“Home” is a topic I’ve thought about a lot this year. I began my year living in Japan, which is a place I will always call “home”. In April, I returned to my childhood home in Bognor Regis, where I then lived for just over three months. While I did enjoy being able to spend more time with my mum, catch up with friends, and sort through a bunch of stuff in my old room, Bognor Regis is not a place I ever intend to call “home” again.
At the end of July I finally got a job and had to move to London very quickly. This haste has since caused me a great number of problems, but there was really nothing I could do about it.
I had two weeks to find a flat in London, no specific area in mind, and a very limited budget. All I knew was that I didn’t want to live in East London again (because I used to live there, and because of the Olympics next year), and I wanted an easy commute. So I looked at a Tube map, picked a line (the Bakerloo Line) and followed it out from Baker Street (where I work) until I found somewhere I could afford.
I started looking online and quickly became frustrated by calling and being told that the properties I had seen on websites were no longer available. When I finally called somewhere and was offered a chance to view a studio flat, I jumped at the chance and got on the next train to London.
It was the first property I viewed, and I knew I shouldn’t rush into making any decisions, but desperation had set in and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a place to live. When I saw the door, which was on the high street, my heart sank a little bit but I managed to convince myself that it was what was behind the door that counted.
Behind the door was a dingy hallway and dirty staircase, which led up to a white door. I started telling myself that the hallway didn’t matter, it was what was behind the next door that mattered.
Behind the next door was a room. The room was small, and there was an old-looking double bed in the middle, next to a slightly cracked wooden table. There were two plastic chairs which used to be white, and a water stain on the ceiling. That was the main living and sleeping area. Behind two more doors were a kitchen that was smaller than anything I had seen before and a bathroom containing a water stained shower.
As I describe it now, I can’t believe I actually stood there and thought “I can make this my home”, but I did. I imagined brightening the place up with pictures and knick-knacks, and I imagined cleaning everything up until it sparkled.
The reality was that some of the dirt was so ingrained that it wasn’t going anywhere. The flat was so small that I couldn’t fit hardly any of my stuff in it – in fact, the kitchen cupboards were so narrow that I couldn’t even put my dinner plates away. Seriously.
And then the problems began. The sink was leaking, a few things the letting agent had promised to get fixed weren’t getting fixed, there was nowhere to put my rubbish, the neighbours were really noisy… I won’t go on, but basically it wasn’t as easy as I had imagined to make it my “home”. I tried, though. I bought a colourful duvet cover and a few picture postcards, but nothing could hide the gloom.
Eventually, it all became too much. After a number of run-ins with my letting agent I asked to be let out of my tenancy agreement. On top of the flat being a disaster, the area wasn’t very nice either. Wealdstone was never going to be my “home”.
Fortunately, there is a happy ending to this story. On Saturday I will be getting the keys to my new flat. I’ve come to realise that a “home” should reflect the personality of the person living in it. My new home has a dark pink door, and behind the door there is a spiral staircase leading to a split level studio flat. It’s all self-contained, and thoroughly quirky. It’s incredibly well designed and makes really good use of a small space. It’s inviting, yet private. There’s a bath to relax in, and a skylight to let plenty of light in.
My new “home” means everything to me at the moment. I’m looking forward to adding my own splash of individuality to an already curious property, in a great part of London. I think Finchley will be my home for many years to come, and I’m excited about exploring and discovering new things there.
So, what does “home” mean to you?
How to make a “house” a “home”…