The last 9 months of house hunting has taken its toll on me mentally and physically. I began looking at properties armed with a huge checklist, great expectations and oodles of enthusiasm but as the months passed and I saw nothing I liked or could afford, I grew weary. My priority list got shorter, my patience dwindled and I began to dread looking at property websites. The butterflies in my stomach stopped fluttering when I answered the phone to estate agents and I began to ignore the "For Sale" signs as I drove around Frome. I was down in the dumps.
So, when I first viewed the property I have now bought, a cottage that was way above my price range and didn't have many of the things on my checklist but was, very importantly, in one of the most beautiful areas of Frome, I didn't hold out much hope. But as soon as I walked through the door it felt good. It had prospects. It was hideously decorated, had terrible light and was in need of a lot of TLC but I knew I could make it beautiful. So I made a ridiculous offer, £20,000 under the asking price and crossed my fingers. My position helped... I had nothing to sell, all my stuff was in storage, I was renting a room at a friend's house, I had a large cash deposit and I had a pre-approved mortgage, so I could potentially move really fast. And that's exactly what the sellers wanted. After a nerve racking 24 hours wait, they said yes.
It took only 10 weeks from my initial offer to me moving in on November 10th, an incredibly short period of time that surprised even the estate agents. My brilliant solicitor discovered a number of shortcuts, from paying Mendip Council a private fee to speed up paperwork (£30), to getting cancelled appointments for surveys and buttering up my mortgage provider, so I was moving in before I had time to catch my breath. By then, of course, I had been living with this damn Rheumatoid Arthritis for 3 months and was finding everything very difficult. Having no energy and in pain all the time makes a somewhat stressful period even more so and the hardest thing for me was relinquishing control and asking for help!!
My sister and I were brought up to be resourceful, practical and independent women... my parents wouldn't let us leave home until we were capable of at least changing a tyre, unblocking a loo, re-wiring a plug, painting a wall, building a fire, reading a map and working out our finances so I have always managed to do things on my own and have not had to rely on anyone to help with day-to-day things. 49 years later and I am physically unable to do anything that requires lifting, carrying, hammering or screwing, so I had to get friends, family and removal men to move me in and shift things around the house, I've had to get builders in to knock down walls and rip up flooring and I will have to get decorators in to help me paint the house. It's terribly frustrating because I'd usually be doing all that stuff myself and now I have to stand around and watch someone else do it. Arghhh. I never knew I was such a control freak!
Thank goodness I have had recommendations for all the amazing workmen I am using and they have been brilliant. One friend who lives four houses away has pretty much imparted her whole tradesman database to me, from tree surgeons to wood floor specialists. Thank you Lizzie! Frome is a small market town with a large community spirit and many passersby have stuck their heads round my open front door or peered through my window to: A, have a good nose or B, offer opinions, suggestions or impart local knowledge. After the first few days, I had already met almost all of the neighbours on my road and have been round for coffee to a fair few.
My small stone-fronted cottage is at the end of a row of 5, halfway down a narrow lane flanked by dry-stone walls. Although it was only built in the early 80's, which is certainly not very old for this part of town, its clever design means it blends in well with the surrounding Georgian houses and converted wool mills. Location is everything too, and being in a conservation area means nothing hideous can be built and no additions or alterations made without strict consent. It is a beautiful spot... I overlook several grand Grade II listed houses so my views aren't bad, and it's a quiet too, most of the time, which as my family and friends well know, is high on my list of priorities. The only times it's not that quiet is first thing in the morning when kids are going to school and dogs are having their first walk of the day, and in the afternoon when kids are being picked up. As my road is a cut through for foot traffic it can get a little boisterous. At the back, the gardens are mostly walled which is very pretty to look at but which can also amplify noise upwards and outwards, so again, at times it sounds like a distant barking dog is actually in my garden but I can't say I wasn't warned... many months ago I was told that if I didn't like children or dogs, then I shouldn't move to Frome! Fair enough.
After 4 weeks, I am still camped out in one of the small bedrooms upstairs. I haven't been able to unpack because there is still a fair amount of dust and chaos. There is still dust and chaos because the floor was bare cement until last week and had to be levelled, a wall had to be knocked down and a boiler had to be removed. I can't unpack more than immediate necessities because I have to decorate and that means trying to keep everything covered and only moving it from room to room as one gets finished. I need to re-plaster some walls and ceilings, put in a new downstairs loo and sink, put in a new upstairs loo and sink, re-tile the bathroom, install a shower, replace 3 windows and 3 doors, and then decorate. And only when I have decorated can I lastly, but not leastly, lay new carpets on the stairs and upstairs. Phew.
Of course I need furniture too. All that remains from my London flat is my mattress, a chest of drawers, a sofa and a bookcase. I also need a cooker, a fridge and a washing machine and this would all be fine and do-able if I had the money to pay for it all, but again, due to this buggery Rheumatoid Arthritis, I haven't been able to work, therefore I haven't been able to earn money and so I can't pay for anything but the immediate and the crucial. I considered heat and a floor to be essentials so the rest is on hold. Even my amazing builder agreed to work cheaper for cash but he can only squeeze me in between his other more important and better paid jobs. So I sit and look around me and have an every-growing list of things I could and should do, but when I attempt to do them, get beaten back by the pain. Or I work through the pain and then can't move the following day. Neither is a good option.
But I will get there. My cottage will be finished eventually and my doctors will find a drug that works. I am forever hopeful and I suppose that's all that matters. It goes without saying that once I do have both these things figured out, I will then be able to invite my friends and family to stay. I miss having people in my home, laughing, chatting, eating and drinking, because that's what keeps me sane. I love entertaining and I love hosting so not being able to that right now is frustrating. But keep your diaries free for Spring 2018... hopefully by then my body will be fixed and my home will be open.