Week 11: Documentation

As this post goes out, we are on the verge of signing and exchanging contracts on the sale in London. It’s a few days later than my ultimatum, but good enough, I think.

Part of the hand-written inventory for the new house

Part of the hand-written inventory for the new house

The paperwork is also piling up for our purchase in the Algarve. All the documents seem to be in good order, but then we expected that from the Sensibles. Because it is, in a legal sense, three properties, we have three land registry documents, three tax title certificates and two habitation licences; one of the three properties is a ‘rustic’ property and doesn’t require a habitation licence.

We also have an inventory from the Sensibles, which includes this life-enhancing list of trees:

olive, carob, medronho (‘strawberry tree’), pomegranate, orange, lemon, peach, plum, fig, vine, apple, pear and pine.

Dad handsomeMy dad

Behind all this in ways he probably could not imagine, but I will at some point endeavour to explain, is my father. It is almost a year since he died. At the beginning of next month, on the first anniversary, we will raise a glass to him, a glass of Krug, gift of a generous author of mine in thanks for editorial work done, and which we have been keeping for this occasion.

Dad in the prime of his life, engaged in his favourite hobby: sea-fishing

Dad in the prime of his life, engaged in his favourite hobby: sea-fishing

In his final year, my father was too ill to enjoy life much, although he always managed to look rather fine: he had a head of thick, dark hair right up to the end of his life, and good skin, and so his appearance perhaps belied how he felt. Any compliments as to his good looks would be met with a characteristic wisecrack: ‘Oh, I’ll make a lovely corpse.’ (You can take the man out of Bootle, but you can’t . . . etc.) In the last few months of his life, he became so ill that he needed full-time care, which was provided by a mixture of the NHS and Social Services. This was, in so many different ways, a torment for every one of us. He developed vascular dementia. This sent his always considerable imaginative powers right off the scale, but he never lost the ability to recognise his family. Even if he thought he was under some kind of benevolent guard rather than in a hospital, and that tunnels were being dug throughout the surrounding countryside, and birds were flying in formation at the window while displaying shields, he still knew us, and in this we were enormously lucky. Every time we turned up at his bedside – which was often, as often as we could make it – he swelled with pride. ‘My children give me substance,’ he said.

My father had always been a reserved, slightly imposing, somewhat moody man. He bore the responsibilities of life heavily. He was as loyal and devoted a husband/father as anyone could be, but he rarely displayed his affection, certainly not as we grew older. He saw his role more as that of giving authority and trying to make sure we kids were toughened up a bit in preparation for a harsh world, and in this he was quite typical of his time, and it reflected his own, quite hard upbringing. What he particularly wanted for all of us was education and training and the opportunities that these could provide. His own ambitions had been thwarted at the age of fourteen when he had to start work to help the family purse. In so doing, he was turning down the scholarship he’d won to a technical school; the scholarship didn’t cover kit, which his family couldn’t afford, and anyway they needed another income. Eventually the RAF offered an opportunity and bombed-out Liverpool was left behind.

Dad at the very end of his life, in a brief respite from the exigencies of Care, enjoying a cold glass of wine on a hot day (photo by me)

Dad at the very end of his life, in a brief respite from the exigencies of Care, enjoying a cold glass of wine on a hot day (photo by me)

In the last weeks of his life, paradoxically, a burden seemed to be lifted from him. He was ready to die, and not in the least afraid. He was dignified in the face of many a bed-bound indignity, and brave in the face of much pain and discomfort. He never lost his sense of humour. On a few occasions he made me laugh so much that I corpsed and had to leave the bedside to go and recover myself. (Heaven knows what people thought! I guess you see everything in a hospital.) He drew us all closer to him, and closer to one another, and this was a joy amid all the sadness.

And quite how all this leads in my case to Portugal I see now I shall have to save for another post.


Week 10: The importance of timing

After more than eight weeks of inaction on the part of our buyer’s solicitors, we became truly nervous. I say ‘inaction’, but that’s not quite right. They received copies of the documents relating to the sale, and lost them. They received a second set of copies, and lost those too. That’s quite active, in a way.

I began to smell a rat. Husband smelt a bigger rat. The neighbours downstairs found an actual dead rat in the garden and that did smell, but that’s a macabre coincidence. Husband and I argued over the size and odoriferousness of our metaphorical rats, and it all became a bit upsetting.

We have not met the buyer. The reassurances as to his commitment that we were receiving from the agent were sounding hollow. I came to the conclusion that we would have to find a new buyer, and that to do so via a new agent would be a good idea. I would go to the flashy agent around the corner, the one with plate-glass windows and liveried cars, and challenge them to find us a buyer on a fast-track sale. We are trying to get our sale to complete just after the fulfilment of Husband’s notice period.

First, I ought to check in with our solicitor. I called at 10 a.m. No, still nothing from buyer’s solicitors. Would all our paperwork be transferable to a new buyer, I asked. Yes, theoretically. So we’re already part way there on a new sale. Yes, he said. I then suggested we give the existing buyers until 11.30 a.m., and if nothing was heard, I would initiate a new selling process. He promised to ring at 11.30 to tell me either way.

I went back to my work. It’s a crime novel, quite an unusual one, but it has a common fault. Many crime novels and thrillers have hitches in the timing. Often the action is described carefully day by day so that a week or two elapses in ‘real’ time, while in the background two whole seasons cycle by. Or one plot strand finds itself on a slightly different timeline, and doesn’t connect with another plot strand when it should. Or the days and the weeks and the clock times just don’t add up. You have to take quite a forensic approach to spot these things, but that’s what I do. I like to look for a solution to the problem, too, though ultimately it’s up to the author. Even the best-selling and most accomplished crime and thriller writers make mistakes with timing.

And so, my attention elsewhere – my attention, indeed, where it should be – I wasn’t fully conscious that I had electrified a small group of people. Our solicitor had spoken to boss solicitor, who had spoken to agent, who had spoken to buyer, who it transpires really does want the flat. The electrical current was remarkably effective. At 11.33 a.m. I received notification that the buyer’s solicitor had raised all the enquiries related to the sale.

So that’s what you have to do! You have to say you are going to withdraw from a sale to get anything to happen. I feel slightly despoiled by the whole wretched process . . .

. . . but not to the extent that I wasn’t prepared to seize my advantage and run with it. Twenty-four hours later, I got all participants to agree that to exchange contracts on the sale in a week’s time was both desirable and possible. As this week’s update gets posted, that’s just two more days away.


My mum

Mum 1

We spent the weekend with my mum. In her mid-eighties she’s every bit as lovely and as stylish as she was fifty years ago (only that she no longer makes her own clothes).

Mum with some of her brood

Mum with some of her brood

Mum and Dad

Mum and Dad

Our decision to move to Portugal hasn’t been entirely easy for her, but this weekend we looked at pictures of the house and its surrounds, and I think she could see herself there. She was also reminded of the times she lived in hotter climates herself. We looked at flights, and discovered plenty of well-timed and good-value journeys from East Midlands airport to Faro. We got rather carried away with this, and thought we might just book a flight on the spot. Then Husband said,

‘Better wait until the house is ours.’

Ah, yes. All in good time.

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