Wow. It's nearly six months since we've been living in our new house in Walthamstow. Where did the time disappear to?!
Sure, we've got a long way to go before it really feels like home - floors to be tongue and grooved (I don't know what that means), front and back gardens to be tended to, wardrobes to sort and categorise (NICOLA THIS IS NOT A PRIORITY) and the hanging of prints and photos to splash some personality around the place. Last week we finally purchased an ironing board. The fridge door is a bit wonky. Nevertheless, we're in and it's a smashing feeling.
Alas, moving back to the Stow meant moving out of my parents' Crystal Palace house where our temporary 'about 4 months, is that OK?' stay morphed into an epic 1 year, 1 month residency while our new gaff was being renovated. You know when celebs move themselves into hotels for like a year? It was like that, without the media attention. (Not even a mention in the Croydon Advertiser. Tut.)
Me and my better half first arrived in SE19 on a windy night back in October 2013, knackered and a bit emosh and laden with gear despite the majority of our life stuff safely locked away in storage.
I could have sworn I saw a mild flash of panic behind the smiles on my parents' faces as items of various shapes and sizes kept coming and coming from the car. Despite this, they welcomed us with open arms and swiftly executed 'Operation Move In Middle Daughter And Husband' with skill, precision and patience as boxes were swiftly unpacked and decisions made on the spot. 'Tennis Racket?' asked Alex. 'Garage!' commanded Dad efficiently. 'Clothes?' said Nicola. 'On temporary hanging rail already assembled in bedroom!' instructed Mum with possibly a clipboard in hand. 'Clothes? said Nicola sheepishly. 'On the... what, more clothes?!' said Mum and Dad nervously. Ahem.
Within weeks of being ensconced in their home I soon realised we were in for a special ride. I documented my preliminary findings on Facebook:
Alex and I have been at my parent's house for one week. Initial observations:
- Mum and Dad have an exceptional range of condiments, it is constantly like Christmas.
- There is a well stocked fridge in the garage exclusively for beer, wine and champagne.
- Dad is the master of the dishwasher. Any mavericks trying to pack it a different way are not welcome.
- I still don't know where the can opener lives.
- The house phone can sometimes ring 9 times in an hour.
- Norbury would benefit from an extension of the Northern Line.
- My Mum knows everyone in Crystal Palace; neighbours, children from her school, politicians, paper boys.
- Crystal Palace is cool but I'm too exhausted to be cool.
- There is a lot of laughter.
- Mum and Dad - you are patient, kind, hilarious and super super lovely and we are very grateful.
Before long we were settled into a new room, a new commute and a new routine. Moving back in with your folks could go either way I guess. No doubt at times it was a complete arse for us to be there. Mum and Dad live in a lovely house on a quiet residential street, have a ton of friends in the area and are sociable and active, so it can't have been easy when we crash landed with our barmy lives and generally created pandemonium.
They were nothing short of spectacular. We had delicious meals cooked and were fed and wined to bursting, unsuspecting subjects of my Mum's own (Wo)Man V. Food experiment on a nightly basis. Washing and ironing were executed to professional dry cleaning standard. Lifts to and from the train station were granted without us even asking and Dad Cabs© was back in business (established circa 2000 when poor Roy would transport me to various nightspots around Croydon and I'd push my luck by pretending he was a cabbie, dropping a 'cheers mate' as I coolly exited the car in an appalling outfit that flashed too much leg).
Nothing was ever too much trouble. Burning the midnight oil at work, attending nocturnal gigs, returning hammered from weddings (clamouring through the door shouting 'SSSSHHHHHHH' and pretending not to be drunk, Alex wearing my hat and me spending the next few hours weeping with my head down the loo) were met with a patient smile and a good-humoured chuckle the next sore-headed day. The weeks soon became months and not once did they let their general fabulousness slip. Not once.
We finally moved out of my parents' home and into our new place in November 2014. I'm not ashamed to say that when my Mum and Dad left after helping us unpack I sobbed like a little kid. The memory of my Mum turning around to wave as I leant unsteadily against our new front door, both with tears streaming down our faces, is still imprinted on my brain. Don't get me started on my Dad rushing ahead to the car as he had 'something in his eye'. Sob.
So with the benefit of a bit of time to reflect on the months gone by, I now remember, with great affection, the following things about living with my folks:
- Their extraordinarily loud front room TV which we had to SHOUT over to be heard and whose transmissions were, I suspect, picked up by the local Crystal Palace transmitting station.
- Me interviewing a world-famous jazz artist via Skype for Jazz FM and all the time praying my lovely Mum wouldn't knock on our bedroom door and say 'Alex, your pants are washed'.
- Their endearing habit of sharing a collection of reading spectacles, with Mum often wearing a set to help her locate a spare pair for Dad. Which were on her head.
- Their ambitious plans for home improvement. Not content with an extension of their kitchen during our residence, they also chucked in a complete of resurfacing of their drive at the same time for good measure. This meant that on some Saturday mornings there were no less than 10 of us on site at any given time. Chuck in the window cleaner and you had a party. With one kettle. And one toilet.
- Dad relaying careful instructions on how to manage the complex recycling and food waste process in operation at their house each time they went away on a mini break / holiday. Me, trying desperately to keep up as Dad talked me through the coloured bins, furiously scribbling notes and reciting it back by rote 'Paper recycling out on a Tuesday, food waste Thursday’. Dad nervously correcting me, wondering whether it was in fact wise to go away in fear of returning to the Winter of Discontent and a rat-infested abode.
- Them arriving back home from a cocktail bar in Crystal Palace one night, Mum absolutely smashed on one Cosmopolitan, as they giggled like teenagers before conking out on the sofa. Proper role reversal with me dishing out instructions like a big bossy boots - 'MUM, GO TO BED YOU'LL FEEL WORSE ON THE SOFA’ and 'DAD, DRINK A PINT OF WATER BEFORE YOU GO TO BED'. (The audacity after head-down-toilet-gate!).
- Being unintentionally hilarious around the house; like when they grumbled lightheartedly about the backache their new mattress caused them only to realise they'd been sleeping on the wrong side up for 5 months and their first foray into online food shopping when they ordered 28 toilet rolls in error through overzealous clicking, thought it was a hoot when they arrived in abundance and chatted to the delivery guy for at least 15 minutes at the door ('such a lovely bloke') thus disrupting Sainsbury's online shopping deliveries across the South East that day.
- Mum getting her words all in a muddle, such as when dispensing medicine (Nicola: ‘Ouch, I've got a cracking headache'. Mum: 'take an Ibunurofen darling'), enquiring about our social life (‘Alex love, how were the FooFoo Fighters?’) and calling out 'Nic-Mich-Er-Jo-Alex-tut-Ann-argh-Joy I mean Roy, can you bring up some toilet rolls please?' due to exhaustion after managing a thousand and one things that day.
- Their insatiable appetite for quiz shows. Surely my IQ must have increased 10-fold after exposure to a steady stream of The Chase, University Challenge, Pointless and Just Connect to name a few. Some nights felt like intense pub quiz boot camp, and I often wondered if they were secretly preparing an application for Eggheads. (You so want them on your pub quiz team by the way).
My lovely Mum and Dad. I wouldn't change a single thing. We owe you so much. It was a very special time, and we'll never forget it. I hope I've thanked you enough, but this is just my way of making sure.
Dr Seuss says 'don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened'. I try to remember this every time I overhear a bit of The Chase, think of you and well up.