Two years ago today, I was moving boxes, trying to remember how to put my bed together and worrying about how I was going to unpack everything and if it would ever be finished.
When I was looking for a flat, I was asked what my top three criteria for it would be. I had three;
1) I needed a bedroom big enough to put my bed in (it’s a kingsize bed and I had spent a year and a bit at my uncle’s in a room that fitted my bed and that’s pretty much all!).
2) I wanted a kitchen that was big enough to cook in and to put a table in.
3) If possible I wanted a garden.
This flat had the first two but not the third, but as soon as I saw it, I knew that I could live here. Ma was with me and she said (and still does) that the flat is very me.
Like me, it’s not perfect. There’s no proper soundproofing between this flat and the one downstairs, it’s cold in winter and it has it’s quirks.
I’ve lived in lots of different places, this is about the 8th place I’ve lived as an adult. Partly because I live alone and partly because I’m older, I’m happier to wait for the things I really want (I still don’t have proper kitchen chairs for example – I’ll get there) and because I’m more confident and sure of myself, the flat is far more a reflection of my tastes and desires.
However, this house is also a reflection of how fantastic my friends and family are, as so much of it, like so much of my life is lifted above the ordinary by the things they bring to this flat. Actual things, the pictures of my friends, mirrors (1 from Jo, 1 from Sarah), the trolley in the kitchen (Kathy and Adam), the wine rack (Christelle and Mike). Things are just things though, their actual presence in my flat, eating, drinking, laughing and just enriching my life is what makes this flat so precious to me. The gift of hospitality is a gift to the giver as well as the recipient and I’m grateful for the chance this space has given me to give and receive.
The last two years haven’t been easy. A month after I moved in the company I worked for went bust and I was unemployed for 8 months. Eventually I found a job and when that ended after a year, I was unemployed for a bit. I’m now temping and it’s a struggle to pay the rent and you know, eat. Remaining in this flat for two years, hasn’t all been down to me and staying here, paying the rent, getting by financially and emotionally was a struggle. A struggle I wouldn’t have won, without the people I’m lucky enough to have in my life. Tina who kept finding little things I could do, that she could pay me for and for picking me up at 8am every morning and taking me for a walk for weeks on end. The people of Grace who gave me the gift of a month’s rent to help me get by. Kathy, who asked me if I wanted to help out at English classes in Southall, something that gave me a reason to get out of bed and an the inspiration of meeting the refugees who had lost everything and were trying to make a better life. Ben and Laura and Jo, who trusted me with the most precious things in their lives, (which is a boost when you feel worthless).
Finally (and most importantly), my mother. Ma didn’t only buy me a kitchen table for my birthday, a sofa for Christmas and when I couldn’t make the rent, paid it. Doing all that was enough, but on top of that, she has absolutely been my rock, encouraging me, cheering me up and, when needed, telling me when it was time to suck it up and deal. She has been, she is amazing. I’d have been on the streets or in a secure ward, if not for her.
So on this anniversary of moving into my flat, of living on my own again and being independent. I’m grateful to the people in my life that I’m completely dependent on…thanks.