Category Archives: thoughts on ownership

House and garden: an update

It is about 11 degrees celcius here at the moment – about 52F, according to google – and very grey. I have been home sick with a bit of a cold and a lot of tiredness; one of those headaches which just sticks. Summer wasn’t very summer-like this year in Wellington, but I’ve enjoyed it as we’ve slipped into the colder nights and windier days of autumn. And today, being home and cold (and living in a house with dodgy enough wiring that I can’t plug in a heater in my room, because there’s only one plug and it’s running my computer, lamp, and clock already), I’ve dragged out a bunch of my winter accessories.

So currently I’m wearing:
– a purple woollen hat (cascade 220 yarn, bought at an indie yarn shop in Petone) which I made last winter
– my very favourite 10ply possum/merino/silk wristwarmers in gorgeous deep cobalt blue, also made by me last winter
– my grey cardigan, which I modified with green edging a couple of winters ago and have not yet lived to regret
– a brooch I bought at an indie craft fair early last summer, made from recycled crockery

And I’m drinking a mug of cranberry and apple tea, and I made scones a couple of weekends ago for guests, and I’ve been eating greens straight out of the garden on my lazy-dinner bagels; and Field and I are plotting spinach lasagne (possibly some in tonight’s lasagne, even, although I have got out mince bought from the local butcher); and I spent the weekend killing a hedge—

And I don’t know when or how I became such a damned hippie, but here I am, totally fascinated by the process of learning how to do things and enamoured of the idea of doing as much as I can for myself. I like having a local butcher and a local farmer’s market, so we’re making an effort to shop there (and, alright, the local butcher’s sausages are AMAZING); I like looking out my bedroom window and seeing our growing vege garden (and the compost bin, and the very straggly lawn, and the piles of Former Hedge, and the patio which really needs a good sweeping but we don’t have an outdoor broom yet).

For the record: the garden is growing really well at the moment. It’s helped by being so accessible from the house: I see it from my desk, and it’s about five steps from the back door to the herb garden. All the herbs – rosemary, sage, marjoram, thyme, mint, and tarragon – are big enough to be useable, although I’m still being cautious; I chucked a few leaves of marjoram onto my spaghetti-on-toast last night. The lobelia and the nasturtium are happily growing in their respective corners, and we’re going to have to expand sometime before next spring.

Next up is borrowing Field’s mum’s woodchipper so we can mulch a whole lot of former hedge, which will be spread beneath the pohutukawa to kill the grass and weeds currently growing there and get it nicely mulched before we plant a bunch of flowers there. We’re thinking daisies, and probably also a couple of lavender and maybe a hebe. We’ve still got to get the other three-quarters of Hedge down, but it’s already made a difference to how much light the back yard (particularly the washing line) gets.

House: one awesome thing

A thing I keep remembering while wandering the house and smiling anew:

Ever since I left home and moved to Wellington, I’ve lived in houses broken up into two or more flats. Nish, Field, and I had a steady stream of Downstairs Neighbours in the 6 years we flatted together; all of them were alright, but for the first, but you always had to remember they were there and be vaguely neighbourly and considerate.

But this house! This house has no shared walls, floors, or ceilings with anybody, and the neighbours are reasonably distant; so if I should choose to start a load of laundry at 9.15 of an evening and then stick it in the dryer because I want clean towels in the morning, there is nobody to stop me. It is wonderful.

Musings: the r-word

Field and I are in a relationship.

We don’t fuck.

It’s a relationship where we split the bills and squabble over what kind of cheese to buy; where I get away with picking the bacon I want, and she has all the salt-and-vinegar chips her little heart desires; where we have long sprawling conversations at eleven o’clock at night about Books We’ve Read and Why Television Is Hard; where we email each other from our respective workplaces about what we want to eat for dinner, what we’ve read on the internet news that day, why four hours sleep is not enough, whether it’s a good idea to buy more wine (yes). But at the end of the day, we go to our separate beds in our separate rooms and close the doors.

And it’s invisible.

*

A few nights ago we had a conversation about how we want to refer to each other: we flatted with each other (and with Nish) for six years, but this is something new. We’re hiring plumbers now. In the end we decided that “co-owner” fit the best, but that’s not quite right either: too much business in the front, not enough party at the back. “Partners” has connotations that I in no way disapprove of, but which just aren’t accurate; it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest if people thought that Field and I were a couple, but we’re not. I toyed with “lady-wife”, mostly as a joke, but while that kind of shit is fun with friends it’s difficult to say with a straight face to your lawyer, your electrician, your bank-manager, your mum.

So co-owners it is for now, and we’ll change it if it stops being the closest match for what we are.

*

But we’re invisible, this thing. When I talk about buying a house with Field, I’m talking about my long-term life plan. I’m talking about planning a garden, about where we’re planting the fuschia (me) and the hebes (me) and the carpet roses (Field) and the agapanthus (over my dead body). I’m talking about the six-month conversation we’ll have about whether we’re going to wallpaper or paint the lounge, and what shade it should be, and what the curtains should be made of. I’m talking about how we run the kitchen, how we cook together, how we make plans to go to the supermarket and what our budget there will be. I’m in charge – always and forever – of making electronics Go; she’s in charge of the alphabet because my god how I hate reshelving books.

I’m talking about the two or three years of planning that went into this. I’m talking about how I researched suburbs and public transport routes; about how grateful I am that Field got her full licence and a car, and how much easier that made the house-hunting process. I’m talking about the gin-and-tonics she made us tonight for dinner, before she went to lie down on her bed in the summer evening sun and I came online to watch comedy routines on youtube and write this post. I’m talking about the expression of my hopes and dreams, my plans and schemes, how I’ve wanted to do up a house for forever (as long as Nish has known me, and that’s a bloody long time).

I’m talking about how we started having conversations about how we wanted this to work 18 months ago, how we set up a joint savings account over a year ago, how we now have 2 joint accounts plus the mortgage, insurance in both our names and shared household goods. I know where she was born, her date of birth, what her passport photograph looked like when she was thirteen. I chat to her mum sometimes on the phone a bit. She knows these things about me.

And so I have conversations with people about buying a house with Field, and what they hear is of two good friends buying a house together, and what they say is:

That’s sensible.

and

Have you thought about what would happen if you didn’t want to live together anymore?

*

And.

No. No, it isn’t sensible, you utter moron, do you know how much it would devastate me if it all turned to pot, how difficult it would be to disentangle our lives? Our finances are complicated and not wholly governed by standard law, but that’s the least of it when we have mostly shared friends and I can’t remember exactly how to cook dinner on my own anymore, when the kitchen seems strange when she’s not there to navigate around and pass me spoons and pepper.

and

Yes, what, you think we set up a joint savings account and talked to banks and lawyers and looked at houses and put in an offer and went unconditional and settled and moved without ever thinking about what we were doing? Without ever talking to each other about it?

*

This wasn’t an accident, this house in this street. It wasn’t the easy or the simple choice; it wasn’t obvious. It wasn’t a calculated financial decision. My life isn’t good financial planning – single girls without options, women on the shelf looking to get on the property ladder. I may be a spinster with a cat, but by god I have done it with intent.

house: further salutary lessons

Settlement date has been moved up from the 27th of January to the 18th, because our landlords stuffed up EPICALLY in giving us our notice period (their letter said mid-February. They meant mid-January. We found this out last Friday). Field, Nish, and I have therefore spent the last week frantically trying to rearrange our lives: not because the landlords have a leg to stand on, legally, but because we appreciate that it was an honest mistake and we are (thankfully) in a position to bring settlement forward for Field and I and therefore can not be dicks about it.

But. Ugh.

Field and I went to see the house on Monday after work, mainly to take measurements of all the rooms (mostly for the purpose of figuring out where all the bookcases will go) but also to wander round the gardens and let Field’s mum identify various shrubs and trees. There’s a pear tree, and what Field and her mum are pretty sure is a feijoa tree (which Field likes and I despise), and a winter rose; and also nettles, and many many weeds, and holly, and a bunch of overgrown things. There are also a few cracked windows which we’ll need to have replaced, and the bit of the sunroom window that opens needs completely replacing, frame and all.

We’re getting through the packing: all my fiction is boxed, along with a bunch of linen. Field and I will aim to get all the crystal done tonight, along with some more of the linen (maybe even going so far as to pack the Suitcase Of Crap We’ll Need For The First Night), and also get started on kitchenware.

… I am so so thankful that after this move I probably won’t have to do it again for at least a decade.

House: a salutary lesson about the perils of renting

Nish, Field, and I have been living in this house for just over three years now. It’s a nice place: big, sunny, close(ish) to transport and close to town. My room is enormous (and I’m going to miss that A LOT). It has a woodburner and a heatpump and a dishwasher, all signs of a Proper Adult Residence (as opposed to our collective dodgy student flats, which instead featured things like mould, missing cat-door flaps, scarily illegal wiring, and/or no direct sunlight)

But the plumbing here has always been a little bit… dodgy. Temperamental. Cantankerous. Prone to fits of uncooperation.

It’s in another one of those fits now, and there is now quite a bit of soggy toilet paper and standing water on the main path to the front door. Nish blocked off that bit of path with a bit of rope and a note (because walking through raw sewerage: nobody’s idea of a good time), and so to get in to the house we now have to walk up one of the staircases to the back terrace, across the lawn under the washing line (which is shorter than I am, goddamn), and down the other staircase.

These aren’t well-constructed or well-maintained staircases, oh no. They’re built out of concrete, river stones, and paua shells (in what I can only assume was a misguided attempt at style). The steps are really uneven.

There’s movers coming tomorrow to pick up the lounge suite that friends are buying off us, and since clearly the lounge suite will not be able to be manouvered through the staircase-lawn-washing line-dodgy bit of terraced lawn-staircase-lawn-main path route, Field and Nish are going to get to spend a bit of time tomorrow morning attempting to clear out the loo paper. I won’t be doing that, because I have to go back to work.

The whole thing—and our property managers are being pretty good about it, and I do appreciate that it’s difficult to find plumbers in early January in Wellington—has been a bit of a salutary reminder of the downside of renting. I don’t necessarily think that I’d be able to get a plumber any faster than our property managers, but this has happened a couple of times before, and we’ve told them in our last three or so maintenance emails that the plumbing was making ominous gurgling noises again and would probably need looking at. As a homeowner, I’ll be able to get someone in to take a look on my own schedule, and in this case it would’ve happened several months ago.

Our property managers are good, as these things go, and there are good reasons why the property owner doesn’t want to do several thousand dollars worth of work while he’s got tenants (for one thing, I suspect the pipes need replacing, and they run directly under the only access to the house). But it’s still not my timeframe, and the lack of control is really frustrating.