Monday, 21 November 2016

Letting go, Running on. Part. 2

I have to say if you are ever buying a property, there are many things to consider but the most important is to get a survey. My solicitor says that many clients do not want to bother with this additional expense. I can understand this notion, for sure our Old Lady is still standing despite the ravages of the years and the climate. It is tempting to ignore all the cracks and let your imagination furnish and indeed burnish a dull reality. A survey will certainly bring you down to earth from your giddy joy with it's impersonal conclusions. The survey is catastrophic. Rising damp, damp ingress, wonky chimneys, wet-rot, dry-rot, undefinable boundaries on conflicting maps, a septic tank on third-party land, possibly polluting and only just registered. Family members suck in their breath and subtly warn caution, of great difficulties ahead. Mr S and I initially feel sadly relieved.

I read the surveyors report over and over, I understand the extent of the undertaking. A builder friend warms of hundreds of thousands of euro. Our solicitor firmly advises us to walk away. We both agree, that survey was the best few hundred quid I ever spent.  But she irritates me when she asks, what do you even see in that house, sure you could just build a nice new house. This is absolutely not the point and my contrary side rears up. The Irish country-side is littered from Malin Head to Mizen Head with one off homes of dubious architectural value at best and an affront to logical demographic planning at worst.

Due to the deep fissures of history and the impact of poverty and emigration we retain so very little of our vernacular architecture. In rural areas such as Donegal, the majority of people would have lived in two or three roomed cottages. Houses and homes that are now barely recognisable as suitable for modern requirements. As a sop to tourism, we have kept a couple though -zoned them off into 'folk parks'. Little quaint remnants of how our Great-Grandparents lived, to visit with the kids on a rainy day and fondly remember from the serenity of our open plan bungalows, from the warmth of our wifi -ed modernist kitchens, while in damp fields other such houses fall softly back into the ground. I trawl the internet looking for a comparable house, trying to establish a value of the Old Lady once restored. I can't find one because there isn't one. Unique. I engage a damp-proof expert to estimate the cost of remedial repair.  I know I am irrational, but there is room to breathe in this house, for the children to play outside unsupervised. My running takes on a new urgency, pounding the pavements gives me an achievable goal to dwell on. To my astonishment, I easily complete the psychological barriers that was Week 5, Run 3 of Couch to 5k: I run for a continuous 20min along the river and then run all the way home.

The estate agent did say it would have been one of the finest houses in the area, a family of school teachers lived here. In response to my solicitors due diligence request for proof of planning permission, the vendors solicitors writes that his Granny built the house in the early 1920's and his mother would sign an affidavit to that effect. The garage used to hold his fathers buses. Of-course I want it more now. The professional expects that I have employed to help us in this enormous financial decision are worth every single euro, their advice is measured and sound. And yet.

The condition of the roof un-quantifiable until close of sale. The potential infestation of wood-devouring beetles.  I look again at all those optimistic photographs we took at the viewing, the house still doesn't look that bad. The two realities don't marry up, is the plaster a paper- thin veneer barely supporting an un-salvageable house, a frustration of vastly expensive conundrums? In my minds eye, I revisit the still empty rooms, my footfall firm on the floor, sketching their lines and re-drawing their beauty. I haven't yet made the fateful phone call to the agent to withdraw from the purchase, she is still mine for the moment. The sign still proudly announces 'sale agreed'. I could have her if I so choose but at what cost?

Friday, 18 November 2016

Letting go, running on. Part 1.

It feels like I have sat down at my computer to write a thousand blog posts since the last one but yet have produced and posted nothing of interest. I have to admit to have been somewhat preoccupied and this preoccupation has left me at times terribly busy and at others numb with boredom. Inert with the effort of drawing down the patience for waiting. Inert with the fear of hearing bad news. It appears that following one's dreams takes a little bit of effort!

Let me explain myself a little better.  While on holiday on Donegal, myself and Mr S found ourselves madly in love - with on first appearances a beautiful shabby old lady, a century old house in a stunning location. In fairness, the estate agent did say on the 2nd viewing, So all the work doesn't put you off? No, we laughed as I ran my hand over the stunning marble art deco fireplace, aware that the room I was standing in had walls crumbling and fragile with damp, the high plaster ceilings criss- crossed with delicate wooden batons which lifted the room height visually even higher but stained with water.

The kids ran around, mad excited eejits,  at once picking out bedrooms and planning to play hide and seek in the gardens and ride their bikes along the quiet country road. Little O planning on going fishing on the river that runs parallel, E where she would put her desk under the eaves. I could see clearly past all the neglect and decay, I could see great over-stuffed sofas, book-lined walls, generous window seats with views out over the mountains, the clink of glasses and the chatter of all the guests we would have to stay. Comfortable bedrooms, a roaring fire and long lazy breakfasts. A proper country retreat. All it would take was a little bit of effort, sure hadn't we done this all already with our own house?

We put in a cheeky offer. Accepted with thanks. A builder came round to check out and cost the rebuild of the wonky chimneys and the source of much of the damage, Affordable. He said, Aye it is a fair enough house for having been left. Brilliant, we said, here is where the kitchen will go, we will put an en-suit there, we can't wait to pull up all the old sodden carpets and pull the peeling paper completely off. Delighted we asked ourselves, will we even bother with a survey?