The 'Not-Exactly-So' Stories

Part 1

Chapter 5: Waiting Game

On the way back home to Hertfordshire, Vera and Arnie decided that they would pick up a Chinese meal to save time, especially as Arnie wanted to sort out the options that they had discussed with The Rook and put them into one of the PDFs of the house plans he had downloaded.

Unsurprisingly, their conversation during the journey was entirely about the Winsmead house on which they had now placed a reservation. Arnie could not shift from his mind that something didn’t ‘feel right’ that in the space of a couple of days and almost at the behest of a prospective customer, the plot’s status had changed from one of an unknown release date to one of being reserved. He was suspicious to the extreme and wondered if they had put a reservation down on a white elephant. Vera just told him to stop it — she liked the place and thought that he was being daft.

Their discussion continued in the Chinese take away, while they waited for their meal to be prepared. They were both really excited about the prospect of moving away from what had become Chavsville into what seemed like a very pleasant area.

After they had eaten, Arnie asked Vera if she wanted him to wash up what wouldn’t go in the dishwasher. He hoped she would answer in the negative — she didn’t disappoint him. For his part, Arnie made a cup of green tea for each of them, carrying Vera’s into the lounge while he took his own upstairs to his office.

Arnie started up his ReadyNAS network storage system and his Mac Book, then reached for his day book and collection of papers that he had brought back from the Gulesrank sales office. He logged into his computer and waited the couple of seconds while the boot up completed. He glanced through his Mail client that started at login, but didn’t have anything that needn’t immediate attention; so he closed it down. Arnie then looked in the Mac’s dock for the icon to start up Adobe Illustrator, during its start-up he picked up one of the paper plans and annotated the various options that they had discussed.

In choosing and stating where they wanted particular options and upgrades, most people would simply write a note and pass it to the sales negotiator; Arnie could never be regarded as one of ‘most people’. He did not trust anybody to do things properly — certainly not do something as well as he could. Vera couldn’t understand why he had to go through this rigmarole on every new build house they had bought, but now she just let the geek get on with it. He preferred to argue that it was more professional and in any case would remove all ambiguity from his requests. The other thing was that he just liked messing with such stuff on his computer.

From Illustrator, Arnie browsed for the PDF’s of the Winsmead house that he had downloaded from Gulesrank’s web site. After double-clicking the relevant file, he chose the page of the PDF that he wanted to amend and it duly opened. Systematically, he annotated on the plan, the position and ‘handing’ of the internal access door to the garage, the extra light switch in the hall. He also marked on the plan where he wanted the additional telephone socket and power sockets in the bedroom that he would use as his office. Finally, he marked on the plan where he wanted the outside lighting and power sockets for the back garden and the position of where he wanted the outside tap.

After completing his work, Arnie glanced over the Thunderbolt display and back at his paper copies, comparing the two to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. Happy that nothing was missing he saved, then printed the ‘new’ PDF to show Vera and seek her approval.

Arnie took the paperwork downstairs to show Vera, misjudging the bottom step because he was looking at his work of art. “Bollocks!” he shouted as he jarred his back.

”What’s the matter now?” questioned Vera sounding somewhat exasperated with her husband.

”Nothing” he replied, still gyrating and rubbing his back as he walked into the lounge. “I stepped off the second step of the stairs without realizing I had missed the bottom one. Take a look at this for me, please. Have I missed anything?”

Vera accepted the piece of paper and looked at it, without having a clue as to what she was looking. “I don’t know”, she said, “what am I supposed to be looking for?” ‘Why does he have to be such nerd’, she thought.

”Whether I’ve left out any of the extra sockets or light switches that we need.”

Vera stared blankly at the paper, not knowing what any of the symbols meant, but to appease Arnie she simply replied: “No, that looks all right.” Luckily, Arnie hadn’t omitted anything, so wouldn’t face any future repercussions from him telling her that she had checked the plan, in the event that something had been left out.

Happy with his wife’s response, Arnie took back the plan and returned to his office. He sat down at his desk then opened up his email client to send a message to Christine Boar, attaching the amended plan he had just created.

Satisfied that he had sent the sales woman everything that he needed to prevent any cock-ups during the first-fix stage, Arnie closed down his computer and went back downstairs to re-join his wife in the lounge where they sat and discussed what they had seen during the plot visit. The hours passed by very quickly and before they realized it, the time was one o’clock in the morning at which point they thought they should head up to bed.

At around 1155 hours on the following day, 08 August 2013, while he was sitting at his desk, Arnie’s iPad ‘pinged’ to alert him of the receipt of another email. He ignored the tablet, preferring to switch to the mail client on his computer. This time it was nothing more than a read receipt from Christine Boar indicating that she had read the message that he had sent the previous day. He tried to FaceTime his wife who was downstairs in the kitchen, but as so many other times it went unanswered. Vera didn’t like all of the technology of which Arnie was so fond, but she took on his old iPad when he bought the new one. At least that would keep him off her case and she could also keep up with her family on Farcebook and the occasional email.

As Vera didn’t respond to the FaceTime request, Arnie walked out to the gallery landing and called down to Vera. “Vera, I’ve just had an acknowledgement that Gulesrank have read the message I sent last night giving them the amendments that we want” Arnie informed her.

”Oh, that’s good” she replied, “at least they cannot say we did not send them the information in time!”

”Absolutely” said Arnie “and there can be no ambiguity about the location and number of additions either” finished Arnie.

Down in the sales office at the Gulesrank development, Christine was printing off the attachments that Arnie had sent. She had already called her colleague the site manager to let him know that she had received the information and he told her he would call in to fetch a copy.

”Bloody hell, these are good” said The Rook to Christine.

”I reckon it just shows what a nerd he is” said the sales woman, singularly unimpressed by the plans at which The Rook was looking. “I’ll just send him a response to thank him and bolster his stupid little ego” said Christine.

At first, The Rook couldn’t understand her attitude; Arnie hadn’t seemed that bad to him and the plans at which he was now looking were really helpful to him and his contractors. Christine started to relay her impressions of Arnie to her colleague, telling him that she didn’t like the idea of reducing the price of the house when her customer had asked for a better price. She also told The Rook that she thought Arnie was a bit of an arrogant so-and-so, judging by the way he spoke to her. Perhaps, she was correct, but the site manager had no evidence of his own, to reach the same conclusion.

At that point, the site manager took another glance at Arnie’s plans and told the sales woman that he had better check up on how things were progressing around the site, whereupon, he stuffed his feet into his rigger boots just outside the door, grabbed his Tonka hat and walked up the hill.

Over the course of the next week, things went a bit quiet. The Squires received some correspondence from their solicitor, including a request for the completion of the fixtures/fittings questionnaire and another about boundaries, access rights and property changes. Arnie also needed to send some cheques to cover the cost of various searches that the solicitor would make.

Monday 19 August 2013, just 3 days before the next scheduled meeting between the Squires and Gulesrank for a ‘Contract Pre-exchange Review’, there was also a phone call from the estate agent informing the Squires that there had been a slight hiccup with their buyers. Arnie’s stomach seemed to ‘churn’ and he cursed thinking that they had lost their buyers and that they might have to stay in ‘Chavsville’ longer than they expected. While it was not that bad for the Squires, certainly it was worse for the Browns who had agreed to the purchase of Vera’s and Arnie’s home. The Estate agent informed Arnie that Mrs. Brown’s had flown over to Canada to her mother, who was coming back to England to live. Unfortunately, her mother had died during the journey to the airport. This sad event meant that the house purchase would have to take second priority to the funeral arrangements and sorting out the mother’s estate.

Arnie ‘hung up’ the telephone call from estate agent and turned to his wife to relay her the gist of the conversation. “What I’m concerned about is the September 4th exchange date” said Arnie. “It’s the 19th August today and we’re supposed to exchange with Gulesrank in about a fortnight’s time. Bollocks, why does nothing ever run smoothly for us?”

”What can Gulesrank do?” asked Vera.

”God knows” answered Arnie. “They could pull the deal completely or I suppose they could jack up the price. We’ll have to wait and see. We’ll certainly find out on Thursday — we’ve got that pre-exchange review meeting with Boar.”

As it happened, Vera and Arnie didn’t even have to wait until the 22nd August to find out the answer. The morning after Arnie’s call from the estate agent, he answered another telephone call, only this time it Christine Boar. “Good morning Mr. Squire, it’s Christine from Gulesrank Homes.”

”Good morning” he replied, slightly anxious at what the sales woman might have to say.

"Yesterday, when I was phoning the solicitors and estate agent for some status updates, I heard that there may be a hiccup with your buyer." She said it in a tone that Arnie thought the news brought her some degree of satisfaction.

"Really" said Arnie, trying to maintain some composure. It would not have taken much for Arnie to give her a right royal serve. "You must be talking about our buyer's mother dying; I heard that yesterday too. As far as I'm aware they haven't backed out of buying this place, but the process will probably be delayed while they sorted the funeral and the estate."

"That's right" said the sales woman. Do you know how long?"

"No idea" retorted Arnie. "What's the impact likely to be on the plot we're after?"

"Well, these are unusual circumstances for which you're not responsible" said Christine. "I've spoken to my manager for her advice and she has told me that she is prepared to leave things as they are, but if the delay is too long and someone else expresses interest in plot 15, the company reserves the right to cancel the agreement as it stands."

"Thanks" said Arnie, determined that he wasn't going to be seen to be too obliged or grateful to the sales woman of Gulesrank. "Do you still want to have the 'pre-exchange' review meeting on Thursday?" asked Arnie.

"Yes, we should still go ahead with that" she replied "the other side might sort things out fairly quickly" she continued.

Arnie immediately regarded this as a hint that the sales woman's threat was a lot of hot air. 'Would they really want to lose a potential sale at this stage — especially as the plot wasn't even released a couple of weeks ago?' he thought. "OK, that's fine. Did you say 1330 hours?"

Christine hesitated. She could never convert the 24 hour clock into 12 hour very quickly. "Yes, that's right, one-thirty" she replied.

As soon as she had confirmed the time of the appointment, Arnie made his excuses, said good-bye and hung-up the telephone.

Arnie went downstairs to the utility room where Vera was busy doing the laundry. He related the conversation to Vera emphasizing the fact that although Gulesrank were threatening to pull the deal if the delay was too long, still they needed to go to the pre-exchange review meeting. He tried to reassure Vera that if they were likely to lose the place, there would be no point in having the review.

The 22 August 2013 duly arrived and Vera and Arnie drove down to the development for their meeting with Christine Boar. Arnie was not surprised to find that on their arrival, she was still eating her lunch! Apparently, she had given her son £20 to nip out to the nearby MacDonalds to fetch her the food. It transpired that her son owned a landscaping business that was contracted to Gulesrank Homes, providing the service to lay the turf and carry out the landscaping to the fronts of all plots. To Arnie, it also looked like she may not have had very much change from her £20 either. He spotted at least two of the cartons in which the burgers are served as well as a large bag that would have held the fries. Arnie glanced towards Vera and nodded his head in the direction of the banquet remnants on the desk in front of the sales woman. Vera gave a vague but still disapproving frown at Arnie, who looked back at the sales woman who was now opening a buff coloured folder, from which she withdrew a number of sheets of paper.

"Right" began the sales woman. "I'd like to go through the options that you have already informed us of and just finish of a few other administrative items. I need to take payment for the most recent options you've chosen."

The meeting continued in a slightly frosty vain — mainly due to the impression Arnie had, that Christine was revelling in the fact that the Squires must be squirming with the uncertainty as to whether or not they may lose Plot 15 that they wanted so desperately.

When the administration was complete, Arnie enquired about the possibility of visiting the plot again to see what progress had been made since their first plot walk. Not without some relish, Christine told the Squires that plot 15 and adjacent plots were busy with tradespeople, so it would not have been possible.

'Bastard, I bet you're enjoying this!' thought Arnie. On hearing that, he just said "OK, if that's everything, we may as well head home." Vera and Arnie both arose from their seats, said cheerio to the sales woman and headed out of the sales office and back to their car. Arnie did so, but not before looking up the road to check to see just how busy the area was. He could see a few people, a swing shovel and dumper truck up there, so probably she was not spinning them a line.

Vera and Arnie both made themselves comfortable in the car and he drove them home, with much of the conversation being about just how serious Gulesrank's threat to pull the plug might or might not be. Arnie believed there was a serious amount of idle threat and bluff involved and tried his best to convince Vera not to worry too much.

Chapter 6

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