“It was so awful and ugly and repulsive in every way, not to mention the fact that it was located in a suburb I had sworn I’d rather die than live in, that we knew we had a great chance of getting it.”
And so Denise Scott moved into No. 26, with a husband, his circus equipment, a king-sized futon (but not a base), a Ventolin inhaler (to cope with stress-induced asthma), no savings to speak of and their newborn baby. The husband lost his eyebrows; the circus equipment multiplied, spilling over into any available space; the futon went mouldy; the Ventolin ran out; and another baby was added to the family, putting paid to any ideas of further savings. Forget about future plans, it was enough just to make it through the day.
All lives have their hiccups, though, and this is no misery memoir – far from it. The life that Denise and her husband John created in their ramshackle house is one of warmth, humour and good old- fashioned ingenuity. When the roof leaked, the kids wore raincoats. When the kids developed eczema, Denise devised a menu consisting entirely of adzuki beans. And when the council dismantled play equipment at the local park, John built a cubby house with it – so what if it was sprayed with arsenic? It’s not as if the kids were going to lick the walls.
Written with Denise’s trademark candour, is part memoir, part stand-up, this book is completely beguiling. Showing exactly what it takes to hold it all together when you want to follow your career dreams, maintain the love in a marriage, bring up kids who will get up off the couch, and look after an ageing parent – all while retaining a healthy sense of self-doubt – this book is a heartwarmer for anyone.