We've just moved house.
Which you will well know, if you're victim to hearing me whine on about it on social media of late.
I'd like to apologise to those of you who have watched me desperately turn towards gaudy Instagram filters in an effort to bling up the bedlam. And those of you who have stuck with me as I displayed gritted-teeth smiles along with implausible hashtags and wishes for it all to be over. You will never know how much you softened the chaos in my mind.
My husband and I are reluctant renters in the midst of this financial shit-storm that makes it laughable for anyone to get a mortgage ever. We were given notice by our landlord just three - count them, THREE - days after the aforementioned hubby decided it would be a good time to walk out of his job.
(I'm the biggest fan of this decision, by the way, as it means we get to actually see him and convince ourselves that he is real beyond the perimeters of the pizza shop he used to run. I was starting to think he was a long-haired, pepperoni-scented apparition only ever seen between the hours of midday and 11pm from behind the hallowed MDF monolith of the customer counter. Apparently he's proper flesh and blood with feelings and ambitions and everything)
Anyway, whilst he still had some notice to work (and therefore money to earn) we had to move fast. Have you been house-hunting during a pandemic? If you have then I'm sure you'll agree with me, it ain't pretty.
Here in the South West of England, it seems that there is a massive shortage of decent houses to rent since COVID dug its claws in. And not only that, but the swinging of cats (or children, for that matter) is seemingly out of the question for anything less than nine hundred quid a calendar month.
I'll cut to the chase but I'm sure you can imagine the horror shows we had to look at, and the anxiety-ridden contemplations we had to force our brains into. Nobody wants to spend the best part of their earnings on a cramped, flat-roofed, two bedroomed damp-fest with electrics that look like they would have Nick Knowles running for the hills. Nobody.
As we all know, when house-hunting, compromise is the name of the game. Especially when you're on a budget. So, in the end, we managed to find a Victorian town house with bewitching harbour views but no parking space, minimal storage space, nowhere for me to have an office and no garage or shed.
But, compromise, right?! AND it was within our budget. AND who could turn down bewitching harbour views?
I instantly dubbed it the House of Bewitchment.
It is at this point the hubby wants to interject with a disclaimer that he didn't even want to go and view the House of Bewitchment in the first place. This is because he knew, from pizza-delivery wisdom, that parking spaces were non-existent and the surrounding streets were narrower than my mythical thigh-gap. He knew, with every fibre of his being that I would be seduced by the glistening seascape and jolly, lolling fishing boats seen from the front windows and would therefore be BLIND to every issue that the house has. No, not just blind, but that the views would actually cause a chemical phenomenon in my brain whereby the house's issues would become perks and I'd find every reason under the sun that we must move into this house immediately.
Like I said, House of Bewitchment.
I got my way though. Because Hell hath no fury like a woman who cannot move into a house that has bewitched her heart.
And okay, so it's not actually ours. Okay, so the rooms are smaller than I first realised and the storage space is non existent and the car insurance premium has soared on account of us having to park half a mile away. But I don't care. I have my views.
And, honestly, thank god for them because there have been times during this move that the bewitchment levels have dwindled. Were it not for the sun sparking off the turquoise waves, I may not have had the good humour needed when we realised our family fridge wouldn't fit through the door. Had the sunsets not flooded my bedroom with rose gold each evening, I may have really lost it over the gargantuan sofa refusing to be hauled up the many, many stairs. There are lots of other stress-packed examples I could go into. But I won't. After this ordeal, I don't want to trigger anybody out there who might be still reeling from the after-shocks of a house move.
But now, at least, we are at the point where we can cook a meal, go to bed, get in the shower, find clothes to wear, without feeling like the world might cave in around us. I now have the clarity of mind to admit that hubby was right. I was bewitched good and proper.
So as I unpack more boxes and palm off yet more shit on Facebook Marketplace, I have been contemplating what it is, actually, that makes a place feel like home. I know, there's a lot to be said for hanging your pictures and painting a few skirting boards. But I think there are a few more things that make the walls breathe, the floors soften and the air pulse with some soul, some life . . .
YELLING AT THE KIDS
There's nowt like a scrap with your pre-teens to initiate a new house for the imminent onslaught of hormonal clashes. I'm sure the House of Bewitchment can handle hostilities concerning lost bus passes, inappropriate TikTok videos and the ongoing, inexplicable belief that Amazon solves everything.
PARTAKING IN ALCOHOL
Even if it's out of a Dan TDM mug. It still counts.
SPILLING SOMETHING ON THE FLOOR
No, it was not wine. I am not a fool.
PLUGGING IN ALEXA
Aaaaaw, my old friend is back! We had to go without broadband for a fortnight because of the ineptitude of Open Reach and so my kitchen discos have been sadly amiss. But it's all okay now. I can boss the Lads around without even leaving the sofa and I have somebody to back me up in arguments.
STUBBING YOUR TOE
There is no way anyone can get used to the corners and crevices of a new house without first sustaining injury. Fact.
BURNING A JOSS STICK
I am doing it now. Because the hubby is out and cannot berate me for it. It increases my blogging powers whilst also wafting ripples of 'Abi-ness' into the very fabric of the house. Nice.
KILLING A HOUSE PLANT
Or maybe two. Or three. It's not my fault Big Lad left them out in the freezing cold garden overnight because he 'thought they'd like it'.
SLAMMING A DOOR
Just to try out their statement-making capabilities, you know?
EATING ALL THE CHOCOLATE
Because a house isn't a home until you've been in a chocolate coma within its walls.
BLOCKING THE TOILET
Two words. Little Lad.
STRINGING FAIRY LIGHTS
Because my thirteen-year-old self needs to live here too. And anyway, fairy lights make everything better.
HAVING AN EPIC PHONE CONVERSATION
There's nothing like blethering on the phone to a bestie to give you the opportunity to gaze around a room like a ravenous pair of binoculars until you know every single cleft and groove. And the laughter that ensues can't be a bad thing either, can it?
LOCKING YOURSELF OUT / IN
Because it takes time to get used to the mysterious workings of locks of ancient doors. The swearing uttered under one's breath builds rapport too. Honest.
DOING A YOGA VIDEO
Okay, so maybe this isn't for everyone but for me, a yoga-enthusiast who will NEVER be able to do a headstand but who will ALWAYS find peace in child's pose, rolling my yoga mat out means putting my stamp on the place.
JUSTIFYING DOING A YOGA VIDEO TO APPALLED CHILDREN
Why they can't just eff off and make use of those inappropriate TikTok videos when I've got my yoga vibe on, I will never know. Still, appealing to their slack-jawed, horrified faces about why Mummy has her bum in the air never fails to feel homely.
WRITING A BLOG POST
I want you to know that I've pretty much dreamed of this moment. I am sitting at my old desk under a small alcove in my bedroom (so I did find an office space after all), which is sadly bereft of fairy lights, but not for much longer, and I finally have the presence of mind to form my ideas into words that, perhaps, make some sense. And with this action I am telling the House of Bewitchment that she'd better get used to the click-clacking of keys on a laptop because I am a writer, and that is the soundtrack of my life.