The room is small and hot and airless, taken up almost entirely by a long desk surrounded by padded chairs with worn seats and hanging threads. Beans busies herself by pacing up and down in the small space between the desk and one grey wall stopping every few lengths to pat my bag and demand a(nother) ‘dak‘ (snack). The woman with bright cherry hair sits opposite and talks about tenancy and liability and benefits and money and windows and doors and antisocial behaviour. Every other sentence trickles into my brain while the others bounce off my skull and hit the floor. My ears seem highly sensitised to pick up the bits about cost and law and ‘I know that the area has an awful reputation but…’. Of course. I nod politely.
The husband signs forms and shows identification and I slip another 5735739 forms into my back where an hour ago a full box of snacks once was, four shiny silver keys are slid across the desk, good luck is offered – ‘its the 13th but at least it’s not a Friday.’ Haha – the pram harness clicks into place and off we go. To the house. Our house.
The door to the Community Office is locked behind us as we file out – a sign? – and we make our way across the estate. People and children and pets line each side of each road, sat on top of walls and wheelie bins, every now and then a car zooms past and drowns out the music and shouting and noise.
We find our house, the one with half a new front door to replace what had been kicked in and I fish around between files of paperwork and toys and books and headphones and dummies to find the keys while I make my way up the front path stinging one side of my foot on nettles on the way. Another sign?
The lock turns and the door swings open revealing a dark, musty and echoing empty space. There is no flooring, no light bulbs, no air. The whole house feels thick with damp and nothingness and we all stop in the middle of what will be our lounge to take it all in. Beans walks over to the corner and stands there silently. I look at her silently and want to sob.
Upstairs survival instinct or something mad kicks in in my brain and I snap into assertive, always look on the bright side mama and armed with a pen and paper take measurements of the walls and note down where the plug sockets are and what will need doing/getting/repairing while making a pull back bee speed a path across the bare floors and into Beans grabbing hands.
Later, when Beans is tucked up in bed at my parents and the husband is ensconced in working out what to do and how and how badly it will all cripple our already crippled finances I agree to giving my mum a viewing. This time, alone and able to be honest rather than psycho positive and smiley, I point out the damp, demonstrate how easily the gaudily painted wood chip in the main bedroom peels from the walls where it has been left hanging shredded and torn. I point out the paint splashed across the floors in every room, the bad repairs which beat the lack of repair no matter how botched they may be. We talk about how much there is to do and how the boarded up glazing in the back door makes the entire downstairs of the house feel dark and cave like. We both wonder allowed at how we are going to be able to afford anything when we have nothing. Neither of us wants to see if the old vinyl tiles in the bathroom will peel off, neither of us wants to hang around for too long in the bathroom.
I explain that the pile of rubble in the front garden should be removed by the end of the week and how the broken widows should be replaced by then too. We wonder why anyone would paint their lounge in dark brown gloss while we aimlessly wonder back through the house until we find ourselves in the kitchen.
A dog barks angrily and I can hear it running at and then clawing the fence next door. I pace out the space for the appliances that we will some how have to buy and point out the graffiti on the window.
Mum, who has seemingly slipped into the mind frame that I had found myself in earlier, tells me how nice it could be and how we can fill it with our things and put our stamp on it and make it a home and maybe the area won’t be so bad.
Mum. I say, someone has graffitied my kitchen window. We both stand and stare at the black spray painted lines with the contemplation usually bestowed on framed canvas hung on white gallery walls.
There is a cock and balls painted on the kitchen window mum.
We lock up and we leave the chaos behind for now while I’m left wishing that I could offer my baby more than this.