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?