In our continuing series of domestic irritations (see Fire, redundancy and broken bones), the next stage turnout out to be giving notice to quit our flat in August this year. To be fair, it was not strictly notice to quit, rather a notice that the building was being sold from under us and as soon as a purchaser was found, we would likely have to move out. Obviously, we didn’t want to hang around waiting to be given the old heave-ho, which could happen just before Christmas and I didn’t fancy spending the festive season worrying myself silly about where we would live, so we started looking for alternative accommodation right away.
Not to labour the point about our trials and tribulations, but three days after the ‘notice of notice to quit’ arrived, my mother was hit by a car. She was on foot at the time, having parked at the supermarket and was en route to collect a trolley. Some meandering twonk managed to drive right into her from behind, breaking her wrist so badly it had to be wired together, and breaking her foot only slightly less badly.
So much for this being a better year than 2014.
The result of cumulative disasters is that they sometimes wrong-foot you (sorry Mum) so much that you are pushed into an entirely new position. In our case the ‘having to move’ coming relatively quickly after the closure of our gallery and the subsequent forced absorption of pictures and gallery furniture into a relatively small flat, together with worries about how mum could reasonably be expected to manage after what will undoubtedly be a long period of hospitalisation and recuperation, and of course, the fact that we are all paying the same bills monthly out for different living spaces, lead to the blossoming of a whole new plan – we would all live together.
It was in fact a relatively slow bloom – I had been thinking for quite a while about whether it would be practical to have her live with us and whether or not she would like it. Turns out she had been thinking that her current home is not ideal in terms of accessibility and she had been investigating other possible options. The Artist, in fact, was completely unfazed at the prospect, as long as we each had enough space to escape each other. This turned out to be a crucial requirement for each of us. Mum wanted a place with a bedroom and her own living room, but didn’t mind sharing everything else. I wanted a studio space, and the Artist obviously wouldn’t be himself without an etching studio (although neither of us had an issue with continuing to share a bedroom. Phew!) So, wanted: a six room, preferably two bathroom home, with a large kitchen, and ideally some outdoor space.
The Artist for reasons based around his work, wanted to stay by the South Coast. I love it here too. Mum had always wanted to live by the sea, so wasn’t averse to coming in this direction to live and giving up the amenities afforded by Surrey.
House number three of the places we looked at turned out to be The One. Well, at least the Artist decided instantly that it was The One. If left to mum and me we would probably have passed it over on the grounds of needing too much basic cleaning, let alone anything else, but you can get swept away by someone else’s boundless enthusiasm, especially when it is someone you love. The particulars of the house didn’t show up on any of the local searches we did, and none of the local agents we had listed with sent them to us. Instead, they were forwarded to us by the wonderful woman who inspired Trippet Castle Dolls – the Lady of Trippet Castle – who was living in London but managed to find the perfect place for us on the interweb thingy.
The house is old. Old, dusty, slightly damp and absolutely chock full of character. It has the requisite six rooms (most of them with wash hand basins in), plus large kitchen and one bathroom plus one extra loo. No outside space, but hey, it overlooks the beach (SEA VIEW!!), so we can treat that as our garden, can’t we? As far as we can tell it was built between 1800 and 1825. It has been lived in by someone who was five times Mayor of our town, and also by Napoleon III just before he launched an attempted coup in France (but due to bad planning managed to get captured with his small army on the beach as soon as they landed). It has tall ceilings, arched doorways, picture rails, dado rails, nooks and crannies and storage cupboards that are big enough to walk into. It has a basement. And the basement has a basement too.
I have only lived in it for two weeks, and that only on and off, and so far the kitchen has flooded twice, the lever has come off the downstairs loo, the upstairs bedroom is vast and very chilly, the roof leaked, and the cat is freaked simply by the size of the place in comparison to the flat, and keeps getting lost and then sitting down and howling until someone comes and finds her.
The front of the house is like a greenhouse (big windows, south facing) and the back is like a fridge. The alley from the back of the house past the other buildings is like something out of a Dickens novel – but with some extra disused fridges and televisions thrown in for good measure.
We love it though.
We understand it will take a while to learn the house. To learn how to make it breathe properly so that the ‘old house’ smell disappears. To learn how to locate each other inside it. To learn which wash hand basins have the left tap as the hot one, and which have the right. To learn the light switches (a) where they are – not as easy as you would think; and (b) what lights they operate – also not always obvious. We have to paint out the dark colours, and clean it completely, replace the taps, the bath, the broken window catches, unstick the windows that won’t open and fix the sashes on the ones that won’t stay closed. Learn how to clean and restore a marble fireplace. Put doors (or at least curtains) on the cupboards that don’t have them. Make blinds, find suitable furniture, get on better terms with the vacuum cleaner. The list is endless.
We love it though.
Wish us luck in our new home. I think it’s about time we had some.