Well fuck me, what a wild ride the past few months – and more specifically, the past few weeks – have been. I feel like I need a large glass of Aperol Spritz, a 24-hour nap and maybe some sort of Etsy print which says something like ‘LOL MERCURY RETROGRADE IS A TWAT’ which I can hang on the fireplace.
The story starts sometime last year when Chris and I had decided that we would like to move house. So far, so boring.
We’d been living in a two-up, two-down house together for the past five years (he’d bought it just before I’d actually moved to Ipswich) and whilst it worked as a sweet home for two grown-ups, one baby and two cats, it wasn’t quite big enough to be our forever family home. And so we decided that once Christmas was out the way, we’d do a massive house sort-out and spruce-up, and have it on the market in time for February with the aim of hopefully (ha ha ha!) being in our new home by early summer.
I didn’t really talk about it on social media for fear of people stalking my house photos on Rightmove (because let’s face it, I’d have done that exact thing if it was anyone else’s house). And also, privacy and safety and all that.
The plan was to hunt out a three-bedroom house in Ipswich which was either at the higher end of our budget and already had an extension and open-plan kitchen/diner or at the lower end of our budget and needed doing up. I was desperate for that open-plan space – we’ve had it a few times whilst staying at AirBnbs and the difference it makes when parenting is insane. Being able to whip up a lasagne whilst watching your toddler push cars off the sofa?! GAMECHANGER.
And it all went pretty well to start with. We had two offers above asking on our house within 24 hours, and then a week later we had an offer accepted on a pretty damn decent house a mile or so away.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
I planned the teal coloured playroom and the gallery wall. I planned the teepee and the reading nook. I planned the fire surround for the lounge and the sideboard littered with fancy candles and house plants and neatly stacked piles of arty books. I planned the kitchen island and the IKEA glass jars of rice and pasta out on show. I planned the tumble drier in our OMG IS THIS REAL LIFE utility room. I planned the deep blue walls and rattan king size bed, complete with hidden TV in the built-in bedroom wardrobes I’d saved on Pinterest. I’d planned it all.
And then of course the whole bloody thing went tits up. Because it’s never ever easy peasy, lemon squeezy when you move house is it?!
So three weeks ago we withdrew our offer on the house we’d been waiting to exchange on for five months, and gave the go ahead to our solicitor to exchange with our buyer.
We thought that that the best and easiest thing to do would just be to get out of our home whilst we still had a buyer hopefully clinging on, and rent somewhere as a holding home. That way we could keep a beady eye on the Ipswich property market and jump when our dream home came up.
And once again I naively thought, easy peasy lemon squeezy.
And once again I was wrong.
The Ipswich rental dream was cut short a few days later when my boyfriend rung Leaders to discuss looking at some houses to rent. They simply said: ‘We have LOADS of properties, but we don’t have a single one which will take cats.’
So we rung up more letting agents. And more. And then some more.
Eventually we were offered a handful of things to go and look at. We were quietly optimistic, and then we viewed one. We came home and sat on the sofa in silence, the disappointment and uncertainty too intense to actually bother using words to communicate it.
We briefly looked at catteries – but they were close to £500 a month, and we didn’t want to have to visit our cats, Rudey and Granger, at weekends like some weird distant relatives.
And then it got to the point where we had 10 days until completion. Ten days to find somewhere to house our family.
I felt sick, anxious, overwhelmed, unable to focus on anything.
And so we did something wild. We made a cup of tea, opened our laptops and said ‘how far can we drive with the cats in the car?’.
This wasn’t a stressful situation. This was an opportunity to shake up our lives and do something entirely different. And so we did.
We looked at long-term AirBnbs and spending a summer abroad – we looked at the Highlands and at France and even at Denmark. We found a dreamy apartment in Sweden which we spent a good half an hour staring at before realising that a) there’s no way the cats would make it to Sweden in their cat carriers and b) the Swedish apartment was in the exact town that a boy I met in Magaluf in 2008 lived in and it would probably be a bit weird to just rock up there. Like ‘hey promise I’m not stalking you, I’ve just moved 1,000 miles to live next door to you. Surprise!’.
And then we looked at West Sussex. I mean, not quite as exotic as a summer in the south of France, but probably a little less alien to us.
And there, nestled a few miles outside of town, was a recently renovated two-bedroom cottage complete with fireplaces, white walls, wooden floors, and, yes – one quick email sent off to confirm it – the go ahead to have pets.
I grew up in Worthing and its surrounding villages. I moved there from London when I was eight, and stayed there (aside from to head to university) until I was twenty-three.
My dad and my step mum were still there, my brother and sister too. I had friends who had stayed there and started families, and other friends who still visited most months. I had a support network there ready and waiting for me. It just made sense.
And so I rung my dad on a Saturday lunchtime and asked if he’d go and view it on our behalf. By the Monday we’d paid the holding deposit, been approved by the landlady and my boyfriend had handed in his notice at his job in Ipswich.
The following week we all moved down spread across one removal van and one car, and well, the rest, as they say, is history.
We’ve a few things to tie up. Chris still has a few weeks notice in his job, so he’s in Ipswich during the week and down with us in Worthing over the weekend. The plan is that he’ll act as a stay at home dad to begin with and we’ll see how it pans out from there and whether we can make it work financially or not.
We’ve still got Atti’s place held at nursery from 2020 onwards and still plan to go back to Ipswich and buy there, but I’m not sure what the future holds.
All I know is that in the past 72 hours I’ve had one family roast dinner, cooked pasta and garlic bread for my brother, had a playdate with an old friend, been to the beach twice, swung in to my parents for tea and biscuits on the way home from the supermarket, and had friends and family round for an unpacking pizza night and it’s been absolutely fucking glorious.
Being home is really and truly everything <3