Time for closure.

Last week was DH’s graduation, marking the end of his degree and our life in Canterbury. We were very excited for the excuse to visit the city we once knew and still love, basking in memories of cobbled streets and Sunday mornings in a coffee shop. Of course we were celebrating the future as well as harking back, after all, DH did achieve a First in his degree and win the International Relations Prize, whilst juggling his role as a stay-at-home-dad. DS and I are amazingly proud of him!

It is crazy how time flies, as the same day a year ago was my graduation. I love how DS is present in both our graduation pictures; whilst our faces remain the same with a difference of one year (or so I hope), DS has almost doubled in size. To my surprise, with a few adjustments to the elastic, DS’ trousers and waistcoat from a year ago still fit him.

Oh how my boys have grown!

A Let Down.

I have rented five properties thus far, each with different landlords/letting agencies. I would like to think I am a pro at renting now, however there seems to be a lesson to be learnt each time. As we have now fully received our deposit back, I thought I would share my experience of Heritage House and enlighten/warn any future renters.

Our previous apartment in Canterbury was a charm when we first moved in December 2009. DS was only three weeks old then and we had mould issues at our previous flat (which Connells did nothing about) so we had to lose a month’s rent and move into a new property promptly. Because we were moving at an unusual time of year, we managed to haggle our rent down from £700 to £630 a month. This was such a good price for a two bedroom city centre apartment with Whitefriars shopping centre literally seconds away.

The first 10 months of our tenancy was perfect. The lady who initially dealt with our property from Regal Estates was friendly and eager to help. She had empathised with our need for privacy, with a lack of curtains and being on the ground floor, she took our situation and made it her own. She convinced the landlord to pay for our curtains, on the condition that we chose them and DH would install the curtain poles in each room.

 

She stopped working for Regal not long before the renewal of our tenancy. There was an interim period where we were passed to various administrators and our emails were lost in transition. This is around the time the cistern in the toilet broke and was leaking water. Concerned that our water bills would increase, we contacted Regal on several occasions to alert them of the issue, however this came to no avail. They eventually called a plumber months after we initially emailed them, who did not fix the situation. Many correspondences and visits from the plumber later, our cistern was finally fixed 6 months down the line.

This issue did not end there. Our fresh water and waste water bills arrived soon after, which both had doubled in cost from the same period as the previous year. We raised this issue with Regal, highlighting the section of the tenancy which states the landlord should be liable for any cost incurred by the tenant, due to a fault in which the landlord did not rectify within a reasonable time frame. This was dismissed as they counteracted our claim with their ‘professional’ advice from a plumber, who had spent only five minutes reviewing the toilet. They said we may have had more showers, increased our usage of the washing machine or had more dirty dishes to clean, owing to the fact we have a growing baby. I did not appreciate this attempt to use my baby to subside the issue.

During this meeting I had with the manager of Regal, the new lady who took over my property sat there quietly, almost cowering behind her boss. I spoke off-topic and asked whether it would be possible to have a rolling contract when it came to renew again, to which she responded,

“I am not sure, I would need to ask the landlord. I see you have previously paid 3 months rent up front, I’m not sure if that was because you came from a foreign country?”

Funnily enough, speaking with clear diction in an English accent, I am not a foreigner. I did email this manager later on in complaint of her rude ignorance, incompetence and lack of customer service. Unsurprisingly, she did not respond.

After this occasion, we decided to seek the ‘professional advice’ they were so keen on. South East Water check our external pipes and the toilet, to conclude that they are all in order and it was most probably the broken cistern which caused our overpriced bills. Despite this, Regal have not compensated us for their incompetence, nor have we received an apology.

The next issue we came across was when the lock on our front door broke. DH attempted to dismantle the lock to fix it, ignoring the fact that he is not a locksmith. To no ones surprise, he could not put the lock back together and we had to call Regal to resolve the situation. The locksmith came the following day and spent only a few minutes putting the pieces back together and fixed what had originally gone wrong. We later received a bill from Regal for £35, half of the overall bill, because DH had dismantled the lock. Regardless of DH’s naivety in thinking he could fix the damn thing, the locksmith would have needed to dismantle it anyway. His work was definitely not worth the total cost of the bill. Lesson for the future: If something breaks, do not bother trying to resolve the issue yourself.

I find this whole experience with Regal shocking and cruel. It is despicable how more measures are not made to protect tenants; the tenancy appears to be solely made to safeguard landlords, who have no qualms in manipulating you for your money. I do hope that enough pressure is put on the government to rectify this, as it seems the demand for rental properties are soaring.

Farewell Canterbury.

So yesterday was my final day at work, the last of my excuses for being in Canterbury. No longer will I have to risk my life driving 40 minutes each way half asleep, only to sit in a dark room made of glass. Nor will I have an excuse to buy random objects in my lunch break, to receive odd looks when I return with a laundry basket, mop and a whole chicken.

With my ties to CCCU severed, it leave me with an odd feeling; I am not overjoyed, yet I am not completely saddened. Perhaps a little empty; after all, CCCU and Canterbury have played a large part in my life over the past four years. I have lived the student life, become a responsible parent, a wife, and a full-time worker all under the same setting.

After drinks with my colleagues, I had to say my farewells and make my journey back ‘home’. The sun was setting on my walk to the train station along the city wall, making Augustine House sparkle; a picturesque view I have mentally stored and taken back with me to dreary Gravesend.

Long drive home.

So the weeks have passed and I am now residing in the filthy town that is Gravesend. My days are spent in denial of this fact, concealing my devastation behind my desk with my Admissions hat on. It is only when I set out on my arduous journey home, crossing the Medway border on the M2 and the skies turn grey, does reality smack me in the face.

It has only recently occurred to me how much I took for granted, living in the city centre, working for a decent wage with no travel costs and a neat apartment minutes away. I would enjoy regular visits from DH and DS during working hours and finish my day at 4:30PM, to find my bouncing baby boy waiting for me at the door.

I no longer have these privileges living in Gravesend. I see DS for a maximum of two hours a day, in which the morning hour is spent rushing around trying to get ready for work. In the evening my boy greets me with red eyes, exhausted from having such a fun day with Daddy, and slums into his high chair eager for dinner before bed. I barely spend any time with my boys before it is bedtime and I am forced to wake for the next day.

I remember I came across this battle when I first committed to working full-time. Yes it got easier, because my son was across the road. Will it get easier again? Doubtful. I am becoming worn, reliant on caffeine and desperate for my son’s attention.

Get outta this town.

Westgate Gardens, Canterbury.

So this is it. My days of living in the beautiful town that is Canterbury has come to an end. No more living in an apartment within the city walls, strolling two minutes to, what could be, an outdoor Bluewater. No more trips to the charming Westgate Gardens with a canal running through it or the Dane John with a little maze DS loves. Pushing my devastation aside, I guess I should take consolation in being here for 37.5 hours a week. Even if I am trapped in the centre of a glass building, where ironically, there is no natural light.

Moving back to Gravesend was not the end goal, but to fill the gap in the interim period between university and finding our feet. Let’s face it, it is not the most picturesque town and the people who occupy it are not the friendliest. It is a town people live in to be closer to London and its’ surrounding towns; you choose to live there so it is easier to escape. The remaining population who are not commuters, probably live in the many lovely council estates.

High speed exit out of Gravesend - 25 minutes to St Pancras International.

Generally in Gravesend, the chavs you see roaming the streets are seeking that extra 10p for a packet of fags, to then threateningly ask you to buy it for them. There is no politeness in their requests, cutting straight to the point and inciting fear in the process. In Canterbury, there are less chavs, or at least they are hidden. We mainly house the drunks and homeless in our underpasses, where they busk for money and thank you in return for your change. A couple of years ago when I was pregnant a homeless man asked me for change, but upon noticing my protruding belly, he backtracked and apologised for asking. In Gravesend I would have most probably be singled out as an easy target and mugged.

It is when you fight your way through the cloud of smoke on the High Street in Gravesend, you get the sense that no one wants to be there. The occupants are either in a rush to be somewhere else or just loitering to pass the time. In Canterbury passerbys smile at you and you smile back, in mutual recognition of how happy we both are to be here. I am not being cheesey, just pointing out facts; Residents, tourists and students alike choose to be in this town. Gravesend does not have tourists, nor do they have willing students.

I have lived in Gravesend for the majority of my years so I feel I have a fair judgment. It is pretty dire place to grow up in as a teenager and I fear it has not changed in the slightest.

Writings on the wall.

Do not get the wrong idea, I do not condone vandalism of any sort. Although I do love how the graffiti in Canterbury are of a much higher calibre than the ones found in Gravesend. They attempt to be thought-provoking with some kind of message, as opposed to a ‘cool’ pseudonym in an effort to conceal their real name but still maintaining their street cred. The graffiti does not necessarily make sense or actually hold any weight in the intellectual realm, but that is irrelevant. At least it tries to have an agenda.

Cut the crap.

I can honestly say one particular salon in Canterbury, has to be one of the worst hairdressers I have ever come across. I’ll leave out the name and spare the business.

I have myself to blame really. I originally had planned to get my haircut at Rush but decided against it when they would not allow 50% discount for recommending a friend; because I had recommended them on a Saturday, not a weekday, God forbid. I was feeling particularly frugal that day and hunted around on the internet for another salon in Canterbury that would offer me a discounted rate. I was not willing to succumb to £45  for a haircut when I could potentially only receive a half arsed trim.

I enquired into one particular salon’s ‘standby appointments’, where you pay a fixed price of £25, pick a time and whoever is available at that time will cut your hair. I was under the impression I had just bagged a good deal, considering the person who would cut my hair was worth £40 normally.

At first glance the salon appears to be flawless, with shiny floors, big mirrors and Aveda hair products on show. I had my usual glass of wine; one of the main reasons I booked an evening appointment was to relax and be pampered. Unfortunately the wine tasted as if it had been opened and left in the fridge for a week. Clearly, it was all downhill from here. It is only when you look closely at the staff you realise why these ‘standby appointments’ exist in the first place; their haircuts are typically ’70s with the attire to match. Usually I would expect my hairdresser to have some wacky red dye in their hair with a splash of blonde, not barely brushed dull hair being held back with a crocodile clip.

Half way through my haircut one of the more eccentric hairdressers approached me and offered a ‘hand and arm ritual’, whatever that is. I kindly declined and added this onto my list of reasons not to return.

I had hoped I was just being cynical and these guys were just modest in their dress. But no, they did not have a hidden talent, my haircut was very disappointing. She somehow managed to make the hair at the front into a point, so the bits on the edge of my face would look like a triangle. I have not attempted to style my hair since, it is would just aggravate me more.

That night I woke at 3AM with a burning sensation on my head and the need to itch. My eczema had flared up on my face and neck, so I spent the next two hours fighting the urge to scratch. I had obviously reacted to the Aveda products so I showered to wash it all out and stayed awake until Jesse awoke at 7AM.

My lesson has been learnt; next time I will happily pay all the money in the world to avoid having my face burnt off by cheap shampoo. Budget hairdressers just don’t cut it.