Once I'd decided we were leaving Nottingham, nothing could change my mind. I'd had enough, we'd had enough.
My son T was finishing his A-levels and after gaining 15 GCSEs he was expected to pass all 4 A-levels, and had 5 University offers to study law.
R was finishing his GCSEs and hadn't particularly looked for any colleges. I thought, now's the time.
Nottingham had become progressively more violent, and the rampant gun crime had earned the city the nickname 'Shottingham'. Stabbings were also too common for comfort, and after a youth was stabbed in the neck outside Rs secondary school, I worried sick about my boys in the area.
We'd had many caravan holidays all over England and Wales over the years, and I'd always found the warmest welcome was in East Yorkshire. People were lovely all along the coast, from Scarborough and York, to Bridlington, Hornsey, Filey, Withernsea, we had many happy memories. Coastal I thought, the boys absolutely love beach holidays so we want to be fairly close to the coast. I searched for private rented properties all along the coast, and booked a viewing for every 4 bedroom property on the rental market.
(After a benefit check triggered by an advisor I'd gone to see a few years previously about housing, it was discovered I'd been significantly underpaid benefits for a number of years. This resulted in a backpayment of £4,200).
By 2013 the boys had DLA benefits in payment and we were comfortable financially. I figured I could afford to put up to £150 a month from our benefits to the housing benefit, to account for the cost of private rental.
I took the boys everywhere with me, to every viewing. I told them excitedly that we were going to live by the sea. Over the course of the last 2 weeks in June 2013, I drove hundreds of miles, to quaint little villages, through miles of beautiful countryside, to view properties. Having lived in Belvoir Road, Netherfield for 12 and a half years, this was quite alien to me, but I was determined.
That protection conference and the betrayal I felt about the school, had made me paranoid. I couldn't trust anyone, and I felt the boys were in danger. While I had the full support of the local community and neighbours, the professionals around the boys, and especially the school, seemed against me. Many people told me to stay, to stand my ground, that I was a good mum and they would see that, but I'd seen how these things worked, and I wanted out.
Viewing properties wasn't exactly a walk in the park. I could feel the vibe of every meeting when the estate agent caught sight of me with 4 sons; several viewings were just a formality, they'd already decided we were a 'no', and if we got to the "are you on benefits" question the positive response always triggered a 'sorry we can't take benefit claimants'.
A few appointments were no-shows, with no explanation, and one property advertised as 4 bedroom, really wasn't. As we were shown the 4th bedroom, I looked around the room, and turned to R who was 16 and nearly 6 foot tall, and told him to lie on the floor across the only clear wall. The estate agent, looked at me like I'd lost the plot, as I again repeated to R to lie down across that wall. So he did. I said stretch your legs, he couldn't fully. I said "if you can't stretch out, a single bed won't fit there, this isn't a bedroom and this isn't a 4 bedroom property", I thanked the estate agent for his time, and we left. While disappointed at yet another failed viewing, I felt I'd taken back a bit of power by being the one who refused them, and not them refusing me.
But time was rolling on, and it seemed we were getting nowhere. I started to lose hope. As July came around, I was aware of the impending CIN plan meeting on the 19th, and I was getting nervous.
I found a 4 bedroom property located right on the coast of east Yorkshire below Withernsea. At £650 a month, I would have to put £130 to the housing benefit award, and I could do that comfortably. I booked a viewing, and we set off on a 100 mile drive.
After many miles of motorway, and a nightmare drive through Hull, the road opened up into beautiful countryside. Village after village, each unique, the whole area oozed peace and tranquility. We reached the end of a long winding road, passing a sign that read EASINGTON, and turned into The Brambles. The estate agent was running late, driving from Hessle and not knowing the area, had apparently got lost and was delayed. We looked around the outside, the place was massive. The biggest house we'd seen so far, it seemed bigger than the photos. I fell in love, but was convinced we'd never get this place. It was too good. I didn't dare get my hopes up.
We waited a while, and I noticed activity in a house further down the crescent. Trying not to look over, I glanced anyway. Suddenly, the lady who was busy, came over, and in true Yorkshire style, said hello and introduced herself. She asked if we were here to view the house, and I explained the agent had got lost on the way. She said she knew the layout of the property and described the inside. It sounded amazing. Entrance hall with downstairs toilet, large living room with patio doors to the garden, large kitchen with patio doors to the garden and attached utility room that led to the side door, four good sized bedrooms with the master bedroom having ensuite bathroom and patio doors, large garage and drive, large garden. Oh yes, I wanted this house.
I contacted Lime properties, explaining that I was very interested in their property at The Brambles. They asked about my 'income' and I told them how much I got a month, they asked what I did for a living and I said "carer", which wasn't exactly a lie although I wasn't a professional waged carer, they asked if I could provide my bank statements, and I provided the short statements showing the total income and outgoings for the month. I sent copies of our passports, and several references from local people I'd known years, including a local councillor, and said I was very keen to move as soon as possible.
After passing all the checks, Lime Properties contacted me, the earliest they could sign me up, was the 25th July. With the CIN meeting just days away, I confirmed the appointment and paid the deposit. I'd done it, I'd got us a beautiful 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom newbuild house, with large back garden, right next to the sea. We were leaving Nottingham behind, for a tiny little coastal village population 800, for paradise...