We looked for a place in the village for a year before we found our house.
I have kind of the same feeling about that village as I do about San Francisco. It's a quirky place that gets under your skin, if you know what I mean.
Rentals are held tightly. You almost need to know someone to find a house.
Checking the rentals section in the paper was my hobby. (This was before listing rentals on Trade Me really took off.)
Adam and I had already looked at several places, but we couldn’t agree. Adam thought a character cottage I loved was too small (or something). I hated a Lockwood house with fruit trees in the garden.
But I've always been lucky.
When Seven was six months old, the owner of our railway flat (we LOVED that place) put it on the market. I had a bee in my bonnet about moving on. I didn’t want people traipsing through our flat during open homes. We had a baby!
The next day I saw an ad in the paper. I think the ad said three bedroom house with timber floors in the village (maybe it mentioned a dishwasher). I knew it was the one.
I rang and asked the owner S if the house had a bathtub or a fireplace.
“There's no bath. I’m not sure if the fire even works. And the garden is a jungle,” S said.
I knew it was the place for us. “We’ll take it.”
“Go and have a look,” S said, and she gave me the address, spelling out the unfamiliar street name.
Adam and I put the baby in his car seat, and we drove up the coast to the house. Remarkably, we both liked it, and we were lucky enough to be chosen as tenants.
It was a private 1940s house, on a corner, a block away from the beach, at the park end of the village. You could see the sea from the front deck and the bedroom, and through the French doors in front, which nobody ever used. (Everyone used the back door, which was not as picturesque an entrance, but whatever.)
You could also see the sea from the kitchen, and even from the back deck, if you knew the right way to look. We only had a couple big afternoon birthday parties at our house, but we always said its “open plan” had a good “flow”.
Seven and I lived in our house for seven and a half years. (Adam lived there for six years.) Of course, while we lived there, the house went through some changes. The lounge and the dining room traded places – a couple times. Seven’s nursery eventually became the spare room/office.
Adam put in a used wood burner that we bought on Trade Me. (Using the open fireplace filled the lounge with smoke and set off the smoke alarm.) He spent years taming the jungle in the garden. And he put a door on the garage, which became his “man cave”. (Or “where all his stuff had to go”.) Seven went to the village Playcentre (the co-op preschool). I made new friends.
The night President Obama was elected, there was a gale. (Gales are not unusual.) The French doors swung open and banged against the side of the house. This caused their panes of glass to shatter. So, the owners put in new double glaze windows.
Adam painted three sides of the house. Apparently, the owners didn’t have the money or the inclination to pay him to paint the fourth side.
When Seven grew too big for a baby bath in the shower, we bought a used cast iron bath on Trade Me. We put it in the kitchen. (There was nowhere else for it to go.) The bath never had a tap – we filled it by using a hose from the laundry sink.
Seven started primary school. Then he changed schools, so instead of walking with Seven to school, we had to drive. Our marriage ended, and Adam moved out.
The owners bought a new (Electrolux!) dishwasher. They built a new privacy fence on the front deck. We quibbled over the garden (since Adam was no longer looking after it).
“I promise I won’t let it become a jungle – like it was when we moved in,” I said.
Every year (after they made improvements), the owners raised the rent (by three or four per cent, to keep the house at “market rate”). Before our marriage ended, Adam and I said (year after year), “If the rent goes up by much more, we will move on.”
But we didn’t move on. We felt our rental was nicer than other rentals. Sometimes we even felt a bit clever or smug about it.
And yet, other houses have baths with taps, and insulation. And more manageable gardens. And off-street parking. And street names we don’t need to spell. Those houses are in the school zone. And are cheaper.
This year when the owners raised the rent (I'm embarrassed to tell you how much the rent had become, but it was too expensive for me), just like that, it was time for me to move on.
I was looking for a place (as a hobby) for a year before I found my house. When I first looked at it, I waffled a bit, but I knew it was the one.
My new house was built in the 1940s. It's not in the village, but it's in Seven's school zone, and it has a bath (with a tap), and a heat pump. You can see the sea from the driveway, or from Seven's room (if you know how to look), and it has a very easy garden.