Wednesday, 8 October 2014

We didn't get where we are today...............................

We didn't get where we are today by standing still and waiting for help!

I'm not sure if I've ever explained how we came to own a 5 acre smallholding.

It all started back in 1978 when, for £8,000,  I bought a tiny 2 bed Victorian end terraced house in Stowmarket in Suffolk using a £2000 mortgage and half the house money I got after a very short marriage and a quick divorce.  The house had no bathroom, just a shower which had been chopped off one of the small bedrooms. The kitchen and toilet had been built onto the back of the house and were a bit tatty. What the house did have was a long narrow vegetable garden and some gooseberry bushes and a rhubarb plant. That was when I started growing stuff and making jam, and luckily it was only a short cycle ride to the library where I was working.
When C and I got married he moved in and used a moped to get to work where he was  a council road man. They did things like sweeping paths and clearing out drainage channels at the edge of the road. The pay wasn't much and my pay as a library assistant was also a long way down the County Council pay-scale too. We had gas connected to the house as it was already along the road outside and tidied up the kitchen.
Then I had our eldest daughter, so we were down to one small pay cheque.
Once I stopped work it made more sense to move to the village where the council depot was, so C could bike to work. We were very lucky because house prices were beginning to shoot up and we sold it to a single bloke who wanted to get on the housing ladder for £14,000. That's how mad the housing market was, almost double in 2 and a bit years!
We found a modern 3 bed end terrace that was going cheap because it Stank! The lady bred cats and cooked up fish and liver all the time, the neighbours had complained and the worst of it was she was a health visitor! It was £16,000 so we had to have a bigger mortgage but mortgages were easy to get then.
We also had to have a bridging loan to give us time to strip all the wood from the house and re paint everywhere. C and my dad did all the work and Dad helped by putting in a Parkray fire with a back boiler and a couple of radiators as there was no heating in the house apart from an open fire. We had an allotment and then two because by then we had worked out the only way to manage was to grow all our own stuff. C worked overtime in the summer doing road resurfacing and in the winter on the gritter lorries. During this time he had changed to a being a ganger, which meant being in charge of a three man gang and driving the lorry which gave us a few extra pounds a week.
Our next move was 3 years later, just 2 miles to the next village, by which time we had a son too. We sold the house for £20,000 and everyone thought we were mad as we took two children under 4 to live in a caravan while we did up a house. The house was so bad that it had been declared unfit for habitation but a council grant of £10,000 was available for anyone restoring it. We paid £10,000 for it and got a mortgage which they paid out a bit at a time as the work was done. C did a lot of the work, and I helped when I could. The house was stripped back to timber beams, we had to dig out 2 foot of dirt floor to get the room height and all the walls had to be underpinned.
When our daughter started school I would bike the 2 miles there and back with 2 children on the bike because we couldn't afford very much petrol for the car.
C got a better job in the council as a supervising foreman, looking after all the gangs who looked after the roads. He was now supervising the winter gritting so we had to live within 8 miles of the council base to be available for emergencies.
By the time our son was 3 and going to playschool  I was biking up and down that 2 mile road 6 times a day ! So we decided to move back to the village where the school was. The house sold for £40,000 again doubling in 3 years because house prices were rising so fast.
We found a bungalow with half an acre of land in the village for £42,000, so we had to stretch to a bigger mortgage again. Cs pay was still very average and we always had to make do with what we had, no foreign holidays etc. etc. We built a utility room on the side of the bungalow and an extension out the back- again C did most of the work and then I had our youngest daughter. The bungalow was tucked in at the end of a cul-de-sac with several noisy neighbours, it was OK but not where we wanted to stay.
But then we had 2 bits of good fortune. One was C got the job of County Council Bridge Inspector, which was based in Ipswich and didn't have to be tied to where we lived in Mid Suffolk ( one of the reasons that he got the job was because no -one with engineering qualifications would take it because the pay was too low!) and secondly we realised that the back garden which had a way into it from a small lane could be sold for a building plot. So after 5 years we sold the house for £71,000 moved into a rented place back in the town we had started from and looked for a smallholding. The children were 11, 9 and 4 by then and for 6 months I home educated rather than change schools twice.
We soon found this smallholding owned by a mad woman and an alcoholic! It was a tip! and cost us £85,000 in 1992, we've been mending, making, repairing and modernising ever since. We had to have a bigger mortgage again but by scrimping and saving we managed to pay it off about 10 years ago.
Then my dad died and left us some money, some of which we used to have a big kitchen and bedroom extension.
So that's how we came to own 5 acres in Suffolk and a 4 bedroom Chalet bungalow.

Thank you to Em, Karen, Sarah, Lucy, My shabbychicfrugallife, saverof surburbia, Bob and Kris for comments yesterday.

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