Oh, the great gift of the summer holidays. I do love these six weeks to bond with my little ones and watch them turn on each other. All bets are on to see who will survive this Battle Royale test of nerves and wits. Hint: smart money is on Daenerys, she is small but she can give a quick kick to the shins/balls and run on like nothing happened and I won’t apportion blame because she’s ‘only a baby’ and has big eyes like Puss in Boots.
We didn’t book a holiday this year because we are supposed to be building an extension, that’s not being built because of planning issues and neighbours with an axe to grind. I’m generally a pacifist and find it hard to dislike people, but seriously, bollocks to you neighbour. Do you know what my kids call you? Wolfie Face. And it’s true. Do you want a Viennetta to go with your ridiculous MacGyver 80s hair?
Alas, I have so much to say to this man and his wife, but so as to avoid being slanderous, I’ve decided it best to write about my house, my home, my castle, to let you know why I’m contemplating just giving this all up to go live in a tree somewhere.
We bought Casa Bailey in 2006, back when Jon Snow was a mere six months. At this point, all I knew was that I had made a baby with an architect so when he showed me around this, well, crappy old house with its sixties original dusky pink bathroom suite and pine/sunshine yellow kitchen, I also bought into his Grand Designs spiel of all the things we could do to it. I blame the hormones. We bought it, almost accidently. We didn’t have any money left so we managed to change the carpets, give it a lick of paint and stuff it full of second hand furniture. The dusky pink toilet stayed. Joy.
Since then, Ned and I have led a bit of a nomadic existence. We abandoned this house to live in Singapore, shacking up in an array of rented flats. Ones that just weren’t our own, furnished with IKEA’s cheapest tat and stop gaps to house our growing family. When we did come back, we were now a five person family living in a three bedroom semi. Except it was more like two bedrooms because we had suddenly procured quite a lot of crap and had to use the box room to store said crap. In boxes, many boxes. I write surrounded by these towering box piles. One fell on my head once which Ned has always said explains a lot. Fuck off, Ned. They are labelled using the patented King of the North crap-sorting-system. Reading the labels off boxes to my left: Party Time Tat, Halloween Tat, Mummy Shoes, Crafty Type Shit 1, Baby Shit (*reminds oneself to check box and ensure there’s not actual old nappies in there…*)
Then we got a dog because we have all that space, and on top of that got pregnant with Daenerys, who I gave birth to on the floor next to our IKEA bed. A bed we bought in 2006 but which wouldn’t fit up the stairs. So Ned had to take it out into the garden and saw it in half and then bolt it back together again when we finally got it up to our room. Ned maintains it’s of better quality now than the standard Swedish specification. Not my fault at all. She says. We squeeze three of the kids into the larger bedroom and they share a single wardrobe and a number of drawers. Though I’ve recently worked out that if I was to maintain an orderly laundry system and I put all our clothes away at the same time then actually we wouldn’t be able to fit anything at all into our limited storage facilities. So my laundry mountain is there for a genuine and practical logistical reason. Daenerys has only just got her own bed. For the two years before that she co-slept in between Ned and I in what most assumed was a parenting choice but was really born out of necessity else she would have slept in a drawer. Or under the stairs, like Harry Potter.
Slowly but surely Ned has done his own brand of renovating based around the principles of doing it himself to save money, all whilst uttering every swear word known to man in a number of novel combinations.
He refitted the whole kitchen. But he did something strange to the laminate which means that it bubbles in certain places which is a real joy to walk on when you’re drunk. He got rid of the retro dusky pink bathroom. But for him to get around to installing a functioning shower took four months. In the interim he bought me one of those shower head hose attachments to go over the taps which was so useless that I ended up cutting my hair into a bob so it’d be easier to wash but which made me look like Cleopatra.
And in terms of house décor, furnishings…oh, they are reserved for Pinterest boards and my own imagination every time I watch a property show. I don’t ask for much but I hope one day, I’ll have a dishwasher. I’ll have a second bathroom so we won’t have full on warfare in the mornings when a little person needs to have a whizz. I’ll have storage. I dream of storage. And a utility room. I have erotic dreams about utility rooms which is probably a bit wrong.
All the while I watched as once in a blue moon Ned would get out his tape measure and scribble down pictures of our extension on bits of scrap paper. I never hassled him about it, I always believed it would happen in time like he promised. I waited. I was possibly the most patient wife in the world. Because those plans and pictures were finally submitted in January 2016 (exactly ten years after we first bought our house). I won’t lie. It’s been through quite a design evolution and there were times when I thought he was going to build the Shard out the back, but what he has produced is cool, modern and from his own fair hand and *gushy wife alert* that makes me a little bit proud. But then I have been patient? Did I mention the ten years?
So, our plans have been rocking back and forth between the planners, attracting the insightful opinions of the neighbours and their nepotistic connection to half of Fleet for the best part of six months. One can only imagine how I’m starting to feel like sticking my middle fingers up at the world and defecating over the garden fence. This isn’t just an extension covered in larch cladding with a cool dormer. It’s our home. The first and probably only home I can make my own. I want to finally unpack some boxes and give Jon Snow his own bedroom before puberty hits. I want to have a fridge that doesn’t require wedging something really heavy up against it so it’ll close properly. I need to feel like I’m living like an adult as opposed to a thirty six year old student slumming it surrounded by a hotchpotch of furniture and a bathroom that is breeding a weird kind of blue mould.
So for now, I’ll sit here in my Hobbit Hole with my wildlings and keep telling myself that people have it far worse, right? We’ll get there, it’ll happen….cliché, cliché, bollocks, bollocks. I’ll dream about a holiday that we should be on, paid with money that we don’t have. I’ll maintain a healthy and snarky sense of optimism as I spend my summer holidays at yet another local fucking park with a jumbo packet of cocktail sausage rolls. I’ll watch my kids mill about this place they call home, playing the world’s worst game of Hide and Seek, and remind them that when they wake up at 6am tomorrow they have my full permission to go all out transmitting as much noise as possible through the walls to next door. Recorders! Footballs! Better still, have a full on fight! Daenerys, attack!