I hinted in my New Year reflections post that I had some happy news to share – and some of you that follow me on Twitter will already know… I’ve moved house into a flat beside the sea, and I hope that this will be mine and Small Boy’s home for quite a while.
I’ve lived in four different houses this year, five since I left the Fire Service in November 2011 and could no longer afford the rent on my 2 bedroom apartment in the town centre.
I moved from there to a cheaper 2 bedroom flat on the other side of the town, opposite the big orange supermarket. It was okay, a bit mouldy round the edges with a few alarming cracks in walls and ceilings. My cold tap didn’t work on the bath and the kitchen was a tiny little box, but it did have *those* mirror tiles. (Photo by Max and Liz Haarala Hamilton, published in Look Magazine).
I moved from there into a house I shared with five other people, sleeping on the floor on a mattress so Small Boy could have the single bed. We ate and slept in that bedroom, and I became a bit reclusive. The house was gorgeous, clean and bright, and I planted my little herbs out in the borders in the garden. As a bit of an introvert, I found sharing a house with people extremely difficult (they were all absolutely charming, but I found it quite a stressful situation).
We gradually started to spend more and more time at the former Mrs Jack’s, which is where the Guardian videos were shot.
When it all went wrong, sadly, I moved into a flat nearby, owned by a friend and just vacated by her former tenant. It was absolutely beautiful, and I loved it. It’s where we filmed The One Show. But she had an interested buyer for the Spring – I knew it was only going to be a temporary thing.
Then just before Christmas, I realised that I would have to register SB for his school place in early January: the hunt was on for a home to settle in. My criteria were simple: I needed something affordable, and close to a local school, for SB’s little legs to walk in the mornings. I found 12, viewed 7, and got it down to 2 – a first floor maisonette with an enormous kitchen but an enormous mould and damp problem to match, and a little terraced house near the sea for the same price, with a tiny kitchen but a stones throw from the sea.
And then I found it.
The one with the kitchen. I walked in and said to the nice young man from the letting agents; “Oh, I could actually fit a film crew in here!” He didn’t bat an eyelid. I knew from a glance around the kitchen that I wanted this to be mine and SB’s settling place. The rent was the same as the mouldy flat, the same as the little terraced house. I wandered through and stood in the room that I earmarked for my bedroom, and I could see the sea. “I’ll follow you back to the office”, I said, “because you’re taking this off the market.”
Nine days of chasing, Christmas, weird holiday opening hours, credit checks, failing credit checks, needing a guarantor, having to very quickly do my 2013-14 accounts on Christmas Eve to provide evidence of my income, still needing a guarantor, lots and lots of phone tennis back and forth, nail biting, frantic Twitter updates…I picked the keys up on New Years Eve, still not quite believing my luck.
With the help of a friend with a van, and some more friends with muscles, I moved in on New Years Day. I’m all unpacked now, sitting on the daybed that’s serving as a sofa, and although I don’t currently have an oven, a hob, or a washing machine, it’s home.
It’s a home that I can settle in, a home that I can afford, a home that SB loves, a home that I hopefully don’t need to leave any time soon.
I often say that when things are really important, I can’t find the words for them. This is one of those moments. I can’t express enough how it feels to have four walls around me that I’m not permanently terrified of losing. There are no final demands coming through the letterbox, no bailiffs banging on the door, no mould or damp. I’m cautious – I know enough about this ‘media industry’ I work in to know that I replaced someone and someone else can just as easily replace me. Being self employed means nothing is guaranteed, and I don’t entirely trust my run of ‘good luck’, if you can call it that.
But for now, I feel more secure in my four walls than I have done for over two years now, and I have a home, and my Small Boy has a home. Thankyou Penguin. Thankyou Daily Mirror. Thankyou Guardian. Thankyou Independent. Thankyou everyone who has published something I’ve written this year. Thankyou to all of my readers – without all of you, I wouldn’t have any of the jobs that I do.
Happy new year. I hope this one brings no more suitcases in halls, for a start…
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @msjackmonroe