Monday, 19 October 2009

From Cowley Road to Rue V

I dropped some papers off at my new house tonight. I get the keys on Wednesday.

"My new house". "My house".

It's a bit surreal. The last time I was involved in dealing with a house by myself - and not even then, really - I was twenty and sharing a red brick semi next door to the Mecca Bingo on Cowley Road in Oxford with four other students. That house shared a party wall with a local authority halfway house and on the day we moved in there was a stabbing. I arrived on my own, thankfully, but one of my housemates came with her mother who had to have a lie down and brandy when she discovered her darling daughter was moving into a crime scene, surrounded by police tape and forensic teams. Similar incidents dogged us all year and the residents had a peculiar fondness for playing New Order's Blue Monday twenty times in a row on the dot of midnight and for standing in our back yard throwing cans of Tennants Export at the windows.

None of us had any furniture, obviously, barring our obligatory kettles and toasters, and for two terms I lived in what was essentially a cupboard. Once the child sized single bed was in the room, you could barely open the door and I had to keep my clothes downstairs in the living room, which was mysteriously decorated with pictures of Princess Diana's eyes that followed you round the room. It was so cold I had to wear a fleece hat in bed as well as all my clothes. My radiator leaked and I had to rip the mouldy carpet up and manhandle it out. The trap door in the roof collapsed, disgorging a hundredweight of Islamic tracts. It was cold and dirty and full of brown swirly carpets, possibly borrowed from the Mecca Bingo.

I can't say this is particularly happy precedent. I was on steroids for my alopecia that made me fat and crochety and old generation anti-depressants that made me feel like I was swimming through concrete. I spent my days in libraries full of happy, glowing, hair commercial girls, staring into the middle distance and trying to concentrate, and I ate Marks and Spencer microwaved low fat ready meals every night. I hardly ever went out: my chief leisure activities were smoking, bulimia and driving fast around the ring road in my little car listening to music very very loud. I remember the house warming party where I went to bed at 10 and people kept coming in to sit on my bed and mock our very serious 'Men's Health' reading housemate who kept weights in his bedroom, an activity I had always been very good at before (mockery, not weights). I remember how very puzzled they were that over the summer I had become this ginger haired puffy recluse who had lost her sharp tongue, and how they wouldn't believe me when I told them I had gone bald.

It was a very lonely time; a time when I felt like whatever grand plan I might have had for my life was slipping out of reach at precisely the time when everyone around me seemed to be finding theirs. I felt utterly alienated, vulnerable, stuck in the wrong place, temporally, emotionally, physically as well as geographically. I think some of my love and affection for London comes from it being the place I escaped to from Oxford. We arrived in London in June 1997, just after Tony Blair had won the election. Do you remember what that felt like? How people were grinning at each other on public transport? Imagine that, plus the euphoria of escaping Oxford, and the joy of living in Fitzrovia, a hundred yards from Oxford Street. It was magical.

But I am ready to do it again, hopefully without the ginger wig, smoking, bulimia, loneliness or low fat ready meals. I peeped through my letterbox and the house looked as light and welcoming as I remembered it. I peeped in at the neighbours house too; they have a piano as well, so I can play half arsed, half remembered Chopin Preludes abusing the sustain pedal as much as I want to cover the screw ups. They have six children, so hopefully the sounds of my skreeking spawn will be swallowed up in theirs. There will be an Ektorp, and a table and lots of bowls.

It's going to be okay.


justme said...

It will be fine. And if you e mail me the address, I will send welcoming chocolate. And

Julia Ball said...

I predict that the kids from next door along with Lashes and Fingers will all be making Arse biscuits with the Weepette cleaning up the floor withing the week :-)

mothership said...

It's going to be okay.
There is really only one time in your life that you can live the full horror of the brown swirly carpet, and that is the first time that you encounter it.
You've done that already, you don't have to do it again.
Play the piano loudly & badly, sing along and don't forget to dance like an idiot.
good luck

fountain pen sue said...

Christ. I remember that year too. Things will be just fine. The F&L will make friends with next door and then they will fall out and make friends again. It will be lovely and you will make it even lovelier. And you must let me know the address so I can send stupid kazoos etc. I am so achingly envious of your new life, I really am. x

emily said...

it will be amazing - you will make it all like your bed - warm and welcoming and full of shiney things.

Please start a nice list of things you would like and your address available and then we can make sure thst you have shiney new things to fill your hous with that you love without the guilt of SPENDING MONEY!!!

Sarah said...

It is indeed going to be OK; it really is.

carolinefo said...

Courage, mon brave...

C xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

MargotLeadbetter said...

'It's going to be okay' is just a short step away from 'It's going to be a big adventure!'

And of course it is.

Anonymous said...

It's going to be okay.
Oh yes, I remember that year very well!
That year, I was sharing a flat with a fellow student that likewise, was so freezing we wore ski suits and hats to bed, setting our alarm to fling it all off and be in alluring(ish) gear when our respective boyfriends came round. We were saved from certain hypothermia by a Greek restaurant round the corner that gave us copious amounts of free ouzo and an Indian restaurant that knocked often on our door at 3am with whatever they had left. I have fond memories of sitting hunched over my books with fingerless gloves eating chicken jalfrezi straight out of the foil. Well, fond might not be quite the right word! At least I still have all my toes.
I hope you'll be very happy in your new home surrounded by your bowls, which could double as a burglary alarm piled on the windowsills with the odd bit of cutlery for extra clatter.
Don't thank me.

mountainear said...

Yes, it's going to be okay. Wishing you well to live there.

Hänni said...

I love this. And yes, no matter what it, will absolutely be better than your crime scene apartment days--I'm sure of it.

Anonymous said...

Islamic tracts! It could have been worse; the living room ceiling of a friend of mine caved in and disgorged a hundredweight of decaying pigeon corpses! That was Brixton in the early 1980s. Crime scenes were commonplace, the pigeons were something else altogether!

It will, as every one else says, be fine and the hundreds of kids next door will mean yours seem quiet and well behaved in comparison - as well as providing plenty of company for them and the weepette.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with the new house !

The City Road said...

The Niece had her A-level results party in the club above the Cowley Road Mecca Bingo just a couple of months ago - we were sitting in a Lebanese cafe just across from there, looking at the very building you mention, me with the mother of all hangovers.

I love this post Em x

SUEB0B said...

It might be better than ok. It might be fan-fucking-tabulous.

When I moved out from the exMrStapler, I was emotionally battered, afraid and it was the dark and cold of winter. For the first 2 weeks, I had no fridge, no bed and ran into everything, so I was covered in bruises.

But then! Then I learned where everything was and it was MY HOUSE where I could do what I WANTED, ANYTHING, in peace and privacy.

(The types of things I do mostly involve reading websites while eating blue cheese snacks and drinking wine while ignoring the laundry).

It has been the best 4 years of my life.

Ali said...

I have been there and I know that it is a whole very complex proposition to move from the familiar family home to a home for just you and the children but let me just give my assurances that:
The first month will be hard and tiring and you will almost lose your resolve and then.....
You will wake up one day and your new home will really feel like home and it will feel like you've always been just you and the kids and you will look in the mirror and say - I am one hardcore badarsed independent type person. And it will be true.

Margaret said...

Ali is right: The first month will kind of suck, then sooner than you now believe it will be home. And you have offspring and dog to speed up the process.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you will be fine. Lots of us have done what you are about to do, and we survived and in fact thrived. On my first night in my new place after leaving the Ex, I joyously tossed my clothes all over the bedroom - just because it was MY house and I COULD! And exactly eight years later (October is such a good month to start again, don't you think?), I still remember the first meal I cooked there and the first glass of wine I drank there! Yes, I have no doubt in my mind that you and the spawn will really be fine.

GingerB said...

I lived briefly in a draft attic
Edinburgh bedsit with a heater that you fueled with 10p coins. Holy fuck, I have never been that cold. Thank Nathan those early years are just early and not perpetual.

wv: blessem as in, "those were the days, but not no more, blessem"

Margarita @ said...

Good luck with the new home. I agree, make a wishlist and demand all you followers contribute some pennies towards it so we can help furnish your new home ;)

pinolona said...

I agree with everyone else: it will be fine. Bon courage! :)
(ps I play Chopin badly too but usually nocturnes)

Laura said...

Good luck!!! It'll all be fine.

Antonia Cornwell said...

Welcome home. Please email me your address and details of any foodstuffs you particularly miss from That London, especially heatable ones that will make the new place smell like home.

I had a day to kill by myself in Paris once. I went to Père Lachaîse cemetery and apologised to Chopin for the things I do to his music on wonkily tuned pianos, and he was very good about it. Play away!

x x x

Laura Jane said...

I like the thought of you living in a warm and welcoming place with 6 kids and a piano next door.

Happy Ektorping, sweetheart.

Chantal said...

What everyone else has said, times a hundred.

Good luck xxx

Waffle said...

Justme - thank you so much xx

Julia - I will try and make PG rated arse biscuits. Posterior biscuits, maybe.

Mothership - no cowering. I will try. I don't think there are any carpets at all, so cold but swirl free.

fountainpensue - oh, thank you so much. Your last parcel was genius xxx

Emily - oh you are so lovely.

Sarah - eek. I hope so.

Layla - merci. Avec mon Ektorp.

Margot - I quoted you on Nice biscuits today. Hope you don't mind.

Fran - I like the bowl idea. Clever.

Mountainear - thank you so much. Photos to follow soon.

Hänni - if noone throws cheap cans of lager at me, I'm doing fine...

CA - yick! Decomposing pigeons? TOO TERRIBLE.

LKSN - ah, thank you. I'll try not to break it.

City Road - really? Imagine! I've never been back.

SueBob - that is SO cheering, thank you. Oh, and thank you for trying to get Guy Kawasaki to put up some capital for the biscuits..

Ali / Margaret - that is very useful to know, about the first month. One day, hardcore badassedness. Yes!

Pinklea - oh phew. Thank you..

GingerB - it's like a rite of passage isn't it? You must live somewhere stupidly cold.

Margarita - thank you, I'd feel odd asking for things but your lovely good wishes are so wonderful.

Pinolona - oh if you need a piano to come and plink plonk on, come round. I will only try and sneak the weepette into your bag once or twice.

Laura - thank you!

Antonia -ah, interesting. He is obviously a forgiving kind of gentleman. He would have to be. Ooooh English Foods. Yes please.

Laura Jane - ah, thank you. Eventually there will be some happy Ektorping. xxx

Chantal - gaaah. Thank you!

The Spicers said...

Here's to new beginnings.
Hoping you settle in quickly and that the adjustment is as painless as possible for all involved.

Anonymous said...

Very glad to feel the optimism in this post. You have already arrived at a happier place, even before moving into your house of your own. Can only be onwards and upwards from here.
Very warm wishes for a smooth transition for all involved.

Red Shoes said...

Sending warm currents of love and hope your way. xxx

reen said...

YES! Yes, it will be more than okay. Speaking from experience. I, too, was thrilled to read the positive (excited?) tone of this post and hope the feeling stays with you for the duration. Cheers to new beginnings, and light and welcoming new homes.

bevchen said...

It's going to be more than ok - it's going to be an adventure. And we'll be right here sharing it with you (virtually I mean. Obviously we won't be sharing any of the actual adventure, just reading about it.) :-)

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