Not So Fast, Sunshine

My horrible new house in the armpit of outer London was drastically extended by the previous owners. I bought it in such a panic that I really didn’t take in very much: it was in an area I had never heard of, far less visited, it looked OK when I had a quick visit, didn’t seem to need work, and was not too far from the tube.  Any port in a storm.

The agent called even as I drove away from the viewing. I’d told him I was in a hurry – I had maximum four weeks to complete. He said if I offered the asking price, the owners would be out within that time. I offered the asking price and luckily they (unlike everyone I had dealt with previously, starting with my ex) were as good as their word.

I’d been looking for a long time and seen countless properties, but my budget was gradually eroded as the truth (or is it?) began to emerge about my ex’s finances and he refused to settle. He (banker, Dean’s List at business school, used to negotiations and in a shiny new life) was always going to get the better of me (incompetent housewife, gaga with grief). We were scheduled to meet in court again for a four day trial, for which my barrister had requested an initial upfront deposit of £20,000. I didn’t have the money or the nerve. He of course was full of pep and bravado.  I settled in a (mistaken) attempt to put an end to it and he got what he wanted.

So when I found a place I could afford (20% of what we got for our family home was all I had) that looked as though we could move straight in; that had a bedroom for my estranged child in the event of a change of heart, and was a relatively easy commute to that child’s school (though not practical for the child living with me) – I just jumped ship.

And suddenly my son and I found ourselves here, fish out of water but glad we had a roof over our heads after living so long with the bank threatening to evict us. We set off on the first morning in search of provisions and it was like being on holiday.  The local supermarket is Polish. Every single item in the shop is Polish (it’s hard to tell what everything is) all the staff are Polish and all the customers are Polish. (When I got to the till they addressed me in English, which I found vaguely insulting – how can they tell?)

Anyway, the point is, I seem to have accidentally bought a house with an extension that operates as a virtually self contained flat. Estranged child still estranged, the flat sat empty. I had considered knocking the upstairs into our home and using the downstairs room for an Alexander Technique studio. But it would cost a lot of money and give me more bedrooms than I need. And I don’t (yet?) have an AT practice.  It was configured for rental and the previous owners had a (Polish) couple living there and paying rent. So once we had removed all the packing cases etc that we’d dumped there during the move, I put in a washing machine and a fridge where these had been before, bought furniture and curtains and had someone come and give the whole a lick of paint. I put it on the market, confidently expecting that I would soon be in profit.

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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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