Liz Jones: In which I look back at my life in houses

I have good news! Yes, ladies and germs, for the first time in – what, 20 years? –I am cheered up. Is it a new boyfriend? Another collie? Nope. I have a mortgage offer!

Having been unceremoniously pushed off the property ladder in 2015, I am now about to grasp it again and pull myself on to the bottom rung. I can borrow under £200,000 but it’s a start. At my age I should be retiring, resting on my laurels, but at least I will no longer feel like a pariah.

Renting is hard. You can be evicted at any moment. You are told, ‘Don’t wear denim on the [cheap, ghastly] sofa as it wears it out.’ ‘Don’t let the front door slam.’ ‘Where are the [budget] fairy lights I left on the terrace [inch-wide stretch of pine]?’ This, in a weeny flat I was renting for an extortionate amount a month. I complained to the landlady that the communal entrance hall was a tip: stained, bald carpet, fliers on the floor. ‘Oh,’ she said. ‘The other flats are all owner-occupied, so I don’t understand it.’ As if people who rent are slatterns.

Abbey Lossing at

When I moved to London at 18, I shared a flat and a bedroom in the Barbican. I moved out to a bedsit in Barnes, with no cooking facilities. I bought my first house in 1984, a joint mortgage with my sister, my dad as guarantor, and an interest rate of 15 per cent. It was in a slum-clearance area.

Next came a tiny cottage in Saffron Walden, which we renovated. Tensions with my sister became so strained, as I just once took a man home (‘You’re disgusting!’). I had to walk out, taking only my duvet. I rented for a bit, then managed to buy a flat in then unfashionable Old Street.

After a few years, I could afford a house in Hackney. Only after exchanging did I learn my road had the highest incidence of knife crime in London. I stayed there for 13 years, then bought my dream house on a leafy square in Islington round the corner from Ottolenghi, the Screen on the Green and my little friend Robina. The pop star Dido lived nearby, and the comedian Paul Whitehouse a couple of doors down. I had arrived. The fear before every assignment, flying to war and disaster zones, braving skinny harridans with iPads at fashion shows (which terrified me even more) had been worth it.

But a bad marriage and horrendous divorce made me want something else, something more. So I sold the lovely house, leaving my buyer my Italian wardrobe, antique chandeliers, Georgian fire grates, appliances, double American fridge freezer, a list of useful things to know and a bottle of champagne. Arrived in Somerset to find plants dug up and removed from the garden, a butler’s sink ripped out, light fittings seized leaving only dangling chains, the fire grates removed and a stubbly candle with orange peel stuck on the side. I hate candles with orange peel stuck on the side! Thus began my slide into penury. Rich, untidy landowners meaner than Scrooge. Chippy, gossipy neighbours. And on and on.

Since leaving London, I’ve bought five fridge freezers, six sofas, three washing machines, four dishwashers. They are too big for the house you are forced to move into, or the property comes furnished, so you sell at a loss on Ebay. It’s expensive being poor. If you’re well known, people think you’re well off, so rip you off. As a quiet cog in a wheel, life was fine. Deemed successful, I’ve never had so many screaming matches along the lines of, ‘You’re going to leave your house to a cat home?’ So what if I am?

No one has helped. The only advice before a bankruptcy hearing from someone whose job it was to ensure my welfare was, ‘Smile sweetly’. No one cared, other than my readers. Only readers turned up with dog food. People I’d never even met.

But I have come through to the other side, finally. I refuse to live under a stone. I refuse for it all to have been for nothing. I open Rightmove, and there is a square with a blank for the location and a heading: ‘Find your happy’.

That’s just what I’m going to do.

Read more of Liz’s diaries here