thewritersbarn

Writing because words are the essence of my life.


Leave a comment

Last Post from The Bunker

This is my last post from The Bunker. That sounds more dramatic than it actually is. The Bunker is the name I gave to our Bungalow when we moved in here 16 months ago. It was a nickname entirely lacking in affection, because I didn’t particularly like the house, or the area where we hurriedly found ourselves after being given notice unexpectedly by our previous landlord. The place seemed unappealing to me – atop a huge hill, and several degrees colder than the rest of Devon, with unadopted roads, and miserable squat grey houses. Bunkers.

As I type this, everything is packed with the exception of the dogs and the teabags. I have my laptop but no pens. A washing machine but no line. Most of our stuff has already been moved. We have a bed for example, but no bedside cabinets. The freezer is defrosting; the oven is sizzling away in some toxic chemical that will miraculously remove the grease inside allowing me to wipe it all clean with one single piece of kitchen roll. 

We have finally achieved what we have waited for, for over three years. When I was made redundant in 2012, I set in motion a chain of events that triggered my husband leaving his job, and us selling our lovely house in Derbyshire so we could finance buying a business in Devon, that would obviously pay us enough so that I could write full time and sell all my novels and live happily ever after. Fairy tales.

We thought that in no time at all we would be back on the mortgage ladder. But none of that happened. The gap between the cost of housing in Derbyshire and that in Devon is beyond ridiculous. It’s been a struggle. All of this time we dreamed about having our own place again, where we could paint the walls whatever colour we chose and put all our art back on the walls instead of storing it in bubble wrap in the loft. We wanted somewhere secure to live, where the landlord can’t chuck you out on a whim, or announce an inspection just because, or hike the rent up higher than a family would pay out in monthly mortgage payments.

And here we are! I should be ecstatic but I’m not. Almost but not quite.

The new house is lovely. It’s sunny, it’s airy; it has the most magnificent views of the rolling countryside around here, and if you sit at one spot in the garden you can actually see the sea. It’s beautiful. The garden is so magically overgrown that when you stand at the back door, because we’re on a hill, it’s a bit like being above the tree canopy. The hill falls away into the valley and then rises once more on the horizon. I’ve decided to nickname this house, ‘The Treehouse’.

But as I sit in The Bunker typing this final Bunker blog, my thoughts return again and again to a furry grey fellow who came into this house with me in good faith. This was never meant to be the last place that Herbie lived. He should have been seeing out his last years (always 5 or 6 more in my mind) in The Treehouse; steadily and gently declining, with grace and love, and my soft hands to guide him. We were robbed.

I am loathe to leave The Bunker, because the weather is still nice enough for me to sit on the back step and remember how he and I cuddled up when I knew his time was closing in. As the glorious days of summer grew bleaker, infused as they were with his horrible final illness, I sat on the step and watched him with love and a deathly fear of his loss. He meandered around the shrubs and trees, doing his deeds, sniffing and patrolling and setting the world to rights. And I’ll always remember how he came back to me for reassurance, looking up at me with such love and trust, always living in the present. I made it a ‘thing’, a ritual that had to be performed every evening while he was ill. Without fail. As soon as I arrived home from the shop. Until the night that I sat alone and wept when he’d been gone just 8 hours, and I couldn’t hold his soft furry head again or smell his warm scent, or bury my face in the fur on his neck.

I’ve been dreading this final day here and now it’s upon me. I know I’ll never be able to sit on that blasted step again and conjure him to me. I’ll never spend any more time in that garden. I’ll never know what he looked like next to that bush or that tree, as he lifted his head and sniffed the wind. From now on Herbie will always be a ghost in my mind, a memory replayed over and over, a name I still can’t say without a sudden hitch in my breathing. I can’t see him in the new garden because he has never visited it.

But I learned a lesson years ago, when I was in India with my then soon-to-be husband. A wise man told us, “The Gods will provide,” and that has become the mantra that my husband and I live by. When the time is right good things happen. We’ve have been waiting 6 long months to complete on our little house. In February when we applied for the house, Herbie had a bit of a cough. I wasn’t worried. But that nagging illness spiralled. If we had completed the house on a normal schedule, we would have been trying to move when he was at his most poorly in June. The ‘Gods’ held us up. They waited for Herbie to live his life, calmly and quietly, and cross the Bridge. They waited for me get through the worst of my grief (if I even have) so that I could organise the move and put the requisite amount of energy that was needed, into it. And they waited until I could fully appreciate the beauty of The Bunker, and the land of clouds and forest, before they let me move on.

I could never have written my novel, Crone, anywhere else but here, and while so far publication has been elusive, I believe this is a novel that will see the light of day, and people will come to know the countryside that spawned the story, and love its mystical qualities as much as I have. Just this week I had my #PitchCB rejection through from Sophie Lambert at Conville and Walsh. She said, “There’s a rather wonderful mystical and lyrical quality to the prose here and there’s a very intriguing core to the narrative”. Of course it was accompanied by a ‘but’, but I’ll take that feedback with sincere gratitude. I believe in Crone, because it is a story born of East Devon and it is rooted here, and it has a truth.

So, I’ll save Crone to yet another memory stick, and I’ll bubble wrap my memories of Herbie in the garden, and hold them to me just as tightly as any of my other possessions, and carry them with care. And I’ll count my blessings for all that The Bunker has gifted me. Tonight as the gloaming settles around me, I’ll pause to reflect on my precious boy, and I’ll cry, of course I will. But I’m allowed to, I loved him. I loved him here. It will be the Last Post for Herbie.

And onwards then … Let’s see what transpires in The Treehouse, with The Writer’s Apprentice, shall we?

 

Advertisements


1 Comment

Bonkers Mortgage Brokers, Books and Bollox: Part 1

House moving is completely bonkers

House moving is completely bonkers

The whole house move thing is almost as stressful as everyone would have you believe. I can summarise my angst with three concepts:

• Mortgages
• Books
• Lack of control

Big house small house.

Big house small house.

My husband and I had hoped to be mortgage free when we sold this house, but unfortunately we aren’t even close to that. Given that we’re moving south, our lovely four bedroom Derbyshire house is only worth a two up two down terrace, down there, which on one hand is perfect because that’s all we want. However, because prices in the East Midlands do not seem to have held their own, we’re selling for less than we bought for 7 years ago which is a bit of a bummer to be honest. It means we need to take out another mortgage. Should be straight forward right?

Wrong! We went to take advice from our (very efficient and not at all bonkers) mortgage broker. Apparently because we’re taking on a business we cease to be of interest to the banks. They only lend if you have a guaranteed income. Although our business is established, the banks aren’t interested because when we take over it all becomes Day 1 trading. I was pretty disappointed about this news because … well…

I’m an army brat! There. I’ve said it. I’m not sure I ever say it with pride. For me it is all about turmoil and insecurity.

I look great in khaki

I look great in khaki

My Dad exited the Forces when I was 19, so I spent my entire childhood moving from place to place. I once worked out that I went to 16 different schools between the ages of 5 and 18. Fortunately for me, the BFES (British Forces Education Services) employed some very gifted teachers and I did ok. But the moving around; I hated it! Some army brats get so used to this nomadic way of life that they spend their entire adult lives moving around and they enjoy it. I, however, am desperate to find somewhere to put down roots. The next house I buy I want to be the one I live in until I die and hopefully that will be a long time away! The longest I have ever lived in one house is 7 years and that’s in the one I currently occupy, and sadly I have only ever thought of this as a means to an end.

So we can’t get a mortgage for at least 12 months and probably closer to 3 years. Boo.

I have now started to hunt down houses for rent and I have approached several estate agents. We have dogs so renting is not straight forward at all, but there are a few houses available. What’s completely awful is that rental values down South are as much or more than our current mortgage. I mean, really? We can’t get a mortgage but we can pay extortionate rent? Blimey.

Say what?

Say what?

Or so I thought anyway. I phoned one estate agent yesterday to book a viewing on a property next week and she asked about our ‘situation’. I explained and she said they would need to see proof of income to sort out a rental deal. I explained our ‘situation’ again, more clearly perhaps, and said we wouldn’t be able to show a year’s worth of accounts as we were starting with Day 1 trading. I had this sinking feeling in my gut that we weren’t going to be eligible to rent either. We could really be up shit creek, couldn’t we?

Fortunately, it transpires that if we can pay 6 months’ rent in advance we will be able to rent. No
problems there then, because we will have the excess money from the sale of the house waiting to go as a deposit on a new house somewhere. Maybe we should buy a static caravan instead? But what do you do if you don’t have a deposit?

It was never this difficult to get somewhere to live when I was a student!

My perfect home! There I am, writing away!

My perfect home! There I am, writing away!

However, I put an ad on Gumtree to see if anyone had anything we could rent, and I have been contacted by a really lovely couple with a beautiful little cottage that is perfect for us. I am crossing everything that can be crossed that we get this one because it just sounds fabulous! No room for you lot to come and stay though ;-p

More on that in the future!

Cross your fingers, dear reader xxx


1 Comment

The Fine Art of Gazumping

Buying a business: A risky game of chance

Buying a business: A risky game of chance

I’ve been a bit quiet again, haven’t I? Oh, if only I had my feet up in the sunshine with a cocktail! No, instead I have been standing as a Green Party candidate in my local Ward and I have been busy achieving and losing my dream.

Does that sound confusing? Sorry about that!

Twelve months, when it was becoming apparent that my days in my old ‘career’ were becoming seriously numbered, my husband and I fell in love with a little post office and convenience shop in Somerset. We decided we would like to pursue it so we put our house on the market. Unfortunately someone else bought it before we could. Boo!

By August I knew I was leaving my old job and I was pretty poorly, so we started looking for something else. We found a Post Office and Convenience store in Devon this time (where I hail from). What sold it to me, apart from the glorious rural and seaside location, was that it had accommodation and part of that accommodation included a barn.

A barn! My very own barn! To write in! It was then that The Writer’s Barn was born. Oh I wanted that space very badly. We were confident our house would sell. We made our offer through Kings Business Transfer, had it agreed, paid £6000 for the deposit, and started discussions with the Post Office. It was all in hand. Surely it was just a matter of time?

Well no. I took redundancy at the end of September. I wrote and wrote through October. I started work at the grotto in November to eke my redundancy payment out. Christmas came and went. I was unemployed. Still the house didn’t sell.

The Somerset PO came back on the market after its sale fell through. We had first refusal but felt that now we had agreed to a sale with the Devon PO we should remain loyal and continue on with that. But we still had to sell our house!

People came to see the house and moaned about ‘not being able to see what size the rooms were’ or that ‘it needed a new kitchen’ or that there was ‘only one parking space’ etc. etc. Crazy things. It got to the stage where I actually hated anyone coming around because it felt a bit personal having someone moaning about my house.

The winter dragged on. We seemed to have a lot of lingering snow and not many people viewed at all between January and March. Occasionally, our Estate gents would phone up and expect someone to see the house within the next 10 minutes, invariably when we were out or away!

Out of Reach

Out of Reach

The nice man at Kings Business Transfer would keep phoning me up to check on progress, and I felt guilty, both for him and for the seller of the Devon PO for keeping them waiting. Every viewing that didn’t pan out was a kick in the stomach. But he was very nice. Kept saying he was ‘rooting for us’ and would keep ‘everything crossed’ etc. I was genuinely touched. That’s how bloody naïve I am!

Then miracle of miracle, we had two young couples within two weeks of each other who asked for second viewings! The second couple came for the first time on the Tuesday evening and then came back on the Wednesday. By Thursday we had an offer and started negotiating. Alleluia!

I instantly phoned Kings Business Transfer to give them the news. I was so excited! Finally! Our dream was actually about to come true. The man at Kings seemed a little underwhelmed which surprised me rather. He said he would speak to the seller and get back to me. Oh. I nibbled my thumb nail. Twiddled with my hair.

I waited and waited for the phone to ring. It didn’t. Twelve hours passed and nothing. Now it doesn’t really take a sixth sense to know when something has gone wrong, does it? And I think I knew something was up when I spoke to the man at Kings. Meanwhile, I was completely on tenterhooks. Climbing the walls. I couldn’t believe it was Friday and I wasn’t going to hear anything until after the weekend possibly. I was ready to hit the valium!

Finally 25 hours after I phoned Kings Business transfer, the agent got back to me. ‘A bit of bad news’ apparently. He had not been able to get hold of the seller on the Thursday and had kept trying. That day, that VERY day, someone had WRITTEN to him and offered a higher amount than us. He had to give the two offers to the seller for her to choose ‘when’ he could get hold of her. Could I up my offer? Well, no. We accepted a lower offer so that we could get moving with the PO. That was all of our money.

Tears and tribulations

Tears and tribulations

If it had been a verbal offer from the new buyer, he explained, he might have been able to swing it. My, my. A higher written offer on the day we were set to actually do the deal. What a coincidence. I can just imagine the flurry of phone calls along the lines of , ‘if you want it, you hve to move fast and you have to write to me’ that got the higher offer on the table in writing. Pah! Supposition on my part of course but … really? Of course the seller chose the higher offer. And with that, my bubble was well and truly popped.

All that effort. All those months of trying, of waiting and praying. To add insult to injury I had to wait nearly a fortnight to get my deposit back, and it came back as a cheque that I then had to wait to clear, even though I had sent it via BACS in the first place. They didn’t offer any interest on it either, even though they had had a big wad of my cash for 7 months.

So I expect my next few blogs will be looking at house moving, buying a business and finding somewhere new to live … keep reading!