Friday, October 19, 2012

In transition

The house-building process is kinda like any human relationship except that the equivalent journey of  meeting/dating/planning a wedding is squashed into a much shorter timeframe, with a few different people involved.

There's the courting phase in which you check out all the suitors/building companies, spending considerable time eyeing them all up and comparing their good points. During this phase your potential partners are all on their best behaviour, calling regularly to see how you are, emailing you with updates and options, and always excitedly looking forward to the next meeting.

As you head towards formalising your relationship, you may find yourself under a reasonable amount of pressure to 'put a ring on it' and sign the contract. Like any pre-nuptual agreement, this document needs to be carefully worded and thoroughly checked. Cynical friends may tell you that your future partner is only interested in the ring/contract and won't be nearly as attentive afterwards but you brush those thoughts aside and head off to another catering meeting/material supplier. So many choices need to be made at this early stage of planning the event that the momentum of constant decision-making carries you along.

You may sense a change in your partner after the signing of the pre-nup/build contract, a growing gap that wasn't evident earlier in the relationship. There could be phone calls that aren't returned, emails that aren't responded to, or questions that go unanswered.

But then, after a short gestation, a new version/representative of your suitor/building company emerges from the chrysalis. Fresh faced and attentive all over again, sending a flurry of emails and making lists & timelines that assure you of their focus and dedication. Progress looks good, the future looks rosy once more, and you get together regularly to make sure everything will be ready for the big day.

However, as you reach for the finish line, things are going wrong: the suit hire firm/appliance supplier doesn't deliver at the right time, the caterer/painter does a half-arsed job then quits, the banners/kitchen cabinetry are the wrong way round and you wonder if your suitor is paying quite as much attention as they should be.

Turns out the sub-contractors weren't quite what they were cracked up to be, but you push ahead regardless because by this stage there are few alternatives.

Then, after the event, your previously attentive partner/building company becomes more like the dinner guest that outstays their welcome and won't go home, or the teenager who refuses to leave their room and communicates only when prodded by frustrated parents.

And you find yourself channeling David Byrne, singing "this is not my beautiful house... how did I get here?".

We've been through all these stages: jilted by the sales rep as soon as the contract was signed, then farewelled by the project manager as he handed over the keys to a house that wasn't quite up to scratch. Now we're in stage 3 - arguing over the pre-nup with the leftover party guest/uncommunicative teen. Once you've put a ring on it/moved in, it seems the pressure's off. The big day is over and the guests have gone, except for stubborn ol' Uncle Walt who has one hand on a half-full bottle of wine and the other on the last plate of sausage rolls.

Our building company has turned into Uncle Walt. Just like this imaginary random relative, they make vague promises about things happening, wander off with sentences/plans half-formed, organise some things but totally forget about others, and never do quite enough to finish the bottle/task at hand and get out of our house.

A house in transition, within a city in transition. How f@#&ing appropriate.

This weekend sees the start of the Festival of Transitional Architecture - beginning with LUX CITY, a light show to brighten up spaces & places in the dark heart of our doughnut city.

I'm strangely* in the mood for this. Time to let it go and enjoy the long weekend :)

*perhaps it's not really that strange after all...

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