I have done the unspeakable and pulled out of the buying the house. I feel TERRIBLE about letting down those poor people who said I was their only hope of buying their dream cottage in the country.
Here's why I arrived at this decision. Shortly after I met Mr Grumpy, I sold my wonderful flat near Hampstead Heath and bought a house round the corner to him, having realised how much more you could get for your money out in Uxbridge/Hillingdon. Well, was I miserable! I hated it. I was lonely as hell, I cried every day, my creativity dried up and I spent the time I would normally have spent meeting a friend for a lunchtime coffee or going for a walk on the Heath, staring at blank walls and going up the wall.
After a year, I sold it for the same price I paid for it, losing thousands in purchase and sales fees. I moved 'temporarily' into Mr G's and stuck my stuff in his workshop. Which leaked. All my paintings, some of the originals, all my prints, some of them signed and numbered, an art collection I'd been building up for 30 years, got ruined. I was heartbroken. I didn't even know where they were as he had stacked them behind a big mirror, and that's where the damp seeped in. He blamed me, saying 'You knew they were in there.' But I didn't. I thought he'd stuck them in one of his cupboards in the house.
I found a flat back in North London, but had to have a major operation and pulled out as I was too sick and weak to bother with all the form-filling etc. It was only a few weeks down the line but the vendor, who was a doctor, rang me and shrieked, "I hope you catch something nasty and die!" I've never forgotten her viciousness. Bitch!
A year later, I bought an ex-council house in Muswell Hill, N. London, but had the worst neighbours, with drugs and knife-fights occurring next door and across the garden fence. I felt threatened, and it was at the foot of a very steep hill which did in a ligament in my ankle so I had a year in support bandages. Mr G had a major brain haemorrhage at this time, which took him a while to recover from, so I was to-ing and fro-ing on public transport between Muswell Hill and Hillingdon. It takes ages, believe me. Two hours on bad days. More than my wonky bladder could stand and I began to dread the journey and develop an almost phobia about it, especially after one horrendous occasion when I was dying for the loo and we got stuck underground for almost an hour due to a signal failure.
I sold that eventually and bought another ex-council house in Highgate with a very nice neighbour. Too nice. He started getting lecherous and I hardly dared go into the garden. Then work dropped off, I owed some money and needed to pay it back, so I sold it. Big mistake in hindsight as it's now worth £550,000. I can't afford to buy back any of my old houses.
After that, I rented a flat in Highgate (my favourite part of London) for three years, dropping around £40,000 in rent down the drain. Finally, I bought another ex-council property in East Finchley, N2. Lovely house, but Mr G offered to do it up for me and it took him 18 months, during which time I was still corralled in his house in Hillingdon (which is 3 miles from Uxbridge and 3 miles from a tube station). By now we are up to 1997. Some of my stuff was put into storage in 2003 and has been there ever since! After 18 months of NOT living in my house, I had gone off it. I'd found out the things I didn't like about the street, the nosy neighbours, the tearway kids, the old, broken TV aerial which bashed against the chimney every time the wind blew (I rang loads of firms and couldn't find anybody who was willing to take it down).
Then Mr G had his double stroke. I sold the place and have now been in Hillingdon and away from my friends for five whole years. Five years of doing nothing but sit in front of the TV at night. Five years of wandering into Uxbridge and buying clothes I don't need, out of sheer boredom. I have been going crazy. I joined a gym, tried a few classes, but didn't meet anyone even vaguely sympatico. You may be wondering why none of my friends have been out here to visit me; truth is, they all know what a ghastly journey it is, and, all being ladies of a certain age, we all hate travelling on public transport at night, and they've all got animals they have to get back to. Few of my friends have a car because in London, you hardly need one. Out of five, only one has wheels.
When I found the house, I honestly thought I'd be able to hack it; get my stuff out of storage, stay for a year, regain a bit of independence, visit Mr G and Flad and do lots of writing. But... did I write last time I had my own house in Hillingdon/Uxbridge? No, I did not. I was too lonely and unhappy. It made me think, what did I need a house in this area for when Mr G already had one?
The clincher came yesterday. I went all the way to Nunhead in South London to see a friend's photography exhibition. Coming back, the heavens opened, the bus didn't come, I had to walk miles, missed a train and had to wait half an hour, and finally got to Victoria station with a sign of relief, to find the roof leaking and a waterfall pouring through! It was most dramatic. But then I had to face the next stage of my journey, i.e. getting back to Hillingdon. I walked through the torrents and missed the first coach (the Oxford Tube). Got the next, and it was such a trawl through London and onto the A40 (loads of crawling traffic). Couldn't face the wait for a bus, then the long walk up Mr G's road so I rang and begged him to come and get me, which I did.
Today, I realised that going to that exhibition had been like finding an oasis in the desert. It was wonderful, refreshing, inspiring. I actually spoke with like-minded people. Met a middle-aged man who plays in a folk group, just like I used to do. I want more, more, more. I need to mix in creative circles and there are none in Hillingdon, and believe me, I've looked. Most of all, I need to socialise with my friends. I've almost forgotten what it is to enjoy myself. So... the house in Uxbridge isn't the answer. I am sick of being far away and lonely, and it's not like I haven't given Uxbridge a chance. It's going to have to be a flat in town, to which I can get taxis home at night.
Watch this space.
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2 weeks ago