After getting a loan from my new employers, we went house hunting. It had to be in Essex as Valerie wanted to live close to her parents who lived in Romford. We went looking along the Southend line into Liverpool Street with our first stop being at Wickford. We found a nice four bedroom semi-detached house that was within our price range on a new estate being built by Moodey Homes. Unfortunately, there were none left on the plan so we had to think again. It turned out that they were also building the Bridles estate in Billericay and there were some of the same style properties available there but – what a surprise – a bit dearer! It seemed that we could still afford one of these so we put a deposit down on 2 Dunfane. The price was a handsome £6,250. Adjusting for inflation, that equates to £95,000 now. That gives you some measure of huge increase in house prices. According to Right Move, this property sold this year (2017) for £430,000 so nearly five times up on the rate of inflation!
We picked number 2 as this was going to be the first house completed. This was important as we were still living in a one bedroom flat as part of Valerie’s great aunt’s house in Norbury and Samantha was growing fast. This was turned on its head when they told us that the plans had changed and the house was to be the last one to be built in the road. This meant that we waited until April in 1971 before we could move it By that time, Valerie was well on the way to giving birth to Simon. Fortunately, Simon wasn’t due until July so things worked out in the end.
One problem that we had was that the Bridles estate was some way out of town and we didn’t, at that time, have a car. This was quite quickly sorted by Roy Jarvis (a colleague at work) offering us his old car. This turned out to be a very suspect Ford Anglia van conversion into an estate car. Not only had it been converted from a van but also had its suspension lowered so the first time that I took it into the garage, the exhaust pipe was ripped off. The picture below is of Valerie and Samantha with Valerie’s parents and grandmother. You can see the old Anglia in the garage. Note the number plate – OO 7303. Pity I didn’t keep an 007 number plate!
The house was very convenient as it had a through lounge/dining room, kitchen, downstairs toilet with four bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Not bad for a first home. There were three things wrong with it – well, one as far as I was concerned but Valerie had other ideas. My problem was the back garden. The builders left all the back gardens as they were after building the houses. This meant that they were basically mud baths that were full of builder’s rubble. When we started sorting out the garden and laying turf etc., we found huge amounts of breeze blocks and even a rusty old wheelbarrow buried!
Inside, we had some fun and games. First off, I had to build a new, stone, fireplace that had an extension out to the front window to place the television on. I had no experience of bricklaying so this was a voyage of discovery. Then she came out with the bombshell. Could we move the door into the kitchen! As the house was built, there was a door from the kitchen into the living room and a hatch through to the dining room. She wanted a door to go where the hatch was and to block off the other door. Well, on the basis of “her wish is my command”, it was done. I note in the floor plan as seen on Right Move, the door is still where I put it. Needless to say, I had no experience and had to learn how to use Acrow props and all the paraphernalia required to do a proper job.
Meanwhile, we were moving from a couple with two children living on a wage somewhat better than most to something quite different. As mentioned, my salary went from £3,000 p.a. to £16,000 p.a. during our time in Dunfane. This, in current money, is £30,000 to £177,000!!!! Mind you, £3,000 then was probably twice the ordinary salary for someone of my age. Our lives changed quite dramatically over the 3 years that we lived in this house and I will document some of those things in the next entry.