Well friends, it looks as though we will be selling our lovely old house.
It has been quite a journey over the last year or so. Back in 2012 I took redundancy from my job as a social work Area Manager. It was a move into the unknown really- I wanted to write more, and to find a more creative way of making a living. Of course the first thing we had to do was to consider our costs- foremost of these was our house.
We started out with a bit of an epiphany- perhaps the house could be part of the means by which we could support ourselves. It used to be a hotel (it had 9 bedrooms then!) but we had slowly renovated it to be a family house, in which we loved to offer hospitality to others. Michaela also ran craft evenings and pottery classes.
So, we took advice from wherever we could, transformed a couple of bedrooms, and offered our annex out for holiday lets. It was all brand new to us with more potential than certainty in everything we did. Along the way there was the inevitable investment in all sorts of things- renovations, furniture, websites, graphic design, on line publicity.
We have a shared narrow driveway up to the house, which goes over land belonging to a neighbour. After they were refused planning permission to convert outhouses into holiday accommodation, they complained to the planning department about what we were doing. More than this, they engaged high powered planning consultants to fight their corner. What may have started as sour grapes seems to have became a campaign of righteous indignation.
Despite previous verbal advice that we did not need planing permission to do the small scale things we were using the house for, the planning department decided that the combination of things were not commensurate with a domestic dwelling, even with the historical usage of the house. They advised us to submit a planning application to convert the house to a hotel. We did this after great complication and expense, over a year ago only to be told in the last month that it would need to go to the planning committee (local councilors) but planning officers would recommend a refusal.
At committee, local councilors were split in their opinions and decided on a site visit to talk to us all and consider things anew. It all hinged on the vehicular access. This has not happened yet.
In the interim however, we were hit with the news that huge amounts of money would need to be spent on the house because of building control/fire regulations. Remember that we only have two bedrooms (out of 6 in our part of the house) that are used for B and B, but these will need to be sound proofed, new fire proofing added to walls, door added to the top of the stairs, etc etc. These adaptations are not needed for a small B and B, but are for a ‘hotel’.
It was the final straw.
So, we decided to revert to plan A- it is time to sell up, simplify and find a place where there is enough space to live and to set up workshop space for pottery etc.
Now begins another phase in our lives- the end of something, but perhaps the beginning of something else. It means packing up our family home, dealing with a decade of accumulation, and finding something new. It also means developing different ways of earning a living. As they say, there ain’t no money in poetry, that’s what sets the poet free.
It would be easy to feel great bitterness- towards our neighbours (who seem to have a history of being involved in neighbourhood disputes) and towards the blind bureaucracy of the local council. We are determined to feel bitterness towards neither. People act out of their own frame of reference and many are unable to transcend this, either because of rules and regulations or because of personalities.
There are some things worth fighting for, but there is also the path of grace.
Last year I wrote a post reflecting on the nature of home ownership, and what it may be doing to our society. I was trying hard to get to grips with this in the on going context of what was happening above. It seems all the more prescient now.