Window Wednesday is at home this week
(Forgive me, this one is more wordy than usual!)
It is funny isn’t it, how sometimes something can occur to you, not in a thunderbolt kind of way but in a more gradual way. A sort of drip feed realisation over time.
For years I have thought that our house made me unhappy, an odd thing to say, I grant you, but hear me out. First, some history.
Twelve years ago this week we bought our house. We had looked at loads, dismissed many on paper, been in to others and then dismissed them. Too small, too big, needed too much doing to them, layout was wrong, too far into the country, too close to the city centre. Garden too small for a hot tub, garden too big and would need too much maintenance. We had a list of demands and when we finally found the house we are now in we thought it was pretty close to perfect.
Five beds, two en suites, a family bathroom with a whirlpool bath, a lovely long garden, parking for several cars, and enormous garage, three living rooms, a kitchen you can eat in, walking distance of a town centre, close to the M3, a train station…. it ticked every box.
Except the one that said the builders had the correct planning permission. You see, the previous owners were developers, cowboys in fact, and they had bought it as a three bed, knocked the back off it, extended it and put it up for sale.
Without building it to the approved plans. Retrospective planning dismissed. More planning committee meetings attended, more dismissals. An enforcement notice issued demanding the removal of the extension and reverting the house back to a three bed.
All hidden from us, the unsuspecting new owners who had sold Mr B’s house, rented out my house to long term tenants, and mortgaged to make up the short fall.
Not only had the owners/developers not advised us of this enforcement notice but nor had the Council when we did our searches via our solicitor. You would think when answering very specific questions provided on a form they must see a lot they would tick the right box, wouldn’t you?
Wrong. They didn’t. As we unpacked the removal van the local councillor came over and said “we have asked for this house to be demolished, how are you moving in?”
A very good question indeed and one I was not prepared for when Mr B called me at work having collected the keys.
It took 18 months to sort it out. Solicitors. Legal stuff. Threats to sue. Paperwork. Oh my god the paperwork. Builders and scaffolding in to get the house modified to comply with the original plans at our expense (we are talking thousands) and by the time it was over we were referring to our home as Bleak House. Tears. A lot of tears. For months.
It completely tainted our “let’s move in together and commit to each other” moment.
I came to hate the house. Lots of things were wrong with it, having been built by cowboys. Things that don’t come up on surveys or during building control inspections. I could write a book on how the things you would expect to be checked during the legal process of house building, selling and buying can let you down.
Yet whilst I hated this house, at the same time I have vowed to never move as I can’t face going through it all again. Something had to give and recently I have learnt that I need to love the house a bit more.
I spend a lot of time here and I think part of my needing to get out for the day, or away for the weekend, was a feeling of wanting to escape and not be in it. Then along came something called Hygge. You may have heard of it. It is pronounced hoogah and not hig as I thought for months. It comes from the Danish for cosiness. That feeling you get when you get comfy on the sofa with warm socks on and a log fire burning.
Seems that hygge has been the feeling I have been looking for, and when I think about the times I have found it they are times I have been happiest at home. That feeling when you are just happy being. In the moment. Not about being out in an expensive restaurant, or staying in a five star hotel with a four poster bed. Just being.
So I have made a concerted effort to embrace it some more which meant I need to do things at home to make me enjoy being here. I started with writing lists. Very un-hygge but with a scented candle burning I needed to get my head straight and write down a list of things for each room that made me cross and needed doing.
Silly little things like four curtain hooks being broken on one curtain in the office. So every time you look at it the damn thing is wonky and not hanging properly. £1.25 for some new curtain hooks, Jonnie standing on the window sill for three minutes and job done. My lists for each room are endless but that doesn’t seem to matter really. The fact they are now on a list makes me feel I am half way to getting them sorted out.
Some things are going to cost more than £1.25 to fix and will involve major upheaval, that I physically can’t face at the moment but at least they are on the list and that is a step in right direction for me.
One of the other things on the list is what prompted this post. Our kitchen windowsill. I liked it cluttered with my collection of enamel cups, empty Whittard tea caddies and empty herb pots. What I didn’t like is that it was my only ever attempt at painting with gloss paint the week after we moved in. I had no idea what I was doing. Did it badly, put things on it before it was dry and have looked at it ever since with a grrrrr look on my face. The tea caddies look great but they leave rust marks when they leak (yes I grew herbs in them at one point) so then you can’t rearrange the windowsill or take anything off because then you can see the ring marks.
It needed re-doing. And this weekend we did it. Mr B with a roll of masking tape and a tin of egg shell paint sanded and repainted our window sill. I made sure I left it to dry properly and put back just things I want on the window sill.
Coriander, home grown chilli, and my Bajan lady to remind me of happy times in Barbados.
Call it hygge, call it home, call it whatever you like. I think I like it whatever you call it.