Friday 11 May 2007

The Pit and the Pendulum

We go down, we go up. Life seems to delight in playing games with us at the moment. One step forward, one step back. We continue to do the house sale dance. Today we got a thick wad of papers from our solicitor – hurrah. Things are moving. Then we read them. Eh? Since when did a stream become diverted through our potential property? No wonder it’s darn well damp, if it’s got a river running through the cellar! OK, I exaggerate – but not that much. There were also horrible scary photographs of the behemoth of a wall that separates our house from the vicarage. It’s a mammoth wall. Forget Hadrian’s malarkey, this is akin to the Great Wall of China – huge and tall but sadly not as thick as it should be, and doing a bit of a Pisa number….(sorry, the geographical references are skittering all over the globe) This lean has been measured and tracked over years and seems to be giving up the struggle to remain vertical. We are advised to have builders prod bits. We are further advised to get quotes for its replacement. Replacement? I have visions of the pyramids being built (yup, we’re in Egypt now) – hoards of builders like ants in endless lines, overseers holding out bottomless buckets for us to empty out our pockets into.

Spurred on by your advice I have been sending ever stiff emails, starched emails, emails so sniffy and affronted that even Running Woman, queen of all shifty tight-lipped estate agents, began to quaver and sent back appeasing notes, ending up with an extraordinary phone call.
‘He (as in our buyer) wants to know when you want to complete.’
She threw it down like a cat bringing in a mouse. Pitifully hopeful of pleasure, but in all reality expecting a clout round the ear.
‘Complete?’ If ever a word could be spat, this was it. ‘He can’t even exchange so how on earth does he think he can complete?’
‘He just wondered when would work for you. He’s totally flexible. Maybe to tie in with school holidays?’
I know what he’s doing, the toad. He’s trying to take our minds off the fact that the whole thing is still wafting round in the air like a big balloon.
He’s trying to sound like Mr Nice Guy, Mr Reasonable. I know we aren’t the most hard-bitten of buyers but we aren’t total idiots.

I sounded off a bit and felt much better for it. We decided that, should exchange not happen on the 22nd May, then the house will go back on the market – full page ads, the whole shebang. If that doesn’t put a rocket up his, er, bottom, I don’t know what will. So, the clock is ticking.

Whether it’s the clock ticking or that bloody woodpecker still pecking (it’s now taken to acting as a 5am alarm clock, hammering on the wheelbarrow), I have had a headache all day. ‘Move the wheelbarrow,’ said Adrian. So I did. And what did it do? Started pecking at the flipping window. That’s all we need, window frames collapsing due to woodpecker activity.
When I got up, bleary-eyed and horrible after a few brief hours of slumber, there was another unpleasant surprise.
‘Come and look at this,’ yelled Adrian.
‘What is it?’
‘Come and look.’
Don’t you hate that? So up I got and walked out onto the landing to join Adrian, James and Asbo staring at a pit. OK, so not a true Quatermass of a pit, not a Pit and the Pendulum pit but a depression nonetheless. A concavity in the carpet between James’ room and the bathroom.
‘Oh for pity’s sake, what the heck is that?’
We edge up the carpet and found that we do not have floorboards, we have odd little squares of chipboard bearing our weight and that of our furniture. One had given up the ghost and had sort of collapsed in on itself. Rather how I felt looking at it.
‘Thank God that hadn’t happened when the surveyor came.’
Indeed. The surveyor arrived last Friday, unexpectedly and looking stressed. He’s gone into the estate agents to get directions to another house in the area he was supposed to be surveying and had been bullied into doing ours while we was out here. Well, I have to give the agents brownie points for that.
It was a hot day and he had four dogs in the car. Hurrah!
‘Oh, do let your dogs out – it’s far too hot for them in there. Jack won’t mind.’ Fixing Asbo with a pleading stare. Yes, I like dogs and I did have their welfare in mind. Well, partly. But most of all I know full well how wrongfooted anyone is when their dogs crap all over your garden path.
The poor man. He tried to demur but I gave him a look that said he would be cruel indeed (and I would be on that phone to the RSPCA within a nanosecond) to leave three labs and a terrier in a small car in blistering sunshine.
‘Are you sure?’
‘Of course, of course.’
So he let them out and they did what all dogs do which was to sniff around and then wee and poo liberally all over the place.
‘Oh God. I’m so sorry. Have you got a spade? I am SO sorry.’
‘Not at all, not at all. Don’t worry about it.’ Lady Bountiful incarnate.
Let’s be honest, he barely looked at the house. He asked me if we’d had any problems and seemed to think it perfectly fair when I said not. He desultorily measured the perimeter and took a few snaps with his digital and that was that. The poor chap could barely wait to herd his dogs back into the car and zoom away.

So there you have it. We go up, we go down. Our poo quotient rises; our floor levels sink. Then, just when it seems to stop still for a moment, Adrian gazes out of the window, over the lush greenness, watching four stags wander over the field.
‘We’re going to miss it, you know.’
Should I murder him now, or save it for a treat for later?

PS: Talking of pits and pendulums, I have given up on The Poe Shadow - type too small, story too tortuous. Life too short. Am now reading Shamanka, a children's novel about shamans and magicians (aaagh, but not remotely similar to my own, Walker Between Words (another segment of which awaits your perusal).


Inthemud said...

Oh Jane, How demoralising, I never want to move again.Crumbs bit of a worry having stream going through house!
Last time we moved we had 2 buyers pull out over 9 months and we couldn't face trying to get another buyer so we decided to get huge mortgage and go ahead with purchase and keep other house and rent it out , this proved best move, got lovely tennant who stayed for 3 years then we tried to sell again, lost first buyer but got 2nd same day for more money and all completed in 4 months, because no chain.

Milla said...

Perfect! Love the idea of a surveyor stuffed and, that in a few months time, it will be a buyer tumbling ...

bodran... said...

A stream, a huge leaning wall,surveyors get paid to frighten you...8 properties and we've never had one yet! scaremongers....Is the wall listed as well as listing....xxoo


Hang in there, Jane - you'll get through it somehow.
Your surveyor's visit reminds me of when we were selling our last house and I put a large pile of ironing in front of the damp patch near the kitchen door and proceded to work my way (very slowly) through it while he poked around. I thought I'd got away with it when, on his way out he happened to mention, "By the way - did you know you had a bit of damp by your kitchen door?"
Still, the buyers didn't seem too bothered about it. All old houses are a bit damp.

Suffolkmum said...

God, the saga never gets easier, does it? Loved the surveyor fleeing with his dogs though. Your landing sounds a bit like ours.

toady said...

I,m glad I'm not the only one. I too have given up on the Poe Shadow for the same reasons, dreadfully slow and dare I say boring.
An English surveyor came to check our French house on behalf of our English buyer. We gave him morning coffee, lunch and tea. He stayed for 5 hours - house checking 1/2 hour, gassing 41/2 hours. Glad we weren't paying the bill.

Anonymous said...

you dont half make me laugh jane things will come together xx jep

Mutterings and Meanderings said...

And you've managed to get it done (fingers crossed) before the HIPs happen...

Let your new wall; it adds character... and I'd not be keen on digging up ancient walls in cemeteries, myself ...

Posie said...

Just catching up, how frustrating it all must be, hopefully he'll complete soon, and I am sure he will adore your house. No property is perfect, yours sounds lovely, so glad I have not had to ever sell a house, sounds a complete nightmare. Good luck and I'll keep my fingers crossed.

@themill said...

Don't worry about the stream under the new house. We've got a well under ours and we haven't floated away yet!
Because my geography is so bad I had no idea I would be driving over Exmoor to see eldest son in Braunton. Weather was so awful although he assured me it had been fantastic for 6 weeks. Beaches just seemed a little more closed and less sweeping than ours - but then I am biased! I will bow to your opinion and I expect a blog on the comparisons!

lixtroll said...

Well you know, whatever happens will be for the best! There's nothing like a good poo story, the last load of guests I showed into the Farmhouse had two spirited young labs which dashed straight into the dining room and showed thier deepest and hugest appreciation all over the antique Caucasian rug. My, how we laughed!

I do wish you well, it is so easy to get all tied up in knots over house purchase and moving. A good poo story and a good blog keeps those feet firmly on the ground though!

CAMILLA said...

Darling Jane,
You know, those people at CL had not got a clue as to what was staring them in the face, YOU dear girl, an amazing blogger, one of the finest future columnists. I love your wit Jane, but sympathise re house problems. Had to say though, I thought the picture you put up of property near church looks lovely. On the publishing of your novel, thought you might like to check out the website of it was given to me by my son, who thought that I might be interested, because of my editing of poems. I am typing this bleary eyed at 2.55am in the morning, Daisy Boo is snoring away in the cushions! Speak to you tomorrow.

CAMILLA said...

P.S. Should have said, later this evening.

Frances said...

Hello Jane,
You are almost making me appreciate my eternal renter status. It is plenty stressful enough for me.
I did like reading "for pity's sake." And thinking or the sake of pit-y. And Poe, and tapping, etc.
I will try to write something better soon.

Pondside said...

My GAWD what a saga. It is a wonder that we ever purchase a house at all at any time. Keep that edginess, Jane, and you'll soon have him dancing to your tune.

Sally Townsend said...

It all sounds horribly familiar Jane, I do so hope those days are behind me but one never knows whats round the corner !!

Faith said...

I can hardly bear to read your blogs about selling the house cos its still so close to home. Now off to look at 'smudging'. I love 'Walker' SO much. I see it all so clearly like a film.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

house sale/purchase - a bit like banging head on brick wall - so lovely when you can stop!

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

Oh good grief - I had forgotten how dreaful moving can be. Good plan with the surveyor - dogs and poo and all - hat off to you. Sinking floor been there - had it in The Steading before it burned down - no that is not why it burned down - although our insurers wanted it to be us . . . Your sale will all come good suddenly and like childbirth you will forget the pain - until someone blogs about it!

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

we had condemned water (aargh, for gods sake dont drink it!), electrical disasters, right of ways through the land, a triangle of land apparently belonging to nobody which needed to be crossed for access, border disputes, feuding tribes (OK, getting carried away now but you get the picture) and it happened in the end. hope yours will too and then you can sit peacefully at home for a year or two.

Kitty said...

Moving house is crap-a-doodle-doo. Get moved then never do it again. It is so incredibly stressful. Surveyor story made me chuckle though! Don't worry about the wall, prop it for a while if it's going to be expensive, will look ugly but will do the trick.

Lovely church by the way.

JacquiMcR said...

Keep the faith Jane (whatever that might be to you). Keep believing things will come good and they will. Just in case, I'll light a candle for you tomorrow just to help things along.

Take care - Jacqui x

Gretel said...

One day you'll laugh about it all...really.

Pipany said...

What a bloody day! Makes you feel like shooting all sellers, buyers, estate agents...or maybe that's just how my mood is today! Curl up with your book and take comfort in the fact that it will be crap compared to yours, JAne xx

CAMILLA said...

Dearest Jane,
Thank you for message,and again, best of luck with book. It is like Niagra Falls here, rain, rain, and even MORE RAIN!

DevonLife said...

Thought of you last night as we tucked into Exmoot trout for tea. Be tough with the buyer. Be strong, get shirty and rude. Everyone will just want to get rid of you so will push it all through. Nice tip about dog poo - noted down in my notebook of trickery

Chris Stovell said...

Read this the other day and found it too depressing as Ma is in the throes of trying to move and it reminds me too much of the horrors ahead so could not summon up a comment. Thanks for the writing advice I am just about at my wits end.

countrymousie said...

I dont think I can move now - been here 17 years and dont think I could manage it all. I am good at advice on moving though!!.
Woderful blog again of course.
Misread that it was the wheelbarrow and not the woodpecker hammering - I know - hormones I think - love mousiexx

Eden said...

Oh Jane, loved reading this. You had me laughing out loud at you and the surveyor. If you're going to shovel s***t you may as well get the benefit!
Wary about the stream under the house though. Friends of ours in Hexham live next to a house that is being done up. They new owners discovered the stream just under the floorboards! And it has taken just thousands of pounds to put it right since one thing then led to another and another, walls caving in, everything changing when the water was no longer there. I'm sure it will all be lovely etc, but what a heck of a time they are having. Hate to sound negative. Hope it will all work out and not be a problem after all.

Fennie said...

The one good thing that can be said for the saga is that there is plenty of material in it to keep you going for months if not years on end. Not that that is probably the sort of comment you want to hear right now. But best of luck. I have been rooted here for 16 years (longest we've ever been in one place) and you illustrate very well the advantages of staying put.
I shall think of this if ever I am tempted to buy the French Mill.

Grouse said...

I wouldnt dare to admit to things we've done to distract suveyors in the past........I never did find out why, exactly, you want to move (other than vanishing floors)?