643 Home, sweet home – part 6

Well, the good news is that we are nearing the end, at least for the time being, of this litany of domestic infelicities. The bad news is that it might take us a while to get there. First, a little history.

Having taken early (medical) retirement in 1992, I found a couple of years later that I did not have enough money coming in for us to stay in Leyton. Is there anywhere to move down-market to, from Leyton? Yes there is; back to the family seat. In other words, to sell the house in Leyton and, instead of buying another, to go back to my mother’s house.

If this seems like a defeat after nearly 20 years of independent living, well, yes it was. To make matters worse, I managed to lose money again; but this time it wasn’t a case of the house getting shabby.

It turned out that the house had been in poor shape when we bought it, some 15 years previously. Some work on the roof had been started but never finished, probably about ten years before we moved in (apparently the house owner fell out with the builder). As a result the roof beams at the front of the house had all bowed downwards and would need to be replaced; as a result of that we got much less for the house than we had expected; and the result of that was negative equity.

So we returned to Enfield not owning a house and still owing money on the house we no longer owned. If that wasn’t enough, when we got there we found that my mother was in all kinds of trouble. She was some way into a state of dementia and also deep in debt.

All of this happened round about 1995 (subject to correction). Fortunately I obtained two long spells of “temporary” work, including one, at the British Library, which, I said at the time, was the best job I had ever had. So my mother’s debts were paid off and mine were greatly reduced.

This took us to the end of 1996 (or was it 1997?). We had a lovely Christmas; my mother enjoyed it too, though she remembered nothing about it. Shortly after Christmas she took to her bed with a dose of the ’flu, as she often did in winter; but this time it developed into pneumonia. She died in the small hours of January 6th, my father’s birthday.

Gradually we came to realise that we had neither the time nor the money to look after the house (shabby syndrome again); in any case Debora would be off to university soon, and I had no reason to stay in Enfield.

So we put the house up for sale. I think the agent said it was “realistically” priced; compared to other houses in the road it had no central heating and no double glazing and needed decorating inside and out.

I decided it was time for a move to the country and started looking. Leonora was working by then, but Debora came with me on one or two of the trips. At the time the plan was that Leonora would flat-share in London with a friend or two, and Debora would come with me. In the event, Leonora and Debora ended up sharing with each other for a couple of years.

The first forays were into Hertfordshire. I was tempted, very tempted, by a wonderful ramshackle building called Dreadnought, apparently two bungalows combined into one. This was near Bishop’s Stortford; but for some reason I didn’t go to see it. We also had a fruitless trip to Buntingford; it was a nice day out.

Information sheets continued coming in from various estate agents (this was pre-internet, remember) and one that caught my eye was in a Suffolk village called Bedfield. We decided to take a look, and booked day returns to Ipswich, from where Mr. Smith the agent, a very amiable man, gave us a lift to Bedfield.

We both fell in love with the house straight away; we had to be very careful not to say too much in the car on the way back. I’ll jump over the next couple of months which involved some lengthy wrangling with a very pernickety solicitor (ours); suffice to say everything went through and I even ended up with a small profit.

I’ll tell you all about the house in a while, but first we have to get there…


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