Going with the flow

Thursday May 18 2006

“I’m sorry, Mr Bailey, but we really have lost touch with the vendors,” the nice lady estate agent said. “I’ve left messages all over, and made enquiries, but for the moment I’m afraid I can’t put your offer to them.”

“These things happen,” I assured her, as kindly as I could. “Keep us open for the present, please, but I must tell you that, in the circumstances, we’ll have to look around and check alternatives. I don’t think it’s a good idea to hang around and delay in today’s market.”

“I’m very much afraid you’re right. I wish I had a similar property to offer you but they’re all SSTC [Sold Subject to Contract].”

I bade her farewell, and meant it. It’s not often you meet an estate agent you actually like.

Graham had been hovering. “Sounds like you’ve made your mind up,” he said.

“Yup. I think you’re right. I’ll put an offer in on the town house.”

Which is what I did. When I put the phone down, Graham was horrified.

“Are you sure you’ve offered enough?” he quavered. “We don’t want to lose it.”

“You have to start somewhere. I think they’ll snap it up but I have plenty of room for manoeuvre. Now go away and leave me to it. You’re making me nervous.”

“Right you are. I can understand that. I’ll go and clean my lines. You will let me know as soon as…”

“Of course. The minute I have a deal I’ll ring you.”

About an hour later I called him: “Okay. We’ve got it.”

“Yippee! How much?”

“They took my initial offer, as I thought they would.”

“Gosh. Well done. I wouldn’t have the nerve but then that’s what I pay you for.”

“Wasn’t aware I was working for a wage. Just don’t forget that lavender hedge.”

“Oh, that’s as good as done. While I was waiting for the lines to flush I designed our new front garden. You’ll love it.”

I do, too.

So, then. Having discovered that the little house at the end of the lane was so far out of our financial reach as to be more suited for the Land of Oz than West Somerset, and who wants a house with a dead witch under it anyway, we’ve gone to the other extreme and will be living for the next few years in an almost new brick-and-tile town house within walking distance of the centre of Bridgwater. Even closer there are miles and miles of open farmland, a classic Victorian town park, and a yacht basin and marina formed from what were the old Bridgwater docks. Bridgwater is an ancient town, with loads of history I shall enjoy learning.

When Graham grilled me to discover the reason for my initial dislike of the house I was alarmed to find that I’d fallen into the trap of failing to see the wood for the trees. The current owners have done nothing to present their home for sale. The decor and furnishing is dreadful, the place is not very clean, and it smells strongly of small children and a large and angry dog which, while we were viewing, was locked in the back garden and trying desperately to get in and kill us.

“You old fool,” he said. “They’ll be taking their furniture, brats and dog with them. We’ll leave our stuff in store for a week or two longer and repaint the place from top to bottom, then give it all a good scrub and shampoo the carpets before we move in. It’s only a year or eighteen months old and we’ll have it restored to new condition in no time flat.”

“That’s very good thinking,” I said. “And you know what?”

“No. What?”

“I’ve been studying the market. If we do that we’ll put a significant amount on the value of the place before we even move in.”

Not wishing to tempt fate, I’ll post photographs as soon as the place is securely ours. For now, suffice it to say that it’s a rather handsome family town house, built to the very latest standards of construction and energy conservation over three floors. On the ground [first] floor is an entrance hall with double french doors opening into the main hall. There is a cloak room [half bath] on the left, and my study is on the right at the front, with a large bay window. At the back there is a large L-shaped kitchen/diner, with french doors opening onto the catio, and a small garden beyond just crying out for a lush, green planting. From the hall a properly designed staircase, which I found perfectly easy to manage, goes on up to the first [second] floor landing and from there to the second [third] floor. On the first [second] floor there is a good-sized living room to the front, again with a large bay window, and the master bedroom with full-sized en-suite bathroom to the rear. On the top floor are a further three bedrooms, two double and one single, and the family bathroom. Graham will take one of the doubles as his office, the single will be used as a boxroom, and the remaining double will become a proper guest room as soon as we can afford furniture for it. There is a single garage in a private courtyard just behind, with an additional parking space to the side.

The deal looks to be solid. The present owners are moving into temporary accommodation with parents, pending a move to Gloucester, so there is no forward chain. They’ve already been let down twice, with deals falling through due to broken chains and mortgage problems, and they’re now desperate to move. So they welcome us, cash buyers, already sold, with wide open arms and even wider grins. Providing there are no snags the whole business could be done and dusted in six weeks or so.

Now, it’s not exactly what we’d planned. There’s no shorter way to unhappiness than wanting something you can’t have, though, and it could be that this will, after a few years, prove to be a stepping stone to that chocolate-box country cottage of which we’ve dreamed. Meantime, we’ll have a handsome house in a vibrant, up and coming town, with open countryside just two streets away and only a twenty minute drive from Graham’s job at St Audries. I think we’re in for a different but very happy time. Sometimes you simply have to go with the flow. Thinking about it, there aren’t too many times when you don’t have to go with the flow.

Last but by no means least, Graham absolutely loves the house. Has done since he first clapped eyes on it. What Graham loves he turns in very short order into a house for which most people would give their right arms. And that’s a flow that’s impossible to resist.



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