alone in her own back garden. So we stayed. And stayed. And stayed.

Then, of course, the whole saga of Greg and his alcoholism blew up in our faces when he retired in 2004. From then on, we clung on by our fingernails to some semblance of normality while the whole boat rocked precariously towards his death in 2010. Since then (and it's getting on for 8 years), I have rattled around in this big house finding comfort from its familiarity, the kindness of long-standing neighbours and every pavement in the surrounding streets. I have watched old houses in the area being demolished,  new developments being built and umpteen other changes, but have never felt the desire to move away. Although we are in a quiet (almost village-like) part of London, we are but fifteen minutes by train from Central London in one direction and fifteen minutes by car in the opposite direction to the borders of the Kent countryside. I have the best of both worlds. Why would I want to move?

But thirty years has crept up on me. That's half my life. THAT is definitely scary. Even scarier is the fact that the renovations are still not complete. At the very least I have two bathrooms to modernise, as they are still stuck in a 1960s time warp. Maybe this year is the year to get those renovations finished.


Yorkshire Pudding said...

With all those stairs and your dodgy knees it may be wisest to cash in in the near future and consider moving into a nice bungalow - perhaps at the coast or in a nice place just outside London like St Albans or Windsor. Anyway, for what it is worth, that's what I would do if I were in your position ADDY.

K Ville said...

you are so lucky to live in London and have a bit of green too, I'm quite envious.

the veg artist said...

Aren't most of our homes like this, though? Unless you are a semi-pro doer-upper, most people have lists of things that they mean to get around to. My ex-husband and I bought a beautiful wreck (as in urgent re-wiring - as in we had to disconnect the electricity in most of the house because water was dripping off the sockets, it needed new plumbing, new stairs, new floors in most of the downstairs, new windows all round etc). After finishing it, and living in it for 10 years, some of it needed redecorating, as things do. I learnt then, there really is no end. And if you do intend to sell, the buyers could well rip out all of your efforts anyway. As long as it's clean, safe, and everything works, that's fine!

Nota Bene said...

...and there I was thinking I have a maisonette in Brighton...but no; it occupies two floors, but doesn't have a separate entrance. 30 years is a long time...no doubt collecting all sorts of stuff...or are you more disciplined? I think staying in the same place for half your life is fabulous...so many tales, stories and memories: good, bad, exciting, indifferent..but all making up the kaleidoscope of your life....I've owned my flat for nearly 30 years...it was once my main residence, but when I bought in London, it became a 'second home'....but it is still where my heart is...I'd move back down there permanently if I could

Billie said...

Congratulations! A sense of home is so important. How nice that you love your neighborhood. You are a wise lady remaining after your husband passed. I have done the same because our shared memories are a comfort. I'm sure it must be the same for you.

Emma Lowe said...

Avid reader of your blog here. Maybe it is time to sell? You've gone through so much over the past 10 years. I'm not saying it's time to sell up and wither up and die in a little bungalow but what about somewhere that doesn't need any work. If you live in London you could probably sell up and go anywhere. Kay will visit you where-ever you are. You are the person that makes the home not the building.

I also wanted to add that as a girl a few years older than Kay who went down the wrong path and is an alcoholic I have agreed to go to rehab and will be leaving on the 26th for 3 months. Thank you. x

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