Building frustration (January 2014)

For what is about to be unleashed, I apologise. Please understand, if this seems to be more of a cathartic, self-therapeutic rant than a considered, mature piece of writing, that it comes from two years’ of building (in both senses of the word) frustration,  despair and, I confess, anger.

  Twenty-four months ago, after a week in a large, open-plan house in which Hannah’s mobility visibly progressed, we set the wheels in motion for a house adaptation which would maximize her possibilities within our small, 3 bed terrace. At that time, the moment when we could no longer get Hannah up the stairs seemed a long way off, but trying to be responsible, not-in-denial parents, we planned a build which would move her bedroom downstairs and add a wet room. Additions and adaptations no mother ever wishes for, but which I knew had to be faced.

    To tell the intricate details of the two interim years would be mundane: meetings, drawings,  forms, trips to Magnet, more meetings, phone calls, emails, more forms, more meetings. Nothing of note, really, just jumping through the hoops and ticking the boxes I suspect everyone in our position needs to jump and tick.

   The majority of the works proposed were to be covered by a grant. A grant we are fortunate to be receiving but to which we would rather not be entitled.  Then the builders’ quotes came in, and it turns out the works are a tad pricier than we’d been told (more than double). We cut out every last detail that wasn’t essential and compromised on every minute component, leaving only those parts which we wish we didn’t need. But still the shortfall, which would more aptly be called the tall, wide and dauntingly deep fall, is down to us. Contrary to the comments of one recent reader, neither the author nor her husband can afford a lawyer or, apparently, a builder.

    Cue the unfeasibly young mortgage advisor who, understandably, had no idea how crushing (and humiliating) her computer generated ‘decline’ was. Cue the reasonably-aged financial advisor, whose expertise still couldn’t persuade a computer to recognize that high childcare costs are a direct result of going out to work. Cue the surveyor, whose report stating that our steel-constructed house is made of wood, led to a further ‘decline’ from another bank. Cue the replacement surveyor, several estate agents, water suppliers, two more surveyors and two sets of party wall dispute advisors. I used to dread the build itself (every builder has paled and muttered the word ‘dangerous’ when told we will be living here throughout); but now I’ll be throwing a ‘start date’ party if we actually make it that far.

   Because now, at the final hurdle, when all but one box is ticked (a frightening loan having ticked several others), one individual person is obstructing, delaying and opposing the whole thing. Having made the last eighteen months of our daily lives fairly unpleasant, she is now putting boulder-sized spokes in the wheels of our future. Not ours, Hannah’s. A six year old who can no longer climb the stairs of her own home.  I know I should be more forgiving, but I can’t.

   I can’t because I cannot understand someone who would be this vindictive. I can’t because I know that no matter how many rational arguments I present, nothing will ever get through. I can’t because, despite everything she has thrown at us, we have done nothing wrong. Hannah has done nothing wrong.

   In the last few months we have explored every alternative possibility. We’ve looked at relocating closer to family, the coast and the chance of a little more space for a little less money. It ticks every box, except for the rather fundamental issue of Hannah’s school and services. We’ve weighed everything up repeatedly, hoping the scales might tip differently if we just keep trying, but a bigger house never outweighs education and support. We’ve looked at moving locally, but having randomly landed in the most expensive county in the country, we can’t ‘upgrade’ where we are. Even if we could, we’re running out of time. The delays, misinformation, unreturned calls, impossible-to-contact surveyors, ever-changing rules and she-who-shan’t-be-named, have meant we’ve missed the window. Even if we could afford to make that move, we no longer have the time to go through the processes of marketing, selling, buying, moving and, inevitably, adapting. That moment which seemed so far off, it’s here. I’ve never felt so trapped.

   So there go the New Year’s resolutions then: think positive, don’t waste time or tears on people who upset you, shape your own future. Still, I have managed to read a book – one box ticked at least.  A great book, in fact, about beating all the odds, about not letting others bring you down, about ‘difference’ and kindness triumphing over ignorance and cruelty. It had a happy ending too.  Here’s to ticking that box.






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