Living In A Box
Updated: May 6, 2020
Living in a cardboard box... Or rather living out of them and being surrounded by them. Moving here was traumatic, chaotic and made no sense; three years on we're still here and while things have improved we know it's not our forever home
In my first post, 'Cupboard Love', I talked about what a great little set-up we have going on our street. We've lived here for almost three years, and while it's not our dream home by any means - we're in a '90s-build bungalow rather than the detached Georgian home I'd buy if we won Euro Millions - we've already been here a year longer than we intended. I won't go into why we moved from Brighton to Peterborough as it's a long, emotionally-charged story that I don't wish to go into in public, but it also involves time spent in Kent and in France, just to further complicate things. Let's just say that we came here not knowing anybody, and did so only because houses here are far less expensive than those in the South of England. Plus we'd already been to Norwich, Maidstone, Rochester, Bristol, Bromley and back to Brighton in our year-long quest to find a house. Gautier's friends are in Brighton and France; mine are in Brighton and London, and scattered throughout Europe. We were used to living in one of the most vibrant, cultural cities in the world, with hundreds of great restaurants on our doorstep, outstanding natural beauty, wonderfully weird characters roaming the streets, a great music scene and everything else you could want from your hometown. Moving to Peterborough was quite the culture shock; when I see a sign saying 'THE NORTH' on the M11 I break out in hives. I'm a southerner, and I just feel utterly discombobulated living in East Anglia. Its saving grace is the vast, flat fenland that surrounds us and the fact that we live on the river (sort of, the river is at the end of the garden) which means I get to feed ducks every day.
Canal side in the town centre, 20 minutes walk from our house
I have worked from home since 2000, although my illnesses were completely disabling for more than a decade and I couldn't work at all. We bought our house knowing it needed a shit-tonne of work that we couldn't afford to have done professionally, so Gautier took it upon himself to turn from guitarist to builder, learning along the way and slowly but surely improving our home. I say slowly because we started two years ago and still have a bathroom, the utility room, toilet, front and side gardens and back garden to do. Ridiculously, we have three toilets between the two of us. And five sinks. I know. We didn't have a kitchen or a living room for a year; at one point I was working seven days a week editing a magazine for which I also wrote 80% of the content, writing from a wobbly pasting table on the concrete floor of the 'living' room which had a trench in the middle of it full of rubble. I'd work from 9am to 8pm and then have to conjure up dinner on a single electric hob or portable grill while Gautier and his dad downed tools and reached for the single malt at the end of a long day's work laying the floor. I was so stressed I ended up with bronchitis and shingles at the same time, and due to my non-existent immune system, it was months before I felt remotely human again.
Everything we've done has been on a budget tighter than Katie Price's face; Gautier has laid the wooden floors throughout absolutely beautifully to the point that there are no joins; it's completely seamless. He fitted a new fireplace, fitted our kitchen, decorated, created a dressing room to house my vast collection of vintage '40s and '50s clothes and way too many pairs of non-vintage shoes, built bespoke shelving, refurbished our G-Plan sideboard in baby pink and is now building me some planters for the vegetables I'm growing. If anyone needs a courgette plant, hit me up.
Don't be alarmed, this is the 'before' picture of our living room. I don't think the trophies pictured were awards for interior design
This was the dining room with its fancy chairs
In all this time we've not had money to go on holiday or away for the weekend to escape the chaos and the dust, so we've pretty much been in the same house 24/7 save for when I go to London or Gautier goes to France. I don't know how we haven't killed each other; suffice to say he's very glad we have a double garage because he now stores himself in there and does a bit of scale modelling (WWII planes, to be exact) to get away from me.
Behold the living room after the dividing wall was knocked down. This was taken on my birthday in 2019 - most of the flowers and cards were from our new friends
This used to be the dining room
In the three years since we first put an offer in on this house, and after all the trials and tribulations of getting here (a confused cat and a truckload of possessions driven by Gautier's dad halfway across France, and halfway up England) we're getting there. I still want to be back at the seaside - I don't feel right being away from it - but thanks to the wonderful friends we've made right here in our street, we may well stay put for a bit longer.
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