Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before

Though the stars had retired and the sun had officially staked possession of the day ahead, the apartment remained dim. Ash liked it that way. Fragments of light continued their efforts at conquering his living room, each racing its neighbour in vain endeavours at domination. He was used to this, and rest assured in his trusty fortress, protected on the outside with shields of haphazard, overgrown ivy, and shadows from its tall turrets. The building rose from the foundations like a haunted house, by night, a symphony of creaks and moans and things going bump in the night; by day, a voiceless misfit casting long shadows across the otherwise exuberant street outside.

– Description of my building (an excerpt from the story I’m currently working on)

And so I have made the move to my giant, sprawling, thoroughly creepy new home. It’s a building that’s captivated me for as long as I can remember after moving to this city, in the heart of the recently declared Greatest Neighbourhood in Canada.  It houses the oldest copper cage elevator in the country, an inner courtyard with light wells, glass-canopied walkways and bridges, and twisting staircases that mislead their visitors, taking them to nothingness. Voices from elsewhere in the building are carried perfectly through the strangely designed ventilation system and faint music from bygone eras can be heard through ceilings. Some of my belongings seem to have picked up strange powers over the course of my move and have transformed into mediums; voices in another language can be heard through electronic devices even with the power off. Footsteps can be heard in bordering hallways, and doors are seen to open and close with the force of an invisible hand. It’s the setting for the novel I’m working on, and it’s as deliciously sinister as I’d hoped.

The first two weeks were a little difficult – I’d moved in mid-month, and though some of the departing occupants had moved into their new homes personally, most of their belongings remained until this week. This meant I had to live out of boxes for a little while, but it kind of worked out because it forced me to get all the painting and renovating out of the way before settling my stuff in. First stop: my bedroom. One of what could theoretically be five bedrooms, it had enormous windows, hardwood floors, a huge walk-in closet, and solid cement walls through which you could hear absolutely nothing. It was painted a bit of a dismal brown, and I’d had my heart set on fashioning a rather more dreamy, modern, romantic space with deep turquoise walls, a canopy bed draped in sheer organza and fairy lights, empty white picture frames hung above my writing corner, and vines adorning doorways. I started painting the day I moved in – while the bedroom was still half-full of someone else’s furniture, and with no thought as to what my layout would be. It was kind of funny in its Jekyll and Hyde stage, but a week later, it had been transformed, and I’ve never had a room I love more. Coming home to an evening without plans used to terrify me, but now I’m excited to delve into my retreat, read under Christmas lights or write under vintage frames I like to imagine have seen all sorts of things over the years.

Forgive the crappy quality of the pics – haven’t found the box the camera is packed away in yet 🙂

There are two living rooms, both incredibly large, one bordered by a sun room overlooking the Village. Over the next few weeks we’re going to convert it into a Space Room – yep, an entire room painted navy with constellations on the ceiling and lights strung from wall to wall, with a life-size TARDIS and fully operational telescope calling it home. I don’t think a room could be any more perfect. The living room has dark wooden panelling on the walls and huge bay windows; a fireplace over which hangs a mantlepiece and a large, antique clock. The second living room is just as enormous, and after spending hours on hands and knees scrubbing the floors to a sparkle, I painted the upper part of the wood-panelled walls a rich, deep claret. Attached to the kitchen is an entire room-sized pantry, and there’s even a “maid’s quarters” which we’re using for storing bikes and decorations and all the other stuff I haven’t organised yet.

Now all that’s left is to find a third flatmate, and we’ll be set! After some of the royal winners I’ve lived with in the past, I really want to find someone nice, conscientious, and above all, normal – I’m hoping to get someone in for June or July, but until then I’m just enjoying being in such an opulent, character-filled, wonderfully creepy space 🙂 Fancy moving in with us or know someone who might be interested? Let me show you around!

Time and Space (and money. Sadly, this post isn’t half as nerdy as it sounds)

As you read this, I’ll have finally moved into my new place. The past few weeks have been full of decluttering, packing, and hauling heavy things up three flights of rather narrow stairs, but I’m finally on the other side, much more settled, and theoretically much fitter.*  I’ve moved countries, continents and through seven different residences in the last decade, and contrary to all evidence, it’s never something I actually enjoy. I loathe moving. The process of going through absolutely everything, weeding out all the junk, packing away a home you’ve invested time in decorating and making your own, and closing the door on all the fun memories had in it isn’t something I particularly enjoy. Especially when you’re leaving a beautiful big house in a fantastically quirky, artsy neighbourhood a stone’s throw away from all your friends (and an ice cream shop close enough to get a ’99 during the adverts of Britain’s Got Talent). 

So with this move comes a lot of adjustment. An adjustment of time in that my evenings are now free to spend however I wish – as much as I absolutely adore having company, I can’t deny that the idea of coming home to a full, empty evening to fill with productive things like writing, reading, or endeavours at learning to cook is wonderfully appealing. Another adjustment is going to be one of space. In my house, I’d gradually accumulated more and more things with which to fill it, which resulted in far more things than could possibly fit in a one-man apartment. My new cupboard space is small, and my kitchen is compact. Still big enough to have a bit of a dance while waiting for cupcakes to cook, though (a must!), but a squeeze nonetheless. There are 45 degree angles between the walls and ceilings which gives the whole place brilliant character, but also makes it a slight impossibility to hang all my photos and art. This may be a sign to finally grow up (but but!) and shelve the band and Doctor Who prints for later.  

There’ll also be an adjustment of surroundings. Over the last two years I’d fallen in love with my little indie neighbourhood (exhibited perfectly one night last week when I saw a man, on a skateboard, wearing a sombrero, and walking a dog) and just how much character it has. I loved how close it was to all my friends, and how I could walk past all the little boutiques and restaurants on a sunny day all the way to downtown. I loved the fact that my street was tucked away and faced the river, with a glittering view of the (albeit makeshift) downtown skyline. The neighbourhood was definitely going to be the thing I was going to miss most, but I’m determined to learn to love my new area. It’s not that far, and it’s close to other restaurants and shops. The street is full of giant old houses and lined with a canopy of trees. It’s beautiful… but it’s just a little more grown up, I think. And I still feel a bit of an indie kid at heart. 

The biggest adjustment, however, will undoubtedly be a financial one. I’ve always shared accommodations with other people (which has definitely resulted in a few war stories), and split rent, bills, and usually food at least in half. This place isn’t the cheapest suite I could’ve gone for, but it was still close to friends and family, and it had character. The sale was probably catalyzed by the fact that my new landlord is a fellow Brit, too. I work in non-profit at a job I absolutely adore. But this means that disposable income is pretty much going to have to become a thing of the past. Randomly, a few days ago, I received a phone call out of the blue from a recruiter I’d been working with when I’d been job-hunting years ago. They had a position that would be “perfect” for me that if I was hired for, would result in a 30% increase in income and an exponential decrease in money-related stress. But it was mundane. And it didn’t directly have an impact in people’s lives. They even asked me if I wouldn’t just be frightfully bored… so I had a decision to make. Money or meaning? If I stay where I am, I’ll be living paycheque to paycheque, shopping at the Dollar store and taking up part-time residence at friends’ places adopting all sorts of free leisure activities like Star Trek marathons and games of Settlers. (The space version of course; do I look like a girl that enjoys agriculture? J) But I’ll be spending every day going to do something I love, with people I love, in a job at an organisation that exists to make a positive impact in people’s lives. If I leave for the sake of money, sure, I’ll be able to afford more and pay off my debt more quickly, but I’ll be sacrificing something I care about and spending my time doing something that doesn’t really have any significance. And that doesn’t sit well in my heart. My decision’s made – I’m definitely staying where I am. I just have to learn to live a little less frivolously and give up a few luxuries is all. I knew I took that poverty challenge for a reason. 🙂

So a lot of change is going down right now… but that’s always what makes life such an adventure. Change is a key factor in growth; if things always stayed the same I fear I’d coast through life, never taking any risks or learning anything new or stepping outside of what’s comfortable… Change is always a little daunting at first, but I think if you dive straight in and make yourself at home, it’ll be one more step on an upward path of growth and experience. Speaking of diving straight in, I’ll be getting Internet hooked up tomorrow, and will finally be able to catch up with everything in the blogosphere after what’s felt like an eternity! Here’s to new beginnings…

 * “Theoretically” being the operative word; in theory I would be much fitter, if I hadn’t remedied the post-exercise hunger pangs with the frightfully convenient iced cappuccinos and pastries two blocks away.

Home is, finally, where the heart is

Last night, in keeping with one of my resolutions for the year, instead of watching TV, cleaning (!) or surfing the net, I pulled out a book and decided to spend a couple of hours reading.  I’d forgotten how much I really loved it, and have a sneaky feeling I’m going to hit my “book a month” goal easily!  But while I lay there on the sofa, I took the opportunity to actually look around my living room.  And I pondered the question: what impression do people get when they come to visit? What does this space say about me?

Growing up, my parents always decorated beautifully.  Harmonious colour combinations, and funky Ikea bookcases mixed in with some beautiful mahogany furniture; huge art prints in gorgeous frames, ornaments and sculptures collected from various world travels, and room renovations like you wouldn’t believe.  Seriously – I remember them knocking down walls to make an enormous bathroom, with cork flooring, snazzy oversized tiles on the walls, textured wallpaper and corner cupboards (and a bathtub) with wood stained the deepest of turquoises.  I loved living somewhere with so much thought put into its presentation; when I moved out, I was perturbed by the fact that I had absolutely zero in the way of decorations, or even standard possessions.

I didn’t have anything.  I didn’t have a TV, anywhere to store DVDs or CDs, a proper sofa or even a bed, and I certainly didn’t have much to hang on the walls.  I moved out a poor student, and continued through a series of rather sparse-looking apartments with some really rubbish flatmates into a poor working adult.  So I’ve never really been able to afford nice stuff. I remember apartment-hopping, living off inherited furniture from friends/past flatmates, buying crockery and cutlery at the dollar store, and taping posters to the wall because I couldn’t afford frames. Home is where the heart is, as they say, and what does mine say about me?

Allow me to invite you round for a proverbial cup of tea.  One year ago, I was frantically struggling to get out of a lease and find somewhere I could afford by myself.  I was sick of cohabitation dramatics, and Sweet and I had only been together 7 months, so I didn’t think we’d be moving in together.  I was tearing my hair out trying to find a place that wasn’t a complete hole/potential murder scene that would actually be affordable, when the unthinkable happened.

Sweet said we could move in together. We ran around in the snow of a new year, and found something amazing.  A full, two-storey house with new appliances, flooring, paint and windows in a really good location.  It was $100 more than I was paying for my tiny little apartment.  There had to be a catch.  We went one very cold day to the open house, and it was beyond wonderful.  A family of 4 had been living there before, and were relocating somewhere bigger with their new baby, but filled our questing heads with promises of low bills, nice neighbours, and a great landlord.  We had to apply, so we did, but didn’t get our hopes up.  I was making $25k and he was new to teaching – and subbing at the time.  It didn’t exactly scream stability.  I spent the next week looking elsewhere, sure we wouldn’t be picked over more affluent, settled, nicer and more secure applicants.   But we were picked over more secure applicants – I got the phone call while my best friend and I were scouring the local charity shop for new outfits (because we’re hip that way), and I remember screaming and RUNNING at her down the shoe aisle.  We hugged and jumped around like crazy people, and within the week, Sweet and I were moved in.

Once I had the keys, I remember taking the bus just to visit my beautiful new (empty) house every day until moving day.  I was going to be in a house, with the person I loved, with no crazy roommates who’d steal my things, break my doors, or leave piles of my dishes moulding in their bedrooms for weeks on end while they sat there not showering.  This was perfect.  And I wanted to make it look perfect, this time, too.  It was a new chapter in my life, and for the first time, I had somewhere I could call my home.  I wanted it to represent us.  And though we still can’t paint – we’ve managed to decorate enough that I’m perfectly content with what we have.

When you come into our house, I’d like to think it’s welcoming.  It’s very open-concept, and the living room bleeds into the kitchen, which in turn dissipates into the computer area under the stairs.  Everything is so open we can play music off the computer, and have the whole lower level bathed in song.  Throughout downstairs there are little things that tie in to my love for Ireland, a love that’s been in existence ever since I visited two years ago.  There’s a framed poster of a beautiful page from the Book of Kells, little lightswitch coverings of celtic knotwork, and photos I took of Dublin’s architecture going up the stairs.  We have several faux trees, covered in fairy lights, and our main wallspace is taken up by a series of black and white framed photographs of those we love, surrounding a large, framed landscape of the London skyline at dusk. There is a bookcase, whose shelves are buckling with the cramming of too many books piled inside, and perhaps too many candles and photos on top. We have a small, old television but a giant, comfy sectional sofa – I hope this says how small a role TV plays in our lives, and how large good company.

Upstairs we have two bedrooms; one, mostly for storage (and the cat), and the main bedroom, for us.  We invested in a lovely ornate wrought iron bedframe (around which are entwined more fairy lights, which we use instead of a lamp), and the comfiest mattress we could find.  We have a dresser, upon whose mirror are tacked photographs and notes, from each other, and from family.  We have a large, heavily framed Moulin Rouge poster of the couple embracing, directly above the head of the bed, and various photographs of our favourite times surrounding.  There’s a nerdy wall covered in steampunk drawings of Doctor Who villains, and an unfalteringly large pile of clean washing on the floor.  We both have better things to do than fold laundry, and as long as the rest of the house is clean, we don’t mind.  This bedroom reflects love.

I went back to my book, happy at the thought that finally, I have a home.  Somewhere I enjoy being in, and somewhere that reflects the lives and hearts of those who live inside.  Somewhere interesting, warm, and inviting – somewhere I’m really looking forward to being cooped up in for winter, keeping so many of the resolutions I made for this year.

What does your home say about you?