May 2014 - Miracle of Miracles, there may be some hope after all! I have had an offer accepted on a lovely/tiny one bedroom flat. Within budget - at £343,500; a whopping, nay, eye-watering £800+ per square foot - and round the back of Tufnell Park, an on-the-up neighbourhood in north London. (I gave up on any lingering dreams of owning in west London. A scandalous rip-off. Since the start of the year, some properties with a "W" prefix-postcode have shot up by 15%!) The flat vendor and I set a tentative moving date for June as our lawyers thrash out the legal vitals. In the meantime my rental contract is up. And I have nowhere to go. So I do what any 34-1/4-year-old man would probably never do: I head back to live with my mum...
May 12th: 4:06pm - I load up the removals van with all my earthly belongings. Assorted clothes, mismatched furniture, a rickety divan, sellotaped cartons of dog-eared paperbacks. (I've become depressingly efficient in recent years at semi-pleading-semi-convincing supermarket workers to part with their unwanted cardboard boxes. A skill I never particularly wanted). I climb in to the front seat and make smalltalk with the driver. Mostly the weather, his Polish hometown. I drop into conversation that I am moving back in with my mother as I am struggling to buy a flat. I'm sure I sense him smirk. Conversation soon dries up. I play Candy Crush on my iPhone.
May 12th: 4:41pm - Sit in awkward silence in traffic hell. I shift uncomfortably in my seat and knead my aching shoulder. Each time I move I promise myself that next moving day I'll fork out for an extra helper to hunk my boxes of tat from flat-to-van-to-flat. But I never do. I'm disorganised and tight. And panicky with money. Probably hence why I'm struggling to get on London's grisly property ladder. And this marks the 13th time I have moved house in a decade; a bleak product of generation rent.
May 12th: 5:15pm - Arrive at mother's suburban semi, or as I now call it; home. She seems overwhelmingly pleased to have me stay and hugs me effusively. Mr Driver/Helper and I carry all my flimsy crisp boxes of possessions into the shed at the bottom of the garden. As he departs I give him a small tip. He mouths Good luck at your mum's and turns on his heels. I instantly fantasise about calling him a cocky little shit and demanding my extra fiver back. But of course I don't. I'm English. So I repress it and opt to curse him when he's safely out of earshot.
May 12th: 6:56pm - My melancholy is lifted by dinner which mother describes as a simple casserole. It is miles better than anything I could ever cook. I load up on wine. Whilst dishing out broccoli mum says - or perhaps appeals to herself and me: "Don't worry, darling. It's not forever!" I grunt like a moody teen. I discuss the London housing market with stepfather. "It's like the Wild West out there," I pronounce as I help myself to thirds of chicken and gravy. "Anyone can gazump anyone at any moment. The whole thing is just a total shitstorm!" Mother admonishes me for swearing. I tut at her impetuously and quaff more soothing Merlot.
May 12th: 8:02pm - Over decaffs I tell them both that I'll stay until I buy. And if the current deal falls through - I'll find a place to rent. I've drunk too much red and talk over-enthusiastically. I assure the parentals that they'll barely notice me and that I'll give them plenty of space and that I'll be going on holiday anyway as soon as I exchange contracts on the new place. (Little do they know there is absolutely no way I can afford to take a trip away at the moment. But I keep this quiet...)
Moving Back To Mumsy's: Yep, it really happened...
May 12th: 10:20pm - The dinner and booze have perked me up and I saunter off to the spare room where fresh towels are laid out over the expertly made bed. I should've moved home years ago! I think, involuntarily. I call my Much Younger Girlfriend. She jokingly asks how the evening has been with my new landlady. I'm overly-defensive and counter by telling her she's never cooked me chicken casserole. I instantly regret this. We bicker and then ring off.
May 13th: 07:27am - I wake to find breakfast and tea ready downstairs. I skim read The Guardian over toast and marmalade. MORE house price related gloom. Some savers will now have to wait until their 40s to buy their first property. Longer in London. I could be here for years, I think. I sense my rising panic and go to the fridge to comfort eat last night's leftovers.
May 15th: 10:58am - I call my solicitor to see how the proposed flat move is shaping up. "It's stuck," she explains and outlines issues about lease extensions and deeds and freeholds. I have no idea what she is talking about but I am too proud (see: pig headed) to ever let her know that. (I am learning that house buying - in this or any market - is not an art you can bluster. As hard as I might try...) "But it will go through, won't it?" I implore her. "I mean, I'm definitely going to move, right? Me and the vendor agreed a price! Can't you do anything?" She sighs and says quietly: "It's not that straightforward. My advice is: make yourself at home at your mum's." I hang up and realise I have started sweating.
May 15th: 1:21pm - The first cracks appear. I notice mother standing over my muddy post-jogging trainers casually discarded in the lounge. She looks at them. Looks at me. Looks back at trainers. And once more at me. She opts for a polite - if loaded and rhetorical - question: "You're not going to leave those there are you?" I concede politely and move stinking Nikes into my room suppressing the desire to scream out YOU'VE FORGOTTEN WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE MY AGE! down two flights of carpeted stairs like the impossible 15-year-old I am re-becoming. Flathunting has sent me regressing to the worst of my angsty/moody teenage years. And there's no end in sight yet...