I started 2007 with various exciting new projects, trying to fill the vacuum left by my mother’s death. My obsessions with the leaves and the mobile phones had morphed into an all-consuming fixation with having a baby. Still full of self-hatred about my appearance, I didn’t want to have a baby that took after me, with brown hair and brown eyes. I wanted a blue eyed little boy who looked exactly like Fred. I knew the baby would have afro hair but I was hoping it would be blonde.
At the psychiatric unit I spoke of nothing but the baby for at least three months, which my therapist said was “a total fantasy.” I went to dozens of ante-natal classes, though I wasn’t actually pregnant. In my carpentry lessons at the unit, I slaved over building a crib, which collapsed when I took it home. I told them that, although I had experience of laying floors at 2am, daylight diminished my carpentry skills. My psychiatrist said me having a baby was “a very bad idea,” as “what would happen to the baby when your obsession moves onto something else – like a pair of sunglasses?” There were warnings from the psychiatric unit that if I did have a baby social services would be involved. None of this dented my enthusiasm at all, I had found the man of my dreams (well I have to admit I would previously have thought he was the man of my nightmares as well) and the logical next step was having a baby. Fred wasn’t so keen, saying he was still a penniless student and that my obsession with the baby was as sensible as my previous fixation with ironing 5,000 leaves at 3am.
In an attempt to re-start my writing career I had decided to write a novel, a tragi-comedy about addiction, with a drug dealing “hero,” inspired by Fred. The character wasn’t the same as Fred, they had different life stories and backgrounds, but Fred was my literary “muse.” The female central character would be a journalist based on myself who crashed out of her career because of her cocaine and alcohol addiction. Her family would have multiple addictions. Preoccupied with the baby fantasy, I wrote a couple of pages of the novel and put it down. But I started making notes about my shenanigans in rehab the year before, and the crazy residents of “Lunatic Lane.”
Later in the year, my more successful rival, J.K.Rowling, published the fastest selling book of all time. This was the last instalment in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” which sold 15 million copies in 24 hours. I had to be content with a fantasy Oscar for a screenplay I hadn’t even written.
I had sold my flat in Maida Vale the year before, thinking I could put the money in the bank and move into my house in Notting Hill, living on the interest. But financially confused as ever, my calculations as to how much I needed to live on were totally off. So when I had the money in the bank, I found there was no way I could live on that amount.
I was still battling with my aunt in Jamaica to try to get some money from my mother’s estate, despite the draconian provisions of my mother’s will. I was furious with my mother, but, luckily, was able to work through my feelings in my art therapy sessions at the psychiatric unit. If I hadn’t had those art therapy classes, where I could express my rage, I would almost certainly have relapsed or fallen back into depression. Depression is, after all, supposed to be anger turned inwards.
Having battled with severe depression since the age of 13, caused by my parents’ abusive behaviour, the depression had suddenly lifted after I left rehab. This was, I am sure, because strangers such as Ama and Suzanne, the heads of two of my rehabs, were so incredibly kind to me that I felt looked after in a way I had never done in my life. Also I had never had so many mummies in such a short space of time. Although I was still pretty crazy – my phobia of dog shit making me leap like a frog down the street at night to avoid any unlit (dogshit-concealing) patches. But my life was coming together and I was surrounded with love.
My mother had set up a small Trust in the British Virgin islands whose main beneficiary was me. As the money from my mother’s estate in Jamaica was not forthcoming, I applied to the Trustees in the BVI to lend me the money to buy a house. Fred said he thought I should buy a family house in London as that was the best investment in the long term. He was fascinated by property and his great ambition in life was to buy a house. We would sit around watching property programmes on the telly which in Fred speak were programmes about “Pro-pa- ee.” The news at that time was dominated by the disappearance of angelic looking 3 year old Madeleine McCann, which was to become the most heavily reported missing persons case ever to appear in the British press.
I started looking for houses online 20 hours a day, my email inbox clogged up with emails from Findaproperty.com. All the energy that had gone into the leaves, the mobile phone, the fake designer bags now went into the house. I was even more obsessed with Findaproperty.com than I had been with eBay, this was compulsive shopping on a Titanic scale. I lost weight, glued to the computer for days at a time, eating a carrot a day. It was better than ecstasy. I barely spoke to Fred, certainly not about anything that didn’t begin with H and end with “ouse.” At least I was more aware this time. When I’d become obsessed with building a house in Notting Hill in 1999 I’d been blithely unaware that it was because my mother’s health was deteriorating. But this time I was fully aware that the purchase of the house and the baby was a reaction to the hole left by my mother’s death.
At first I was looking in Notting Hill but then, moved further afield visiting various cottages in nearby Queens Park. Viewing the cottages was a roller coaster as, although idyllic and adorable, there was something drastically wrong with all of them. Thus one was next to a 24/7 brothel where you could “buy one get one free,” another had a neighbour whose garden was piled so high with dog shit you would need a diploma in mountaineering to get to the top of it. The final one, where the neighbours were OK, was dark as a subterranean tube tunnel in a power cut.
I started to look in Kensal Rise and Kensal Green slightly further from Notting Hill. The houses were much bigger and lighter and, compared to Notting Hill, very cheap.
Finally I saw a house in Kensal Green that had a unique selling point, a fabulous roof terrace that had been at the house for years. The owner was a florist and the roof terrace was heaving with flowers. As I walked along it, I thought I can do an amazing loft conversion at this house with a door leading onto the roof terrace. This would be the master bedroom for me and Fred. I checked out the neighbours, none of whom were running a brothel or a dog shit factory, and began to move forwards slowly with the purchase of the house. I was struck by an absolute certainty that this was the right house for me.
Fred said the area was a bit dodgy but I brushed aside his concerns. The only problem would be that I couldn’t get back to Notting Hill on public transport so I would need to drive. Once the purchase of the house became dependent on me passing my test, I became obsessed with the test. I made 500 pages of notes and listened to the driving instructor as if the slightest second of inattention would result in instant death.
After studying for 5000 hours, I blitzed the written test and then had to go for my practical. Unlike my first test in Jamaica where I’d shot straight through a red traffic light, almost ploughing into a juggernaut, I was meticulous in following all the rules and passed my test first time. I say first time it was the first time on an automatic car I had failed the test on a manual umpteen times, leading the DVLA to put me on a list of “Top 10 Most (Un)wanted Drivers.” I was now able to forge forwards with the purchase of the house.
Before I did this I had to check with Fred that he was coming with me as there was no way I was leaving Notting Hill on my own. “Of course I’ll come,” he said hugging me, and the deal was done. I asked God for a sign that buying the house was the right thing to do. And I thought I got a clear one: after much persuasion, my aunt Beverly transferred the first $US50,000 of my mother’s estate to help me buy my home. It arrived the day before I was due to exchange.
Fred and I celebrated our move with an amazing shag at the Notting Hill Carnival. Not only was the earth (literally) shaking because of the speakers, my lady parts had an ecstatic mini earthquake of their own. Little did I know that I was buying the house just as cracks were starting to show in the global economy as one of the world’s worst ever financial crises was about to begin.
We were full of hope as we moved into the house, which I hadn’t shown to my father in case he had vetoed it. Everything was set for this new phase in our life, we now had a family house and were going to have a baby… What do they say about God laughing at our plans?
Next week: Armageddon with the ex-armed robber as we move into a family house to create a perfect nest to have a baby.