Big Girl Pants

Once I start sleeping through the night again, I intend to muster a punch of the air and begin wearing big girls pants once more. It has been too long. After a year of abortive property purchases, I am now officially doing adult ‘stuff’ again; I have a mortgage, no savings and I am feeling all grown up again.

Over the course of the last 12 months, in my search for a property, I appear to have diluted my non-negotiable sea view, and replaced it with a rural vista. In fact I seem to have wobbled on absolutely every detail of my original des res wish list: I have bought a cottage not a flat; I now own a ‘doer-upper’ not a turn-key, and, to top it all, I have been foolish enough to buy a property on a hill – meaning that whenever I go for a run, there will always be an incline. It is proof that if you want to give God a laugh, tell him your plans.

I feel smugly chuffed (terrible English) that I found the patience to get to this point. My mother cannot stop expressing her amazement that her fiery, impatient daughter has managed to sit this one out. It is rare for mum to give me praise so I do not like to tell her that I really had little choice if I wanted to get back on the property ladder. Still, she seems faintly impressed that I look a lot older and seem slightly wiser.

Far be it for me to admire my own resilience and business acumen, in truth I would not have got to this point without my amazing band of brothers/sisters. They have walked me I through a testing 12 months and I have been blown away by their acts of kindness. There have been too many of these humbling giftings, but let me mention a few:

  • My amazing ‘house parents’. What started as an offer to house sit for a few weeks when I made myself homeless, then morphed into an unofficial 12 month lease: I became their live-in lodger. Reader, they asked me to stay on – they said I would be doing them a favour!

  • These same ‘house parents’ chose gracefully to ignore my early morning starts, the loss of their dining room to my homeless belongings and the extra car parked on their drive.

  • These same ‘house parents’ have also gifted me dating advice, legal and financial expertise and greeted me with a hug and a glass of wine on those occasions when I have lost perspective/the will to live. Effectively they have allowed a 59 year old teenager to insinuate herself into their retirement and create a load of extra washing.

  • Long distance coaching and life admin from my oldest friend (come on, we go through this every time, she is not my oldest friend in years, she has just known me since we were at secondary school together). We live too far apart for me to cry on her shoulder on a daily basis, but, when I lost my confidence about property and relationships, this friend instinctively knew when to message and when to offer encouragement. When I sent her the details of the decrepit probate sale I was considering buying, instead of commenting on the damp, the 1970’s Artex walls and the lack of sea view, she just messaged, ‘This makes me smile. Go for it’.

  • Another friend was brave enough to question my logic on a different property when I was about to make an expensive mistake; I had lost so many properties at this stage that I was in danger of putting an offer in on anything with a front door. My friend was brave enough to rein me in and tell me that I was about to make a monumental mortgage mistake. She was brave enough to tell me that I needed to slow down, and be selfish if I was going to get a property that would eventually become my sanctuary. ‘Yes, we know you like to play a straight bat and not mess people about – you are always telling us – but the property market is not for Mother Teresa’.

    Needless to say, I did not thank her for this advice at the time, I was too busy crying and questioning the inconvenience of why she was not saying what I wanted to hear.

  • Incidentally, it was this same friend who came to view my new building project yesterday. Thankfully she seemed to like this property (I feel she would have told me if she did not) and immediately brandishes a ‘moving in’ present, telling me that, ‘this is an ironic gifting’.

    Inside the bag are two IKEA scented candles (see photo and try and imagine an over-powering and repellant smell – hopefully exuding from the candles); she has chosen these waxen lumps specifically for their revolting perfume and garish colour. Now, my friend is not a careless gifter, this purchase is to remind me of ‘my journey’.

    Some 10 years ago – just after my marriage hit the buffers – my friend frog-marched me to IKEA on a wet December night. It was my birthday and I was refusing to be sociable, but my friend coaxed me outside because we needed to acknowledge that I was now living in an unfurnished flat. As we descended into IKEA’s candle department, I started sobbing, ‘I do not want to be here, IKEA is horrible, I do not want a birthday and these candles smell rank. I can not do this.’

    When my friend gifted me these candles yesterday, I immediately acknowledged that there has been some journeying over the intervening years; 10 years on I can laugh at her ironic purchase and can also recognise that these candles will make excellent mosquito deterrents for my new sunny patio with rural vista (fashion your own metaphor here reader for I have far too much of my own DIY to do).

  • My kids. While they have no choice but to be fully signed up members of my genetic gang, I am in awe of their support throughout this journey – and their excitement when I contact them to say that I have completed on the deal – they are the first people that I tell. ‘Mama J has a mortgage again!’ I message and I immediately receive a, ‘So pleased for you Mama!’ whatsapp and a GIF of Obama dropping his mic.

    Whenever I have felt overwhelmed by the mechanics of property purchase (frequently) and have threatened to skulk back onto the rental market, my children have peppered me with wisdom, humour and truth grenades to remind me that I am stronger than I think. At Christmas, even though the property sale was floundering, they bought me presents specifically for this cottage. I fed off this confidence and cannot wait to give these gifts pride of place when I eventually move in (I ‘play a straight bat#didItellyou? so I need to acknowledge that the IKEA candles may not take centre stage after all).

  • In the ‘too many other people to mention’ category, I need to acknowledge: my x-husband for carrying out the property survey; my sister in law for her little gems of property advice as we pretend to bootcamp each week (‘You can change the house but not the view, think long term’), my hairdresser for gifting me every contractor that I am about to invite on site; my yoga teaching pal for the promise of my first batch of sunflowers as soon as the garden is tamed; my work colleagues for checking in and keeping me sane; my running mates for pointing out the great new running routes – with incline – that we will ‘enjoy’ from my doorstep and my current neighbour who even engineered our ultra-marathon training schedule to include a run to the cottage and back yesterday.

As I attempt to project manage the rewiring, replumbing and replastering, the real test of my character will really start. I sense a new journey is about to commence. Fortunately my friends seem so excited about my purchase that I have been gifted a lot of alcohol since I completed the sale on Friday. I may not be able to move into the cottage just yet but I can fill the fridge that the vendors left with alchofrolic beverage. I have always wanted a drinks fridge and I feel this may make me popular with the contractors. Alcohol and big girl pants could be the way forward – I will just run this concept past my friends and get back to you – I do not like making decisions without them. Meanwhile, I need to take a trip to IKEA.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Carol Trocchi says:

    Yep, a wine fridge is the way to go….only took me 72 years to get one so you’ve done good….done real good!!
    Best of luck managing all your contractors , it will definitely be well worth the effort to create your own space!
    Look forward to hearing your progress when next we get together!
    Sending much love! Xxxx


    1. As you would say, ‘I am a very lucky girl!’


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