Over the past few months, like everyone, I’ve been staying at home – apart from walking my dogs and looking after my horses. And I’ve been going nuts. I keep insanity at bay by surfing OnTheMarket and Rightmove, trying to find the perfect property – somewhere I might be safe. So I thought this week I’d document my life in 15 houses, to find out why home is so important to me. To all of us.
1. A semi in Shenfield, Essex. I was born in Chelmsford, and my mum brought me home to here. I remember a lawn, bald from my brothers playing cricket. A grey cat called Smokey who gave birth to kittens.
2. With seven children, my parents needed somewhere bigger. So they sold the house and rented a former vicarage in a village called Rettendon. There was no central heating. I remember trying to read a book in bed, using one hand to hold it outside the covers, then when that became too painful, using the other hand.
3. A flat in the Barbican, shared with four actors. I actually shared a bedroom with my best friend Karen. The Barbican was built, in the 1960s, on the site of a bad hit from the Blitz. One day we found an old pair of spectacles in the hallway. Spooky.
4. A bedsit in Barnes. No cooking facilities. It was £10 a week but I had to be on hand for babysitting and dog-walking duties.
5. A house in Brixton, rented with my sister, a nurse. We took in a lodger. David lived next door. Waiting at the bus stop on my birthday, going to work, I got hit round the head.
6. A terrace in Clapham North, in a slum clearance district. I bought it with my sister and my dad was guarantor, as women were not allowed to take out mortgages. The interest was 15 per cent. My sister worked nights, and I was so worried about keeping the house spick and span, I cleared the fire grate too early and melted the carpet. Burglars jemmied the windows at the front.
7. A cottage by the church in Saffron Walden. My sister seemed so alarmed when I brought a black boyfriend home, I moved out.
8. I rented an attic flat owned by a friend in Finsbury Park. All I remember is watching Italia 90 on a small TV.
9. A ground-floor flat in Shoreditch. I sold it before the area got trendy.
10. A terraced house in London Fields. I would jog round Victoria Park in a bid to make my husband love me. I got up one day to find the back door had been demolished by a burglar, and moved to…
11. A Georgian townhouse in an Islington garden square. I loved this house. I would walk round it, not quite believing I lived there. I got divorced, then felt taunted by all the lovely restaurants and gastro pubs, believing I’d never have anyone to share them with. My cat Susie disappeared, and I’d get prank phone calls, saying someone had her, demanding money. I was so scared I moved to…
12. A farm on Exmoor, Somerset. It was stunning. Fifty acres. A stable yard. I rescued horses, chickens, sheep, feral cats. Grew my own veg. Worst point? A neighbour, when I took them food during a blizzard, said, ‘Well, it’s a shock to find out you are nice.’
13. A Georgian mini mansion in the Yorkshire Dales with a lawn sloping down to the river. A waterfall. Amazing views. A famous photographer came to take my picture when a book was launched. ‘You must love the lifestyle, the peace,’ he said. He clearly hadn’t read about the farmer next door who erected a For Sale sign in my garden.
14. A rental on a country estate. I got told off every time I didn’t reverse my car into the allotted garage, or my dogs barked.
15. Now? A cottage with a wonderful view. Two up, two down. Rented. I’ve asked for a quote to finish the renovation. An email has just landed from a builder, saying, ‘As you have recently been made bankrupt, I am reluctant to carry out the work… Also, you will need written permission from your landlord.’
I snapped my laptop shut. And you wonder why I am so desperate to find somewhere to call home. Not just because of lockdown. But because I’ve always found the world so scary.
To contact Liz tweet #lizjonesgoddess or visit lizjonesgoddess.com