Two years ago we became the proud owners of a brand new home where my writing desk now dwells. We hadn’t intended to buy a new home but fate stepped in and gave us a shove in that direction. We had been searching for the perfect home for several years. Living in or near the countryside with a good-sized garden for our four plump and well-loved chickens was a pre-requisite. Then the two elder chickens, sleek black rock Doris & fat little bluebell Lulu, died within months of each other. Much as we missed them, we were still the proud owners of two flighty Leg bars and though not nearly as friendly, they were still our girls and worthy of a good home. Then one night, the fox came. Fox 2: Chickens 0. We were left with an empty hen house, a few random feathers & no necessity for land.
Buying a new home just sort of happened. We obtained a part-exchange valuation purely for interest, viewed a few show homes and before we knew it we had paid a deposit and instructed a solicitor. A date was set, some conveyancing hurdles were overcome and we moved in during a rainstorm in June 2014. Then it got complicated.
Our house is lovely – really bright and light for a new home and a little haven of writing happiness. But like all new homes, there was a lengthy snagging list and the builders accidentally forget to install the fitted wardrobe in the master bedroom and tiled the bathroom brown when we had chosen grey. They pushed hard for us to sign off the snagging list despite the fact that much of the frontage had not been finished but we stood firm, refusing to sign for something on a ‘gentleman’s agreement’. Good thing too as it took months to resolve.
The builders were pretty well-behaved in the intervening months. They fitted a temporary wardrobe and several months later they completed the real one, albeit on a slant. They returned several times and finally straightened it, sorted out most of the snagging and we, in turn, agreed to ignore the fact that all our towels were steel grey, settling for the brown bathroom with good grace.
Then a year later it started. We purchased the house on the strength of the green in front which was never to be built upon and would ultimately be a public green area. The site office, the concrete towers and all the building resources beside the green had long outstayed their original two removal dates. They were supposed to disappear about six months after we moved in, but despite numerous promises, there they remained; and with the added aggravation of concrete towers being topped up on a regular basis. Having run out of space and with no intention of opening their other tract of land, the builders suddenly plonked a contractor’s car park in front of our house. Every morning at 7.20 sharp hordes of traffic pulled up, causing noise, disturbance and a nasty bottleneck at the top of the road. We had been promised a lovely green space and had been left with no possibility of living in quiet enjoyment of our property.
The world can be a cruel place and the car park issue is small potatoes compared to the problems some people face who don’t even have a place to call home. But sometimes it’s hard to see the wider picture and we became caught up in the injustice of the situation and the attitude of the builders who practically laughed in our faces when we complained. So we decided to stop moaning and start acting. We took the usual channels of writing, phoning and involving the local council who were supportive but slow to act. When this didn’t work, the residents of our road took half a dozen cars down to the sales suite with photographs of the newly created car park interspersed with photocopies of the promised green area taped to the inside of the windows. There was a delicious irony in parking in their own reserved spaces given that it was getting so difficult to park in our own. It took four days of bad publicity for the builders to change their minds. The car park was removed, the site office disguised and works on the green area began. Hurrah for people power.
Now two years on the cars have gone (except for a recent blip swiftly resolved), and the green area is now yellow, covered top to toe with rape seed. OK, it’s not the flat green area we were promised, it’s a meadow; and all the more beautiful for being wild and out of control. The top half of the site office where the contractor’s played golf across the fields has been removed, the silos have gone and some of the roads have even been paved. I write at my dressing table at the front of the house overlooking the yellow against the distant hill. It’s not perfect but it inspires me.