City living! It's fun and glamorous! If residing in an apartment, you get to live life from your dinky, smart little unit where it's easy come, easy go and you are just footsteps from trendy establishments simply aching to sell you their coffee, their wine and their pastries.
Ah, the lives of the DINKs (double income no kids). How much we loved that life and how very far away it seems now. Otherworldly, even. In London we came and went as we pleased, stepping outside to the hissing buses and bright lights shimmering in puddles. But you didn't even have to be outside to feel it: standing in our apartment you could feel the Tube rumbling underneath and I never got bored of it. London was happening wherever you were.
Choosing glossy Sydney meant opting for beaches and bigger skies, and yet we still had great access to most things a city life affords, this time including sun, sea and sand.
Then children happened. Don't get me wrong; life with them has entailed, once again, that there is never a dull moment and in their own crazy, noisy, smooth-skinned way, they are excellent. It's just that in our post-DINK family life, we have grown in number and in need and our apartment has not grown at all.
Sydney life is expensive, however, and though we know we need a three-bed-with-garden now, acquiring one is easier said than done. That is, since we love the priciest, beachiest part of town (sigh) and could do without being far from friends and Son's daycare (have you seen those waiting lists? I ain't budging), we - literally - pay the price. You want poncey? You pay poncey.
The upshot, then, is that we have had to stay in our first-floor-two-bedder and as each day passes, I can't help but consider its original real-estate ad and what this means for us now.
'In a Prime Location just moments from the beach'
So prime locations tend to be nice, on the whole. No exception here, and oft did we once trot down to the beach or cafe at a moment's notice. Now, 'prime location' means $$$ which means 'land is at a premium', which means 'enjoy having no outdoor space, or if you want some, you'd better fork out for it, you cheap bastards'. See 'balcony' below.
'Beautiful sunny balcony'
Yes, here in Oz, North or West-facing is what you want, and luckily that's what we have. I say luckily- once upon a time would I belt it home from work on my bike on a lovely day, my own mantra humming in my ears 'balcony by five, be on the balcony by five' and there I'd be at four-fifty-five, wine in one hand, iPhone in the other and bikini upon my person. Smug as a bug, baps-out on a rug. Forget the fact that only douchebags soundbite their own mantras; the real punishment that lay in wait was a year or so down the line, when the mobility of my one-year-old son flashed up horrific 'what-if' scenes before me, of his plummeting off the 20ft side to his tiny demise.
Private outdoor space it once was, but a garden it shall never be. These days it enjoys its run more as a large laundry-drying facility. Sigh.
'Flooded with natural light'
Yes I continue to love this as a feature, though less so does Daughter, six months, whose rug-bound antics means that she is often rolling around yelping because shards of light are jabbing her in the eyes. Worse, with our giant windows, those single-glazed muthas ensure that heat is easy come, easy go and winter evenings are pretty chilly. Central heating? Insulation? In Sydney? You’re having a laugh. At my expense.
'Wooden floors throughout'
This fashion has seen rental properties be able to whack their rates right up. I am not immune to this trend. In fact, in the living and dining area at least, I can't help but feel that places look about sixty percent uglier if carpeted. And there is some practical basis for this; when feeding babies and toddlers, having a wipe-clean floor has obvious advantages (not to mention the state Husband and I get carpets in all by ourselves- back in London our beige carpet swallowed so much red wine over the years that it ended up looking like a map, with every stain telling a story. Ask me about it sometime).
But for all other infant activity, my snootiness is shown for what it is because wooden floors suck. They're a hard landing surface for the less sure-footed nipper, yet for the very sure-footed they're even worse: Son crashes around with every noise amplified, often waking his sister. And that's just above the floorboards. It's been politely intimated to us that living beneath them is worse: the ground-floor dwellers suffer every shriek and stamp as if it's happening next to them. Slightly dubious that it could be that bad, I recently popped down to the neighbours to speak to them about it, apologetically, of course. As I was talking to them in the doorway, as if to crisply illustrate the point, I could hear Son's activities (very) loud and clear. It was an awkward moment.
So what to do? Well, we do try to shush and calm him, and we do encourage him to play on the rug. But let's be realistic: he's two-and-a-half. And the balcony...well, I've already described the balcony.
It gets us off our asses and out the house, I guess.
'Traditional High Ceilings'
Finally, this one is my favourite. High ceilings are undoubtedly a lovely feature and they add a sense of space and dimension, even to small rooms. Well, when we arrived they did this. Now, though, they serve not only to amplify the echoes of Son's tomfoolery, but they almost mock us in their loftiness, as if to say 'look at all this gorgeous space, this blank square-metreage, basking in its uselessness! Can't fix a load of shelves up in a rental, can you? A- ha ha ha haaaa.'
I swear with each day, with each new toy acquired and each new speedy movement learned by my children, the walls feel like they are moving in not unlike that scene in Star Wars where Luke, Chewy et al are almost squashed in the giant bin room.
OK I'll stop there. We don't live in a bin, we insist on being somewhere poncey and we did choose to have kids.
But if anyone has any tips for how to do this better than us, I'm all ears. Cheers.
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