Tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of me moving to my home Whimsy Manor. I know, yay!! The home I share with Mr Kitty, the mini art gallery of Canberra, the place where movie night and impromptu meetings of awesome autistic people happen and kids ask to visit. That place. Nice One Jeanette!
…However, like most good outcomes the story of my journey to Whimsy Manor is actually quite a difficult one. If we go back in time to 2000, I was a homeless recent ex-prisoner living in crisis housing. I moved from one unpleasant place to another over the next six years. Wherever there was a spot I would go, with no choice in the matter whatsoever! In 2003, having been in receipt of the disability pension for almost 10 years, I moved into what was expected to be my final address. Housing for life – public housing, social housing whatever you call it. I was meant to be there to stay. The problem was that my ‘permanent’ home was awful. I didn’t have It was in a huge development of over 100 flats. The building itself was horrible. The fixtures didn’t always work and there was constant damp running down the walls. Almost everything I owned was ruined by it. There was a hopeless air to the place. And that was just the physical environment. My neighbours were divided into migrants – who worked hard and usually left after a few years – and the alcoholics.
I am an extroverted social kind of person who befriended the alcoholics in order to have some company. In order to keep that company I needed to be drunk most of the time! One neighbour was a stalker and would glare at all my female visitors – including my mum! She had worked out the sound my toilet made flushing and would knock on my door five minutes after my first morning visit, knowing I was awake! As a reformed – and keen to stay that way – criminal, I was constantly among petty crime and violence. I was desperate to leave. In order to do so I studied at university so I could hopefully find a graduate job, which was actually what happened. Yes, I had to answer a lot of additional questions about my dubious past and also my mental illness but it was all OK. I just might have been the happiest ex-tenant the flats have ever had!
I moved to Canberra in January 2007 to start my new graduate role. I shared a house. At first I loved this. I had not had a rental contract for a very long time and the house was very nice. I felt like what I thought of at the time as a ’real’ person! There was just one housemate, a middle-aged woman who was very keen on vegetarianism and wine. The bullies and stalkers I had known were all poor and lacked social niceties so I thought middle class people who knew about all the wine regions in Australia and had cool designer jewellery must all be polite and lovely. This was not a good assessment of my housing situation and friends advised me that my middle class housemate was something of a bully. I lacked assertiveness so felt afraid to tell my housemate that I wanted to move to a different property. I figured the only way I could move out without being judged and potentially argued at was if I bought my own home. Enter Whimsy Manor.
It wasn’t called Whimsy Manor then. If anything it was called ‘the flat’ or ‘my compromise’. I hadn’t saved a big deposit and bought the most affordable home I could – a one bedroom flat in Canberra’s south which was built the year I was born. I didn’t like my home very much at all. As time went by things started going wrong. The flat upstairs had a leaking tap that dripped down my walls. Then I discovered my shower was leaking and had a nightmare experience with tradies making errors and blaming each other ands there being a big hole in my bathroom and no shower facilities for some time. I became extremely anxious, looking at every corner of my apartment and expecting something to be broken or leaking. The extreme anxiety – and my not being aware of the severity of it for a very long time – ushered in psychotic episode that essentially lasted two years. I accessed every mental health program there was in Canberra I think! I loved the residential ones because I could be away form the intense anxiety I felt being in my own home. Hom ownership seems dot have been a really bad choice., I cursed my inability to have difficult conversations with unpleasant housemates!
I regretted buying my flat and wished that someone would turn up unexpectedly and give me $1million so I could buy a new house that wasn’t falling apart!
So what happened? In a word, a cat happened, the amazing and singular Mr Kitty. I was friends with a cat rescue person who kept pestering me to get a cat. I made excuses but eventually gave in and said ‘bring me a cat.‘ She did one better than that and brought over four carriers of cats – three with cute fluffy kittens in them and one with a big grouchy adult cat. He came out of the carrier and I did something all my experience as a cat person had told me not to do: I picked him up and held him close. He snuggled in, purred and I suppose the rest is Kitty-Jeanetteski history!
Shortly after the advent of the furry persons I started to put up artworks and take an interest in the decor of my home. A while later and it had gained a name – Whimsy manor – which stuck. My Dad particularly likes the name. That was in 2013. I am much more comfortable in my home now but I still get highly anxious when maintenance issues happen. Despite this it is now home and other people really love it too. I get photos form people who have similarly decorated homes and people often give me things to display.
I regretted buying my home for so many years. I used to genuinely want to sleep under my desk at work to avoid going home but now I am very happy here. Whimsy Manor has its own character and style. Ten years is by far the longest i have lived at one address in my life and certainly in my adult life. I am so grateful I got to buy it and that I didn’t lose it in that terrible time of being unwell and taking lots of leave from work. I love that my home and I have gone through dramas together but learned to love one another despite this, So happy tenth Whimsy-verasry I guess! And ‘purr’ of course.