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  • Richard Haywood

Hammer house of horrors makes me sad

Oh my. Oh dear. What the fuck have I done?

Tuesday. One week ago and I got the keys to the very, very, really old house I had spent the last hundred months haggling over. I let myself in and stood there reeling at the sight of it. Seriously, this house is older than David Schleicher and he’s old, like proper ancient with grey hair and everything. (To be fair, Schleicher did try and tell me not to buy an old house but I pretended not to hear).

For the last couple of years I have been working and writing, working and writing and saving my pennies to get a deposit together to buy a house. I’ve been renting forever,which is nice but there’s always that nagging feeling that you should be buying a house. I have four dogs and trying to find a decent understanding (and dog loving) landlord is getting increasingly hard. So, I started tentatively looking to see what was for sale. The first house I saw online was the first house I viewed. Which is the house I am sat in now. The really old house, the older than Schleicher house, the house with floorboards falling through, no kitchen, three toilets (one of which sort of works) no heating, some funny weird shit going on with the electrics, windows that refuse to shut, windows that refuse to open, doors that refuse to shut and doors that refuse to open. Hidden doors (two found so far, very creepy) rising damp, falling damp, damp that is both rising and falling at the same time, damp that is running amok while swigging from cans of strong lager and pissing up the walls. Big hairy arse spiders (with actual tribal tattoos on their legs) that would have Paula running for cover while screaming blue murder and cobwebs hanging like something from an old time movie.

The grand plan was to keep my old house for a month after buying this house and get the essential works done before I moved in. However, I did not account for the Gestapo style mortgage application process that appears to now be the standard routine. Seriously, that was the hardest thing I have ever done. I’ve been in law enforcement for fifteen years and never, ever in my life have I been vetted to that extent before.

A small friendly finance company that specialises in providing a unique and highly personable service with a dedicated mortgage handler to assist you throughout this trouble free period”

Yeah right. Like fuck you are, and like fuck you do. You specialise in water boarding to extract information. The dedicated mortgage handler is an ex KGB man called Boris with an assistant called Helga who tag teamed the torture. In fact, if I didn’t have the red dot laser pointed at my head I would happily name and shame the company involved. Apparently it was in the terms and conditions that for the remainder of the mortgage term there will be a trained assassin tracking my every move with said red dot laser sight wavering between my eyes. They have my blood, my DNA, they have my shoe size, the names of my ancestors….shit…If you have read The Second Reality you will know what I mean when I compare them to The Office of Vetting and Allocation (n0 Francesca though which is a pity)

So one week ago I closed the door to my house and had a horrible sinking feeling that I had put myself into a very bad situation. That panicking feeling soon abated as I realised this was my house. Yeah the Gestapo mortgage company actually own it but they ain’t here, here with the hammer, staring at the old shit that needs to be whacked. And whackin’ I have done, a-whacking a-plenty has been done. I’ve whacked everything with my hammer. I even went to B&Q and spent a lovely ten minutes choosing a new hammer and eventually settled on a big stonking crow bar, except it wasn’t called a crow bar, it was called a wrecking bar. Long and sleek in matt black. I bought coveralls, safety glasses, gloves and went back with the wrecking bar and did some wrecking.

Which so far has resulted in:

  1. One deep laceration to my left wrist from hitting tiles above my head with the wrecking bar.

  2. One punctured foot from being a tight git and not buying safety boots, then ripping out some wood with nails in with the wrecking bar then stepping on the big pointy nails and running round in tight circles for five minutes screaming while my dogs laughed at me (that bloody assassin kept that red dot on my forehead though)

  3. Sliced into one finger from hitting an old ceramic sink with the wrecking bar, which then sort of exploded and burst apart with shards flying about everywhere (I think the assassin pissed himself laughing at that point)

  4. One very bruised left knee cap from missing the old kitchen unit I was aiming for with the wrecking bar and hitting myself instead. Then spent about half an hour writhing on the floor with four big hairy long nosed German Shepherds staring down at me with clearly distinct smirks on their faces.

  5. One very bruised right leg, right wrist, right hand, right ribs and well, generally the right side of my body from trying to stand on a very wobbly tool box and hit some shit high on a wall with the wrecking bar. The shit came down as the tool box called me a fat bastard and fell apart. Me and the shit all fell down into a heap. The dogs and the assassin laughed again.

  6. Scalded face. Now this was ineptitude at its finest. The ceramic sink that I had just attacked with the wrecking bar had these two weird sticky out things on the top, and after some careful investigation I realised they were taps. One cold and one hot. On turning the taps I further established that water came out of them. Cold water from the cold tap and really bloody hot water from the hot tap. So I called my brother-in-law who said I needed to “cap it”. Which sounded awesome. Then he said he would come over and “cap it” I said no, I wanted to “cap it” myself. We discussed it and eventually he conceded that if anyone was busting a cap in someone’s ass in my new (old) house it would be me. He told me what to do and I followed the instructions perfectly. I found the water valve and turned it off then drained the cold water from the tap before slicing it neatly and “capping it” which I thought would involve an uzi pistol and a drive-by but in actuality involves shoving a cap onto the end of the pipe. Cold pipe done. Victory was close. Pipe slicer onto the hot water pipe. Pipe sliced. Water spraying everywhere. Turns out the hot water is not turned off by the cold water valve, funny that. The hot water comes from a big tank in a hidden cupboard somewhere in a secret hidden room. Thirty seconds later and the spray of water has become very hot and is refusing to be held back by the tea towel I’m using. At this point there was a choice; release my grip on the pipe and get a face-full of hot water while I tried to find the hot water valve or stay there and hope the tank would eventually drain empty. Not knowing the size of the hot water tank I opted for the former and took the spray face on. I did eventually find the valve and then spent another half an hour on the very wet floor writhing in agony while the dogs stared down at me and started licking at the puddles.

  7. Electric shock. This one wasn’t my fault. Well, it was my fault. The electrician was here trying to figure out why there was twenty wires going through one doorway and using this gadget which lit up when he held it near any live wires. Like a big marker pen that flashed with red and blue lights at the end when it detects voltage. Seeing that and I was off, this was the best thing I had ever seen and spent the next hour moving through the house jabbing it into plug sockets and poking wires. When I went back he had trimmed a load of wires back and said “the big one in the cupboard can be cut” and asked me if I wanted to do it. I think he detected I was a DIY novice from the fact I was jumping up and down on the spot clapping my hands and laughing every time the marker pen lit up. I got my wire cutters and headed for the cupboard. The electrician commented that my wire cutters were actually nail scissors and suggested I use proper wire cutters instead, which quite possibly saved my life as I promptly headed into the cupboard and cut through the wrong wire. A huge bang, flashing sparks and I was at the far end of the cupboard  in a crumpled head. A few seconds of silence followed by the calm tones of the electrician calling out “not that one.” I think he was a bit freaked out when I finally got up and said that was the best thing ever and can we cut another live wire please.

A busy week and that panicking feeling has come and gone at steady intervals. If I stop and list all of the shit that is wrong in the house then I get that worried sinking sensation. However, if I just ignore it then it goes away.

Now this house is on three levels. It is huge with seven bedrooms. Which is nuts because they’ve taken old Victorian rooms and put stud walls down the middle to make more rooms and I think they then let them out as bedsits. It needs a lot of work but was still a very cheap price. I knew it was a re-possession but didn’t know anymore than that.

It was only today that I met one of the neighbours who told me the former owners leant their only son £29000 to start a small business. He took the money and never paid a penny back. The loan was secured against the house and eventually the debt went over a hundred thousand pounds and the house was taken from them. They were both very old and the whole situation pretty much destroyed them. The mother got a very serious illness which resulted in the father having to stop work and care for her. The house fell into disrepair and eventually they were kicked out. I took this information in and then went back to work with the wrecking bar.

Only it wasn’t so much fun now. Everything I was removing was put in by a loving family. The kitchen is old now but at one point it was new and shiny. The carpet which I was thinking was a disgusting shade of retro red was once chosen and put down by that family full of hopes and dreams for the future. This was life, right here. Everything I was touching or removing represented someone’s decisions and choices. The mockery I had given to the electrics and plumbing. The harsh swear words I had uttered when the boiler was condemned at how someone could let their house get into this state. I felt disgusted with myself, that I had taken advantage of such awful misfortune to befall another. But life goes on, or so I tried to tell myself. Then I started thinking about time. About how that family lived here and once it was a grand house so beautiful and ornate but now it isn’t. They aged with the house. They loved and gave everything only for it all to be taken away and for what? For money? For a thing we invented that now rules us so wholly. Did that son feel remorse for his actions? Did they become consumed with hate and regret or were they strong enough to swallow that bitterest of pills and so forgive and continue loving him? How many families have lived in this house? How many have put their hearts and souls into it? What about the future? I’m here now. A crazy twat running around without a clue and breaking things with a stupid grin that faded quickly from my face as the matt black wrecking bar fell slowly from my grip.

With the energy gone I pottered about slowly and then found a front page copy of The Mirror from the mid nineties when Princess Diana was still alive. There she was, sat alone behind the wheel of a car looking so very sad at the mass of photographers chasing behind her. The headline was terrible, going on about the strain now showing and how “Lady Di” was starting to “crack from the pressure”. Which just exemplified that life is suffering. End of.

Will someone come along after me and mock what have I done? Will they curse the wiring and decorations? Why? Why bother, why bother doing any of it. Why have a house just so you can grow old and die. We wrap ourselves up in constant longing and needs for things that we think will make our lives better, but they don’t. I was full of dreams of fitting a new kitchen and over time I would renovate the house. Have a proper writing room, a shiny bathroom with a free standing bath and lots of open spaces full of light. Now though? To be honest I would gladly hand this house back to that family and go back to my old rented place. It wasn’t great and it wasn’t mine but it was a house that was warm and dry. I feel greedy now. I’m in a three level seven bedroom house. What the fuck do I need a house this size for? Why did I buy it? Life is suffering. There is only the now. The past does not exist, it’s gone, gone forever and can never be reclaimed. The future is already predetermined. We get told so much to “live for today” but we never do. We can only live by today in accordance to the rules and laws laid down by others. We have to do what is expected or we are judged, mocked, ridiculed and cast aside.

So we live in the past, of what we once were and we live in the future forever hopeful that things will improve. And we don’t look to the now, because the now is ticking away and the now is gritty and shitty. The now is streaked with grey and makes us feel slightly uncomfortable because our lives are not our own for we are owned wholly by others.

Ah, but this melancholy will surely pass by. My Tigger like spirit will be healed over night and I shall wake with the dawn and once again starting smashing shit up. But tonight, tonight I shall think of that family who I have never met, and I shall hold them close in my mind and pray they have peace within them.

Take care

RR Haywood.

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