Sunday 19 November 2023

Waving or Drowning? - 2023 so far.

 Well back in May when I was blogging about our wonderful trip to Cornwall I didn’t anticipate disappearing until November. 

Whilst I was still coming to terms with losing Dad and therefore having good and bad days, I had hoped to have a good summer. I already had a few plans in place to catch up with friends, go on some days out, exhibitions etc. 

The other big thing was we have also been looking for a house to buy, I was waiting until that was a done deal before sharing some of our crazy mad experiences of house hunting.

We first started looking for a house last year when the mortgage rates were low and it was silly season. We are talking queues outside properties, strict 15-minute viewing slots often with 2-3 couples looking round at the same time and ending in an immediate closed bid if you were interested. It was pretty intense and pressurized particularly when it was somewhere you loved and you were ‘significantly’ outbid, and at times ridiculously funny.

We saw a house so damp it was almost its own water feature, and another so filthy the agent stayed outside and advised us to put a disposable glove on our prominent hand in case we touched anything! I was also subjected to a 15-minute haranguing for being ‘too fussy’ because I didn’t want to make an offer on a house I didn’t like and got very fed-up with all the pushy phone calls.


Moving on to this year and the interest rates went up, up, up. Suddenly there were only about 3 houses on the market that nobody wanted including us. At this point our landlord offered us the house we were renting. He knew our top budget (he works for an estate agency and we were on their books) and was pushing for that full amount. He couched it in terms of doing us a deal because he and his wife, as it turns out mostly his wife, were actually after a great deal more.

We gave it some serious thought as there were pros and cons. The house needs a fair bit doing to it and as it turns out on further investigation, has a major issue, that being Japanese Knotweed in the garden. We made a lower offer mentioning these things and our landlord actually laughed about the knotweed in the garden and said no.

We looked at a couple of other places that came up but they were no good, so we had another serious discussion about our rental. We decided to get the work that needed doing priced up and see where that left us. We also spoke to our mortgage adviser who in a nutshell said don’t touch it with a barge pole as soon as he heard there was knotweed on the property! He said it was unlikely we would get a mortgage and even if we did, it was highly unlikely we would be able to sell again at a later date because future buyers wouldn’t get a mortgage.

Himself was still keen so I contacted a company that removes knotweed and asked for a quote and out of courtesy let our landlord know, we remade our same offer stating again why we were offering that price. 

This time our landlord literally had an egg. Apparently he had thought Himself was joking when he mentioned the knotweed!?! He said he was not prepared to go any lower and if we didn’t want it for that price, he was giving us notice. So suddenly just like that we were looking at trying to find somewhere to rent or buy in 8 weeks or be homeless... 

I think with hindsight he was pissed off about the knotweed which he claims he knew nothing about. We had always assumed he already knew as he would have had a survey done when he bought the place. If nothing else he was originally going to build another house at the bottom of the garden so again we had assumed he knew about the knotweed and would have it dealt with when he built. I guess all the corners he cut and the rock bottom deal he did when he bought the house was not such a bargain after all.


It's hard to articulate how difficult the last few months have been. We were frantically trying to find somewhere else to rent just when there was nothing, literally nothing. If you follow the news, you will know the rental market also dried up overnight with the interest hikes and there are lists of desperate people all chasing the same places and many others being evicted at an alarming rate.

I can’t begin to tell you what it feels like to start packing when you actually have nowhere to go, to keep working full time and smiling and interacting like usual when you haven’t slept properly in weeks, when you are struggling to concentrate on anything other than this and you can’t eat or drink with the stress and worry. It certainly didn’t help that work is still pretty shit too, but that I was sucking up, I couldn’t be looking for a new job too. I ended up throwing my pride out the window and actually begged our landlord to please not make us homeless. Thankfully, he seemed to have calmed down and remembered that for the last almost 7 years we had been model tenants, so he agreed to give us a little more time. It seems he also spoke to the rental side of his agency because when I rang up about a property that had of course already gone, on hearing who I was the lady said ‘Oh I’m holding a property for you didn’t he tell you?’ me ‘No, no he didn’t.’

We had a bit of pussyfooting around with the current tenants who were in the process of buying somewhere and didn’t want us to come round for a viewing until they were ‘further along in their house buying process’ but eventually we got to see it once they had exchanged. At this point Himself said unless it’s got swastikas in the brickwork and Rosemary West in the landlord, we are taking it. Thankfully it had neither, so we did on a minimum 12-month lease. 

It is fine, it has a rather quirky and frustratingly impractical layout but it’s a good size and only a few streets away from where we currently lived. 

You would think my stress levels might have started to recede a bit knowing we had somewhere but sadly they didn’t and indeed they peaked to such a point that I managed to scare family members and friends with the state I was in. I swear these things get harder as you get older. 

The move was intense, and I am eternally grateful and in utter awe of the friends and family who rallied round to help us move our epic amount of stuff in just one day, for the most part in the pouring rain too. 

I was and am horrified and a bit ashamed by the sheer volume of ‘stuff’ we have both accumulated. This even after I got rid of bag after bag to various charity shops. Over 100 books went to Oxfam and the depressing thing is looking at my bookcases you would never tell!

The thing I have found heartening is that this time round I seem to be much more able to let things go and be more subjective. Do I really need it? Will I ever use it, wear it, fit in it again? do I even like it anymore? Which means as I unpack, I am still downsizing, to the point that the lady in the British Heart Foundation shop knows our name and address by heart as I am in there pretty much every other day with a bag or box of donations! We will never be minimalist, and I know I need to be more ruthless, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.    


So, 3 weeks on and we are getting there. In an ideal world I would have liked to have only moved the once and found our forever home but that clearly wasn’t to be this year. I’m just hoping 2023 is done with us and 2024 might be a kinder year. We will start house hunting again in the new year and hopefully, hopefully, it will happen for us this time. Above all I just want to be happy again because this person I am right now is not me. Having said that I am sleeping better, feeling like eating and also getting out and about again.


We had our usual long weekend in Bournemouth booked in for September. As it was all paid and we would have lost that all if we didn’t go, we had our trip even though at that point nothing was confirmed. I have to say it did do us the world of good. The weather was glorious and being by the sea, in fact just being away really did help.


Packing, moving, unpacking and cleaning the old house from top to bottom has been physically and mentally draining. I have never been more aware that at 55 I’m not capable of the same things I was. Frankly I’m tired. I would love nothing more than whisking away to a little bolthole somewhere by the coast to re-charge but sadly that is not to be before the end of the year so I shall keep on keeping on.


Anyway this has been a longer and more personal post than I planned. Hopefully normal blogging service will be resumed shortly, though with less shopping. I really, really do not need more stuff!