So, having slung my hook from an eight year relationship, not to mention Beaky Hoose, (on which I had lavished much love and care, but not one nail or skelf of which actually belonged to me), I needed somewhere to live. Accordingly, I sat myself down with S1homes and a ballpark figure of what I might afford, and steeled myself to see where that might end up being. Like a lot of people, I was hoping for this total awesome pad; also like a lot of people, I had a budget that was nowhere near sufficient for one. Still, there were a couple of places. One in the wilds of Dumfries and Galloway, for instance, which required a lot of work, was nowhere near anywhere to work, and would have been unworkable without a car (not in budget). Another was in the wilds of the Highlands (ditto).
Or, there was this one place. It had just come on the market that very morning. It was walking distance from my work. It had a garden. It was (just) in my budget. I went to see it. It had had one careful old lady owner since the year dot, and so needed a lot of love, but oh, the feeling inside was really welcoming. And the space. And the potential. It was… perfect?
Well, you never get that one, though, do you. You certainly never get the first one. You certainly never, ever…
Well, bloody hell, that’s a new one.
And so, a lot of nerve-wracking paperwork later, Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach became mine. Well, it mostly became the mortgage company’s, but you know, technically. Twelve days before Christmas, too.
I should probably also say that Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach isn’t it’s real name, before I waste the time of anyone Googling it to try and come rob the place. It doesn’t have a real name, and why would it? It’s got a number and a street, as befits an ex-council semi in an ex-council scheme, in a town that’s at least 50% ex-council schemes, and at least three of my colleagues have at some point lived in a house so completely identical that one of them asked if mine “still has that weird glass wall at the top of the stairs?” (yes). (It also has not been touched, interiorly, for even longer than I have been alive, but more on that later.)
The point is, giving a house like this a name, especially an overly long, Gaelic name, is just so pointless, naff and pretentious that the only way I could possibly get away with it is claiming it’s “ironic”, and in all fairness it absolutely is in no way ironic. It translates (badly) to Castle of the Moonbat, because it is my home and therefore my castle, and I am that moonbat, and if you can’t do stupid things just because all the things you love doing are (alas) stupid things when you’re middle aged and single, and finally, finally there is nobody here to give you grief about how stupid they are, when the hell can you start doing them? An asteroid might land on my head tomorrow.
I’m not putting a sign up for the postie, I do have some standards. I might, however, make a cross-stitch for the hall.
On which note, the doing up of Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach.
As I say, when the G Monster and I split up, I was unfortunate in that not one bit of Beaky Hoose, (though I had named that one as well, for the pretentious, squinty portico over the front door) was mine. I was fortunate, however, in that at least the gaff was pretty massive. (“Oh look,” I had said to the G Monster before he bought it. “It’s got a granny flat out back! Someone might need that to live in!”) Didn’t think it would be me, did I. Ba dum tish. Still, at least the bedroom had actually been done up (by me, come to think of it, again, about a week before we split up). The rest hadn’t, and still had even the original nails sticking out of the original floor from when we first moved in, and the original tiles hanging half-smashed off the original what-used-to-be-the-kitchen.
Two months in there proved to be good practice for Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach, however, because that lacked even more of the sort of features I’m used to. Hey, there’s a reason it was within my budget! And I spent the first year at Beaky Hoose in the granny flat too, while we were doing the rest of the place up (time is cyclical, I guess), not to mention that year I will quickly gloss over in an unplumbed cabin in France with dodgy electrics. If anyone was prepared for this, it was me!
Needless to say, I was so not prepared for this.
Trouble started making itself known almost the instant I stepped onto the property with a mate and a van. I went to take the meter reading; me mate went to check the water. The gas meter was in the outside box that needs one of those little triangular keys, and while I had obtained one, the whole box turned out to have been tied shut and the keyhole filled with glue, for some unfathomable reason, and once we had wrangled it all apart this stench of gas immediately wafted out and lo, the reason wasn’t so unfathomable after all. You cheap, dangerous bastards, whoever you were. Emergency call to the emergency gas line, here we go. Heating off, here we also go.
During my two minute call to the emergency gas line, my mate discovered how to get the water on, prompting an impressive jet of water right across the kitchen behind her, flooding the place nicely while I shouted at her to, No, turn it off, whereupon the gas-guy-on-the-phone shouted at me that I had assured him I had already turned it off and what was I playing at, my other mate walked into the kitchen with her hubby and dog and informed me, not unreasonably, that that “Oh, Christ” wasn’t the welcome she had expected after coming all this way to help, and I informed Mr Gas-guy-on-the-phone that although I had said two seconds ago there wasn’t a dog on the property, there was now, and no, for the love of God, don’t shut him in the back garden, there’s a hole in the gate big enough for a St Bernard to get through and he’ll be away and run over and oh my God, was buying this place a colossal mistake and is this why you never, ever get the first one you see? Because it’s cursed?
After that, it rained the whole time I was loading the van with only what I needed to survive, but at least nothing else went catastrophically wrong. My wee brother turned up just in time for all the work to be over and announced he was buying me a chip supper from the roving chip supper van, which is a novelty I have never encountered before (the van, not my wee brother buying me a… wait, he didn’t have any cash and I ended up buying him a, well anyway). He did take me to ASDA for pot noodles, since there is no cooker or anything in the place, (or even a ring main, as we eventually discovered), and I got fan heaters as well. And then everyone went home, and I was left in my home, sans bed, heat, hot water, telly, the works, to ponder whether or not this had been such a great idea after all.
Funny thing about the fan heaters, I noticed the plugs really heating up, too, after about an hour of use, and indeed, an ex who is a plasterer came to give me a quote on the ceilings (which we both agreed looked like Spider Pig had artexed them) and said they are notorious for starting fires when left unattended. In winter, woo! So I had the fabulous choice of whether I wanted to burn the place down in the night, or let the pipes freeze and drown it all.
Still. Five days later, and right on the verge of the very cold snap, I eventually got the heat and hot water back on. Seven days later, I eventually had the internet, and ten days later, on the very verge of Christmas, the washing machine finally turned up, saving me from the ignominity of having to attend work in a series of increasingly ornate ballgowns. Of course they didn’t plumb it in, as paid for, and got shirty with me over it, so a hero(ine) from Fife very kindly drove all the way down with a fridge and freezer someone was throwing out in Dundee and plumbed the bugger in, and all hail to her.
Christmas day was me, on my tod, with a selection of cheeses, a Christmas tree in the lounge (and nothing else) and a bunch of home audio typing work, while the washing machine washed everything I could lay my hands on. By comparison to everything in the previous two weeks, it was HEAVEN.