Home Ownership

This is part two of my re-capping of the last year or so.

2016 was all-around a year of horrors. It is known. Somewhere in the middle of it, Husband and I found out that the apartment we were renting in New Westminster was being sold. This was the second time that had happened to us in less than two years.

This is hardly the worst story anyone who is a renter in the Greater Vancouver area had, but it’s probably about par for the course. In a nutshell, the housing situation in Vancouver has always been terrible for everyone for anyone below upper middle class.*

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Negatively Fourth Street is No More

Last weekend we handed over the keys. This followed a night of sweeping and polishing a floor that – no matter how much we SWIFFERED HARDER, DAMN IT – still could not be freed of all cat fluff. Those stray hairs and random popcorn kernels are a part of our tenancy that the apartment clung to, like a serial killer who keeps trophies of each victim.

It is hard to know that you’ve cleaned out every nook and cranny when the building has spent the last 86 years making nooks and crannies the primary characteristic of its uniquely vintage facade.

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It’s also hard to decide what I will miss most: the crooked everything, from walls, to door frames, to windows, to floors; the fact that only one plug in the entire apartment is three-pronged; the ever-present pot smell in the hallway; the constant dub-step emanating from the bro downstairs; the trip into the horror film basement every time a fuse needs replacing; the windows that rattle in the wind, leak in the rain, won’t open in the blistering heat, or (if you’re talking about the window in the shower stall) won’t close at all; or the leaky radiator, which, when you list all the others, now seems such a minor complaint that we totally forgot about it until the radiator kicked back into operation mid-September and left a puddle of water that ran directly across the living room because the building is sinking on one side.

Goodbye, Negatively Fourth Street. Goodbye New West Egg. Goodbye Slanty Shanty. Whatever we decided to call you, good riddance.

Positively – Well, Almost Certainly – 4th Street

This past weekend, Husband and I rented an apartment on 4th Street in New Westminster. This three-storey walk-up was built oh-so optimistically one year before the crash (1928). With views of apartment blocks, a cobbled road and a slice of an industry-laded river, it makes us feel like we’re living in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

We’ve even nicknamed the place “New West Egg.”*

Not-so-Beautiful-but-certainly-Damned, our first night in New West Egg was capped off by a trip to Walmart in search of fuses. We’re still working on figuring out how to work a radiator.

Yes: the floor runs at an angle along one wall. The windows are cold and single pane. But it has character. It has tall ceilings, hardwood floors, a toilet from “Simpsons Sears,” and kitchen cupboards painted like zebra stripes. Yes, this character most definitely would wear flapper dresses, dangle cigarette holders from her fingertips, and be prone to drunken public meltdowns.

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*A great joke for humourless fans of Gatsby and/or puns.

An Eventful Week (or, “a week full of events”)

Last Thursday we returned on the train from York to Doncaster, enjoying one last chance to experience the UK with the carefree attitude of souvenir-shopping tourists. No longer was there a life to plan.

Friday we enjoyed one last dinner with my aunt and uncle, our gracious hosts during this two month stint of ego, pride and ambition.

Saturday we flew. (Highlights of said flight included, as always: 1. watching terrible movies you normally have too must self-respect to consider, and 2. walking the tightrope that is the threat of deep-vein thrombosis.)

Sunday I awoke at four-thirty in the morning because jet lag will fuck you up so bad that were I a luchador, I would seriously consider the name “El Jet Lag.” Later, I public-transited my ass downtown with a new-found respect for a metro system that allows you scenic views of something other than centuries-old coal dust-blackened tunnels. There, I was interviewed by Sad Magazine for fantasy fiction contest-related reasons that will become apparent in the next week or so when they go to print.

Monday it was back to work. My routine returned quickly although my confidence did not. I spent the better part of the day fielding questions, simpering at surprised faces, and feeling like a twat everytime I said words like “loo” or “trousers” (or “twat”). Meanwhile, Husband was on the apartment hunt!

Tuesday we viewed a flat an apartment. (See? I did it again! I honestly typed out “flat” because apparently I am an asshole now.) We were back in New West because, as we learned by unexpectedly comparing everywhere we went in Britain to it, New West was that girl next door we never knew we were in love with until she went off and married the high school quarterback.

Wednesday we signed the lease because Vancouver kicks Britain’s arse ass in the rental world. No bureaucracy, just a landlord who took a shine to our wholesome visage. The same day, we bought our new car and welcomed a new nephew into the world.

Which brings us full-circle to Thursday.

That’s all I’ve got. How’ve you been?

On the Embarrassing Act of Coming Home

Today we fly back to Vancouver. The great experiment – one might say – has failed.

I know that over the next week, the explanation will boil itself down to an easy deflection: one or two lines doing their best to contain both logic and pride.

It took us several days and a good dose of demoralization to finally come to the conclusion to come home. We weighed pros and cons, painted competing visions of the future, and tried to think it through in the most logical way possible. We gave ourselves time, and gave ourselves perspective. This was a decision we did not want clouded by such temporary factors as culture shock or bureaucratic annoyances, or faulty expectations.

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Stephen Fry – a Fortuitous Symbol?

It seems quite ironic (or perhaps not ironic at all) that after discovering at long last the unencumbered joy of QI and the limitless glee of Stephen Fry’s memoirs that we should spot him strolling along Piccadilly as we sip our organic coffee.

I do not believe in signs or fate or anything of the sort. They are a trick of psychology: a confirmation bias wherein we see what we want in order to justify our desires or decisions. Thus, seeing Stephen Fry in London is not a sign that we have made the right decision in moving here, or that everything will turn out fine. Yet it seems so obvious a sign. Prior to the sighting, did I not just post not-one-but-two Stephen Fry quotes (as some allegedly nuanced depiction of my inner self)?

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The Last Scene of The Graduate

This is dizzying, this running away to England. The excitement! The anxiety! The rollercoaster of emotion!

Aviary Photo_130301718723210837As Husband said, it probably won’t feel like we actually live there until months from now when suddenly one moment we realize somewhere along the way we adopted a new routine. Our alarm clock will have a regular setting, our morning a usual commute. The newness will have worn off.

Aviary Photo_130301719021520017Until then, it will feel like a vacation. But a stressful one. Like some madcap mid-1980s National Lampoon’s movie where every step is fraught with adventure: everything goes wrong and the stakes have never been higher! Will we make it to Wally World? WILL WE?!

Aviary Photo_130301719522840724There’s always a lingering sensation: when the exhilaration fades what will remain? As scary as it seems when I let the overwhelming feeling in, the real answer is: “so much.”

The Turning Point

By virtue of waking up early to get everything out of our apartment, I am at work a whole fifty minutes early. The near-silence is astounding. I say “near” because a diligent few chatter on phones in the distance and the barista at the coffee stand is organizing her till. But the usual din of ringing phones, insolent queries, and idle gossip has yet to cycle in.

Patches of darkness cling to corners of the office: lights not yet turned on because there is not yet anyone to illuminate. It’s a strange feeling, something of a parallel and/or flip-side to leaving our home this morning and staring one last time at the blank walls and swept floors. From here I will spent one more day at this job: one more day of holding all this information in my mind. At 4.30 I will let it go.

From there we drive my rattling, old car (and its backseat of miscellaneous furniture and throw pillows) to my parents’ house. The adventure will have not begun yet (because that takes place next Thursday) but it will be limbo. Purgatory even. What else could it be? Husband and I will be awaiting a judgment to be handed down by… well, ourselves, really. Do we have what it takes to cash in and run away?

I guess we’ll find out.

Packing my Library

After spending the majority of the years 2001 through to 2007 going to university and working in two different bookstores, I managed to accumulate several hundred books. I counted once mid-2005 and it was about 350. More gathered since, both before and after the Grand Library Merger with Husband’s collection in 2011. Even after the Moving House Purges of 2006, 2009, and 2012, I would reckon that we entered July 2013 with about 400-500 books.

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