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How I became the landed gentry without being a capitalist

23 July, 2015

When I married my husband Tim, his folks sat us down and explained that they would like to lend us some money to buy our first home.

I cried. Not with happiness or overwhelm.  I was blown away. But instead of being utterly elated I was gutted! Suddenly I’d be launched into a new class of society – and I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t want to move up from my working class roots!

We have never owned houses in my family. My mum and dad, my aunties and uncles, both sets of grandparents, all the sets of great-grandparents – not a single one has ever been a home owner.

Through my teenage years and early adulthood I actually formed a huge framework in my head for why I didn’t even believe in homeownership. Upon this structure I hung the fact that there was no money in my family and no way I’d ever have a job outside of the charity sector that could ever get me a mortgage. I draped over it historical evidence that suggests the dividing up of land was the initial push towards great inequality and that land ownership has since been a massive source of injustice, separating the haves and have nots. I lugged this great anti-capitalist clothes horse around with me proudly.

And then I sat on the sofa as my father-in-law offered to get us started with our first house.

And I wept.

(Later, not in front of him.)

We tucked this incredibly generous offer into the pocket of a fusty winter coat (hanging on my clothes line, probably) and tried to forget about it.

Years later, a good office job for both of us, living in London, and very much pregnant we tugged it out and dusted it off. Hmmm. This could change our lives.

Within a week we had viewed a house (er, yeah, just the one. It was love at first sight… don’t do that though… I read about how you shouldn’t do that in the bank’s Guide To Buying A House while we were settling) and had -a bit frightenedly- used Experian CreditExpert credit check and discovered things were all good in the hood. And then had made an offer and had it accepted. Within a WEEK.

We ripped up the nasty pink carpet that made us cry on our first night, planted tomatoes in the garden, planned where the birth pool would go. And we were so, so happy. It was our nest for our growing little family.

Now, in 2015, our lives look different again! We managed to sell that home that we’d done up with bits and bobs from the side of the road for enough profit to buy a parcel of land in New Zealand with some friends. And we spent the leftovers on a big yurt.

So now we are not only homeowners but the land owning gentry!

I still carry that busy old framework about with me though. But instead of making me cry about owning land it inspires me to make our land a collective place of hope for the community. We will grow food and share it. We will run retreats and camps for families that need support. We will run forest education stuff and perhaps even forster some children. We will do our hardest to make our home a Zero Waste one. We will create our interior using repurposed materials. 

I’ve slowly come round to the idea that homeowners and landowners can be a real catalyst of change- not just the tools of a consumerist, elitist empire!

I just hope my Nana would agree….

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