As I get older my desire for a place of my own increases. Simon never worried about it; his father would suggest on rare occasions that we take out a mortgage and become landlords but it never happened. Simon was too busy buying Very Nice stuff for himself and was secure in the conviction that the Church would look after him come what may. I, being downtrodden and terrified of my own shadow let alone anyone else's dutifully kept quite and, to be honest, the housing market scared me. How I managed in front of a class (or classes) every day continues to befuzzle me.
Now I'm 48 (I'm clinging to the 8 until I have to let it go at the very last second), sick, damnably poor and at the whim of landlords. It is a frustrating experience. Despite ourselves, Mark and I cannot help but play a game in which we state what we would do if this were our property. Maybe we both have a masochistic streak, I don't know.
Magnolia sucks. I like the flower but the colour - ugh. I'd prefer stronger ones but, of course, changing the colour of the walls is pointless. I had great fun in a former rectory and went wild with period colours, painting after I'd put Flavia to bed or before she woke in the morning but at least then there was some security of tenure. I feel a tad embarrassed sometimes when Flavia's friends turn up and the window frames are quietly rotting, the paint chipping and slightly stained but cross my fingers and hope they know we are merely tenants. We could, of course, ask the landlord to redecorate but what would be the point? If they agreed then the colour choice would hardly be ours and it would, in all probability, result in the rent going up. The advantage, of course, is that if we add an extra scuff or two it is unnoticeable.
The only change we've made is to have loft insulation installed. There was none but being poor does have some advantages - under the Government scheme we got it done for free. Unfortunately they don't have a similar scheme for double glazing or solar panels but there we go.
It's the lack of security that bothers me most. At any time our landlord could decide he wants to sell the house or convert it into flats or a brothel or - well, just about anything. We have a stack of boxes cluttering the former outhouse and neither of us want to let them go; last time we gave our boxes away our landlady decided she wanted to sell the house and gave us a couple of months' notice (ouch). It took us longer to move than we had anticipated and drove home the knowledge that neither of us is as young (or as healthy) as we once were which really made us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
So we accept the tired paintwork, the little bits crumbling here and there and enjoy the house as much as we can. There is, however, one advantage to being a tenant - double glazing salesmen can't get away fast enough!