It’s not hard to think back to a time when it felt as if the future, if unknown, was at least assured for some time. Since we first found out that we were being evicted from our rented home in Cornwall back in 2013, it has been impossible for us to plan any further ahead than the next paid job for Jude. I can still vividly recall the morning the landlord (the farmer who lived in the adjoining house to us) knocked on our kitchen door and broke the news to me on the doorstep, heavily pregnant as I was with daughter no. 4.
The shock of that, and the desperate weeks that followed while we tried to get our heads around what to do, on our limited income and with all the chaos of a new baby and our other children, has never entirely left us.
And I’m tired of it. Yes we are so very very lucky to be here in this wonderful house, I never stop being grateful for this temporary space we have been given, but there is the constant fear that it too will be taken away.
A while back, one of Jude’s clients told him about a property her neighbour had been trying to sell and he finally gave in and went with her to see it. And fell immediately in love with it: he raced home and told me about it as soon as he walked in the door. For Jude to get this excited, it had to be something pretty special so we all jumped back in the car with him and drove for an hour and a half to see it, not even pausing to think about the recent problem the car had developed with the cooling system.
We arrived just as dusk was starting to fall and walked around the place herding the children away from the stinging nettles and fallen roof sheets in the yard outside. Jess scampered excitedly into every nook and cranny yelping with joy at each new discovery. I tried to take photos of it all despite the fear of losing sight of the little ones as they scrambled up the half-tower stone staircase to the upstairs rooms, the startled pause as a dead bird was found on a windowsill and was reverentially regarded by little wondering eyes.
One attic space, two attic spaces; a huge secret room which could only be seen from above that took a bit of thinking about; arching doorways and massive old oak barrels in what was the cider pressing barn with the huge old apple press still in place. Outside yielded more excitement: odd shaped fruit hanging in the overgrown garden revealed themselves to be perfectly ripe figs; elsewhere apples littered the grass.
It became too dark to see clearly anymore so we reluctantly trooped back to the car and buckled the children into their carseats. I remarked on how hot the engine still seemed to be, but didn’t think much more about it as we set off for the long journey back home, all of us chattering happily about the wonderful house.
And then, the heart stopping judder, the needle on the temperature gauge suddenly pointing into the red and with dashboard lights flashing alarm in unison, the car stopped and steam hurled out from beneath the bonnet. We pulled over to the side of the road and got everyone out of the car.
A wonderful lady driving home with her elderly mother saw us and pulled up: “I don’t have any water, I only drink wine”, she said apologetically, in perfect English. But she stayed with us while we flagged down the passing cars. Finally a fellow Landy driver pulled up, revealing in his trunk not only a fully stocked boot space loaded with tools for any kind of emergency, but even more bizarrely, he had exactly the right kind of coolant we needed to put in our broken system. Another kind man set off in search of a bottle of water for us and returned successful despite the lack of nearby shops and, filled with water and gratitude we were on our way again.
We finally got home after two more oddly fortuitous stops: we hadn’t gone very far when the all of the lights went berserk again and I pulled in sharply to cool the engine down, not noticing that I had parked exactly next to a tap set into the side of the adjacent road. Then at a second stop, I walked back to a house we’d passed but as I turned to walk away after receiving no reply, I looked down and noticed they had a bucket of water sitting outside the front door, which of course we made use of, returning the bucket a week later with a note of thanks.
And what of the house, I hear you ask? Well, that remains to be seen. We have already been refused a mortgage for the house we are currently in, so we have to wait until January before trying again. The plus side is that this find is significantly cheaper, the downside is that someone else is also interested. And we have to somehow explain to Jude’s mother that we can’t afford to buy her house and somehow convince her not to sell it to anyone else just yet: which is particularly awkward.
There are no guarantees in life, I realise I may never know what lies ahead. There’s nothing to say that we even stand a chance of getting a loan from our bank or any other. But we have to try. The world is looking increasingly bleak as I see it and the sooner we can start moving towards a more self-sufficient and sustainable existence on a piece of land that no-one can take away from us the happier I will be. I want to start afresh, to stand clear of all the undone plans that are littered behind us: I want to slough off these tattered threads of undone-ness and get doing again, for something positive and good. For the future of our family. To be home at last.