Want what nobody else wants

Everything is aimed at taking us to a place where we’re insulated from outside impact as much as possible. Worries about keeping a job? Don’t have a job. Pressure to pay a mortgage? Don’t have a mortgage. Can’t afford to buy a house in a place everyone loves? Buy a house in a place fewer people love, get more house. Jam Jar House 1 was such a steal for us because nobody wanted it. Literally. It had stood empty – derelict – for 18 months before we’d even seen it. Yes, someone had made an offer, but that had been withdrawn immediately (plus it’d been even lower than our original one) once the person making the offer realised there was no way to develop the land at the back of the house. A couple even demanded to leave the house after only a few minutes of a viewing because it affected them so badly and they couldn’t bear to be inside any longer. The house wasn’t just neglected it was abused. And the garden was two parts wild wild woods and three parts abandoned fridges. Sycamores grew though the wheelbase of a 1970s Ford Escort. And the other car (which split in two when we pulled it out) was already six inches on its way to a shallow grave underneath waves of ivy, dead leaves, dessicated plastic bags and a cargo of orphaned shoes. The summer after we bought the house I took on 20 square feet of bramble that guarded over half of the upper garden (what would be, eventually, our meadow) and hacked my way through stalks that had grown so woody in the decade or so since they had last faced resistance that the bonfires I set with their carcasses later caught fire so quickly in huge gusts of flame and heat they left behind a spaghetti of ash still in tangled brambled shape. And yet we never felt anything but welcome in the house. I chiselled mortar from between the stones we’d exposed in the kitchen at 10pm in the glare of a work light and sat straddled across scaffold poles in the seeping glow of a streetlight to sand down our bedroom window at 11pm, moving around alone in the dark of a house that at that time had no electrical system at all, let alone electrical light. Not once did I feel a tremor of unease. A house that had been scarified back to its poor, poor maltreated bones would hold us inside and never make a creak or pop a suspicious floorboard (even though we’d exposed most of them by then, and on both sides). For 18 months nobody saw what we saw, and for 18 months nobody wanted what we came to want. I thank each and every one of them, because they are why we’re that much closer to our dream today.



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