February 28, 2014

House hunting in London

Last week I woke up and it hit me. In four months will reach the two years mark of living in London. It's a silly thing, but I can't believe it's been almost two years. They have not gone as planned at all. London was supposed to be my oasis, my peace and quiet and no more worries zone. It was supposed to give me back the peace of mind and ability to sleep a full night. It was supposed to be, in my head, a smooth ride. Instead it gave us two years full of bumps along a magnificent road.
So I didn't notice the time passing, because I was too busy looking at it through appointments and tests and forms to fill. The only way I track the months is through my friend Michelle's beautiful little girl - every month she puts a photo on Facebook, and every month I "like" it and say out loud to myself "but she can't be 11 months old! She was just born, like, yesterday!" I stopped saying that to Michelle though. For some reason she doesn't find it amusing...
Time is a funny thing, and as we are fast approaching the birthday season around here, it never even occurred to me to connect it to the passage of time in London.
And then another frightening thought hit me - our contract for renting this flat is up. Now you might think that it's frightening because we really want to stay here and the landlord won't renew our contract, or he might up the rent a few tens of pounds a week. But that's not it at all we can stay, and the rent around here stayed about the same this last couple of years so no upping it. No, the real reason it's frightening is because it suddenly dawned on me that we can move.
Just an example for a house and a street around here
Why would we want to move? Mostly because it's been two years, so somehow it feels mandatory. We've never lived anywhere more than two and a half years. In 13 years we moved 6 homes, 4 cities, 3 countries. I just can't think about this flat being the one that breaks our tradition. Then there is the fact that it's practically a shoebox, and not an adult-zise high-heel knee-high-boots shoe box. No, we live in a child-sized shoebox. And it's getting a tad crowded, but then again, maybe only when the kids are around. And thirdly, because moving solves everything. I mean, what do you do when your head becomes over populated with worries and questions and what-if's? You move. If the over population isn't too bad, you move a house, or a city, or in London's case a borough. If the questions become too much, you move a country (or at least that is what I tell Hidai whenever the question of Ron's secondary school pops up).
The problem with it is, that once the the thought of moving starts creeping in, you can't put the genie back in the bottle. Now we have to move because everything about this place annoys us.
So last week we decided to check the area, you know just to see what's out there before we actually start looking.
Look! THere's a rainbow! It must be a sign that it's time to move ;)
And here arose a few tiny insignificant problems. First of all, I have no idea how not to move immediately. Our average time of finding a place and moving is between 2 days and 2 weeks. I always find a place I want to move to, and then it annoys me to no end if I can't. But Hidai said we have to get to know the area better and be much more calculated and reasonable this time around. I on the other hand found three places I was willing to sign with on my first hour of looking.
But we are being calculated and all that, so we sat down to make a list of demands. It turned out we want to live in our flat, if only it included the flat above, just so we'll have somewhere to hide from the kids. We narrowed it down to the most basic two demands - obviously the kids can't change school, and we can't move too far away from Arsenal or Ron will hate us forever. But that's ok, we thought very naively, because we are on the border of three boroughs, two of which have a very good selection of homes in lower prices than what we pay today. Success. But not for us, because we have to stay in our borough. Yon is in the middle of all the evaluation / assessment / registration process and if we move we lose everything and have to start all over. And the worst part is we lose our special advisor, right before he starts year 1. That is a big fat no.
So after a very nice weekend of Zooplaing around the boroughs and selecting a few homes to see and fantasising about all the money we'll save, and the incredibly spacious house we'll have, we found ourselves right back where we were two years ago when we  had one week to find this house - with no choice of properties. Our borough is not an easy one to find a decent house for a decent price in. In fact it thrives on very old houses and very high prices. Mostly because it populates too many "young professionals" who think putting the main loo on the roof is quirky rather than just plain idiotic, its advantages - central, close to the tube, trendy, diverse and close to Arsenal - are also what makes it so hard to find a decent place that fits a family of four.
Our view in Gibraltar
Our view now
Then you have the problem of not actually wanting a house. I have to confess, I am what you might call totally paranoid, and Hidai is what you might call a neat-freak. And we got used to having a magnificent view when you look out the window. Somehow living in an old crumbling house (not because that is how houses in general are, but because that is how most houses that are for rent in our area are), that looks exactly like every other house on the street, that never feels clean, always faces the street, and has no view other than cars, just doesn't seem appealing. But on the other hand, it has a garden and much more space. And also it might have a loo on the roof, which is a feature after all.
Truth is, we love our flat. We love everything about where we live, right from the "legendary address" to the newness of the complex, to the underfloor heating and double glazing, and the view. It's just that it's small. And our downstairs neighbour is against kids and treadmills. And it's been almost two years.
And I am starting to feel those itching feet, that need for newness, the thirst for adventure. I can feel it bubbling just underneath the surface, and I know - hold on to your suitcases boys and girls. We are moving.
Well, not really, we have about four months here, and still no idea what to do with our list of house-demands. Then again, my Zoopla, Right Move and Prime Locations accounts are all set to "immediate alerts" so...

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