So, the G-monster had now been living under my roof for six months without any murders, or even any maimings, which suggested it might be time to look at taking a larger step. Specifically, taking a step into a larger home, because embarrassingly enough, my flat is a fairly decent size, yet not big enough for the both of us… and all our crap.
(Although a few years ago it did fit me and a hoarder of a lodger whose stuff took over three of the rooms, so maybe the fact that both I and the G-monster were trying to work from home didn’t help. And the harvest; the harvest did not help at all. Finally, after four years of hard work, the weather forgot to be rotten, and I discovered just how much fruit one tiny little half-plot can produce; and it is a lot of fruit. Hours and hours of work of fruit, in fact, in the blistering sun, and if god forbid you try and take a can of cider down to liven things up, a gigantic bee will fly into it and fall in and you will get a mouthful of surprise fuzziness, which is not very refreshing. (For anyone concerned about the fate of the bee, I spat him out and he staggered off to sleep off his booze under a strawberry leaf). Nevertheless, by the end of the summer there were twelve five-gallon vats of wine in the lounge and we were unable to have guests round ever again. Or get near the DVD player.)
Anyway, we reckoned we wanted Space(!), acres of it (how to find the time to look after it, when the harvest of a small plot was already giving me gip, would be a bridge to be crossed later) and a big-ass house in the middle of the Space(!), And also it had to be somewhere In The Country, so I could have a wee forge without anyone going ballistic, and but also nice and close to amenities and a transport system, so I could take the train to work and the G-monster could get a Chinese takeaway at the drop of a hat. It had to be close to my friends (on one side of the country) and close to his friends (on the other side of the country) and easy for both sets of friends to find; yet somehow so remote and hard-to-get-to that the sort of relatives who don’t give any prior warning couldn’t ‘just drop in while passing’ and take umbrage at the fact that we were blatantly in the middle of something and unprepared for guests. (Oh you know they do. It’s why they do it, surely?)
Obviously, not all of this was going to happen without a handy lottery win, and possibly some bending of space and/or time. Ideally, we needed a sodding TARDIS, but then, doesn’t everyone?
However, there was this house that kept popping on and off the market, always at a lower price than before, and I eventually pestered the G-monster into going to see it, because it seemed about as good as we were going to get on all of these things, and we could also (just about) afford it.
It was immediately obvious why (normal, sensible) people weren’t biting. The estate agent did say that most folks have a problem with the stairs – namely that the bit cut out to make way for them erupts into one of the bedrooms like Jaws beaching himself on a boat; or like someone with no idea of how to build a flight of stairs building a flight of stairs, for instance. The upstairs floors were wavy, the downstairs ceilings were somehow wavy in a completely different direction, the whole thing was inches thick in artex – that is, where the walls had actually been finished. The place had been empty for a couple of years, but the brooms and rusty tools left in every single room suggested something like the Marie Celeste, or possibly Hellraiser, had occurred. It looked like the worst idea in the whole world. To top it all off, there was this wee stone-and-red-tile portico that had been stuck on the front like an afterthought, which was simultaneously so pretentious and yet so naff that I found eerily reminiscent of me, er, I mean, charming.
We are not getting that house, said the G-monster as we drove away. It has fitted wardrobes, with those bits that got across the top of the bed. The kitchen is bogging. The kitchen that wasn’t bogging is somehow in a skip outside instead. It’s got that shell suite in the bathroom, the one I hate. That horrendous beaky bit on the front is actually on squint, did you see that? And the place was designed by an idiot and needs a metric fucktonne of work. We will look at some other houses.
But we didn’t, because he buggered off on business again, and when he came back still nobody sensible had touched the place with a bargepole. So he reluctantly put in an offer. Because we couldn’t actually afford a nice house as big as that one. Besides, I was really excited about the prospect of the pair of us doing a big DIY project together.
The reason for this is that, back in May and right when I was about to spend a long weekend working like a dog for this West End Gala stall thing, a mate turned out to have an exhibition of her own. Specifically, she had her HND in make-up finals coming up, and for this she needed to showcase her work on turning her bloke into an ancient Blood God of some description. As you do. For this, she needed dried herbs and a mortar and pestle, and various arcane paraphenalia For Atmos, all of which I happened to have lying around (as you do). However, she also needed carpentry tools, carpentry skills, space to do some carpentry and a car to get to B&Q; and since it seems unreasonable to expect poor wee broke make-up students to come up with all that, her neighbour the joiner had said he’d help. And then he didn’t cos it was his birthday and he got drunk instead. As you do, I suppose.
So we helped! We moved all the furniture (and wine) out of the lounge, and tied half of B&Q to the roof of the car, and the G-monster got himself a brand new circular saw (when he tried it on the first plank, he was very impressed to see there was no sawdust on the floor. Because it had all blown across the room and covered the poor wee lassie we were supposedly ‘helping’, from head to toe.) However. Between us (and youtube, for advice, seeing as we had never done this before), we made one wall of the two-walls-and-a-floor that the exhibit stall required. Our mate cried with happiness that her exhibition would be saved, we high-fived, made her dinner, and promptly got horrendously drunk on the first rhubarb wine of the year in celebration.
Of course, the next day we actually had to make the rest of it. The G-monster curled up in a ball and wailed when I told him there was absolutely no way we were not doing this, as then we would be the ones who had let someone down and ruined everything. So with a lot of pain and moaning we got it done, and it didn’t fall down, and the exhibition was really fab and I took loads of photos to draw from, and of course they all turned out to be rubbish, c’est la vie. And they sprayed my home-grown dried garlic with fire retardant, which we weren’t expecting, and it had to be thrown out.
But the point is, apart from that last bit it was a huge success (which is why I didn’t mention it previously; a tale of triumph has no place in a Story of Suck). Plus, we got to take the exhibition-stand away and repurpose it as a fruit-cage (although the folks at the allotment might have got a bit funny when we recycled the floor-bit with the big pentagram on it into the woodpile; certainly an email went round later, suggesting that sort of thing wasn’t on. BUT. They don’t know it was us.
Ahem. BUT. We were really chuffed with ourselves for saving the day, and convinced we would be just awesome at doing up a house together. Because that is exactly the same thing. Plus, we’re not getting any younger, etc, etc and if we’re going to do this it should be done now, before that shoulder that’s giving me gip actually twists off at the socket or something.
The G-monster told me not to get excited, because there was no way they were going to accept our offer. Which was true – nobody goes to see just one house and then buys it and then that’s that.
They accepted the offer. I became convinced the place was haunted.
There were then roughly three hundred complications with the lawyers and missives and a lot of other stuff that it was really quite nice to have someone else dealing with for a change. (Sorry G-monster, and although it is nothing to do with you, every single damn other time I’ve been in a relationship, this has all been my job, regardless of whose name is on the bank-loan). So yay for sitting on me arse!
However, since we might own beaky house any minute now(!), I didn’t dare start with the exhibitions and galas and things again. It would be the only thing that would guarantee that I’d get an actual offer of something mega – right when me and my stuff were separated by an hour’s travel and several tonnes of other boxed crap and a scheduling nightmare, and I’d end up looking like more of a moron than if I hadn’t bothered. Worse, I’d be setting myself up to Let Somebody Down.
Eventually, however, summer started threatening to become autumn, the moving-in date stopped looming at us and started receding into the past, and I actually started writing a novel in the end, just for something to take my mind off things. I was two thirds through it when Christmas was looming up the calendar instead, so I had a short break to take the G-monster on some steam trains for his birthday and do a few moody landscape pictures (from photos taken out of dirty windows of moving vehicles, because of course they were).
I still can’t decide if they might perhaps possess a certain naive charm, or they merely look like a kid did them all in one afternoon. In the end, I got so fed up trying to decide that I was thinking of trying to exhibit them just to find out already, the suspense is killing me here, when I got a call that
Holy hell! It actually happened!
So, twenty-four hours later – and nearly six months after the last time we’d seen the place – the G-monster and I fought through the Friday homecoming traffic to go see if beaky had got appreciably worse in the interim (or smaller. Things are never quite as grand the second time around, right?)
My god. This might be the first time I have under-estimated the size of a place. We somehow managed to go in different directions at some point during our initial wander, and it took nearly five minutes before I found the G-monster again. This is so the sort of place where horror movies happen. Also, since the G-monster’s favoured means of room-to-room communication is to turn his back to the door and make Wookie noises into a cupboard until
someone I come running, walkie-talkies may be required.
There was rather more mysterious detritus everywhere than I remembered, and the electric didn’t seem to be working. Or the water. And the gloaming had already descended, since we were now only three weeks shy of Midwinter, making the whole place look even more desolate and menacing.
It will be okay with a bit of a scrub down, I said hopefully.
I was so, so wrong.