Last night I dreamt that my landlady wanted us out. In my dream the flat was the same one we live in in reality, located in South London, with the same annoyingly abundant downlights that blow far too frequently. Though, as is often the case in dreams, the flat was amalgamated with various fragmented memories of houses from films, my earlier life, photos, etc. because, beyond the flat, we also had a weirdly out-of-place 1970s carport and possibly a back garden, though I can’t be sure.
As in real life, we had lived in the dream flat for nearly four years and our contract was due for renewal. In what I thought was a routine visit, our landlady, Annie, sprang the news on me that her and her partner were moving to Dubai. I was unsure of what the ramifications of this were going to be, but she continued to look at me expectantly, as though I should know where this was leading. My immediate thoughts were that she intended to sell, but I didn’t want to voice anything for fear of putting ideas in her head.
‘So I’m afraid…’ she trailed off.
I wasn’t following.
‘Well, it’s not as if it’s ten minutes away, you know?’
Still not following.
The interaction continued awkwardly in this fashion, without anything specific being said. Then, somehow, mentally I seemed to connect with what she was getting at, without her ever explicitly saying so: she wanted us out, so she could do the place up and increase the rates.
I burst into tears, clutching desperately at her, embarking on a great sentimental appeal. We love living here… The kids have just started at the local school…*sob sob*
It was an unpleasant experience. Both for unconscious and, later, conscious self.
“Fair play” the Doc said when I told him—oddly both in the dream and in the morning when I woke up. We’d had a good run— four years with no increase in rent. Pretty good innings for London, he felt.
Obviously dreams are dreams. Sometimes reflective of other anxieties and personal battles raging in one’s subconscious, sometimes a clear correlation with the thoughts one has had the preceding day. Best not to read too much into it. Yet there are times when the feelings, the emotions triggered within a dream, tend to linger. Resinous, sullying, nagging, disconcerting…
Morally, philosophically, I’m squared with the prospect of renting. But psychologically, renting has an ephemerality to it which feeds a quiet yet constant anxiety within me. That said, nothing is ever really as solid as we would like it—is it? In many ways, home ownership (or having a mortgage) is no less ephemeral. I could lose my high paying job tomorrow, say, and have to default on my payments and live out of a cardboard box in the Big Yellow car park down the road. And yet, there is a rootedness to owning a home; there is a sense of accumulation, the building of assets, as it were.
The not-owning-my-own-home thing is a frustrating one. One that chips away at my confidence. Like not owning a car, not having a driver’s licence or any savings whatsoever. At the age of 35, I have somehow become arrested in studenthood, scrounging money at the end of the month because my cost of living far exceeds my earnings. (But then, I was interning when pregnant, so not really much opportunity for career development and accumulation there.) Owning a house is not something I desperately need so much as it is one of the major barometers that society measures success by, and as such, I feel like I’ve not only missed the boat, but am standing lonely and exposed at the deserted marina with nothing but holes in my pockets.
The Doc and I were at a wedding a while back and someone said to—nay, told—us that we needed to ‘get serious’ and buy a house. There were so many offensive aspects to this mofo’s demand that I was unable to single-out one to take issue with him on. The suggestion that us having two children together was somehow not serious enough in his book might have been somewhere to begin.
That’s just one idiot, but I know he’s not alone in his conservative and myopic views and try though I might, it can be difficult not to begin judging yourself by such—at times, arbitrary— standards. Regardless of any of this, the truth of it is I would buy a house if I could. After all, most of us have a basic drive to create and personalise our own living space. Like the rest of the rent class in London however, it isn’t going to happen without some sort of divine providence, or extremely obscure yet very wealthy relative bequeathing their entire estate to me.
Or perhaps we’ll just have to look to the kids, who, fortunately, already seem to understand the emergent dynamic. The same day as the dream, our three-year-old offered to give us some money from her piggy bank to buy a house and a car. That’s very kind sweetie—you hold onto those pennies and in a couple of decades, you should be able to assist your dreadful parents with a deposit. All I can hope is that the broken state of her coin-stuffed piggy (mainly worthless small-change Norwegian kroner) isn’t a sign of things to come.