Thursday, 30 August 2012


Your first home. All yours. A dwelling you're responsible for – you pay the bills and the rent. You're left the nest, now living alone or sharing. It feels like you're still playing 'house', except everything is grown-up sized and you're the doll. Seven years on from leaving the family home, that first move is lodged in my memory. My first rental property: the appointment to view and confirming 'I'll take it!' Agreement signed, now the proud tenant of a part-furnished converted studio flat for £625 per calendar month, plus council tax, gas, electricity and water. Hadn't I just been robbed in broad daylight?! No, you're mistaken. 'Not in Epsom dahling' People would drawl, 'This is very reasonable.' So there it was, I'd signed on the dotted line and transferred to a plummy landlady.

How was the move? Dreadful. When I was six, moving house was an adventure. Sent to school on moving day, I pretended I was sick. I didn't want to be out of the way, I wanted to be in the thick of it. Fake sickness dropped, I sat with the removal men on bare wooden floors and ate jam doughnuts. That was by far my favourite bit! 18 years later and able to afford it, this move was different. There were no removal men and no doughnuts. Just my parents and I, completing it in stages; carloads ferried backwards and forwards. Finally in – this was home.

Three years, three months I existed there. A model tenant, rent paid on time and seldom bothering my landlady. Looking back, I think of that first flat with affection and disbelief: how had I survived that? Sharing the space with mismatched rustic furniture, peeling paint, dampness, and spiders. The problems with the waterworks, (not my own!), and the lack of insulation. Winter was positively Dickensian: no double glazing, permanently wrapped in layers, and sleeping encased in the covers like a sausage roll. Wasn't this being mature? Embracing adulthood? Morning post addressed only to me shooting through the letterbox. Closing my own front door behind me, tiredly hanging my coat up. Renting that first flat didn't put me off. This was what I'd been waiting for: this was living.

Renting, they say, is dead money. Money frittered away; wasted. Invested wisely, bricks and mortar belong to you: the proud owner. Some of us can't /don't wish to aspire to this, (delete as applicable), because renting is relatively hassle-free. No flicking through trade directories for a plumber or electrician; just one phone call, the agent will take care of it. Being an owner, as I am now, is different. With a flat in my name, I'm tied to a property and responsible for it. That fateful word forever illuminated in my head: COMMITMENT! I want to run from it... But I think if I can handle this, one day I'll progress to being a doll in a full-scale house.