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“So you have a house…”
Yes, I have a house. Now to work out what to say about the whole process, without twitching uncontrollably.
I renovated. That should help explain things.
OK, from the top. I entered into a protracted period of house-hunting, carefully evaluating market offerings and weighing them up, and not at all panicking that I’d be locked out of the market if I did not buy yesterday. This went on for, oh, at least a month. At the end of it—and as it turns out, at what was still the tail end of the housing bubble, I settled on a townhouse in Oakleigh. The townhouse has several things in its favour. It is not weatherboard, in a suburb full of weatherboard; in fact, it was only built in 1998. It looks quite stately on the outside. It’s in an estate with nine other townhouses, but they’re separated by garages, so no common walls. It’s on the spacious side for a townhouse: the Australian inflated real estate measure, counting by roof surface, is 14 square (= 1400 square feet, or 126 m2). It has a garden surrogate at the front (tenuously superimposed on some woodchip), and a paved yard surrogate up the back (though not spectacularly wide—not quite two metres). It has lots and lots of windows, so it is potentially suffused with light. Its entrance is off the street, and the street is at any rate off the main drag, so it’s quiet. (You can barely make out the train at night if you strain to listen. And I hear the train more often than I hear the garage band rehearsing in the front townhouse.) And of course it’s walking distance from the shops and transport: I do virtually no driving to get to things. (I do a lot of driving to and fro from my old house, but that’s another story I’m not getting into now.)
There were some catches to the place. Primary among them, it was designed by buffoons. I mean, a toilet opening up into the kitchen area? Srsly? Three toilets in a three-bedroom residence—what is this, a youth hostel? Not to mention the claustrophobia of the downstairs area: a kitchen with little storage area, and crappy cupboards, cordonned off by a superfluous doorway and a side corridor. Icky mouthwash-blue carpet, fake floorboards, drab walls, risible blinds, bare lightbulbs. Things could decidedly do with rearranging.
Rearranging is not for the faint-hearted, and I’m positively pusillanimous about that kind of thing, but once I embarked, I kept going until I ran out of money (and arguably even longer than that). On the way, I discovered that I have expensive taste. This surprised a lot of people, not least myself; and it helped me run out of money all the faster. Things also dragged on because of the logistics of coordinating dependencies between various tradespeople; and changing one’s mind about one thing (as is one’s prerogative) was enough to throw the tradies’ schedule off by a month. All up, I settled in late July; the house wasn’t really habitable between September, when the work started, and mid January, and I finally moved in early February.
The house is now rearranged and reconfigured; the kitchen dunny is walled off, downstairs is tiled, the master bedroom wall is a solid Sienna red, the doorway underneath the stairwell is a Tardis of storage space, the crap cupboards have been banished to garage as supplementary bookcases, the kitchen is shiny and austere, the kitchen bench is a conversation piece of opal-like sparkle (doesn’t photograph that well though), the lighting fixtures are conversation pieces of chrome and crystal, and the walls are yet another conversation piece of subtle warmth. (They’re more white than the apricot I wanted, ca. 1982 vintage, but still more apricot than what everyone else wanted.)
The catch now is, the house is still substantially unfurnished, which makes it hard to take seriously as a place of residence. Furniture is slowly trickling in: there’s stools, some plastic chairs, an armchair, and a bookcase. As of two days ago, there’s also a bedroom suite—which makes the place start to look like I’m not just squatting there. Still, until it has a sofa (and a computer bench), it isn’t really a home; and the sofa is going to take a very, very long time to settle on: I simply not partial to anything I’ve seen to date. Which means I’d better save my pennies for what I am likely to be partial to. Expensive taste, you see. (And the blinds have to come first.) Until there’s a sofa, any friends visiting (couple of visits so far) get shown the conversation pieces, listen through the conversation underlying the conversation pieces, and then get frogmarched to the all-night patisserie. I mean, how can one entertain without a sofa? Honestly. There is a telly (which I couldn’t really afford—it was an impulse buy, I have to admit); but I also don’t get the bit where people visit me and end up watching my telly. I’d like to think I’m more fascinating than that. Ι might be wrong, but my house is where I get to nourish my illusions.
Speaking of which, the academic books are now in the house (or the garage), which makes it a bit more mine than it was. (The non-academic books are the next batch of ferrying; the storage spaces are still work in progress.) The sight of all the Greek dialectology texts arrayed underneath the stairwell is melancholy: it’s who I used to be, not who I am being now. But at least they too have a place.
There’ll be photos of the place when I’m back from Amsterdam. The photos of Amsterdam will come first.