Express & Star

Andy Richardson: We’re just getting started on our new home – again

We moved three years ago. It wasn’t planned – the best things never are – and was entirely the product of Covid.

Three years has gone in the bat of an eyelid, and still we’re at square one...

Lockdowns left us with too much time on our hands and rather than learn how to make sourdough, like everyone else, we’d spent too much time on Rightmove and decided we ought to move. As you do.

And so began a great adventure. ‘We’ll give it a go,’ we thought.

‘And if it all goes wrong, we’ll retreat and be happy that at least we gave it a go.’

I imagined we’d settle within weeks, or months; certainly, we’d be unpacked and on top of everything in the shortest of times.

And yet, after three years – yes, three years – it seems we’re only just settling.

It’s not that we didn’t unpack the boxes. We did, I think, though She Who Is Always Right tends to be in charge of that stuff; I just sit in an office, flip open a laptop, and spend long, happy hours typing – or, writing, as I prefer to call it.

But having a sense of where things should go, adjusting to the way we want to live, and turning what-had-been a house that looked like a National Trust property, circa 1972, into something a little warmer, a little more modern, and a lot more welcoming… Well, all of that’s taken time.

And there have been endless mistakes. Trees were planted – mostly in the wrong place, so that some dried and died during one of the extraordinarily hot summers that we can look forward to as being ‘normal’, in our globally-heated world.

Pictures that were put on walls were put in the wrong places and have had to be moved – cue more time on ladders that are too tall and make me wish I’d grown to be 12ft, rather than having to climb them.

Blokes who I’ve phoned to do jobs and who’ve agreed to crack on have received calls from me six months later, telling them that I’m ready to start.

And most have responded by saying they thought I’d left, or something unmentionable had happened.

But that’s the fun, isn’t it. Working out how to live, where to put your trainers, where the toolbox is best hidden…

A small lawn that I’d imagined would be used to play cricket on has become a car park for a large white van.

And the small square metre of land that I imagined would become a home-from-home batting crease has, instead, been churned by tyres into something in which a pig might wallow.

We’re still a long way short of sorting things out. I have a penchant for drafty old houses, as Wife One accurately described them, and this has been the draftiest of the lot.

Rolls of bubble wrap presently try to keep the cold air out and the warm air in – though, in summer, it’s usually the other way, and our reverse-fridge helps to keep things cool.

There are huge jobs still to do – sorting the draught, getting a heating system that’s not powered by oil – yes, literally, oil – or coal.

There’ve been times when we’ve thought we ought to hook up with the Black Country Museum and offer to take small admission fees so that people can see how things once were.

But, gradually, we’re taking small steps forward.

Carpets have been ripped out, walls repainted, plumbers have bent pipes – and, our budget – and an electrician fixes the same dodgy light every time he comes round. Thanks, guys.

As the year ends, we’ll huddle round the coal fire, like people from two centuries ago, and enjoy a dinner on trays. As you do.

But we’re growing to love it. And while it’s not the best decision ever – that’s my son, and She Who Is Always Right – it’s right up there among them.

I’m stunned that it’s taken so long to make progress.

Three years has gone in the bat of an eyelid, and still we’re at square one.

But here’s the thing, in three years’ time, I’d like to think we’ll look around the place and decide that we’re nowhere near done. In fact, I hope, we’ll just be getting started.

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