It wasn’t just bad, it was fundamentally awful. We’d taken a break from sanding, scraping and plastering to collapse in the local pub and were chatting about selling the house, about the move to France. Slowly I became aware of a group sitting next to us – a few women, some men and a boy – and of one man in particular looking at me, listening to me talk. Eventually he said: “You can’t just decide how much your house sells for, you know. It’s not up to you.” The group watched. I spluttered. Then they all started asking us not to put our house on the market, and I understood that they were doing up another house in Lechlade and were now racing to finish before we did. Later, we were discussing settling the mortgage with someone who’d managed to get between us and the building society and right then and there he suddenly began withdrawing the money from our equity over the phone. When I managed to get him to listen (him turning out to be our next door neighbour) he smiled. “Great, if you’re not going to sell now that saves you 45 thousand pounds in fees!” He handed me a cheque for that amount. “Here’s a third of your money up front. I took your mortgage out and reinvested it and made a packet. Now I’m giving it back.” I staggered around the room, trying to grasp what this meant for our plans, looking up at the thick foggy sky outside and wondering why it was being swept along. I saw a long snaking metal line plough through the low hanging fog and knock aside a streetlight. It was a long column of seats joined one to the other, and the fog was lifting, and there were hundreds of these columns, all full of people chained to the seats. It was an alien invasion. The world was ending. I grabbed Jen’s hand and wrenched her out of the room, my other hand gripping the useless cheque. We stumbled over the wreckage and rubble outside and I realised we’d left the kids alone in the house.
I wouldn’t normally share just a dream, but it completely lampshades the state of my mind right now and this one was horrible enough to leave me totally dismayed the rest of the day – the one last night about dreadful black fighting spiders with blue claws wasn’t any better – so that while walking home in the early evening our dream suddenly felt totally out of reach, completely unrealistic. Impossible. Even now it’s easy to lose heart. Perhaps especially now, as we’re out of the dreaming now and into the making real. Jen’s putting the figures together, we’ve got our property finder scouring the Ariege for us. The exchange rate wriggles up and down. And we’re sanding, scraping and plastering with all our strength to keep pushing on toward an April deadline. The dream feels like it’s never been more delicate, more finely balanced. But we are making it happen. We’re doing everything we can. Possibly my anxiety levels are all down to this last fact though – we’re doing everything we can, and now we’re beginning to need to coast along and adapt to everything we can’t do.