It was Saturday 3 August 2013.
"Did you remember to pick up the cheque book?" asked Vera, as she closed the car door.
"Yes, I've put it in the glove box" replied Arnie. "I hope that we can find something today. I'm really looking forward to finding somewhere else now – I've had enough of this bloody shower around here."
Now that Vera and Arnie had received the memorandum of sale for their current place, they were driving to a new development by Gulesrank Homes that Vera had found on its website. It was about 1½ hours drive from their present home in Hertfordshire, a few miles outside Swanley. The sat‐nav indicated that their arrival time should be early–mid afternoon. That should give them enough time to have a good look around and if they liked what they saw, the fact that Arnie had brought a cheque book, was a sure sign that they were prepared to put down a reservation on a suitable plot. Arnie in particular was very decisive.
He had packed the PDF on the property design he'd downloaded and printed and slid it inside the cover of one of his old day books. It was something he'd kept from his last job because it had only been used for work‐stuff a dozen times, if that. On the back seat of the car, he'd also put his 'Disto' — a laser measuring device — so that he could accurately measure, the dimensions of the rooms of the house he and Vera had seen on the web.
At the development to which they were driving, Vera and Arnie had seen a 4‐bedroom house, one of two designs with the desired number of bedrooms. Fortunately, the show house at the site was also their preferred design that they had found on the website, so if it was to their liking, they would be able to give the once‐over to a place identical to what they might buy. Although they had done so before, Arnie was suspicious about buying off plan; given the ever present small print, there was no way of being certain that to whatever you'd sign up, would be delivered.
As they drove onto the new development, they were quite pleased with the local area. Sure enough this was still the UK, so it would never be perfect, but it was more than good enough. Vera and Arnie drove past about a number of homes that looked as though they had been occupied for a few months, then a few meters further Arnie spotted the car park for the sales office/marketing suite. As he got out of the car, Arnie recognized the house next to which he had parked as the show house in which they were interested. "There's the show house we're here to see" he said to Vera "and by the looks of it, there's another smaller one right next door to the sales office".
Arnie grabbed his day book and Disto from the back seat of the car, and walked round to the front passenger door and reached in to the glove box for the cheque book and a pen. As they walked down the footpath to the sales office, Vera and Arnie looked around at some other plots that were still under construction. Judging by appearances, the readiness of some of the plots ranged virtual completion to others that were little more than just a shell — not even having roof trusses in place. Glancing up the road, Arnie reckoned that there were the best part of a dozen plots, nearly all detached, but a variety of at least three different designs.
Arnie walked up the steps of the path to the sales office and pushed open the door to let Vera walk in ahead of him. It looked as though the sales office was what was destined to become a semi‐detached house, with the adjoining property being another show house. As they walked into the main room, there was a large glass‐topped table with a site plan beneath the glass. Dotted around the walls were images of the various designs that Gulesrank Home were offering at the development, with plastic bins containing printed spec sheets, beneath the corresponding image of the particular house design. It looked as though there were about eight different designs ranging from 2‐bedroomed semi's to 4‐bedroomed detached. Vera and Arnie were here to see the 4‐bedroomed 'Winsmead' show house.
Towards the back of the main sales office area, was a smaller room equipped with an office desk, chair computer and a couple of chairs for visitors. The sales negotiator, who was sitting in her chair, had looked up as Vera had entered the sales office, but made no immediate attempt to walk out of her office to greet her visitors. She did look up and smile to acknowledge Vera, having momentarily beforehand taken a bite from a sandwich.
The sales negotiator was a bit of a burly woman in her fifties. She had long, lank greasy blonde hair. She wore what probably was the company 'uniform' comprising of a burgundy coloured 'V' neck sweater over the top of what probably started out life as a white blouse. The trousers were black or charcoal, frayed at the bottom due to being too long from regular wear with flat court shoes. The whole ensemble of clothes looked worse than tired, some might even say scruffy — certainly not as smart as the sales negotiator from whom Vera and Arnie had bought their present house in Hertfordshire. Overall, Vera thought this character didn't look particularly 'wholesome'. Wholesome was the polite word Vera would use to describe someone who looked a bit dowdy and with whom she wasn't impressed.
"Hello" said the sales negotiator, "… and welcome to the Abbot's Green development. Sorry, this is a bit of a late lunch" as she gestured towards a large spread of food laid out on her desk. "How can I help you?"
Looking at her stout stature, Vera thought to herself: 'I'll bet that's not the first lunch you've had today either'. It was approaching 2:45pm, after all.
"We'd like to have a look round the Winsmead show house, if that's OK?" said Arnie.
"Yes, no problem at all" replied the sales negotiator. "If you go out of that door behind you and just follow the path; the front door of the show house is unlocked".
"Thanks" replied Arnie as he opened the door for Vera and then followed her out.
As Vera walked into the hallway, a satified smile began to appear on her face. Directly ahead of the front door, about 20 feet away was a door that led into the kitchen/breakfast room. Before reaching that, on the right, was the door into the living room. Vera walked in to the living room and siad to Arnie as he followed: "On I like this. It's nice to have a fire place. And I like the big window overlooking the front garden" she said.
Yeah… and it's not just casement windows either. It makes a change to get several transomes" he replied.
He had barely finished his sentence and he was already on his way back out of the living room to look in the kitchen. He had already seen enough to convince him on that room. Before he went in the kitchen, he glanced at the stairs ascending opposite the lounge door. The stairs were placed behing the internal garage with a cupboard opposite what would have been the back wall of the garage. "I could fit this out with a hanging rail and some shelves" declared Arnie, as Vera made her way out to find out see what Arnie was talking about. She was about to say something else when she realized that Arnie was already on his way to the next room; so she didn't bother saying anything.
Vera continued staring over her shoulder and shook her head, as she watched Arnie walk into the kitchen. She closed the door of the hall cupboard and followed Arnie, who by now was already cgecking to see what brand of appliances were installed.
"Bloody hell" exclaimed Arnie, "they don't scrimp on the quality of their integrated kit… it's only bloody Neff gear. Can't be bad!"
"Yeah, but I don't want an integrated microwave like this" said Vera. "I would prefer a double oven — it will be so much easier to keep clean than our range cooker too!"
Vera looked around the room, pointed at a door and asked Arnie: "Is that the utility room?"
"Should be…" replied Arnie "the cloakroom too." At this point, Vera followed Arnie through the door to inspect the utility room and cloakroom.
"This is better" she said, "it's a good sink, but we might need an extra cupboard for the cleaning stuff."
Arnie nodded in agreement.
They both had a quick look in the cloakroom, both agreeing that the plumbing was better concealed here than the place on which they had just accepted an offer.
"Right, let's have a look upstairs" said Arnie. "I like what we've seen so far, so hopefully upstairs will be just as good."
Vera and Arnie spent another 15–20 minutes looking around upstairs, deciding which room Arnie could have as his office and which should be the spare rooms for when Vera's 'kids' and grandchildren visited. They agreed that Arnie could have the'second' bedroom so that he could use the built-in wardrobe as an 'office-cupboard' for all the stuff he kept. Bedrooms 3 and 4 would be ideal for visitors, although Vera and Arnie agreed that they'd need to get some new beds and storage units. In bedroom 4, Vera suggested that it would be a good place to have another built-in wardrobe for additional storage.
"What do you think?" Arnie asked Vera.
"I really like it and think we should see what plots are available" she answered.