That would never do

Wednesday February 8, 2006

I spent a large part of the morning searching for an official planning document that wasn’t there. Furthermore, it never was there. And yet, somewhere in the murkier recesses of my mind I was convinced that I’d seen it. Finally, reading through the correspondence between the solicitor and myself when we were buying this house, I came across a statement that it doesn’t exist and that my local planning department don’t keep records that far back, preferring to regard out-dated planning transactions as ‘historic’ and of no interest.

Fine. I confirmed the situation with the solicitor, tidied up the stack of paper and settled down to the job of transcribing a list of addresses and references onto the last of the forms. The end of this onerous task is in sight and, so I’m reliably informed, it’s the last such job we’ll need to do on the sale.

It’s all taken far longer than I’d expected and I shall be thoroughly relieved when I post the wad of paper off in Spilsby tomorrow.

Throughout the day a constant stream of text messages and phone calls flowed between Graham in Somerset and me here in Lincolnshire, mapping his progress around the estate agents and houses on offer. Makes you wonder how we ever managed without mobile phones.

The first casualty was the Victorian town house in central Minehead, which I’d fancied for the convenience of the location. It is under offer.

“We wouldn’t have wanted it anyway,” Graham said.

“Oh? How’s that, then?”

“The ‘small courtyard garden’ they described is a patch of concrete about three foot square. Even you’d have difficulty making a garden in that.”

“Gulp. You’re right. Dolly and I wouldn’t be too happy with that.”

“And you know the ‘garden room’ they talk about?”


“It’s a ramshackle plastic lean-to, about two feet deep.”

“Ah well. That’s estate agents for you, I suppose.”

“Tell me about it. I’ve done five of ’em already and collected a huge pile of similarly optimistic house details.”

“Don’t bust a gut,” I said. “Take a good long coffee break while you look through them and if there’s nothing you want to pursue, knock it on the head for the day.”

“I’m not giving up that easily. I still have time to take a swing through Williton and Watchet.”

The saga went on right into the late afternoon. He secured a viewing on a house in Williton, on Monday morning, and scouted out a couple of other possibilities. That’s actually pretty good going for a first pass, and especially so when you have to do the job on foot and by ‘bus.

By the end of the day he’d firmed up his view on what is available, and what we should aim for, and we’d decided mutually that the job should now go on hold until we’re both there, with the car and with the time to search around the area for ourselves, seeking out ‘For Sale’ signs that don’t appear on the local agent lists. That’s the way we found the Little Old House in the West, on the books of an agent located in Wellington, way out of our search area.

As a safety net there are between one and two hundred perfectly nice little houses on the market in the Watchet area, within the lower limit of our budget. They tend to be semi-detached but will do us nicely as a stepping stone back into the West Country property market. Most house-owners in the UK live in semis or terraced houses and we can do the same.

We have our dream, however, and shall not take a fall-back position until we’ve explored it thoroughly.

Shortly after dark I was siezed by a sudden urge to eat salad and fruit. Faced with an empty fruit bowl and a few limp lettuce leaves, I threw on my coat and departed for the Tesco’s store in Boston.

“Sorry ’bout this, Dolly,” I said as I went out the door. “I’ll not be long and I’ll be sure to bring you back a pressie.”

The present turned out to be a charming catnip mouse, all gaudy and with two tingling bells. She generally likes tingling bells. This time, however, in spite of the catnip reek that rose when I pulled the packet open, she did no more than sniff at it disdainfully and turn her back on it. And me.

“Oh, be like that, Dolly,” I said. “You ain’t fooling me and I know you’ll come round before long.”

Shortly aftwards there came the sound of tingling bells from the inner hallway and then the poor gaudy thing flew through the air from the doorway into the kitchen, closely followed by twenty-five pounds of angry cat, huffing and puffing annoyance and enjoyment, all at once.

That’s cats for you. I didn’t let her see me crow at my success. That would never do.



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