I thought I would really enjoy looking for a house to live in. I've always enjoyed nosing round houses, eyeing up other people's stuff, trying to imagine what it would be like to live there and picturing it with my own belongings in situ.
But househunting with the Littleboys was another experience. Somewhere, in between stopping them playing with other children's toys, jumping on other people's sofas, barking at other people's dogs, and escaping out of gardens onto the street, it was just about possible to take a quick look at the property. And when they weren't fighting with each other, tripping over,whinging because they're tired and hot or demanding food and drink, you might just be able to work out how many bedrooms and bathrooms there were.
Add into the equation seeing 10 houses in one day, with the pressure to sort it out as soon as possible as you have nowhere else to live, and you have one very full-on househunting experience.
We turn up late for the estate agent, sorry, realtor, because we're at the bank sorting out a US bank account. Then Littleboy 1 needs a pee, which involves a ten minute trip to the basement of the bank; then Littleboy 2 dirties his nappy, and we're out of wipes, but there's no time to buy any, so we turn up with a smelly two year old at the first house to find a very stressed realtor telling us we were "running behind schedule". We stomp round the first house as quickly as possible, don't like it, and move onto the next without saying a word.
The next few hours are a whirlwind of houses, interspersed with tantrums as we unstrap and re-strap the boys into their carseats between each viewing. Most are on quiet suburban streets, looking typically American (I even saw an Elm Street, and was quite glad that this would not be the address - we don't need any more Nightmares). I am struck by the prettiness of their lawns, shady trees and shrubs. All the houses are quite different, but as usual when viewing properties, most have a fatal flaw. One place would be nearly perfect but for the fact its garden backs onto a four lane highway. "It's fenced off," points out the realtor. Er fine, but what about the noise and fumes? Another place is right by the ocean, with a beautiful view of Long Island Sound, and has lovely spacious rooms, but no backyard for the Littleboys. The places where the agent tells us "this is SUCH a wonderful neighbourhood" are generally small and too expensive.
But houses 9 and 10 are more promising. House 9 is a colonial style wooden house on a pretty wooded street, just one block of the Main Street of the small harbourside town we most want to live in, and a five minute walk from the Long Island Railroad which could take The Doctor to work and whisk us into Manhattan in 45 minutes. It has a good-sized garden, an old-style verandah which reminds us of Virginia (where we spent a very happy holiday some 15 years ago) and some nice rooms, although it's a little eccentrically decorated and a bit smaller than we would ideally like.
House 10 is big and spacious, also with a decent garden, but it's on a kind of housing estate, well away from any playgrounds or shops, and would involve driving everywhere. It's also not available until July, which is a big problem.
At the day's end, we are shattered, confused and can't remember anything about anywhere. But we return the next day to see 9 and 10 again (keeping Littleboys firmly outside). We plump for 9. When we return, the landlady is there, and we discover that some of the furniture is hers (most places are unfurnished) including some built-in bunk beds perfect for the Littleboys. It's also, we discover, very near a playground and a preschool. This clinches the deal.
So now we are in a period of limbo, as we can't move in for a few weeks. Our plans as I write are up in the air, as we can't stay where we are until then, so we're thinking of taking off on holiday for a time before The Doctor starts work. Watch this space....