It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 21

theatre

I’ve been feeling quite upbeat this week, partly because of my job; I am working full-time at the moment and hopefully this will continue long into the future, and whilst I love my work, it is also the fact I am in a full-time occupation that will surely help when it comes to applying for a mortgage.

Since I gave up work to look after my two sons, we have been a one-income family and as anyone will tell you, this is not helpful when it comes to mortgages. So what with my newfound employment combined with our very small lifeline that was thrown to us in January, I am hopeful this will go someway towards achieving my end goal of a positive reply from the mortgage broker.

We are still awaiting our company accounts which of course may put the spanner in the works, but I remain hopeful the increase in turnover during the last 12 months will give a healthy financial picture.

Another reason why I’m feeling upbeat is because of a conversation I had with my son. Now as many an adult will tell you, children are remarkably clever creatures, it is of course a great pity the wisdom we all possess is eventually diluted when we grow up, but my eldest son has fortunately not yet reached that stage. Anyway, I discussed the possibility of getting a mortgage and that it was unlikely we would get the size of mortgage I wanted in order to buy the house I would like; it was more likely we would have to look at something along the lines of a flat or maisonette. My long held belief of living in a four-bed detached house with garage and garden by this time in our lives has gone.

But rather than being angry or disappointed in me, of which he has every right, he said he wouldn’t mind living in a flat and just so long as he had a bedroom big enough for his bed, cupboard and chest of drawers, he’d be fine.

This came as a surprise to me because I well remember the many times I moved house when I was growing up and the many times I told my father I hated him. I remember one time in particular when we were moving from Nottingham to Bedford and it was my 13th birthday on the Monday but we had to drive down to Bedford on the Sunday night ready for me to go to school. I desperately wanted to stay at home for my birthday but wasn’t allowed.

I remember that car journey and I remember telling him I hated him.

Now after years of dragging my sons from rented house to rented house, I don’t blame them for occasionally resenting me and I have sometimes been subject to their temper when it comes to owning a pet or putting posters on bedroom walls. So it made a big difference for my son to tell me he was fine with living in a flat.

Of course it may come to nothing and we may not even get a big enough mortgage for a dolls house let along a flat because on top of everything else our age is against us.

But it’s nice to know my son doesn’t hate me, but then I didn’t really hate my father and I realise now how hurtful that must have been for him…perhaps some of that wisdom does stay with us when we grow up, I hope so.

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 19 & 20

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I’ve been busy, very busy over the past couple of weeks and my blogging has had to take second place but during that time I’ve been harking back to the good ol’ days just lately; actually that’s a nonsense because I’m not sure they were any better than today, just different. However, the one good BC (before children) thing was having a mortgage and owning the house I lived in which is why I’ve been thinking about those days.

There are two reasons for these reminiscent moments, first of all it was dead easy to get a mortgage back in the 90s, you could approach virtually any lender with a small deposit and after the first few questions had been answered, it was a done deal. We used a mortgage broker who was keen to let everyone know he was a ‘Wing Commander’ in a previous life. His business cards bore the letters Wg Cdr and when we first met him and he gave us a brief resume, he put great emphasis on his past life. It always amused me but it must him given him the necessary gravitas to broker the deal.

That’s not to say he didn’t occasionally mould the facts to fit the form and money for a garden makeover was soon embedded in ‘essential home improvements’, but then no one doubted the integrity of our Top Gun adviser.

But on the other hand we were a child free, double income couple and the consequences of the greed of the big banks hadn’t yet emerged, so a new or an increase in mortgage was never a problem.

My other reason for looking back is the mortgage multiplier. Back then it was a simple 3⅓ x your annual salary and if that was enough to cover the loan you wanted then you were guaranteed a mortgage.

I worked for a London based credit insurance company, I had worked my way up the corporate leader and reached ‘middle management’. My salary was in the region of £28k and with London weighting, travel allowance and mortgage relief it soon went over the £32k mark. The mortgage I wanted was £90k; it was agreed within hours.

That was then and now is now.

I now have two children and up until recently, was on a zero hour contract. The fact that we have been paying a monthly rent that is bigger than most mortgage repayments is neither here n’or there. As far as the financial houses are concerned I am too big a risk.

On top of that they use far more complicated calculations and having dependents increases our risk factors. Add to that my current salary and the lenders run scared.

So that is why I’ve been harking back to the old days, but do you know what? I have two wonderful sons who I couldn’t love more than I do and who knows, now that I’m in full-time employment, maybe, just maybe there’s another Top Gun expert out there who can make thigs happen.

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 18

I’ve been thinking outside of the box this week and trying to avoid reading the news.

Nothing to do with the local elections; I carried out my civic right and duty and put my ‘x’ in the box and it’s simply not possible to avoid seeing or hearing some sort of political party prattle.

No, the box I’m referring to is the one most people slot themselves into and shut the lid; that is most people who are sensible and weigh up the odds of things going wrong, those people who safeguard what they have and don’t risk it for a ‘maybe’.  The box that I was in and decided to jump out with my aspirations of owning my dream house in less than 10 years.

Not so much a Jack in the Box as a jack-ass for making the wrong decision.

But that was then and now is now and I’ve been looking at alternatives to the conventional brick built, ready made, with garden & drive kind of house. I have also been thinking about the environment, which has always been on my mind eversince my dear old dad brought home the first ever recycled loo roll in the 1970s; it was rather like wiping your posterior with newspaper, but we all showed willing. But it has also been headline news; diesel cars being the latest villain and I needn’t tell you what sort of car I drive.

So I’ve been wondering about cheaper environmentally friendly alternatives to the two-up-two-down.

Apparently earth houses are making a come back and what could be more eco friendly than living in a mud house? There’s cob, rammed earth and due to technological advances, earthbags. The images I have seen of earthbags are reminiscent of scenes from Dad’s Army with sandbags piled up outside houses, but apparently it’s hard wearing and of course very cheap.

Or there are wooden houses but you need to be careful about sourcing the wood and make sure it comes from sustainable tree farms. I quite like this idea and have visions of Little House on the Prairie with me on the wooden decking surrounded by fields of buttercups and children happily romping around with our pet dog. But dreaming aside, there is a wooden boarded house being built just down the road from us. It’s a two storey property with plenty of roofing that would be perfect for solar PV.  They seem to be taking forever to build it but that’s probably due to some planning hitch.

Then there are house boats; apparently they are becoming increasingly popular in London but the cold cramped conditions during our long winters doesn’t inspire me.

So having had my heart set and my aim fixed on a five bed detached with garden and drive, I’m no longer averse to the idea of something other than bricks and mortar and with this revelation, all I now need to do is find a plot and have enough money to buy said plot outright with enough left over to actually build my mud hut/house of sticks.

But as with all my ideas, something happened to change them all. I received a random email from a local estate agent attaching details of an ex-council house that was on the market for a very reasonable sum. It looks like it hasn’t been touched in decades, but that’s no problem to us.

So whilst I think about living like two of the three little pigs, I may just take a look at the bricks and mortar kind of house, it may not be earthbags but it’s more my bag.

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 17

allium

I’ve been thinking of flowers and fence panels this week.

When you’re waiting for your accountant to sign off your latest accounts, its useful to have something else with which to occupy your mind. He’s had the paperwork for a few days now so I’m hopeful he will be returning his findings very soon. It’s a bit like going to the doctor for a blood test; you go in, let them draw the blood, sometimes feel a little light-headed afterwards and then wait. They usually say they will phone you with the results but after a couple of days of hearing nothing, you wonder about phoning them don’t you?

I won’t be phoning our accountant though because I know from past experience he is pretty quick, so I expect to see something soon after the Bank Holiday Monday. I remain focussed on the end of May being decision time.

Anyway, going back to my flower and fence panels. One of the many drawbacks of renting a house is the garden; if it’s in pristine condition with borders that need weeding and rose bushes that need pruning, then you will almost certainly find a clause that states you must keep the garden neat and tidy and carry out all necessary pruning etc. From the landlord’s point of view this clause is quite right and proper, after all if they have invested time and money creating a beautiful garden, they will naturally expect their tenant to take care of it and maintain it accordingly.

But from the tenant’s point of view, they are unlikely to want to invest much of their time or money in someone else’s garden, after all, why should they if they are unlikely to benefit from it.

I think it’s fair to say most tenants are likely to only do what they are obliged to keep within the terms of their tenancy and most landlords know that is the case, so they are unlikely to provide a garden that has much more than a lawn and possibly some trees.

This has always been a disappointment to me because whilst I am certainly no Alan Titchmarsh, I do quite like a spot of gardening, nothing extravagant, a few flowers, some rose bushes and maybe a couple of shrubs. Gardening has been proven to be therapeutic and when we did have our own home and garden, I quite enjoyed rooting out the weeds and seeing the flowers emerging in the spring.

But at every house over the past 12 years I have cut the grass when I have to and weeded only when it was essential.

The house we are in at the moment has a front and back garden. The back garden is never used; the grass has to be cut with an industrial sized strimmer because of the stones and other debris covering the uneven patch of land. It’s not a place to enjoy, although the local deer seem to like it; there is evidently a plant there that they are quite partial to and we also have some chickens that occasionally stray into the area from who knows where.

However, the front lawn is not quite as bad; it’s possible to run my lawnmower over the surface without breaking the blade and a few weeks ago I noticed some leaves emerging along the border with the wall.

I knew they weren’t weeds because they had clearly been planted specifically in a row and anyway, I thought I recognised the leaves – tulips or similar.

So I have been carefully snipping the grass around their base and avoided slicing them into bits with the mower.

And this week something finally appeared at the top of the very long thin stems. It wasn’t what I was expecting, it definitely wasn’t a tulip, it was the size of a very fat grape, just as round and just as smooth. Most of these ball shapes were the same shade of green as the leaves, but one of them had a purple splash. Then one day, one of the little spheres burst open to reveal dozens of little stalks with dots on the end.

Not having a clue, I went to my online fountain of knowledge aka Twitter and asked one of my virtual flower buddies who told me within minutes that they were one of my all time favourite flowers, alliums

I don’t yet know what colours they are going to be but after saving them from decapitation and reinforcing their rather shallow planting with extra soil, I am looking forward to seeing them bloom. I’m also happy to nurture them so the next tenant can enjoy them.

Oh, then there’s the fence panel I mentioned. We don’t have one, or rather, we don’t have three. I think the fence belongs to our neighbour but I’m guessing they are also renting judging by the state of their garden, so it’s unlikely they will be interested in replacing the panels.

We are thinking of buying replacement panels and fitting them ourselves so it feels slightly less like a dump and when we sit outside on our recently tidied patio area, we won’t have to look at bits of rotten wood and the neighbour’s untidy garden.

But it’s not quite so easy as not decapitating flowers is it?

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 16

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Only time will tell

~Time~

All things come to those who wait…so said Violet Fane in 1892; anything worth having is worth waiting for and if it was meant to be it will be…so said my mother on a regular basis.

If this past week is anything to go by then all of those quotes ring true.

Working on this premise, not only should we definitely have our own home before much longer, but when we do get it (and I am planning to make it happen this year), it will be worth its weight in gold.

~Life~

Life is made up of a myriad of different elements; it’s a kaleidoscope of experiences and targets that creates the diverse nature of our character and it is the (usually) brief moments of euphoria and happiness that help us to continue despite all the rubbish we have to deal with at the same time.

Take the lack of our own home for instance; if you’ve been following this blog you will know how much I detest renting and the guilt I suffer when it comes to not being able to give my sons a home we can call our own and everything that goes with that (having a pet, being able to hang pictures on the wall, changing a horrible colour scheme, etc), goes far deeper than you can imagine.

~Hard Work Pays Off

Anyway, this past week I have (as usual) enjoyed a great week at work and not for the first time I was reminded that determination to keep going and hard work really does pay off in the end. It may not happen overnight, but it will eventually.

I was also presented with an unusual opportunity I could never have foreseen when I first worked on a particular project several years ago. It harks back to a Parnham House article I wrote for Dorset Life Magazine in 2009 or to be more specific, the photos I took to accompany the article.

Following the terrible fire on Easter Saturday that destroyed this magnificent mansion, which I coincidentally used as a reference in my last post, I was contacted by one of the tabloids who asked if my photos were available for syndication.

It was one of those wow! moments when you get so excited you can’t stop smiling and you desperately want to tell someone about it asap.

Of course as with all euphoric moments, it was brief and soon faded, although I did reach an agreement with them and I am still extremely chuffed.

But the point I am making is all of this has taken time and/or effort to bear fruit and has made me feel buoyed and positive and dare I say, successful, briefly forgetting about our lack of a home we can call our own.

There was also another important event that happened last week, the completion of our 2016/17 company accounts, itself no easy task. We have sent them to the accountant for him to crunch the numbers. It’s now going to be a nail-biting wait to see what he calculates and the moment we get that document back, waiting is the one thing I will not do. The envelope won’t even have a chance to hit the doormat before I forward it onto the mortgage broker for him to re-crunch the numbers.

That really will be a testing time as we wait to hear the results and prepare to be either very disappointed or euphoric.

I am holding onto Violet and my mother’s sayings and hoping the long wait is now over and since we’ve been waiting for ever, it will all come to us; the difference with this euphoria is that it will last a whole lot longer than 24 hours!

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 15

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The magnificent Parnham House

 

For years I believed the most important date for the Christian calendar was Christmas, after all, everyone celebrates a birthday; it’s the start of something new isn’t it? A new life full of promise and excitement. But I was wrong, it is of course Easter.

It’s nothing to do with death and dying but everything to do with new beginnings; all the events that went before become the building blocks of something much bigger.

Now disregarding any religious fervour, this past week has seen disaster for some but a new start for others and both have impacted on me.

There were two house fires, one just down the road from me on the Devon/Dorset  border. A house that has only recently been sold was gutted by fire. The owners were in the Far East at the time, so luckily there were no injuries. It had been on the market for a long time, I drove past it every day wondering when the ‘Sold’ sign would appear and when it did, I wondered who had bought it, what they were like and what they had planned. It was a large house with, I guessed, plenty of potential.

Their plans will undoubtedly now have to change, notwithstanding the time it’s going to take for the insurance claim to be dealt with, they will almost certainly have to start from scratch abandoning their original scheme.

The other house fire was in Beaminster; although ‘house’ is an understatement because Parnham House is a magnificent listed mansion full of unique works of art and steeped in history. I wrote an article about this fantastic property for Dorset Magazine. But putting its grandeur aside, it is also a family home, a family I know quite well from a previous life. The news reports painted a grim picture stating the outer walls were all that was left; whether they managed to save any of the artwork or family possessions I don’t know, but as with the Lyme Regis fire, there were luckily no injuries.

The Treichl family will similarly have to claim on the insurance and I can but assume Parnham will once again rise from the ashes.

Both events are devastating for the people involved but no one died and they will be able to start again and/or rebuild.

And it’s the starting again part I have been thinking about since I visited my sister on Good Friday because like me, she has moved house over the years, perhaps not as often as me (who in their right mind would move 15+ times), but it still involved the disruption of packing/unpacking and living in a rented house.

But after months of forking out dead money in rent, she decided to bite the bullet and buy somewhere. She faced similar challenges that I face and eventually decided to buy a flat that needed refurbishing. It’s not ideal, but she plans to modernise it and reap the rewards from its increased value and move back up the property ladder.

That’s when I realised that no matter what the disaster, you need to think about new beginnings; I’m not saying forget about the plans you have made, simply put them to one side and use what has gone before to build on.

We will be sending our accounts to the accountant this coming week and thence to the mortgage broker. I’m psyching myself up to hear some less than positive news but if that happens, it will be time for me to look at what is left, adapt and use that which is available.

OK it won’t be exactly what I want to begin with and I remain focussed on the house I always imagined I would have but in the meantime I will make my ideas rise from the ashes of my dreams and build on the foundations.

So it really is true, Easter is all about new beginnings.

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 14

broomMy thoughts have been turning to Spring this week; partly because my sons broke up from school for the Easter holidays but also because the weather has been spectacular and as we all know, when the sun shines it lifts the spirit and makes you think about moving furniture around, giving the house a general refresh; in short a spring-clean.

I have to admit that living in rented houses is not conducive to paying much attention to this annual ritual that conjures up images of dusters being shaken out of open windows, gardens being tidied and winter duvets being changed for lighter lower tog ones. No, since we have been renting I have been in a permanent state of flux never bothering to unpack all the boxes or find permanent homes for things. I took what was necessary from boxes and left the rest enclosed in bubble wrap. There just never seemed any point in sorting stuff out only to put it all away again at any given moment.

I did go through a brief phase of being determined to sort out all the boxes and discard the things I no longer wanted, but every box was a reminder of the years we have been moving especially when I found my sons’ old toys I had put away only to forget which box they were in and now, years later, they are no longer interested in Thomas the Tank Engine or Scooby-Doo. So I ended up feeling guilty for having moved them again and again during their childhood and mourned the years of memories I have sacrificed.

When we moved last August, I was once again determined that it would be our last move into a rented house and that it would be a temporary stop-gap until we secured our own home. Thus all the stuffed cardboard boxes were shoved into the garage and the plastic crates were piled up outside the back door. I was angry and fed up so dumped things wherever I could find a big enough space.

But the trouble with that practice is it becomes untidy very quickly and along with the crates and wheelbarrow by the back door, were two disused wheelie bins soon to be joined by a broken jet washer. Before long it was beginning to look more like Steptoe & Son’s backyard.

It was not somewhere anyone would want to sit which was a pity because it was an incredible sun trap.

But with the glorious weather we have been enjoying I decided, enough. It was no longer going to be a dumping ground for anything we couldn’t fit in the garage, along with being a collecting bay for the dead leaves of last autumn, I was going to turn it into a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the sunshine.

So with a yard broom and some elbow grease I dragged crates and bins to a shed and swept the rough concrete surface removing leaves, soil and weeds. I dragged the bench from the dark side to the sunny side, wiped down the garden table and chairs and hey presto! There is now a clean and tidy area to enjoy the warm spring sunshine.

I also have plans for some trellis and climbing plants and maybe even a large pot plant to give it even more of a spring garden feel to it.

Of course the irony will be if after all these years of not making any kind of effort because of our constant moving, that now I have been swept along in the tide of spring cleaning making our yard less of a temporary black-spot and more of a sunny warm spot, we will finally be able to get a place of our own and someone else will benefit from my spring-clean. But you know what, I really wouldn’t mind that, not one bit.

Now where did I put that feather duster?

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