I know it is coming up to new year so bloggers people are probably writing posts reflecting on the year gone by but I’ve already done one of those so I thought it would be nice to talk about a topic dear to my heart: the story of my amazing home, the small, arty and Mr Kitty-filled place that is my lovely Whimsy Manor.
I’m going to need to go back in time a few decades to when I was a teenager living rather reluctantly with my parents. My parents owned their home with a mortgage. As a child I had always felt very secure about home. I never worried we would be forced to move out. It was a great secure basis from which to start – security and confidence are a nice starting point to life
I moved out of home at 17 and went into shared accommodation. I needed to get a job to pay rent, food and bills and somehow managed to find work in the middle of a recession at the age of seventeen and with no work experience at all. I struggled with share houses and the expectations of housemates so moved into a different share house every few months. Somewhere in this I got involved with dangerous people, spent time in prison, became homeless and then lived in supported accommodation for people with mental illness and then public housing. I was poor and living on benefits and doing a few odd jobs. My least favourite bit of poverty was the fact that I had no choice over where I lived and everywhere I lived was because there was a vacancy. Every one of these places was horrible. Neighbours tended to be drug addicts and alcoholics and I had a stalker for over four years who lived upstairs. I couldn’t escape from her because I couldn’t afford to pay for private rental. At that point I was on a very deliberate trajectory to escape poverty, which I did in February 2007, moving to Canberra to start work in the Australian Public Service.
My sense of freedom and accomplishment on moving to Canberra was huge. I moved into a shared house. It was easily the nicest house I had ever lived in with decks from an back, a green and police wood floors. My housemate was a woman who I soon learned was quite controlling and disrespectful to me. I was amazed that middle class people could be awful too! I saved a tiny deposit and went house hunting, hoping to escape form my paternalistic housemate and her hostile quirks. Because I did not have a huge income and house prices were high I was quite limited in what home I could buy. This was compounded by the fact I don’t drive so needed to be on a good bus route in order to get to my workplace in the city. I looked at about four properties and made a offer on an apartment which was built the same month I was born. As affordable, older apartments go it was good, with a nice hallway and big balcony but the who process of buying property was a big stress and I felt strongly that my home was a compromise.
After not very long I started to feel that my apartment was the enemy as there were plumbing and other issues which were expensive and I and I didn’t have much money. My apartment had stared its life as public housing too. I felt I was working full-time with a good wage in order to live in the same kind of place I had very unhappily inhabited not that long ago.
The plumbing issues culminated in the shower leaking and needing to be replaced about one year after I moved in. The tiler and the plumber I used both made significant mistakes and blamed one another. I was highly stressed, especially when I had no shower at all – just a hole in the bathroom wall – for a week. The show did get fixed eventually but unfortunately the extreme level of anxiety I had been in for months combined with anxiety about housing security from years of poverty and others deciding where I live turned into a very unpleasant psychosis which threatened my job and my life and was terrifying. I thought there were ghosts in my home and that this was causing my illness. I couldn’t imagine ever making peace with my home. However, somebody came along who changed that and quite quickly. His name is Mr Kitty and I think he is the soul of my home.
Before I got the little cat who bit my toes and ran around in full cat crazy mode at 3 am, the little feline person who purred and cuddled and was waiting for me when I came home from work, before then my home was cold and lonely. I actually wanted to sleep under my desk at work but within days of my little back shadow kitty arriving then I started go look forward to going home – Mr Kitty was there after all!
A few weeks afterMr Kitty came and changed everything I started to wonder if my home needed more art. I did some paintings in watercolour directly onto the walls – little flowers and plants mostly. After that I started putting some of my many artworks on the walls and then finding spots for little sculptures and pots and things. The art-ing up of my home had begun. Each week I counted all the artworks. I started not feeling stressed while at home. Within months I started called my home Whimsy Manor, My dad said it was a wonderful name and it made me smile eery time I said it.
That was about five years ago. Now Whimsy Manor and Mr Kitty have a following and I am finally happy at my home. I sit and look at the artworks and things and think how fortunate I am to have this slice of heaven which is my home. Mr Kitty is at the heart of this and always has been. I love to invite people back to Whimsy Manor quite frequently and they say usually yes. Whimsy Manor has a warm feeling about it. I love to share my home with friends. I recently had a news item about my work in the autism community featured on local Canberra TV and I suggested they film here. So there is this beautiful news segment featuring me and my lovely Whimsy Manor.
My apartment has gone from being a source of anxiety and extreme misery to being my home and my favourite place to be. I often reflect on how good I have things at the moment and how I have gone form being in desperate situations and being powerless and poor to having my own very small and humble and most excellent castle.
…And there are 466 artworks, cards, sculptures, photos and objects in display at Whimsy Manor – I just counted. My finger is sore 🙂