When my x-husband and I decided a little over a year ago that we were no longer making each other happy and the best way forward may be to split up, I thought since it was a somewhat mutual decision, we would be able to do this amicably. I even said as much to friends and was greeted with much laughter and sneering. It turns out my naivety knows no bounds and my friends were right. There was nothing amicable about the split and of course, the children are the ones that are the biggest losers in the whole debacle.
But they are not the only losers – we have all lost. I have lost a family, who no matter how much they say they are “there for me” cannot by any logical means be that unless they are willing to take sides against their own son, brother and cousin. So no. I have lost them. And they were my family for more than a decade! It is a colossal loss!
More than that, I have been kicked out of my marital home, by a man who swore before God that he would take care of me until the day I died! Seeing as shelter is one of our core human needs, the idea of being homeless causes an inordinate amount of stress. And what a stressful 7 months this year has been so far!
This will be a long, convoluted post, so be prepared to keep up!
I started looking at houses and flats to buy, right from the beginning of this year, as by that time we knew well enough that a reconciliation was out of the question. But the problem was that the divorce hadn’t gone through and therefore I had no money to put down as a deposit. This somewhat complicated matters. And with the budget I had, there wasn’t a whole lot of variety I could choose from. I found one particular little house that I really fancied! It had two bedrooms, a tiny garden and was literally a street away form our marital home. So when the kids were bigger, they could possibly walk between homes! It seemed perfect. Except that I had no money yet. Let’s call this ‘House P’. So I asked the agent of House P, if the owner wouldn’t consider letting me rent the house until my settlement paid out and I could buy it then. Since the owner had already moved out, it would be a good deal, I thought. But no, the owner of House P was very eager to actually SELL the house and they didn’t want to rent the house.
So I kept looking. I found another place I quite liked and put an offer in on that. It was almost accepted, but two days later some ass came along with a cash offer (and I still hadn’t any money to counter it) and the seller took the other offer instead. (In retrospect, this was a good thing. It was also a flat complex and I’m not sure my cats would have liked it, even though I only had ONE cat at that particular time).
So I started looking further afield and actually found a fairly nice place a little distance away. It would mean a longer drive to work, but there was a tiny private garden for Mr Cat, and once you were inside the little flat, it felt quite homey. Plus it was down the road from a very good friend, so I could see a lot of wine-drinking over weekends! This offer was actually accepted, but low and behold, once again I was ousted by someone who could come up with the money faster than I could.
If you have ever bought a house, you will know that there is a lot of angst involved in making offers to purchase, those offers being accepted and the actual sale going through! Are you keeping up, I have made and lost offers on three houses so far!
I was getting really desperate by now. I looked at almost every flat in one of the new developments nearby, and to be honest, the place gave me the heebiejeebies! It is basically a human anthill. Some of the complexes have no grass and not even a parking space for visitors. So I started looking at smaller houses in less desirable neighbourhoods. I knew every single house for sale within a 40km radius! An agent would call with a listing and I would be able to tell them I had already seen that particular place and why it wouldn’t do. (At least once a week!).
Then, soon after the actual divorce had been signed off by a judge (although no actual money had yet been paid to me) Mr X started getting tetchy about me still living in “his” house. And to be honest, it hadn’t been a joy living there for many months and in fact, I spent many hours sitting in my parked car outside because I couldn’t bear to go inside. So it was time to move. It was time to maybe consider renting first (although this really wasn’t my first choice, because it just meant paying off someone else’s bond and throwing money away!). But the situation was getting desperate. So one night, at the end of February, I set out to look at two flats for rent.
The one was inside the Human Anthill and the other was actually in the same neighbourhood where we were living, so I went and looked at that one first. I really rather liked it, and said to the owner that I just needed to look at one more place, but I think I would take it, I would call him later that evening.
I walked into the Human Anthill place and it was DISGUSTING. There were dead cockroaches everywhere and the place had a very nasty smell to it. I asked if the complex allowed cats and was told it didn’t, so I really didn’t see any point in looking around any further. I went home and called the other guy, who informed me that someone had come to look at the place after me, and had already paid the deposit. Sorry. Ah well, wouldn’t want him for a landlord anyway, eh? The search would have to continue. Or…would it?
Next morning (Wednesday 28 February) I get a phone call from the agent of the Anthill place. They have reconsidered and they would allow me to bring the cat, but I would have to apply for the credit check and pay the deposit before noon. (No coercing of a desperate woman there!). So I call the X and tell him if he wants me out of the house he had better come up with the deposit – which is no small amount, by the way; it entails TWO month’s rent, plus the actual rent for the first month, plus some admin fees.
He is super keen to get rid of me and magics the money from somewhere (on condition that when my settlement does come through, this will be deducted from there). Whatever Buster, I’m desperate! So I take a day and a half off work and pick up my keys the next day at noon. As I walk into the place with the agent, my stomach sinks. This is the first proper look I’ve taken…there are STILL piles of dead roaches everywhere, PLUS live ones in the kitchen cupboards!
There are no door handles on the bathroom doors, nor any towel railings, which have seemingly been ripped from the walls. The blinds are all shredded to pieces and there are literally chunks of plaster that have been knocked from the walls. I don’t know what kind of animals lived here…but when I open the garage, there is the reason for the awful smell that permeated the place; A whole pile of clothes (clearly unwashed) and shit (not literal feaces, just stuff). The agent sees the look of mighty disgust on my face and offers to clean everything up, fumigate again and bring me the keys later that evening. I agree to those terms and go home to start packing.
Moving is stressful at the best of times, but let me tell you, this was a hard pack! I had to split up ten years’ worth of shared living and memories. I had to decide what goes, what stays, what the kids will need. And to top it off, I am less than thrilled about where I am moving to. I spend the afternoon packing boxes and wiping tears and snot away. It’s not pretty!
Then, at around four, I receive a phone call from the agent that is selling House P. There have been no offers on the house and they are willing to rent the place out to me, on condition that it is still for sale and if someone else wants to buy it, I’m out. What now? I have already signed the contract for the Anthill and I’m not sure I can get out of it, although I do call that agent and tell him to keep his bloody keys, I want out of the deal! (He gets back to me the next morning saying that although they will pay back my deposit and oh so generously, the admin fees, they will keep back the first month’s rent until they can find a new tenant, but I needn’t worry as he already has someone lined up and they should only deduct a day or two’s rent. That seems fair so I agree. Naturally, because of the state of the place, they DON’T actually get new tenants until the END of that month and I lose all that money. But hey, that is my sort of luck!)
I move in on the Saturday. The X is so keen to get me out, he even hires a trailer and his parents jump in and help me move too. I have barely settled in that evening, boxes still standing everywhere, when an agent calls to let me know that she has someone that is interested in buying the place. What the hell?? No-one has been interested for months! She wants to bring them the next day, but on account of all the boxes I refuse. They come on the Tuesday instead. On Thursday I get a phone call from the owner informing me that he has accepted an offer and here is my 2 month’s notice.
I don’t know if you realise under how much stress I had been up to this point, but at this point I have a complete and utter mental breakdown! I can’t get out of bed the next morning. I call my psychiatrist and make an emergency appointment. I want out. Of life. I. Am. Done. She is naturally concerned and wants to check me into a hospital. As much as I would like a time-out from life at this point, I simply can’t – there are things that need to happen, not the least of which, me finding a new bloody place to live! Also, my horse has to move to a new yard.
I decide to to take a week off anyway and go and stay with a friend in a different town. This is also where I acquired two additional cats, but this is covered in another post in more detail.
I come back and the search for a new house continues. I find a place. On the wrong side of the railway tracks…But it seems livable. I make an offer and it is accepted. There is just one glitch. There are tenants in this particular house, whose lease has just been extended to the end of July. I need to move at the end of May. Problem. In fact a problem that leaves me sleepless and freaked out for many weeks. I beg and plead with the guy who bought House P and he agrees to let me stay for an additional two months. Breathe a little sigh of relief.
But the problems don’t end there. The day of the move is a weekday. So there is almost no-one to help me. I have asked someone who is known by someone I know with a trailer and some men, to come and pick up the really heavy stuff such as the fridge, the washing machine the beds and such like. The rest of the stuff, I will have to move myself. It is not a long distance. But there is a problem. New owner wants to move into his place by 12 and I can only get the keys to MY new place at bloody 13:00! So driving back and forth for ten trips is just not an option.
Two days before moving I run into an acquaintance (who has since become a friend as you shall soon see) with a small bakkie (a pickup truck for non-South Africans). I ask if she would help me move and to my surprise she agrees. So now I have a small half-tonne bakkie and a VW Polo. And another friend has offered to bring her car along as well.
The day of the move arrives. I got up early and starting packing the last boxes and shoving things in my car. Friend 1 arrives and we stuff her car too. Acquaintance arrives and we pack her bakkie. Shit, there is still too much stuff!! Where did it all come from? Is there a nest somewhere? I go off to find a trailer for hire and while out on my search, Friend 1 calls to tell me that some of my carthorse guys have arrived and can we not ask them to move some of the stuff? Of course we can! The move is not far and we won’t overload the horse! And ask the driver and the guy with him if they will help load and unload!
I arrive back with the trailer and the two “carties” are put to work. If I can say one thing for carthorse drivers, it is that they are AMAZING at packing! They pack the hired trailer and once the other trailer arrives for the “big stuff” I send them on their way to the other house (obviously the horse moves a little slower than a car). I do however call the agent at the other end, telling her to look out for two guys on a horse cart coming with the first of my furniture. She laughs, thinking I’m joking. She clearly doesn’t know me very well!
Acquaintance has since come in very handy, knowing shit like where to turn off the water mains and disconnecting the washing machine. Instant upgrade to “friend 2” right there! But wait, she has more in her yet!
So we arrive en mass at the new house. There isn’t enough place in front of my house to park the horse, so she is moved in front of a neighbour’s garage. Slight tactical error on making a good impression on new neighbours, as she promptly has a shit right there. Neighbour-lady comes storming out with a disgusted prune-face moaning about the mess. I try and introduce myself as the new neighbour, but get flat ignored in favour of her shouting at the two carties. I decide to ignore the old cow for now. I tell the carties to move the horse, clean the dung and wait for me as I would like to buy them some lunch.
This takes a while longer than anticipated as we still have to return the hired trailer as well as pick up my cats that are still locked in the old house’s bathroom!
When we eventually return, I am greeted by not only prune-faced-neighbour-lady, now introducing herself as some-sort-of-cheese-for-a-surname, instantly earning herself the nickname of “Mrs Cheese” but also the Neighbourhood Watch which she had summoned to come and deal with the unwanted elements the new neighbour left in front of her garage! The joke is on her though. I have worked with these particular neighbourhood guys before and they know me by name! So she is left with egg on her face as they report into the radio: “Oh no problem here, it is only M from Cart Horse!”. And then I stifle a snigger as they kindly take my phone number to add me to the notification list.
But alas, it is not the end. She is not be silenced without the last word. She comes stomping over to tell me how unimpressed she is by the “mess” in front of her garage. This all, despite the fact that it has been scooped up, brushed away AND rinsed with a bucket of water, so all that now remains is a puddle of really rather fresh water! I have had a stressful few months and I just snap. I physically grab her and tell her that I really don’t have the time for her shit. She threatens to send her son over later and I tell her to do just that and stomp away before I do any real physical harm. Acquaintance-turned-friend2 is left in the driveway listening to her whinging and trying to explain to her that people actually PAY for shit to put in their gardens, but this is lost on Mrs Cheese.
Now the fun really starts. Unpacking! But with my sensitive constitution, I promptly get the worst migraine in the history of migraines. I spend the evening alternately hugging the toilet or hanging up curtains (which frankly, does nothing to ease a pounding headache!).
Friend 2 unpacks the house and proves to be very useful indeed by building the kids’ bunkbed as well as installing shelves in their cupboard. (If her husband ever kicks her out, I will marry her!) By the time she leaves, there are only a few books left to be unpacked. Plus I call her back because in my insane-head-aching state, I can’t find one of the cats. She kindly turns around and we find the little bastard in a cupboard!
I spend the rest of the night contemplating calling her back again to take me to the hospital. I am foaming at the mouth and shaking uncontrollably. I have never known a migraine like this one! But I survive. Just like I have survived the past 17 months. Life shall continue. (Note to the Universe, this is not, I repeat, NOT a challenge!).
Some of us took no time at all to settle in!
Friend 2 making herself useful while I’m hugging the bog