If you came round my house for a cup of tea today, the first thing you would think would be – what a beautiful place to live. Well no, the first thing you would think would be – jesus christ what a fucking mess. But after that, after that you would believe that our chosen place of residence, and indeed our day to day life was pretty idealic.
We do after all, live off one income in a chocolate box village surrounded by fields of Rapeseed and orchards that grow bright red, juicy apples. Everyday there are Range Rovers with personalised number plates taking kids to the school my son attends. People with designer clothes and bags, rushing back in time for their Ocado shops to be delivered. We have friends with Smeg fridges in their kitchens, that go Skiiing in half term, that don lycra on Sundays and cycle in large annoying groups along the country lanes.
All the while we mix (undetected) with the Middle Class, like those parasitic wasps in that Attenborough documentary.
And you would believe if I let you, that we are middle class too. A perfect middle class family of four. Two parents and two kids -one boy and one girl.
You might even be envious. In fact you probably would be, if I let you. Our cottage is a little gem with real wooden beams throughout and an inglenook fireplace. We have a typical cottage garden with cobbled paving stones and a Little Tikes play house in pristine condition for the kids. There are rows of foxgloves growing up the back and there are birds singing sweet nothings to each other in on our apple tree.
I have some Jools Oliver Little Bird bunting hanging in the kitchen and tiny heart shaped fairy lights in the glass kitchen cupboard. The bathroom has original and authentic brick work that would make Instagram orgasm and we have built in wardrobes. The kids have their own stair case to their bedroom, which is on the third floor.
Yes, the third floor – doesn’t that sound impressive?
You might also note that I own a cordless Dyson vacuum cleaner. That our washing machine is a Hotpoint, that the lounge curtains are from John Lewis.
You might. But here’s the thing:
It’s all a big fat lie.
A beautiful lie, but a lie none the less. Because at any hour, on any given day – we are always exactly 8 weeks away from being homeless.
Tomorrow, today even for all we know – our Landlord could give us our notice and that clock would start ticking. Tick, tick, tick 8 weeks to go. Search available properties in the area, view, apply, go through the checks, pray to God we pass, pay the fee’s, pay the deposit. Lose holiday days, lose paid days, lose money, lose sanity having to move again.
And here in lies the problem. We don’t have the time and we don’t have the money. When you rent and you move, you need cash. You need money for rental admin fees, a deposit and at least one months rent up front. You need literally, thousands of pounds within a matter of weeks.
A family member said to us once “Well that’s what savings are for, just use that for now, to get you through this rough patch.”
Rough patch? This isn’t a rough patch. This is our actual life.
We do not have savings. We live pay check to pay check. The minute anything goes wrong it is a disaster. Not an inconvenience – an absolute disaster. A lie awake at night because we can’t pay the bills disaster.
Private renting is no joke.
Private renting is a trap. A trap from which we will never escape. NEVER.
From all we’ve been though the last five years,my perspective on life has changed dramatically. I never realised what a privileged life I led before. I always considered growing up – that my family were working class, because both my parents worked and we were always the ‘poorest’ of everyone we knew. We didn’t have holidays abroad or new cars or endless pocket money. Rarely anything that was bought was new, my parents were thrifty and frugal. We didn’t waste, we always sold things on and haggled down prices at the bootfair.
But the truth is that I was raised in a middle class set up, where my parents owned their home and we never needed for anything. We might have wanted (wanted newer stuff, wanted fancier holidays) but we never needed. We never went without food or a place to live. We never overheard arguments about money. We never had to move over and over because the person who owned our home wanted to sell it. We never saw debt collection letters. We never knew worry and fear and dread.
It was a shock when my lovely little privilege bubble burst. And I’ve never seen things quite the same again since. I view people differently now, under a new light. I have less time for bullshit, less time for niceties. I cut out the toxic, the people who can’t see beyond their own greed.
The truth is that I do own a Dyson vacuum cleaner but only because I earnt it through a blogging project – I would never be able to afford to buy one outright. The Hotpoint washing machine isn’t ours, its the Landlords. The John Lewis curtains are second hand – £10 from the charity shop. The third floor is in fact the attic. It’s slated as the second bedroom but its barely big enough for the two of them to have a bed each and a chest of drawers. In the winter its freezing and in the Summer, the heat rises and it’s too hot.
The truth is we are living on a knife edge. Always just 8 weeks away from our beautiful li(f)e being uncovered and destroyed.