The Painful Appeal Of Property Websites
Recently, my children have been watching a lot of Topsy and Tim. This is a problem because the first season is all about them selling their house and moving somewhere more spacious. With a frog in the garden and smug neighbours who build their own driveways.
I really want to move; this really isn't helping.
Here's what I want: a three-or-more-bedroom detached bungalow with no chimneys (but a secret tunnel for Santa), a really big garden which magically maintains itself (but with real grass) and decent schools nearby (somewhere around the middle of the league tables which I claim not to approve of). It has to be on the top of a mountain so it doesn't flood when the sea levels rise (Steve's stipulation) and at the bottom of a mountain so it's sheltered from the wind (mine). It should be walking distance from a big supermarket, a bookshop and a nice cafe but also in the middle of beautiful countryside which doesn't smell of dung. And it should have some sort of sturdy umbrella over the actual house itself - maybe one of those ones which change colour when they get wet, because 3yo has one of those and the novelty never seems to wear off. The kids would like it to have an actual bath, but we're prepared to compromise in return for more than one toilet.
Also, it must cost no more than £150,000.
I do love our two bedroom flat. I do. Our neighbours are lovely and our neighbourhood is pretty and I've appreciated the big, leafy, only-minorly-vandalised park throughout lockdown. But this is not the place I want to grow old (too many stairs).
We've reached the point where we've spent lots of money on all the boring important stuff (functioning boiler; watertight roof; wiring which isn't about to burst into flames) and I've tried every furniture layout in every room (our home is optimised for comfort, unobtrusive clothes horsing and the building of decent dens). There's nothing left to do here.
Except... there is always something to do.
Yesterday morning, there was a gas flue rattling around in our garden and I felt my whole body droop when I saw it (although it turned out not to be ours). The door has fallen off the bathroom cupboard and no amount of matchsticks jammed in the hinge will keep it on - we need to replace the whole unit. The seal around the shower has gone fusty again.
And I spend the money and the effort carrying out these minor repairs, but I'm starting to really resent it - that's money I could be spending on cans of pretty paint colours for our imaginary new home.
This restlessness comes over me now and then. I feel content and settled for the longest time, shuffling books and jigsaws between different shelves and hammering another picture hook into the wall, and then one day I find myself typing "Rightmove" into a search engine and that's that: I'm itching to shift.
It's bad just now because - of course - we've been sealed in our home for eleven long months. And I have appreciated having big rooms and a bit of a garden and a couple of friends within walking distance (and a secure income with which to pay for all this). I've been "at no fixed abode" before and I've lived in places which were not at all fit for habitation and I've had homes where I was not safe, and all of that was bad enough as a single twenty-something - there are people out there who don't have a roof for their children - so I know, I really know, that I'm in a good position.
But I've also spent far too much time reminding the kids that we have downstairs neighbours and that they must rein in their normal, healthy childhood impulse to jump up and down on the beds. It doesn't feel fair on the kids and it doesn't feel fair on the neighbours, who only play their guitars when they think we're not at home.
I don't think we'll be moving any time soon, though. I lower my standards and I lower my standards and I lower my standards on the property website search filters, and still the tiny two-bedroom terraces with leaky roofs are out of our price range.
Plus, to move we would - unlike Topsy and Tim's parents - have to actually clean and tidy this place. And we have small children living here, touching walls with their buttery fingers.
So I'm sitting here, looking at the heaving shelves, and reminding myself that one - one day - the children will outgrow the big bits of primary coloured plastic, and we will have more space.