- by Sue Seaman -
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When I first found the advert in the local paper I rushed out excitedly to my fiancé Malc, who was washing his car. He put away his cleaning gear and after a quick phone call to the estate agent to check the time they closed - we were on our way to view a house! It was a Saturday afternoon and it meant a quick dash from Harold Hill where we both lived out into ‘the sticks’ at Maldon to get there before the estate agent closed. I had been scouring the adverts in the local newspapers for weeks hoping to find a house we could afford and at last - here was one in our price range.

Neither Malc or I were earning very much money - Malc was still studying at College and I was an Office Junior, so we really did not have a lot of options, and we only had a couple of months before we were to get married. We desperately needed a place to live and we couldn't miss the chance for a place of our own even though it seemed so far away at the time.

When we arrived in Maldon, we parked the car and rushed into the estate agent’s shop.
“Sorry,” said the estate agent, “Someone is looking at the property at the moment.” Our hearts sank, thinking that we had missed our chance. But just then an elderly man came through the door, put the key down on the table, said “No comment” and left!
The estate agent must have seen the disappointment in our faces and handed the key to Malc. A spark of hope rose again inside and we left the shop and drove down the High Street to view the little house in Church Street that this other man obviously did not want.

It was December and at just before 5pm, that meant that by now it was quite dark. The key we had been handed was the key to the back door, so when we arrived at the house, we had to find our way up a narrow little alley, though a wooden gate and across a small yard to the back door. With just the light from a nearby street light we managed to find the lock, turned the key and opened the door.

As we stepped through the door we found ourselves in what looked to be, the kitchen. Well, I say, ‘as we stepped through the door’ but in fact Malc stepped through the door and I stayed put outside in the relative safety of the street light! It was so dark we could not see where any light switches were. So whilst I waited by the door, Malc made his way through the house, trying to find his way around. He disappeared through a door and up the stairs, which were enclosed by wooden panelling.

When he returned a few minutes later he reported that he could see very little beyond the shapes of the rooms and something looking rather like a body huddled in the corner of one of them.
We locked the door and returned the key to the estate agent. Although it looked a shabby old house we decided that it looked interesting enough (and very cheap) to warrant another look (in daylight) so we made arrangements to go back the following day.

The house didn’t look that much better when we viewed it the next day. It was a mid-terraced ‘two up, two down’ cottage built in the early 1800s and was very old fashioned. The kitchen (little more than a scullery) had a cobbled floor and a fireplace, which in days gone by, would have held a roaring fire. There was an old ‘Butler’ sink mounted on two brick supports with a single cold water tap and in the corner of the room an old copper boiler.

There were two further rooms beyond the kitchen and all of the rooms still had old gas lamps fitted on the walls. Although the house had electric lights there was no electric sockets to plug anything into. Malc led me upstairs - through the door and behind the creepy looking panels. Upstairs there were three small bedrooms – but no bathroom.

Although we realised the house would mean a lot of work to get it so we could live in it - I also recognised that we couldn't refuse it - it was all we could afford! But Malc was very confident about the whole thing and said that he had no doubts about it that we could do it up and make it a cosy home. Without anymore discussion or persuasion we went back to the estate agent and said we would like to go ahead and buy it.

Soon the house was ours and for the next few months, Malc spent almost all of his free time, nearly always with the help of some good friends and often with his older brother, working on the house in order to get it ready for when we moved in.

Next door to our little house was ‘The Cosy Restaurant’, owned by Laurie and Beryl. Laurie and Beryl were wonderfully kind people. Whenever Malc and (usually) Ian, were working on the house there would be a ‘coo-ee’ from the restaurant and a tray of coffee, tea, sandwiches and cakes would appear (usually on a very posh silver tray). Just a couple of young lads working on the house but they were treated like royalty!

The other side of our house was a lovely, elderly couple, Mr and Mrs Burton and just the other side of them, a house converted into a small shop. The shop sold car parts and tools and was run by two men who were probably in their thirties. Malc was often in the shop buying some part for his unreliable car, hoping to also get a little advice from these older men. Well, not only did he get advice but they often loaned him the necessary tools to carry out the job! They were very kind to a naďve lad of twenty years old.

Over the road to our house was a timber yard and DIY shop. Once the owner knew Malc was restoring the old house he was as helpful as anyone could be. He loaned Malc timber, tools and gave him about all the DIY advice he could.

With just a week before our wedding, Malc and his friend were still putting the ‘finishing touches’ to the house (the pile of bricks and rubble in the back yard would have to wait until after we were married). But on the 24th May 1975 we moved in to our little house. We spent three and a half very poor, but very happy years at that house. Our first daughter Emma was born whilst we lived there.

In 1985 Malc and I became Christians. By that time we had three children and had moved house a couple of times since our first little house in Maldon. But we often look back at those, quite hard times, with great fondness. We can hardly believe now, how well we were looked after by our neighbours. So many people seemed to want to help us – people who didn’t really know us at all!
We can look back at the memorable photos in our collection - the work done on our first house from start to finish and marvel at how it all happened.

Of course, we can see now that God's hand was in the whole situation . We can see now that He has an interest in every part of our lives. He even cared for us before we ever gave Him a second thought. (But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8)

Just a couple of years back, Malc’s co-director Ian, invited us along to a meeting at his church, the Salvation Army in Maldon. We had a very enjoyable time and after the meeting, Ian introduced us to a few of his friends. We got chatting to Fred who told us that he had lived all his life in Maldon and that he lived at the bottom of the town in Church Street. Malc asked him which number in Church Street and sure enough – it was our first little house we moved into back in 1975.

It turned out that Fred’s mum had lived her whole life in that house and was the last person to live there before we bought it all those years ago. Fred’s mum was born there and lived there all her life. Fred, his mum and grandparents had all been members of the Salvation Army. It made us wonder how many prayers had gone up to our Heavenly Father over the years for those that would live in that house after them?

What we do know is that God had provided that house for us. Our first little home on this earth. More importantly, we know that He has a home specially prepared for us in heaven.
(In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2)

We loved our first little home but are looking forward to our last home even more.

Home is where your heart is.

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