A home of my own?
Updated: Oct 4
During 'lockdown fever' I have been secluded in my campervan. It has been a challenge - living in a confined space, but I do believe I've had enough practice.
As I look back over the years, I remember the homes that I have made my own. If I begin from the point of childhood, then you'll begin to believe I've been some kind of nomad. Which is probably why I like the idea of living in a campervan.
My very first home was a flat in Langley, Slough. It had a glass brick wall that you could see shapes through, but not pure bodies. I remember my mum and dad often left us in the hands of the babysitter. As she lived along the corridoor from us, she left her door open so she could hear us.
The second home I remember was another small flat, in Slough again, this time near the pub called The Three Tuns. I don't remember much about this place, but I do recall sitting by mum's bedside, comforting her as she cried, as my brothers were about to be born. Sadly, we only ended up with one, though I didn't question it at the time.
Homes number three and four were Northern Road and Essex Avenue in Slough. I, together with my sister, brother, mum and dad, lived for five days of the week at Northern Road. Northern Road was a 3-bed terraced fronting a busy road with a big, wonderful woodland behind where we often made camps. At the weekends we would toddle along to Essex Avenue and sleep at nan's. Loved her teas - lots of ham sandwiches and cakes and loved being treated to trips on on the Thames by our uncle Richard's and his little boat.
After a while, mum moved away and dad got another mum for us. Three, actually. On different occasions, of course. Northern Road (or, more so the neighbours) wasn't quite right for her, so we moved to home number five, Hawthorn Crescent. It was a lovely semi sitting on a quite street with a big beautiful field behind us. We donned our wellies and walked along 'Muddy Lane' towards Stoke Poges where we would stroke horses and sit in a church field with our backs against the cold stone of Grey's Ellergy and munch on the sandwiches our step-mother had made for us. I fell in love with a boy on Hawthorn Crescent but was too shy to tell him. Much, much later in life, I learned he had ended his life because he was lonely.
However, after many, many attempts, dad's new wife fell pregnant. So, we moved again to home number six, Gaviots Close in Gerrards Cross. A big 4-bedroomed Council terrace in a quiet close in the middle of rich-man's land. That was where dad drank in the French Horn (since demolished) with Brian Connolly (of The Sweet) and I got my first job - as his babysitter to his two beautiful girls.
Not long after this, dad broke his leg, lost his job, got divorced and ran away to Liverpool. My sister got married to a soldier and left for Germany. As a rebellious 20-something, I then moved out to live with my boyfriend. We each rented a tiny bed-sit in a massive mansion, opposite one another, on the Windsor Road - my home number seven. Not the best of accommodation with mould on the walls and a BabyBelling to cook on, but it did have a beautiful chestnut horse in the paddock and I felt like a queen when I imagined owning it and the house.
After this upheaval, I relocated to Oxfordshire to be with my boyfriend. I didn't realise how lucky I was. At first, I rented another room in another mansion - St. Veep in Bagley Wood, Oxfordshire. Home number eight was the whole attic space and was really rather wonderful. As a B&B type arrangement I would have breakfast cooked for me every morning. Nice one.
Soon after, my boyfriend and I bought our first home together - which was my home number nine. A gorgeous little semi-detached 'Ploughboy Cottage' in Faringdon, not far from the Folly. Loved it there. Had a few parties with lots of good, intelligent friends, and made lots of remarkable memories.
Unfortunately, the biggest mistake of my life was just around the corner - I left my idylic life (with the only recompence - after sharing the mortgage equally - being the car), and absconded with a scoundrel to Essex. However, not before renting home number ten - a small room in a hostel for a few weeks (as I had made myself homeless), and then renting home number eleven, a semi-detached house in Abingdon, with a gorgeous Frenchman and a weird man who wouldn't talk to me, from Belguim. Both brilliant cooks, and I tried everything they presented to me, though I did draw a line at a big bowl of mashed snails in their shells.
Home number twelve was the flat in Essex on Shrub End Road. A small, compact place where my new boyfriend would leave me for weeks on end while he went 'mountain climbing' with his mates in Scotland or off on adventures with the army. While he was away, my car was wrecked by an inconsiderate neighbour who couldn't manoeuvre his car properly. It was quite a lonely existence.
Soon after, my wreck of a boyfriend got his calling cards for the Gulf War (the first one in 1991 - the one that people always forget about). He wasn't prepared to help pay for the rent (even though he had a huge commission and bonus upon his return) and, as I lived on a temp's wage I didn't have enough to eat, pay the car, the rent and the bills, I had to relocate to home number thirteen, in Kingston, Greater London. There, I shared a five-bedroomed terraced house with my now grown-up brother and his mates. While there, he fancied a girl and tried to get me to get her to go out with him. Alas, it wasn't to be.
Sadly, after my mean boyfriend had returned a 'hero' from the war, I found out he fancied another girl. So after I cried, I gathered myself together, lifted my chin to the sky and sprayed his spanking new uniform with Opium (the perfume, not the drug) and we parted ways. Not too amicably.
Eventually, I managed to save enough funds to buy my own place for home number fourteen. I wanted to buy something with my brother but he wanted to move to Swindon. So, when a small 1-bed ground-floor flat in Carshalton came up for grabs and I welcomed it with open-arms.
Unfortunately, I fell in love again. I say unfortunately, because I should NOT have sold my flat in Carshalton. However, when you're wearing rose-tinted glasses, you don't pay attention to what your friends tell you. And yes, they warned me. Often. So, off I toddled to Dundee to share home number fifteen - my shiny new boyfriend's studio flat. Eventually, I put all the money from the sale of my flat (and the majority percentage payment) down on a 2-bedroomed bungalow in the delightful little fishing port by the Tay.
Seven years, and a beautiful black dog later, we divided the proceeds equally (stupid), and I moved again - this time, back with dear old dad. Home number sixteen was a tiny 1-bed Council flat in Livepool located on a very busy road. It wasn't ideal, but it was good to reconnect with dad again. I tried and tried to buy another home for us both in Liverpool, as it was 2007 and I felt the market was about to crash again - but I just happened to have moved there when Liverpool was granted 'European City of Culture' and the prices kept shooting up and gazumping was rife.
Then my sister offered me home number seventeen - her house in Farnham, Surrey to live in while she lived with her boyfriend in Bracknell, Slough. Dad said go, he was used to living on his own and wanted his life back, so I went in November. In January, sister dear moved back in and I was out on my ear.
An up-side-down house in Sunbury, Staines, near the airport was my eighteenth home - plus bills. Very noisy. But my dog liked the walks around there and I had enough funds to pay the extortionate rent (£700/month), so I stayed a year (with funds dramatically dwindling) until I managed to secure myself a job which provided accommodation for free.
Before you say 'wowzers!' - you must remember the accommodation was normally one-room, with shared ablutions and always very, very noisy. If it wasn't the students along the corridoor that played loud music, it was the water tanks that gurgled til 3am, the heaters squealed all day long - or them both failing to provide warmth in winter and cool in the summer. I did that for a decade while travelling around the UK and Germany. So they were home numbers nineteen through to twenty-six.
In 2012, my dad felt it was time to die, but he didn't want to do it alone. As I was moving to Germany at the time, with my remaining funds, I helped him buy a home on the Isle of Wight to be near his sister. After six months of searching, I secured a decent ground-floor converted office near a pub, not 100 yards from his sister's flat. He moved into it on April 1st. Eighty-three days later, on June 16th, Father's Day, after a two-hour argument with the ambulance men who wanted to take him to a hospital he didn't want to go to, he went those Pearly Gates. I lived in it for only six weeks, while organising his funeral, but I will call this home number twenty-seven. I had to keep paying the mortgage for another two years as it was difficult to sell. I lost a lot of money and my siblings have never forgiven me.
After this, all I wanted to buy was a field with a barn in it. But my mum looked at me with that Po Face, as though I was mad and I was convinced it was a bad idea. So, I bought home number twenty-eight - a weeney, tiny, oh so little cottage in Powick. Did I say it was small? It was very, very, very small on a very, very busy main road, opposite a flood barrier. I couldn't ever live in it because I worked far from it, becoming one of those 'weekenders' leaving my home empty during the week - so the neighbours made it difficult for me. Six months after I sold it, the floods rippled their way through it. I was sad for the buyer, however, my step-father had warned all buyers about it, so I let those thoughts go.
By this time, as you can imagine, I was so used to packing my sister often called me 'Kryton Factor Kaye'.
Now, I find myself living the life of The Lady In The Van. Almost. This is my twenty-ninth home. I had planned on taking advantage of the opportunity, by travelling around the country seeing the sites and writing about it. But then Coronavirus slammed its ugly mug in my face and put a stop to what little freedom I was eventually going to delight in.
Home number thirty is going to be a fulfilment of a lifelong dream - a field somewhere. A field with brook or a water well, some beautiful trees, bushes and flowers and a little seclusion, where I can grow my own vegetables, herd my own goats and tend to my own chickens. I dream of a field where I can park my camper, store my library in a container and live out my remaining days in relative peace.
Kaye is a freelance publisher, author and certified psychotherapist with over three decades of experience. She is also a writer for various blogs about writing, publishing, travelling and health care.
Feel free to visit her BewleyBooks.com site, where you can sign-up to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube.