On the Road to Blaydon…

“Ah went to Blaydon Races, ’twas on the ninth of Joon,

In eighteen hundred an’ sixty-two, on a summer’s efternoon;

Ah tyuk the ‘bus frae Balmbra’s, an’ she wis heavy laden,

Away we went alang Collingwood Street, that’s on the road to Blaydon”

I have bought a house. Well, I’ve had an offer accepted on a property.

A two up-two down in Blaydon on the outskirts of Newcastle. Some may recognise the name from the Geordie’ Anthem’ Blaydon Races. And it may be a surprise that many of the places mentioned in that 19th-century music hall song still exist. Not the races themselves. They stopped in 1916, and a power station now occupies the site. Yesterday I walked past Balmbras (what was then a Music Hall from where they “took the bus”) and along Collingwood Street. I also drove down Scotswood Road and ended up in Blaydon’ toon’.

So ahead of me lies my fourteenth move. Several people congratulated me as I shared the news of my ‘purchase’. Receiving those congratulations seemed strange, given the reason for my move. My lone ‘celebration’ was with a glass of Newcastle Brown. More apt than bubbly and in keeping with my overall feelings.

As I’ve written earlier, house purchases can be fraught with delay, confusion, and frustration. However, finding my new ‘home’ went very smoothly. I spent two days behind the wheel of a car driving the highways and byways of Newcastle’s environs. I viewed fourteen properties. Shown around by a few estate agents and several owners. I also met several animals.

Ten diffident cats. I would expect no other behaviour. Two amiable dogs (I’m not a dog person but could have happily taken both these home). There was also a somnambulant rabbit, a perky parakeet and a couple of horses at a distance. That’s not counting the rocking horse in one house.

House viewing offers an intrusive insight into people’s lives. An insight I don’t enjoy. It may be hearing the story of a loved one that has passed, leaving the house vacant. Or the separation of a couple (recognise that one), meaning the sale of the house. Of course, there are also more positive stories of a couple marrying and wishing to set up a home together.

The most exciting incident in one particular property came from a knock at the door while I was doing a viewing. The estate agent showing me around opened the door to find a bailiff on the doorstep. That massive individual, dressed in a dark uniform complete with a bodycam, insisted on delivering a court notice to the house owner. It took some moments to persuade the bailiff that neither the Estate Agent nor I was the said owner. Finally satisfied, the bailiff left the notice mentioned above on the doormat. It will be no surprise that my interest in that particular property then waned. The only other striking encounter was the choice of wallpaper in some houses. Large bold spots or broad bright stripes in colours of which van Gogh would be proud.

What’s also interesting is that given the outlay of a substantial amount of money, one spends a comparatively small amount of time deciding to purchase. I spent around 30 minutes looking over the place I chose. Talking to the owners and getting a history of the house. They had an emotional association with the property, given it had been the home of the parents of one of them. Indeed, one of the owner’s fathers built the shed that stood proudly in the small garden. The shed’s substantial construction was carried out so well that it will easily see me out.

A house you choose to purchase must tick the requisite boxes. Can I afford it? Is it in a good state of repair? Has it the desired number, size, and shape of rooms? Is the garden of a manageable size? Is there a degree of privacy? Is the area quiet? However, in the end, it seems to come down to imagining oneself living in the place. Can this house become my home?

The decision to buy therefore seems more emotional the rational. Indeed, once one reaches a decision and an offer is made, one tends to rationalise why that was the right thing to do.

So, the emotional decision made, I now move forward to the far more mundane administrative, legal, and financial process. The ‘searches’ and all the other aspects that solicitors undertake. The decision to buy may take minutes the process of purchasing some months.

I hope if all proceeds smoothly, I will be able to move sometime in early December. Just in time for the start of a Northeastern winter and all the joys that might bring.

That said, there is a sense of anticipation, so maybe congratulation is the correct response from others. As with any new venture, there also comes a sense of trepidation. Significantly, and despite my numerous moves, this is the first house I’ve sought out alone and bought for myself to live in by myself

So even at 66, one can have another ‘first’. Another in life’s succession. From first leaving your parents’ home, first job, car, marriage, child, and, and, and. And as ever, this first comes with that familiar mix of emotions one feels with any first. But living life means constantly moving forward toward that next ‘first’. Until the ultimate ‘last’.




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