As Birthdays Go…

It couldn’t have been more exciting, nerve-wrecking and slightly unexpected as this! The house-hunting has officially come to an end. No more searching required. My trip to Glasgow last weekend led me to view this…

A rather traditional style 1930s built 3 bed semi-detached house. Not a house I would have ever envisaged myself living in these past several years for varying personal reasons.

Growing up in a 3 bedroom bungalow in Sydney’s south-western suburbs, I was used to space all on one level. When I moved here, the downsizing took a while to get used to but it was okay. It was all on one level, still, exactly what I was used to. We weren’t in a bungalow, but a maisonette – deemed a maisonette, I guess because access to the rest of the property was on the ground floor and the stairs to the first floor (along with a foyer) were only privately accessible and that usually is not as a flat would be. We also had our own front garden and partial back garden.

We moved four years later and downsized again to a one-bedroom “cluster home”. The building contains six houses in a rectangular block. Three either side. We’re in the middle house, facing the road (but we’re slightly off set from the road by about 8 metres or so). So, downstairs is an open plan living room and kitchen, and upstairs a bedroom and bathroom. That’s it, really. No back door. No back garden and just a small front communal garden. We’ve been here 16 years.

We (not very) affectionately called it “The Rabbit Hutch”. While it drove us stir-crazy, of course we were ever mindful to count our blessings. It was an abode. Shelter from the elements. Efficient and affordable to run being sandwiched between two other houses. It meant our heating costs were low. But lack of space has always been an issue.

The premium for space required for elements of our hobbies and pursuits we have that keep us sane. Me with my art and drumming, the OH with film photography and the like.

Visiting friends would always bring home to us the lack of space we had. And we never felt able to entertain and have guests around as there is just no space for dining and nowhere to really accommodate anyone staying.

When this all came to pass (my partner’s parents both passing away within the space of 12 months), the serious consideration of a move to Scotland took shape. We had always planned to move out of here (Luton) if ever and as soon as the opportunity availed itself. Not because we hate Luton. My partner is Lutonian born and bred. It is pretty much all she’s ever known. But we’ve been aware that because of its proximity to the commuter belt of London and the proximity to the airport, Luton, at least in terms of its transport links, has been affected by the property boom that was going on in the early 2000’s. Prices went up and up and up and never really dropped. It saw a marked increase not only in house prices to buy but on the rental market too.

Several times we looked into moving further north. To Peterborough and its surrounds. But in the past several years, Scotland became an ever increasing pull. Politically, socially and also financially. If ever we found ourselves in a position to buy (and we NEVER thought that day would come in all honesty, short of a lottery win), we would get so much more for our money up there. And the political state of the UK over the past few years has meant we have felt much more aligned with the views of the Scots as a whole. Where socialism is not deemed unsavoury but is sacrosanct and intrinsic to the makeup and identity of the people.

And so it was to Scotland where we decided to pin our future hopes. And of the places, I personally felt I wanted to base myself in, Glasgow was the place that won my heart upon my very first visit. I’d been to Edinburgh but not felt that same pull. It was kind of down to … aesthetics … or perhaps a lack thereof and a sense of belonging. In Edinburgh, I didn’t feel drawn to the city the first time I visited it many years ago. Nothing really spoke out at me. Other than…I dunno…a kind of sense of “pretension”. Sorry Edinburgh folks! No slight on you guys. It was just how it felt to me back then.

Glasgow felt different. I can’t explain it. I just felt like I belonged as soon as I got there. And that feeling has gotten stronger with every visit. So for me at least, it was strong on the agenda for moving to. But, that’s the beauty of the west side of Scotland…well, all of Scotland, I guess, is how easily accessible everything is. Unless you’re further north or in the Highlands or on the islands, most things are within reach. A short car journey, train ride, bus ride away.

Our new house is in an incredibly connected location. It is just one stop down the line from Glasgow Queen Street station. For example, when I go to see King Creosote on March 12th next year, I’ll be making my way back from seeing Simple Minds in Copenhagen. We fly in to Edinburgh at about 2pm and then (obviously) have to make our way back to Glasgow. All being good, we should get back to Glasgow no later than 5pm. So there will be time for me to go home, have a sit down, take a shower and get changed. Nearer to show time, I can leave the house a few mins before the next train is due, grab the train and be at the RCH for the gig in 15 mins.

But besides that…on top if that…SPACE! More space than we ever imagined we’d have. Space neither of us had felt in places we’ve lived in for 20+ years.

And it’s HOME. Not an investment. Not a retirement plan (in the sense of selling it on at a future date) but the rest of our lives.

We were nervous. We spent more than we initially wanted to. We had put in an offer before on a property in the southside of Glasgow near Giffnock (Jim! You’ve had a reprieve. I won’t end up living “just down the road”:from you after all. NOT that that was the first house’s appeal in ANY way, shape or form! Just to clarify!) but it was a lot smaller than our actual new home. Not much bigger than the place we’re currently in, in actual fact. And we thought we wanted it. I thought *I* wanted it. It was linked up well transport wise. Thornliebank station was just a short walk away and there was just three stops to Glasgow Central. And, you know…the southside seems to have all the desirability. Either there or the west end. But we went north. And access to the city centre and to the west end is great.

In hindsight, the Mansewood house was obviously not meant to be. Our offer was blown out of the water by another buyer. I hope they feel the money they paid for the place was worth it, because they paid considerably MORE than what we were willing to. They actually paid around the same figure we have for our place. We weren’t prepared to pay that much for Mansewood. Well, actually, for the Mansewood area itself, yes! But not for the property it would have bought us.

All the things for this place rang much truer for me. It really did become “the one” very quickly. I felt I didn’t even need to see the place with my own eyes but it would have been rather rash and churlish to believe it. The reality was…I was right though. But viewing it compounded everything I initially felt about it. And with viewing it, you get a definitive feel of how much it is worth to you and how much you want to chase it.

And so later on Wednesday afternoon, I got a call I had convinced myself I was not going to get. I was SSSOOO nervous. I wanted this place SSOO much. I really loved it and I was trying to remain detached. But I was already mourning something I didn’t feel was going to happen. I don’t know why. All that bad luck you think you’re going to have. Stuff just not seemingly going your way. I was trying to be philosophical, “que sera sera”. If it happens, it happens. But I was preparing myself for another knock back and the potential of us searching and searching and it stretching into the New Year or longer. Like trying to find that elusive “needle in a haystack”. I’d found it. But could we afford our “needle”? Would it actually be ours?

After I had gone to view the place, I went to the Flying Duck for a bite to eat before getting the train back to London. As I walked in they had some Talking Heads playing. And as I took a bite into my burger, Cities started up. I saw it as a omen. I had found myself a city to live in…but how long would the search for a home IN the city be?

On Tuesday night just as I retiring for bed, I had Jim be custodian of my train ticket I brought back with me. One that took me from Queen Street to Ashfield station to view the property. I wanted him to work a charm. I have a photo of him at Heathrow airport that Virginia took in 1981 framed on my bedside table. I just nestled the train ticket in the corner and said to the pic of Jim “please be a charm?!” And he was….