I have been painting one of the bedrooms this week and as I slapped yet another coat of emulsion on the walls, it occurred to me that we will have been living in this house for twenty five years this April. That's a lot of coats of emulsion, let me tell you! It also crossed my mind that I had never written about how we came to live here.
I know I refer to it as the little house on the prairie but actually it's a little house down a long track standing in the middle of green fields and sandwiched between two woods. Before we lived here, we lived in a village the other side of the A1 or The Great Divide as we saw it. We lived in a lovely little house in the middle of the village but with one baby and plans for more, we needed to move so we decided to put our house on the market and see what happened.
What happened was that we got a buyer - two, in fact - and we finished up being offered a very good price. And we found my dream house. All brilliant. Then things started to go very wrong...
The first thing - and by a country mile, the worst thing - was that my beautiful baby was deaf. We didn't know, we had no inkling; she was just like every other baby but better, because she was ours. I'm not a fainter but when the consultant said that she was severely deaf, would never go to a mainstream school, would never speak - that was the worst moment of my life, the worst day of my life and I did faint. I didn't deal with it very well - total denial kicked in so we decided to move house anyway. Not very sensible, I know, but at the time being sensible wasn't in my spectrum.
The dream house wasn't going to be available until about a month after our purchasers wanted to move into ours so we decided to move into a rented cottage on a chicken farm. And I am now pregnant. And then our surveyor gave my dream house the worst survey ever. I think the words he used included: "It's on the move" ie its total lack of proper foundations would make it a potential nightmare for us and probably make it impossible to sell in the future. I'd like to point out that it's still standing and I drive past it often.
So we are on the chicken farm in the pokiest cottage ever with the toddler who doesn't want things stuck in her ears because it makes a noise in her head that she doesn't understand, another baby on the way (who I prayed every night wouldn't be deaf like her sister) and nowhere to buy.
So off we go on the house-hunt again and we find, eventually, a house in not really the ideal location but very nice nonetheless and as Kirsty Allsop would say now, compromises had to be made. We are on with the legal stuff and there seems to be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel - housewise anyway.
One evening in the pokey cottage on the chicken farm, with one baby finally asleep and feeling tired in a way that only pregnant women really know about, my beloved is late home - again. So I ring him on his mobile (at that time, mobiles or 'car phones' as they were then known were the size of house bricks) and he answers that he is being loaded on a stretcher into an ambulance having been in a head-on collision on the way home from work. I think my enquiry as to his lateness included several expletives which he has joyfully reminded me of over the years. The result of all this was that he had a broken leg on one side and a broken ankle on the other so here I am in the pokey cottage on the chicken farm with one baby who can't hear and another on the way and a husband on crutches. This is not good.
But at least we will soon be moving into our new home before the arrival of number 2 child. Eventually, plasters off, crutches gone, my beloved is back on the road and things are going in the right direction. One day, he comes home so excited. "I've bought a house!" Brilliant - except that we are already buying a house and this is not the same house and I haven't seen it. So off we go, down a long track, in the middle of green fields and sandwiched between two woods. Yes, he shook hands on the deal before I actually saw it but he was right. It's perfect - scruffy (still is!), chaotic but the perfect home for us.
Nothing in my life since then has ever been as bad as that winter, but one thing I know - there's no place like home.