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TL;DR – We moved, it’s small, I don’t like small.

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Late last September, Frog and I signed all the last bits of paper and moved out of the rental house that had been my home for five years, and hers for almost three, and into our own place. It was a momentous occasion, of course! Frog’s sister, brother-in-law, and some friends of ours helped us move, which was lovely because the day dawned surly and dull, and right on 8am when we’d scheduled The Great Move to begin, the sky opened and dumped rain on us. It continued all day. The positivity and motivation showed by our family and friends was so helpful. I mean, I know on the inside they were probably thinking “God, let’s just get this done so I can go home and get dry!” (at least, that’s what I was thinking!) but everyone was so cheerful and we worked together to get the move done.

Frog’s Mum swooped in at the tail end of the day, tag-teaming with the sibling-and-friend-types to take care of us with some food and perspective. We wedged ourselves in amongst the boxes and tried to keep a positive outlook through the exhaustion, the stress, and the irritation at not being able to move around the room freely!

I remember that day as the day we moved in, but really the whole process took weeks. Having lived at our old place so long, it was hard to return it to looking how it did when I moved in – after all, gardens grow, don’t they?! The property manager kept on and on at me, saying that it wasn’t good enough, never good enough, take the gardens back to the edges – but don’t hack them! Well, after three return visits to the old house I gave up and authorised them to send a gardener. I’d put a lot of work into nurturing those gardens and cutting so much life out of them was hurting me too much. In the end, we finally got our bond back, less a bit for the bloody gardener.

Then, having closed the book on the issues at the old place, we found a seething nest of vipers at the new one. Not literally – that would have been less difficult. You see, we moved into a little 2-bedroom villa in a set of 17 villas, built in the early 80s, a bit run down but sturdy and straight. The group has a lot of owner-occupiers in it, which is generally considered a good thing. However, one of those (#15) turned out to be owned by a couple in their sixties who are the most argumentative, unhinged, inconsiderate, rude, spiteful pair I’ve met in years and years. They pounced on us soon after we moved in, ranting at us about rules and respect and so on, and one day there was even a shouting match, complete with physical confrontation, out the front of our villa, involving us, them and the two neighbours next to us. It was a very stressful time. Things calmed down after a while, thankfully, and then one day, Frog texted me with the most magnificent news – #15 was for sale!

It was duly put under offer, then the Sold sticker appeared on the advertising billboard on the verge, and then the sign disappeared…but the horrible couple didn’t. For weeks we waited with anticipation, learning that they’d moved about a block down the road into the retirement village (oh, dear, that’s going to result in fireworks!) and eagerly awaiting the moving truck. Finally, it arrived, with Mr. 15 officiously directing it down our winding, narrow, potholed driveway and around the corner to #15. They loaded up, drove out…and we haven’t seen them since. We haven’t met the new neighbours yet. They seem quiet and not liable to get in our faces about anything, so that’s an improvement.

On the whole, home ownership hasn’t changed our day to day existence all that much. It’s lovely to not have rent inspections! It’s not so lovely to get rates bills, or deal with strata issues, or have to organise repairs when someone backs a truck into your eaves, or decided if that tap’s drip is bad enough yet to warrant the plumber coming back. It’s lovely to plan renovations, but not so lovely to try and budget for them, or figure out if the place will pay you back for them. It’s lovely to feel you’ve got the right to go to local council meetings and the like, but not so lovely to feel responsible for the dreary neighbourhood, the lack of care, the illegal dumping, the ugly streetscapes, the neglected, apathetic parks. It’s lovely to have “our house”…it’s not so lovely that it’s not the old house.

I loved that old house. I loved living there. It was where I created my refuge from an abusive relationship. It was where I rediscovered how it felt to be empowered, where I stretched my wings again after having them clipped and then broken, where I learned to stride rather than creep. It was where I revelled again in eating what I wanted to eat and doing what I wanted to do, where I stuck my fingers in the dirt and looked up at the sky and walked the boundaries and picked the lemons and pruned the trees and learned all the creaks of the floorboards. It was my haven after a horrendous period of my life, and I miss the space we had there. I don’t know if “dinky” or “cute” or “cosy” will ever suit me, but I’m trying.

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