Although I’ve been living in London for two years, the city only really began to feel like home when I moved into number 53.
I’d been house jumping for the previous year – living with family, friends and randoms. Each time, I couldn’t help but feel that I was encroaching on someone else’s personal space. I had a bed to lay my head on, a room filled with my things, but I never felt that any of these places were truly mine.
I fell in love with number 53 the first time I walked in through the front door. This one bedroom ground floor flat of a Victorian terrace house was everything I’d wanted when envisioning my life in London.
There was the bay window that looked out onto the wild mess of our front yard. The fireplace in the living room, above which I burned candles stuffed haphazardly into old wine bottles. The bedroom with the small bed, where we’d snuggle into each other every night. The kitchen with its big windows, which would flood the room with light every morning.
And the garden – a rarity in London. A little square patch of land in which we could grow vegetables and if the weather was fine, roast sausages on our tiny, portable BBQ. We did this as often as we could during the summertime, drinking wine and trading stories, whilst the world darkened around us.
The flat was by no means, perfect. The bed creaked every time either of us turned over in the middle of the night. The bathroom was prone to mould and had a bug infestation. The wallpaper was peeling. You could never quite get the kitchen tiles clean. The walls were paper thin and I was woken most mornings by the upstairs neighbours slamming the door on their way to work, or the retiree next door jamming on his electric guitar.
Yet, I know when I think back to my year spent in this flat, all those little annoyances and grievances will be forgotten.
Instead, I’ll remember the times we sat in the living room, hosting friends from abroad and talking well into the night. The hours we spent tending the garden – planting lavender and snow peas from Australia and how excited I was when they burst into life. The stray neighbourhood cat who would come in as she pleased and follow you around meowing, until you gave her food.
I’ll remember how I’d sit on the couch first thing in the morning, a blanket drapped around my shoulders, sipping on a cup of tea and planning the day ahead. All the nights I arrived home late from work, to find my boyfriend waiting up for me. We’d watch trash TV, eat fried chicken from Morleys and catch up on our respective days. The times I arrived back from the airport, lugging my suitcase behind me. I’d shut the door and feel so happy to be there.
Above all, I’ll remember how excited I was to move into number 53. The first place I’d ever live with my boyfriend. The first house in London I could truly call my home.
It took four days to move out. Four days of wrapping, packing, cleaning. I find moving bittersweet – or maybe just bitter. Overall, it’s a stressful ordeal that can prevent you from truly enjoying the last few days you have in your home.
And although this move didn’t come without its hiccups (minor and now more comical than anything else, thankfully), I was determined to say a proper goodbye to number 53 – this flat that had meant so much to me.
I’d seen my boyfriend off in the early afternoon of our last day in the house, travelling south to his mother’s in a jam-packed car. It was just me now, all on my own, left to sweep and mop the floors of our house. I bopped along to Basement Jaxx. I played “London Still” by the Waifs and sang along, my voice breaking with emotion all the way through.
At last, there was nothing left to do. I locked the backdoor. I closed the windows. I gathered the bags that I’d be living out of for the next four weeks. I ordered an Uber, to take me to my friend’s place in the city.
I paused for a moment on my way out, looking down the hallway, thinking of all that this mouldy, old, dust ridden building had given me. A home, when I needed one the most.
Thank you, I whispered, as I gently shut the door behind me.