Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Home

Home. I've had that word and all the things associated with it rattling round my head all year long. It's just four letters but like another four letter word (I meant 'love' not the other one!) it encompasses so much. Even now, poised to get it all out on to the virtual page, I'm still not sure which angle I'm coming at it from. Maybe I'll just type and see what happens! Let's face it, that's usually how this process goes...

I suppose the main catalyst for finally writing this oft drafted blog post is the fact that I've finally moved in to a place of my own. The variety of places I've lived this year is frankly ridiculous and I feel like I need to reflect on it in order to make peace with it all. 

2018 began with me still residing at Churchill Way. Pete and I had called it quits in December but I wasn't in a position to move out. I was on a sabbatical from my role as a Slimming World consultant and as a result was earning next to nothing. In February I started working at the Primark Distribution Centre on rotating shifts and initially this worked well as it meant Pete and I had little interaction. By the end of March however, it was clear that we weren't able to continue living under the same roof. An ex is an ex for a reason (many, many reasons in the case of Pete and I) and cohabiting post break up is far from ideal. 

It was around mid-March that a friend threw me a lifeline. Her sister had her own place and was happy to rent me a room. At the end of March, I moved some (though certainly not all) of my worldly goods in to a lovely little new build in Burton Latimer and embraced life as Tahla's housemate. I spent four happy months living there and I will forever be grateful to the amazingly kind and generous Tahls for sharing her home, not only with me but for half of the week, with my children too. Sleeping on an air bed as I had to when the children were with me wasn't the funnest but we managed. I loved kitchen chats with Tahla about our love lives while we waited for the kettle to boil so we could make our umpteenth cup of tea. Is tea not life, after all?! We certainly thought so. 

All good things must come to an end however and so, at the end of July, I packed up my room and moved on. Just picture me like a cartoon character with with one of those spotted handkerchiefs on a stick, holding all my most prized possessions... The reality was a 56 plate Renault Clio, stuffed to the roof and several trips to Pete's garage to unload but the spotty hanky visual is better somehow, don't you think? 

A much-needed holiday to the North East and Cumbria followed my departure from Casa Tahls. This was most definitely one of the many times this year when I've pondered the concept of home. Being back in the North East is always simultaneously wonderful and painful for me. It is home and it is familiar but also alien. I belong there but I don't. I love any time I spend there and the day we shared with my wonderful friend Jenny and her glorious children, Lila and Dylan, in the beautiful summer sunshine is one I hope never to forget. It was and is so hard not to dwell on how joyous it would be to have days like those more often. I didn't manage to catch up with as many family members as I'd have liked and then I'd find myself 'what if-ing' about living nearer to those I love. 

Back to Northamptonshire and the reality of the fact that I was technically now homeless. Of course I wasn't sleeping rough in a doorway but I was 'of no fixed abode' which surely puts me income weird subcategory of homelessness? If you'd put a form in front of me any time from early August this year up to a few weeks ago and asked me to fill in my address I wouldn't have been able to. I can't tell you how scary that is. 

I'd applied to go on the social housing register all the way back in February when I was still living with Pete. Due to a spectacular balls up by Kettering Borough Council, I wasn't actually on the list until late August. I provided all the information and evidence I was asked for as soon as it was requested. I paid my GP to write a letter confirming that I suffer from a chronic mental illness. Every week, I'd 'bid' on houses and every week I'd be unsuccessful. 

Resourceful (and indeed, cheeky) sort that I am, I arranged house sitting gigs all through the month of August. Plenty of my friends were going away on holiday and they had pets that needed looking after. Not a bother, said I, let me stay in your gaff and I'll mind your pets for free. I treated it like an adventure for the children's sake but also for mine too. If I'd really thought about it, it was a little depressing that I didn't have a home of my own but I pushed that feeling aside. Week one I looked after a Yorkie Poo in a two bed flat and the week after, I was in a four bed house caring for a greyhound! Week three was three bedrooms, two budgies and two bunnies. I certainly can't say that my summer wasn't varied! But every time I had to pack up and move on, every time I loaded my car up I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and failure.

As friends returned from their holidays, I once again found myself with nowhere to go. This time it was my surrogate parents who stepped in. My love for Karen and Paul could fill a whole blog post. They really are the best kind of humans and the way they treat me, loving me like one of their own, tells you all you need to know about them. I stayed for a few nights, cooking dinner in the evening to repay them for their kindness. 

A series of very fortunate events banked me a seven week house-sitting gig that lasted from mid-September until early November. Staying in one place for so long was a relief after six weeks on the move. I had time to catch my breath but the reality of my situation niggled at me the whole time. It all came to a head when I realised that I had two weeks to find somewhere to live or I really was going to be actually homeless. Countless, well-intentioned, friends suggested I turn up at the KBC offices with a bin bag and declare myself homeless forcing their hand. I discussed this with a member of the Housing Options team who confirmed that yes, if I was to make myself homeless they would have to provide "appropriate temporary accommodation" for me but they couldn't tell me beforehand where it would be. Best case scenario would be a house or flat in Kettering... Worse case? They could send me to Bedford, Leicester or even Luton. No thanks!

After using Facebook live to appeal to any local friends who might know of affordable rentals in Kettering, it was actually my big sister Clare who found the flat I'm now calling home. I hadn't even considered one bed flats or places above shops but Clare spotted one within my price range and urged me to investigate. I viewed it later that same day and the following day dropped off my forms and registration fee. A week or so later, they confirmed I'd been accepted miraculously passing the credit check.

Getting out of the long term house-sitting job in time for the owner to return was a little stressful to say the least. I couldn't get all my crap in my car in one trip plus I had to clean the house from top to bottom. It was yet another one of those "I don't actually know how I'm gonna do this!" moments that I've had all too many of in 2018 and I only got four hours sleep on my last night there but somehow it all fell in to place.

I spent my first night in the flat on Friday 2 November. I was on an airbed surrounded by bags and boxes of my stuff but I slept like a log. The following night I went to sleep tucked up in my brand new (to me) bed, donated by my fabulous friend, Tracey and banked nine hours kip. Yes please!

Special mention to one amazing woman who I couldn't have managed without that weekend. My beautiful birthday twin Sam came over on the Friday night to organise me, even getting her lovely husband Chris to bring me the air bed which he also inflated for me. What a gent! On the Saturday morning she was back to keep me on task and stayed with me right through until teatime. I really do have some utter smashers in my life.

Although I've still got bits to sort, I'm happy to report that the flat already feels like home. Certainly it's not ideal - one adult and two children (albeit it part time) in a one bed flat - but we're making the best we can of it.

Home is where my babies are and so, for the next twelves years or so, that's Ket'rin, Northants. In future, who knows? Perhaps when Hal is 18 and I'm forty-fucking-nine, I'll return to my beloved homeland. I'll be back for visits in between of course, as many as I can mange, but maybe this little magpie will fly home to roost in 2030? Who knows..? Right now, after this year's magical mystery tour of friend's homes I'm happy just to be in one place for the foreseeable future. Time to make some memories with my small humans in our teeny, tiny shoe box flat.

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