Owning our own home was a distant pipe dream when we found out we were expecting a baby.
Living on the high-rent south coast and shelling out more than £40,000 in rent since early 2013, saving for a deposit was going to be a ten to fifteen-year ordeal, if we were lucky.
Our rent-sapping situation was complicated when, just months after battling through four years of nursing training, health difficulties forced Hanna to walk away from her dream job, taking a significant pay cut.
Add in the fact she picked a journalist as her life partner instead of Lord Sugar’s next business brain and by the time we could afford any of the responsible adult things in life, it would be too late.
The harsh realities were one small factor behind the reason for our ‘reverse life plan’, opting for baby before the perceived security of home ownership.
A broken system?
As we would soon discover, the reality of having a mortgage meant we could afford a good-sized home for much cheaper than the monthly rent on our one-bedroom flat.
But living in an area where house prices are steep – and seemingly only on the up – the deposit was always going to be the killer.
It seemed so unjust that the realities of the system made it nigh-on impossible for us to get our foot on the ladder.
In a cruel postcode lottery, our chances of finding a place were more realistic if we lived in my home town of Swindon, or somewhere random up north.
Our home was Worthing. We were determined to stay, hoping our circumstances would change in the coming years – higher salaries, a return to nursing for Hanna and so on – to set us well on our way.
Rewind back to childhood
My grandparents had a huge influence on my life. While I lost one of my grandads quite young, the other three grandparents were all regular fixtures.
Boxing Days with Nanny and Grampy Poole were my highlight of the year. A big family occasion, I’ll never forget the amazing buffets (or walk-round teas as I called them) and the endless games.
Among them was the annual ribbing Nan got when the memory tray came out. A bit like the Generation Game always coming with a cuddly toy, nearly every item from the thimble to the matches (and, of course, the tray), was featured the previous year.
And much like Nan was a creature of habit, years later as a teenager I became used to my weekly coke, burger and nine holes of golf when they took me to the club after school or college.
On the other side of the family tree, Nanny Willies (yes, her real name, of huge amusement one year when she attended court as a witness to a flasher in her village) was also close to me.
She has yet to master Hanna’s name (‘Anna’?!) and Albie’s name is a write-off, but as my now last-remaining grandparent, it is so nice to see her spend time with our son.
Given they had such a huge role in shaping me, it seemed fitting that grandparents would eventually prove the key in my family’s future.
Coping with loss
Nanny Poole suddenly passed away just before Christmas, 2008. Those happy Boxing Days were to be no more, while the regrettable anniversary meant future Christmases became far too tinged with sadness for Gramp to participate in.
He struggled on, even learning to cook some basic meals. And despite leaving the fridge in the middle of the kitchen for years, failing to master the tidiness levels of Nan and once melting his kettle on the hob, he did a pretty good job of muddling along.
But the heartbreak led to a gradual downward spiral and things were never quite the same again. After a period of declining health, Gramp too departed, just a few weeks before Albie was born.
It was devastating not to be able to introduce him to his only great-grandchild, but it felt very much like a new life was coming to replace one which had left us.
And that’s where our house journey began.
Nanny Poole’s passing preceded a fairly turbulent time in our family.
Skipping over a fair amount of family politics, ultimately, following Gramp’s passing, it transpired Nan and Gramp’s legacy was helping us to secure that out-of-reach deposit.
Things changed fairly rapidly, and suddenly we were incredibly fortunate to be able to just about afford our first family home.
I think that Nan and Gramp would have been horrified at the price we had to pay to get on the ladder.
I’m confident they would have been equally surprised that, even with a significant deposit, our dream home was barely in reach.
But I’m sure they would be proud that they had helped their great-grandson into a place where he can grow up, have his own little room and plenty of space to play.
So our new house, and this blog, is dedicated to Nanny and Grampy Poole.
Thanks for the memories, thanks for giving us a lifeline and I’m sorry you didn’t get to meet Albie in person. He will learn all about you, be in no doubt.