Written by Susan Hanks


This Girl: Van

After decades of sharing houses with others, Susan Hanks is delighted to be moving into her very own bachelorette pad. Just don’t mention van batteries. Or “Wazza”.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

I’m going it alone. After cohabiting with my parents and sister, then various university companions and house sharers, then, briefly, my sister again (without the parents), I’m moving into my own little bachelorette pad. I can put stuff where I want and eat sprouts seven days a week (if I don’t want visitors).

It begins with a predictably patronising exchange between myself and the head of a local firm, Warren, as I once again attempt to hire one of his vans and surprise him, again, with the fact that I’ll be the driver and I want the biggest bugger available. As I approach on the morning of the move he greets me with “Hiya Sue” even though on all of our previous encounters and in the accompanying paperwork I am most definitely a Susan. I toy with the idea of addressing him as Wazza but what came next was sweeter.

“Sue, have you got plenty of muscle?”

“Yes, actually I have. I also have a friend to help.”

Warren laughs. We now have a mutual understanding that I am unafraid of neither his large Luton with tail lift, nor of batting away his sexist comments with my strongest muscle: my tongue. It gains the biggest grin from his female colleague, whom I can only assume is patronised on a daily basis.

Three hours later, with too many bruises to mention, I have a van with a dead battery (Warren had failed to mention the importance of switching off the tail lift between trips). THANKS WAZZA.

After borrowing my neighbours’ jump leads, I negotiate long and winding country roads, garnering cartoon-esque double takes from fellow road users and, most importantly, an en route Big Mac and fries. My re-enactment of Long Distance Clara from Pigeon Street continues as I bump along the 22 miles from old pad to new.

My friend, who has such a strong Brummie accent everyone only ever refers to him as “bab”, assists me superbly along the way (I’ll gloss over his insistence on removing the gherkins from his burger). His support was invaluable, not least his unplumbing, manoeuvring, lifting and plumbing-in of the washing machine. My sarcasm could never have done that.

“It’s hard when the buck stops with you. There’s no one to offer reassurance that it was the right decision to pick this house, of all the houses, or laugh at the 80s style kitchen tiling while promising to help you update it in the very near future.”

Five days in I am sitting in my new favourite room, which I refer to as “the snug”, and I am smug. I have bleached, scrubbed, carried, lifted things up, screwed things down, mended a boiler, hung curtains (and almost myself, accidentally, in the process), set up Wi-Fi and TV, jumpstarted my new neighbours’ car (paying it forward came sooner than I had anticipated on this occasion), been to the tip, used a butter knife in the absence of a screwdriver, and purchased a screwdriver.

I have made huge life-changing decisions like how long to fix my energy tariffs for, tried my sofa in nine different positions in the lounge before moving it back to its original position and trapped my thumb in a divan drawer and swore so violently that I heard the workmen next door inhale sharply.

Susan enjoys a well-deserved brew in her new lounge.

Susan enjoys a well-deserved brew in her new lounge.

I have watched my neighbour smoking at least 742 cigarettes from my kitchen, realised that he has in turn seen me preparing a near-constant succession of snacks, and resisted sampling the chip shop that is OPPOSITE my house as I know that once I get the taste I’m in danger of having to be airlifted out through the roof when I want to next move house. Wait. I’m never moving again. Ever.

It’s hard when the buck stops with you. As is the knowledge that if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. There’s no one to offer a second opinion and reassurance that it was the right decision to pick this house, of all the houses, or laugh at the 80s style kitchen tiling while promising to help you update it in the very near future.

There are bits of my mind that I don’t know as well as I would like, yet, and I’m intrigued to find out what my taste in decor actually is (I predict chintzy). I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious on some level, which I think is healthy, but I’m telling nothing but the truth when I say I am more than ready for this step up my personal ladder, however hard some elements will prove to be.

It’s made harder, of course, when people like Wazza are almost willing you to fail, or at least struggle. But it’s made infinitely easier by humming Independent Women. The workmen next door will vouch for me.

This is written in loving memory of Bertie, who didn’t survive the move. He’s been with me for so many years. I don’t remember a time when he wasn’t with me. I shall move forward with my life and resign myself to not only losing him, but having to make yet another trip to bloody Ikea to buy a new bloody bookcase. As if I haven’t got enough to do.*

*Snacks to make.


  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • pinterest

Written by Susan Hanks

Presenter on Moorlands Radio 103.7FM Drive Time, weekdays 4-7pm. Join Susan in 'shaking what ya mamma gave ya' for the daily Derriere Dance. Rhythm/leotard not essential.