Hairy House

Hairy House

Friday, 22 August 2014

Why I admire Estate agents.

Estate agents always seem to get a negative press, but I am coming to admire them. They have so many admirable qualities after all, don't they? For instance, see the two statements below.

Number one: “Yes, this is a really great house and the market is really picking up at the moment. We won't have any trouble selling your house at an exorbitant price, don't worry.”

Number two: “Well, you know, it might not be the best price, but there's no saying you'll get another offer, the last people we had through are selling a really nice house and so they didn't really think this one was up to scratch. The market's not as good as it was three years ago, you know.”

How many people would be able to look you in the eye when making the second statement just a month after making the first?

But it's not just that. It is breaking my heart to sell this house. We designed it and had it built ourselves, just ten years ago. It is light and airy, has room for the grand piano and a wall on which we can project videos, pillars on which I spent many, many hours painting Moroccan wall tiles. As I work from home, I spend a lot of time here, emailing, practising, writing, sitting at the table looking out at the sprays of bright pink and purple bougainvillea that frame the view of the mountains beyond; chickens running in and out, demanding more cat food, cats running in and out demanding more cat food, dog stealing cat food whenever he's not lying, farting at my feet, or stealing chicken food. 
I love watching the birds – the bright white cockatoos that wheel screaming overhead and litter the grass looking for seed, the rainbow and scaly breasted lorikeets who squabble in the grevillea trees, the pale headed rosellas dipping and swooping and chattering, the swifts and the butcherbirds with their intelligent interest, the big green and red King parrots and the peewits, the silly, yellow masked lapwings - even the magpies with their throaty chuckle. Sometimes, a flock of black cockatoos shriek their pterodactylllian way over the garden and, very occasionally, high in the sky, a wedge tiled eagle soars, looking for chickens, I suspect, or maybe just a bowl full of cat food.

After having asked for a Jacaranda tree every year for the last ten, Rupert finally bought me a sapling last year and now I will never see it grow. Our mangoes, tiny little buds on the tree now, will be eaten by another family this year.

And here's the thing – to quote Bill Bryson as I so love doing. By the time this house is sold, I think I will be only too glad to go – we are only a month into this business and I am already sick to the back teeth of it all and I have the estate agents to thank for that.

But for now, I need to go and yell at the kids to get them out of bed before the open house this morning. After all, we wouldn't want people to think that we were selling teenagers with the house, would we? (Now there's a thought)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

To Wrap it all Up...

How does one wrap up a life, built up over the course of fourteen years, and start again, with three children, a three legged cat, a one eyed dog, three chickens and another two cats? Answers on a post card please...

Well, the heartbreaking truth is that we are not starting again with all of the above. At this stage we are only planning to take two of the cats with us and leave the rest of the animals here.
Guinness, our 13 year old Labrador, who is stone deaf and agoraphobic, is going to one of my favourite people in the whole world, the legendary John Colwill, whom he loves and who will love him. How I will cope without my beautiful, farting companion, I don't know. Just trying very hard not to think about it.
Simba three-legs will go to my friend Julia, if I can't persuade Rupert to let us take him. Rupert is of the mind that it is not worth transporting a 17 year old cat with renal failure and depression across the world, but I'm not sure how he would go with the desertion. Rupert is hoping that I will finally be able to catch up on 16 years worth of no sleep, but I'm not sure that we could guarantee that the next cat/dog will be an awful lot better.
The chickens, Dopiaza and Gwendolen, will go to my cousin Meg. To be honest, I don't think they will care where they are, just as long as they have a decent supply of cat food to keep them going.
As for the kids, whether we take them or not will depend on whether they learn to keep their rooms clean between now and December....
And of course we have to leave all our friends here, my pupils and fellow musicians with whom I play.

So, these are our “plans.” We thought it would be good for the kids to see out the school year – Lydia finishes primary school this year and they will have all the end of term concerts, parties, dance shows etc. And then, depending on when we sell this house, whether we have another one in England to go to etc etc, we will hop on a plane and leave Brisbane. Neither of us will have jobs and heaven only knows how long it will take before we have an income coming in.

“Oh, but we did it before, when we came here,” Rupert says. Yes, we did. But we only had one child then and he didn't eat a whole Sainsbury's worth of food every day, as Sam does now. Exciting stuff.

In July I made a very flying trip to England to look around schools. Sam is in the middle of the IB here and we really wanted him to continue with it, but it turns out that very few state schools in England are able to offer the course. However, we found a school in Aylesbury which seemed very nice and they are only too happy to take him – which made at least part of our decision-making much easier. In that we now know that we need to settle in a house within striking distance of Aylesbury. As far as the girls are concerned, because they are younger, it seems that we need to wait until we are living in the UK before we can apply to schools for them.
Whilst in England, I also looked around a couple of houses. The funny thing is, that before we came to Australia, we preferred modern houses, but now, the older the better. Wonky staircases, thick walls, beamed roofs – the older the better, as far as we are concerned. After all, if we are giving up everything here for English history, then it might as well be worth it, mightn't it? The only trouble is that our wallet doesn't seem to agree. If anyone has an old castle for sale in Buckinghamshire – good working order, just let us know, eh?

Monday, 18 August 2014

Leaving Australia!

I haven't written anything much on here for a while, but what with our BIG MOVE coming up, I thought I might start again now.
For anybody who doesn't know or is remotely interested, we have decided to move back to England at the end of this year.
This decision has come as a big surprise to most people, especially me. After all, most of the emigrating is happening the other way, isn't it? Why would we give up our huge house, with its acre of land and swimming pool, the blue skies, ablaze with sunshine and winged with a multitude of brightly coloured birds, for the joys of living in a tiny, cramped house in Aylesbury? Well, put like that, I'm really not sure.
At the beginning of this year, I didn't think that it had crossed my mind to go back. I have lived in Australia for longer than I've ever lived anywhere in my life and we have been Australian citizens for a while now. But I guess, if I'm honest, the thoughts have been percolating in our brains for a couple of years now. Much as Australia has been wonderful for the last few years, the best possible place to bring up young kids, Rupert and I are both getting to the point where we find we are missing our families, missing the sense of history that only comes from walking down a cobbled street which has felt the tread of centuries, missing the proximity to Europe and its myriad cultures and climates. And, like a blow to the stomach, has come the realisation that we are not getting any younger – that if we left it much longer, it would be almost impossible to make the move back.
It must also be said that the shine of living in this beautiful country, with its safety and freedom and wide open spaces, has been dulled by the thought of those many, many people – including many children – who are being denied that freedom and safety and being locked up like criminals, with little or no hope, by the government of this country. For all the marches I have been on and letters written, the situation doesn't seem to get better and so we are voting with our feet – because surely, the desertion of the Bignalls will bring Tony Abbott to his senses....Well, anyway, we are returning to a country which hardly treats its own refugees any better, but then, at least, we will only have the guilt of one country on our backs....
The news of our impending return to the UK has been met with great joy. My sister Camilla, who, incidentally, is married to Rupert's brother, immediately announced her and John's plans to emigrate to Germany and my youngest sister, Miriam, is absconding, with her husband, to Dubai! Clara maintains that she and her family will be staying in England, whilst keeping busy furnishing their “holiday” house in France. Bernadette seems intent on staying in Hemel Hempstead for the moment, but we shall see how long that lasts...
My eldest sister lives in America so I imagine she thinks she will be safe there, though of course we will be a lot closer to her in England than we are at the moment....As for my parents, they live in France most of the time and their lives are a mystery to everyone else, so who knows. They will probably move to Antarctica when we get back.
As far as Rupert's sister and parents are concerned, we have not yet heard of any plans to skedaddle....Andie??
So, we are now in the infuriating process of selling the house, trying to get our heads around all the things we need to get our heads around - and, for the most part, not succeeding! For more exciting updates and even the odd piece of fascinating news, you know where to find me!