The Hurricane

I had randomly picked a date in the middle of October for the move. The removal company were very cool in that they said I could change this if I needed to. I suppose they are well used to what can go wrong with house sales.

I started packing up 24 years of my life. Luckily the house was not being sold as it was what I called “an ancestral pile” so I could leave my daughter’s room intact. She who was off globetrotting seemingly having forgotten to come back. I should add that to get to this point I had loaded up 10 full carloads and taken her stuff to the local charity shop. From boarding school to university in Manchester, to working in Manchester and every time she relocated she had pawned all her tatt off on me, stored in what was called the office.

My son had moved down the road to his new place but nonetheless I had to sort all his tatt as well and separated it from some of my stuff in his old room.

I spent days sorting through stuff, dumping stuff and reminiscing. Looking at old photos of my kids, of a lifetime spent in this old house that their ancestors had also grown up in. I loved the house and every now and again I felt a deep pang of sadness and wondered if I was doing the right thing.

Then there were mutterings about weather warnings and the tail end of a hurricane. Initially the warnings were status yellow but finally turned to red. We were bracing ourselves for Armageddon.

Hurricane Ophelia was en route across the Atlantic. I wondered about the removal company and was thinking I better ring them to check. However, all that went out the window when I got phone calls that dad wasn’t well and it wasn’t looking good. I have to tell you that we in the family referred to dad as Lazarus. I wasn’t unduly worried. He always seemed to come back from the dead. And briefly it looked as if this time was to be no different. But late on the Sunday evening my brother rang to say he had gone downhill again. I rang my son who immediately offered to drive me to Bray where he was in a nursing home.

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Power cut

We stayed with him until midnight but there was no change so we left. I was back the next day Sunday. This time he wasn’t going to arise and Hurricane Ophelia wasn’t going to do a u-turn. I had a mobile number from someone in the removal company who had rung the previous Friday to see if it was going ahead. I sent the number a text to say I had to cancel the move. It later transpired that they wouldn’t have worked that day due to the status red alert anyway as they wouldn’t be covered by insurance.

My daughter’s birthday is the 17th of October and I prayed dad wouldn’t die on it. She was in Australia but we kept her updated using Facebook Messenger.

Dad died on the 18th of October.

The Straw

I knew from the previous year that small square bales of straw would be difficult to come by and didn’t want to risk moving the animals here and face the prospect of trying to buy. Of course this meant a lot of slagging, from my son and from various friends (all men). My son had a point except he didn’t really. It wasn’t logical to buy straw and transport it the length of the country normally but in this case it turned out to be very logical. Another friend gave me some amount of slagging over my “golden currency”.

Anyway I stuck to my guns and persuaded my son to borrow a van from his father to transport my “golden currency” along with my plants in containers from the garden. I had told the removal company I only wanted them to move what was in the house. We had earmarked a weekend when there wasn’t a rugby match on and when his girlfriend was working. On the way down I got “the lecture” that I had been getting for weeks at this stage. “Why you had to pick somewhere so far away” (read that as far from Dublin not Meath), why you have to be so illogical not to get the removal company to do this (last time I checked house removal companies aren’t too fond of moving agricultural commodities), what would you have done if you hadn’t me? (probably be a lot wealthier, with a high flying career and getting significantly less grief). You know the drill. Anyway he shut up when I took him for food (fish) in the local. Having lived in Meath for so many years it is particularly mind-blowing how damn good the food in pubs and restaurants is here.

Not long after we arrived with the load my phone rang and it was my house hunting friends who were in the area at a school open day (Newtown in Waterford). I said why don’t you hop on the ferry which crosses between Passage East and Ballyhack and come over meet us for lunch. They did and then of course my friend’s husband (the builder) had a field day with my son slagging me about the “golden currency”. “Should you hook up the house alarm to the shed in case it gets stolen etc. etc?” Hilarious.

I can tell you I wasn’t laughing during that long winter of 2017-2018 when Wexford was hit with the worst snow in 72 years and I had plenty of straw for my animals. I used the same amount of straw as would normally last me a full year.

I just had had an inkling I would need it.

The Offer

I had made an offer. I thought they’d all laugh. It was a good bit under “the asking”. We drove out to Kilmore Quay to buy fish. Now that was the laugh. Damn “shop” was closed of a Tuesday and a Monday and a Sunday. My brother rang the little Chinese fishmonger in Bray he normally bought from.

We had a lovely dinner. Whole dorade (as my son called them from working in France). Sea bream to everyone else. Had a teeny glass of wine and got on the road. Was getting dark and I was coming up to Tara. Phone rang. Was estate agent. Seller was about to get on ferry to go back to England. Would I pay 5k more and he would clear the crap out of the sheds. I said no. I’ll pay the offer. Agent said “I’ll ring you back”.

Phone rang again. Offer accepted. Rang brother, shouting. Couldn’t believe it. Elated.

I HAD BOUGHT A HOUSE WITH OUTBUILDINGS AND LAND AND IT HAD CHARM.

The Second Viewing

I had decided I don’t give a fig what she thinks. but I did really. However, she was off to her place in France. I organised a second viewing with the brother. We drove all around the world. At this point I should tell you that estate agents are spectacularly crap at giving directions and if you use your phone sat nav you will find entrances to farmyards the farmer doesn’t know about.

We eventually got to Wellingtonbridge and apparently the SuperValu is a good one…….. is there such a thing I wondered having lived in SuperValu world where good meant “cuisine de France”. The brother was all excited because there was some wine offer on and he wanted some. So not to be outdone I bought some too. We had wellies in the boot and wine. We could conquer the world. At the till I asked ” where is good for lunch?” She sent us to The Hollow. Bloody hell, I had died and gone to heaven.

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We had a really good lunch then went to view the house. We opened the boot, dragged the wellies out and had a chat about wine, as you do with your local friendly estate agent.

My brother loved the house.

We stood in a corner and I told him what my limit was. I made an offer thinking he’d laugh. He didn’t.

We drove back to my brother’s place in Bray.

 

The Discovery

I remember it vividly. I had got up early, fed the pigs, the poultry, washed Johnny’s shirt, washed Packie’s, washed the floor, fed the ducks, the geese and the goslings…….(only joking, my mother used say a version of this.)

I sat down on the bed feeling dejected and picked up the laptop to go through every damn page on Daft.ie (My Home had virtually all the same listings). I trawled through 18 pages. I had accidentally forgotten to put in a price “ceiling”. And on page 18 I found my house. I rang my brother in a state shouting “I’ve found my house”. He told me to send him the link. I was shouting “just Google The Paddocks ffs”. I got up and danced a jig around the bed.

My joy was short lived. My phone rang. My brother said “have you lost your mind?”. He then proceeded to lecture me I was buying a builder’s bill. I said ” what are you on about, this place is newly renovated?” He was looking at the original advert which the estate agent had never removed. I sent him the link.

img_8928For some reason he couldn’t view it so I went to see it with my friend. We had met the estate agent in Enniscorthy to view another property. He struck me as a man I could do business with. The first house was no good so we followed him to see “my house”. As soon as I stepped out of the car I knew it was mine. I took off out into the field to look at the outbuildings. The estate agent turned around to my friend as he had the key in the door “where is she?” My friend said “out looking at pig accommodation, don’t mind her: I’ll view the house.”

We drove home later in silence. After a while I said quietly “what do you think?” Not wanting to hear. Up to this she had rained on my every parade. She didn’t answer for a while. The sky was getting darker and it looked like there was a major storm brewing. Marvellous, I thought.

 

The Search

In total I viewed 10 properties, some of them twice. I lost Rose Cottage and I grew to regret I hadn’t offered more and took a chance I would be able to buy land beside it.

Another place I found was full of charm, character and had amazing outbuildings and land across the road but it was a builder’s bill and a half. A friend told me to find a builder to hook up with like someone she knew had done. In truth it would be the only way to renovate this place. The estate agent was the double Basil Fawlty but on my first viewing it was his colleague who showed us around, all the time proclaiming he didn’t really know much about the property. On the second viewing the boss arrived in a sports car wearing chinos and a sports jacket slung casually over his shoulder. From the outset my friend took a set against him. He announced that the property we had viewed as one entire unit was now to be effectively split in half for the same money. This meant basically that the out buildings and the hay shed weren’t included in the sale nor was artists studio above the main outbuilding. The driveway entrance would be split in two so you would in effect be living in a semi-d in the countryside. When I pointed this out to him he was not impressed and told me to go away and stop wasting his time.

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Another fabulous place and maybe half a builder’s bill in comparison to the previous was situated above the Enniscorthy bypass which they were in the midst of building. There was a field sloping down to the building site separating the property where big trucks and diggers were in operation. This estate agent immediately told me that he wished that it was completed as then potential buyers could see what living beside a motorway would sound like. I loved the place so much I once again felt my heart overruling my head. I organised another viewing with my friend and her builder husband who had some of their property CPO’d to build the M11 at Ashford and know all about living with motorway noise. They agreed with me that the place was fabulous but pointed out it had been for sale for years and as we stood in hot sun in the courtyard at the front of the house surrounded by fabulous outbuildings my heart broke. I knew they were right but I wished they weren’t.

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Later that evening when we sat around after a BBQ they talked sense into me. You really do need good friends around to advise you when you are buying a house.

I got a bit deflated after this to be honest and went back viewing other places with a heavy heart knowing they really weren’t what I was after. I’ve heard it said that when you find your house you know as soon as you set foot in it. Equally when you don’t you know before you get out of the car. Several I walked in the front door, did an about turn and walked back out.

I really needed to find a place with outbuildings for the pigs and the poultry and any places I viewed after this had a house and barely enough land, so I was looking at the prospect of leaving the animals behind until I got something built for them. Also as it was getting on towards the end of summer less and less new properties were coming on the market. I seemed to be endlessly viewing the same properties over and over. Groundhog Day.

 

 

The Decision

It was made in a split second, the decision to move from where I had lived for 24 years. To this day I don’t know why, but all I can say it was the best move (in every sense) I ever made.

Instead of staying in the marital home after the divorce was finalised I found myself agreeing in my solicitor’s office to finding a place for me and all my animals in a limited amount of time. He suggested 6 weeks, I argued 3 months. I won.

And so the house hunting began.

I can tell you now that if you are looking for a place with character and a small bit of land; it’s a bit like looking for the perfect horse. The horse you are looking for hasn’t been born yet, nor has it’s mother!

You will find any amount of, as I referred to them “horrible houses”. Characterless, soul destroying bungalows plonked on sites with no consideration for the environment around them. Then you will find the “do er uppers” or a very big builder’s bill. In between, you will find small cottages that someone has tried to give “character” to and hasn’t always succeeded. Then the bit of land…….here in rural Ireland an acre give or take is referred to as “a garden”. I wanted more than a garden but not the next step up which seemed to be 12-15 acres.

And so the daily trawl through Daft and My Home began and the day trips to Wexford. A 2-3 hour drive each way give or take. I can tell you estate agents/auctioneers are an absolute nightmare to deal with. I had some that didn’t turn up for appointments because they never got the internal office memo. I had some that couldn’t have cared less if they never sold a property. And it seemed most were very economical with the truth. I would view a place and ask all the pre-requisite questions “had it been on the market long?” No. “Had there been any recent offers?” No. But lo and behold when I got back home to Meath and decided to put an offer in someone had beaten me to it……..and of course they offered a few thousand more than I had.

 

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The very first place I viewed was perfect in every way except it had no land and only a tiny garden. I viewed it twice, I gave it very serious consideration. I asked the estate agent would it be a possibility that I could buy some of the land adjoining it and she went off to investigate. I remembered a long time ago going shopping with my sister for her wedding dress. The first one she viewed was perfect but she said she couldn’t buy it as it was the only one she had seen. My then husband on overhearing this piped up that he had bought a van that morning and it was the only one he had seen. She ended up buying the dress.

Could I buy the first house I had viewed? I put an offer in (a low one) thinking that as there had been no interest in almost a year and no recent offers and I needed to hold some money back to buy land.  But guess what? Yes, you guessed right, a higher offer was on it. I refused to increase mine and I waited and waited.