Saturday, February 09, 2013

The New House - Episode #1

Hyacinth Bucket
Hyacinth Bucket (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Exactly a month ago I was told that my catering franchise had been awarded to someone else, with two months' notice.  The franchise came with a house in which we have lived for the past 12 years.  Almost in the blink of an eye I was jobless, and Meg and myself were homeless.

Meg, along with Dad and Shirley, just threw themselves into house hunting, calling in at every letting agents in the area and constantly checking and endlessly re-checking the estate agents websites for updates.  Do you know how hard it is to rent a house in the Ilkley area at short notice ? It's really quite difficult.  There are only the two of us, yet we seem to have accumulated rather a lot in the way of furniture and sundry possessions.  I have always known that I own more books than most people and some smaller branch libraries, and that Meg has more family photographs in frames than the National Gallery has royal portraits but the crunch really came when the removal man came to assess our stuff.

Firstly, he did that thing that car mechanics do when you deliver your runabout which has developed a strange ticking noise.  He sucked air in through his teeth, paused, and said "You have a lot of stuff, it's going to be a three man job."  A three man job is apparently the removal man's equivalent of  "Nasty noise that, sounds like your rotary flange has come off the damping arm, it'll be costly."

Three man job or not, we still need to transport our stuff.

Following two and a bit weeks of frantic searching we found a property that might just suit our needs, at least for the short term.

"I don't think you'll want it," said the letting agent.  "I've done 20 showings and nobody has shown the least interest in it."  Almost fearing the answer, we asked why this should be.  The reply didn't reassure me, it needs some TLC she said.

On viewing the property I rapidly came to understand that the phrase "Needs some TLC" might perhaps be estate agent's code for "Nobody in their right mind is going to buy this house."  To say the house has rising damp issues would be to miss the point that the damp is also coming in through the flat extension roof, under the eaves and most bizarrely, seemingly just drawing in through the middle of one of the upstairs bedroom walls.  The décor wasn't exactly to our taste, being of a style that only Hyacinth Bucket could really appreciate, and it was with some trepidation that I got a touched anything in the house, from doorknobs to
wallpaper, lest it fell off.

Still, we were due to be homeless in a few short weeks, and whatever its faults, this house was at least a house.  Unless it falls down if I slam a door.  We duly signed on the dotted line, with the proviso that we were allowed to do some minor repairs and decorating.

Bearing in mind that the house needs quite a bit of work, we signed the rental agreement early to leave almost a month of overlapping time in order to be able to transform the place to the best of our abilities.  In typically organised fashion, Meg had bought the paint, tools and materials needed, and had made a preliminary sweep of the house to determine what might live where almost before I had managed to pour a glass of celebratory red vino.

As we had to cancel out planned holiday, we converted some of that time into decorating days, grabbed some familial volunteers, and set about changing the damp and unloved interior of the house into something more comforting and liveable.  Meg planned the decorating like a military operation, I slotted into the plan like bumbling Gunner Milligan in Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall.  As Meg laid out dust sheets in precise order and began edging the new paint around mantelpiece and curtain rail, I would be proceeding slowly to drop daubs of paint onto the carpet, my spectacles or hair.  As Meg swiftly covered the main portion of the wall with elegant sweeps of her roller, I would find a soft feeling bit and my brain would say "Go on, give it a push and see what happens."

Then Meg would ask "Why did you just says oops ? You saying oops isn't a good thing."

"No problems love," I replied with my palm over the finger deep hole in the plaster that had opened up beneath my inquisitive digit.  "I'm sure it will just paint over."
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