After several months of unsuccessful house-hunting in Balham, Wimbledon, Tooting, Colliers Wood, Clapham and various other areas after we got married in July 2011, I asked Mariacristina where we would end up living. Out of left field, she came up with Streatham – by that point one of the very few zones in the locality that we hadn’t even considered. Perhaps this was because our only previous visit to Streatham – for a barbecue at a friend’s house – had led Mariacristina to suggest, as soon as we got out of Streatham Common station, that we turn around immediately and go back home, as she was terrified by the area, which she called ‘the Bronx’.
So I laughed at her left-field suggestion and thought no more of it, until a couple of weeks later when I thought there’d be no harm in seeing what Streatham could provide, and immediately came across a house that seemed to meet all our conditions, and more. I showed it to Mariacristina and we both agreed we needed to see it as soon as possible.
We had previously made offers on several other places, invariably a decent amount below the asking price, but when they were refused, we were reluctant to increase our bids, knowing that they weren’t quite what we really wanted. When it came to this house in Streatham, however, for the first time we knew we’d be willing to keep upping our offer until either it was accepted or we simply couldn’t afford to go any higher. To cut a long and often nerve-wracking story short (but when is buying a house ever simple?), we managed to secure the place and moved in in March 2012.
We were in love with the house itself, and our further investigations had shown that Streatham really wasn’t so bad after all; not only was it far more interesting than we’d imagined, but it was also starting to show a lot of promising developments as interesting new places sprung up – so we were over the moon to move in. We quickly put our own imprint on the house through alcove cupboards, a lick of paint downstairs and wallpaper in the bedrooms (which tested the limits of our marriage, as any couples who have decorated together will understand), among other upgrades, and it became very much our home.
This weekend, for the first time in almost two months, I’ve been allowed out of the hospital on day release, after the doctors agreed that despite my neutrophil count still being zero, I was well enough and stable enough to spend the daytime at home. Dr Fielding at the Royal Free had put the idea in my head when I saw her on my only other outing on Thursday afternoon – she said she would never have guessed I was an inpatient – so I put the idea to Dr Klammer during the ward round on Friday. My heart lifted when he said yes, but not as much as when Mariacristina opened the door to me at around midday on Saturday, and I was home.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and my enforced stay away from the house has really made me appreciate just how lucky we are to have such a beautiful home. While I was in hospital, Mariacristina had organised for curtains to be put up in our bedroom (we previously just had blinds), which to my eye has transformed an attractive room into a wonderfully warm, beautiful one. After a fabulous afternoon with my best man Andrew and his wife Lydia visiting, I lay on our ultra-comfy bed (feeling more comfortable than ever after so long in a hospital bed) for some rest, with my gorgeous wife by my side, enjoying the quiet of the early evening. Life felt fabulous – and that’s not to mention the bacon sandwiches I had devoured at lunch.
You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and although our house was always waiting for me, it was only after coming back after a prolonged absence that I fully understood how good it is to be home. They say an Englishman’s home is his castle, and it made it even more special that I was treated like a prince…