Anxiety peaked weeks before we moved out of our pokey one bed flat. It had become clear our house purchase would not be completed by the time we would have to leave Wandsworth. The moving bit we had sorted. I had scavenged strong cardboard boxes destined for recycling, the van had been hired, the storage unit booked, we just didn’t have anywhere to go; at least not a home.
Our final destination was a block of Hotel apartments a few miles from where we hoped we would be living in the coming months. We had hoped, before our baby would arrive.
The apartments were hidden on an abandoned high street behind a relatively new retail park, the railway track towering above. Beautiful arch brickwork reminded me of suburban London; I missed it already. A gateway opened onto a bare courtyard, displaying an array of ground floor apartments. All apparently being lived in; unmade beds and dirty laundry all on show through the large windows. It was such a strange place for a hotel, only one of two in the whole town. We still wonder now who else was living there. Perhaps there were others like us.
Naturally, it was decided that a young and unmarried couple booking in the peak summer season should be housed at the very back and top of the apartment block, away from the young families or disabled customers requiring easy access. My then pregnant self wasn’t best pleased with the amount of stairs I would have to negotiate daily, but once we had checked in it was a relief to know we were sorted. Atleast for a month.
The room was smaller than we were used to, but we had expected that. One room had everything we needed. A bed, kitchenette (microwave included, hob not included) a television (crucially) and an en suite with shower. We even had a tiny dining table, but with only one chair. Even so, I had thought the space could rival some London bedsits I had heard about.
Going to work everyday gave us the structure we needed. We were both busy heading in early and leaving late. We synchronised our journeys into work, walking the few minutes to the station together, to then get separate trains heading into the same city. It was important for me to get a seat, so I took the slow train, whereas for Stephen it was important that the journey didn’t take an hour and a half. I always tried to spot his silhouette as his train overtook mine, somewhere around Bromley, but I never saw him.
We tried to make the weekends as normal as possible. We’d go for breakfast, do the washing, walk around a few shops, taking advantage of the shopping centre for its air con and sweet baked goods. We found comfort in re-watching Friends. I had only just seen the ten seasons for the first time, but when we got back to where we started, we let it roll round again. It was another thing we could keep familiar.
Life was strange, but we made it ours. Microwave meals eaten across from each other with the laptop streaming in the background. Trips to the storage unit to top up on clothes that could fit over my growing bump: every time wishing we had been more organised searching through boxes and bags to find sunglasses, flip flops and sun hats. Every trip around the shops punctuated by the need to check in on the washing machine, stored in a cupboard under the stairs. Fear and uncertainty didn’t stop us laughing as we could hear the couple next door to us having their best holiday sex.
The phrase you would use now is that it was our new normal. On the brink of so much more change, we clung to the normality of our pre-baby life. With all the strangeness of pregnancy, wild hormones and an ever-changing body, alongside the stress and uncertainty in the attempts to secure our own home, this room had become a comfort to us. It was home.