Yes – I was meant to write this yesterday.
This was our first house. I may have written about this before, but when we got married in 1979 we didn’t really have anywhere to live. My husband had come over from Poland – one of the few at that time who did everything absolutely legally, which meant that everything took twice as long, but at least he had the freedom to travel back when he chose , and his parents were not hampered from doing anything they needed or wanted to do. That was important in communist Poland. For example they could have been stopped from getting passports or not been allowed to come to our wedding. In order for this to happen he had to pay off his studies in Poland. Education was free, but not if you decided to leave the country.
Luckily his mother had saved up for years in order to buy him a little car -a Fiat 126 – not the one in the picture – which he was able to sell and pay off all his debts (to society)! So, car was gone, but where to live? At first we lived in his aunt’s house where I had been renting a bedsit before I knew him. Then my godfather stepped in and rented us quite a nice large flat, unfortunately filled with many very ugly odds and ends of furniture. But – better than nothing, of course. We couldn’t get a mortgage because my saving record was pretty abominable and Jacek hadn’t been in the country long enough to provide one, even though he had worked from the first week. Then I had a brainwave. We would apply to the council for accommodation. I had no idea if we were eligible or not – but nothing ventured, nothing win. I applied, and quite soon we were offered something in Northolt. I did not want to live there, so we rejected this offer. But then Ealing Council hit upon the idea of selling derelict accommodation to suitable buyers. They did it quite imaginatively.
They compiled a list of properties which had been due for demolition and put them up for sale in a lottery. To take part in this lottery you had to put down a £5 deposit. That was quite a tidy sum. But we collected our pennies together and put our name down for a number of the cheaper houses. They were all pretty abominable, and we weren’t allowed to view them inside until after we had won one. Still, they came with a 100% mortgage – very important for us – and no repayments for three years. Plus grants for things like bathrooms and insulation etc. All well and good. By then we had our first child so there was not a lot of time to think about anything else. We settled down to wait for our number to come up.
And it did! We got a letter saying we were second on the list for no 22 Grove Road – if the first people did not want it for any reason then we could have it. It was a bit disappointing but encouraging nevertheless. We waited another six months and it came up again. I was livid. Luckily I had kept the letter saying we could buy it if the original lottery winners didn’t want it. I rang the council in high dudgeon but the very nice woman at the end of the line just asked me to wait till this round of the lottery was over. She would ensure that our name came up. And so it did. We were then interviewed to make sure we had the wherewithal to do it up – skills, or money or knowledge. Jacek had the skills, I had some knowledge and money was a dream. But we got it.
And then we had a look. That’s what you can see in the photo. Inside lived a man who apparently had no need for ensuite facilities. There was no water, or electricity. But there was a gas tap.
He had to move out, helped by a medical student we knew who removed his mattress and general filth. I’m afraid I don’t know what happened to him but I hope he found somewhere a little more salubrious.
It took us 18 months before we could move in.
Somehow I am sure I have written about this before but I am too embarrassed or lazy to check. Who can remember?
Don’t forget to give me a word or a phrase for the next post.