The 'Not-Exactly-So' Stories

Part 1

Chapter 6: Contract Exchange

The events of the conveyancing for the sale and purchase of respective houses seemed to drag very slowly over the next month. Certainly the conditional exchange date of 02 September 2013 on the reservation form passed by quite uneventfully. Contrary to Vera's and Arnie's fears, Gulesrank hadn't voiced any threats so far because the exchange of contracts' date hadn't been met. Arnie thought it would be interesting to see if the 'freebies' that Christine Boar had given when he tried to negotiate down the price, would be charged on completion.

Despite considerable communications traffic between the Squires and their solicitor, it was not until 24 September 2013 that any further communication took place between Gulesrank and the Squires and only then, at Arnie's instigation. He sent an email message to Christine to inform her that earlier that day he and Vera had signed the Gulesrank contract and the TP1 Title Deed for the purchase of Plot 15. The Squire's solicitor anticipated that with the information he had gleaned from all other parties in the chain, the exchange of contracts would take place on 04 October 2013 at the very latest.

Once again, to the frustration of Arnie, there was a lull in communications until 04 October 2013. For most of the time, as a 'glass half-full' type of person, Vera worked on the premise that 'no news is good news'. Arnie on the other hand was a far more pessimistic and cynical person and put down the lack of communication as being a function of people being scared to impart unfavourable news.

the telephone rang and after a few rings, Arnie pushed the button to answer the call. It was the secretary from their solicitor. "Good afternoon Mr. Squire" said the woman, "this is Grace from T.H. Willson Associates. I am just calling to let you know that we have just exchanged contracts for the sale of your current property and also with Gulesrank for your purchase of Plot 15. Please be aware that if you were to withdraw from either agreement as of now, there could be quite serious financial and legal consequences."

"Thanks very much for letting us know, Grace. I can assure you, we have no desire or intention to back out of the deals now" replied Arnie.

"Good. I am very pleased for you and your wife" replied Grace. "Do you have any questions?"

"I guess my only question is what will be the completion date for us to arrange removals? As you probably know the new place will not be ready until some time in November, so we are going into a rented 'holiday cottage' until completion of the new place" enquired Arnie.

The woman asked Arnie to hold while she checked with the solicitor and after almost a minute came back with the answer that completion on the sale of their current place would be 18 October.

On hearing that and satisfied with the answer, Arnie bid the secretary good-bye and pressed the button to end the call.

"Who was on the phone" asked Vera.

"Solicitor" replied Arnie quickly. "They've exchanged contracts with the Brown's solicitor and Gulesrank. Completion on this place will be 18 October. About bloody time too."

Independently but simultaneously, Vera and Arnie breathed sighs of relief. Arnie checked the time and thought it would be a bit late to contact the holiday cottage rental company to confirm the dates they needed. Instead, he wrote ten company an email and set a reminder on his iPhone to give them a call the following morning.

That evening the couple were able to relax to an extent that they had previously been able for a couple of years. Arnie certainly did with a few glasses of his favourite whisky, Knockando, Vera had a couple of glasses of G & T.

18 October 2013

The two weeks to completion on their existing place went by quite quickly. The two stood back as they watched the removals men load up the truck to take their belongings into storage for the next month or so. The boxes went into the containers quite straightforwardly, but when it came to loading the lounge furniture and dining furniture, it was rather like watching the blokes play 'Giant Tetris' as they manoeuvred the pieces to positions giving greatest stability. Eventually, the supervisor said to Arnie: "Right that's everything on the truck, do you want to walk around to make sure we haven't missed anything?"

"Will do" said Arnie. While he checked the five bedrooms upstairs, Vera checked all of the rooms downstairs. Arnie returned and confirmed everything was loaded.

"What about your hoover?" said the supervisor.

"No, we'll take that after I've done one final vacuum through" said Vera.

The supervisor nodded his acknowledgement and turned about and walked outside to tell his colleagues to lock the units. They were ready to go.

After Vera had finished vacuum through, she and Arnie did one final walk through to make sure that neither had overlooked anything. Satisfied that all was in order, Arnie grabbed the last of the hand luggage and took it out to the car. He returned to collect the Dyson vacuum cleaner, dismantling it so that the components could be packaged among the other luggage in the car. He returned to the front door where Vera had been waiting and she watched him lock the front door.

"Did you check the back door and patio doors?" asked Arnie.

"Yes, all done. I checked them twice" she answered. Vera was used to be asked this; Arnie was convinced he'd inherited the same propensity to suffer Alzheimer's disease as had killed his mother. On some days he had actually checked that the front door was locked, three times.

Content that everything was secure, the two walked along the drive to the car for the last time, to make the trip to drop the keys off with the estate agent. After they did so, they then made the journey south closer to their eventual destination, only this time they were travelling to a holiday cottage until their new place was ready.

Within a week of arriving at the cottage, Vera and Arnie were scheduled to go the Gulesrank development to visit Plot 15. That was on the 24 October 2013. This was at the request of Colin Rook to check out the options and make sure they were happy with the build prior to him starting snagging on 28 October. Vera and Arnie were both really excited at this prospect because after all, this would be only the second time that they would have physically seen the plot they were buying — the only other time being on 07 August 2013, a few days after raising their initial interest in the place.

The couple alighted from their car in the visitors' car park near the sales office. It was a bright day for the time of year, almost reflecting the air of optimism the two were feeling. That was particularly unusual for Arnie. As they walked towards the entrance of the sales office, they could see that the site manager was already inside, chatting to his colleague Christine while waiting for their customers. Arnie opened the door for Vera, who once inside shook hands with The Rook and exchanged pleasantries. Arnie followed her into the sales office and also shook hands with the site manager, who immediately wrung his afterwards. Vera noticed and immediately apologized for Arnie.

"He's always doing that" she said, chastizing her husband by her glare.

After a polite exchange of more pleasantries, the assembled group then headed out to view the house. This time Christine didn't accompany her colleague. She had done her damage, now it was over to the site manager for a pre-snagging inspection.

When they arrived at the plot, it had been transformed from an absolute quagmire, as it was on the 07 August to a super looking house. The render — of which Arnie was not a fan, to the front even suited the design of the property, so he was not that displeased. Before they went inside, The Rook invited Arnie to check along the side of the property to ensure that he had sited the side gate in the correct position as requested. He then led the couple to the front of the house and opened the garage door using the remote control system that Arnie had chosen. Once everything was agreed, he then opened the front door and invited the Squires inside. Before entering, The Rook removed his rigger boots, while Vera and Arnie took off their shoes and boots.

As they entered the hallway, Colin unlocked and opened the internal/personal door to the garage. That was fine, acknowledged Arnie when asked. Along the hall and before entering the lounge, Colin pointed out the additional light switch that Arnie had requested. 'So far, so good' thought Arnie at which point they walked into the lounge.

Immediately Vera saw the fire and surround her face lit up even more. Apart from the fire place, there wasn't much more to look at, even for a large room, so the party then moved into the kitchen/dining room.

The first thing that Arnie noticed through the patio doors was that the bloody great mound was still in the corner, stacked against the retaining wall for the higher, adjacent garden.

"You told us we you were going to level that" barked Arnie at the site manager.

"I said I'd level it as much as I can" retorted The Rook.

"It doesn't bloody look like it" said Arnie almost apoplectically. "All you've done is covered it in grass!"

"Well I'm afraid that's all the levels would allow me to do" added the site manager.

"You didn't tell us that at the time" said Arnie. Knowing that contracts had been exchanged three weeks earlier, Arnie knew that they were up shit creek. There was nothing they could do about it now, without extreme personal expense. "Oh well, I suppose we'll have to deal with that and shift it ourselves" said Arnie, still overlooking the implications of the garden levels to the rear.

The Rook remained silent.

The tour continued with Arnie absolutely seething inside because he realized that the little shit who was escorting around the house had done a right number on them. The only thing that amused Arnie was when the site manager was showing them around the cloakroom. He pointed out the unusual sink 'plugs' that were in all the wash basins. There were no chains with plugs or levers to pull like their old place; these things spun on an axis within the outlet. To fill the basin, the user simply levelled the chrome 'plug' within the outlet, which would prevent the water draining out.

"Especially over the next few months while construction is continuing with a lot of dust, it would be worth just spinning the plug and wiping away any dust or grit with your finger — like this", he said as he demonstrated. On doing so, he immediately withdrew his finger and held it to his lips to lick away the stream of blood that had issued from a cut.

Arnie stifled a chuckle and said "You might as well start your snagging list with that! Better your finger than ours." As he finished his suggestion, he turned away from the doorway, walked back through the utility room into the kitchen to look out at the monstrosity in the garden that was staring back at him through the patio doors.

"Right, can we get a move on?" said Arnie.

Vera became slightly embarrassed by Arnie's attitude, although she didn't blame him for it. Meanwhile The Rook reached into his pocket and withdrew a handkerchief in which to wrap his finger.

The rest of the tour continued with the minimum of conversational input from Arnie. Now, all he was interested in doing was getting out of there to plan how he could deal with that bloody mound and sort out the garden for his shed.

After the 'tour' around the plot had finished, the small assembled outside the property and put on their respective footwear. The walk back to the sales office was a quiet one, with The Rook doing his best to initiate some responses from his customers. As far as Arnie was concerned, he had given all the verbal response that he thought was necessary. The only other response he would have dearly loved to have given would have been to deck the little shit who worked for Gulesrank. Vera, on the other hand, was doing her best to try to fill the embarrassing silence and respond whenever the site manager passed comment.

One thing that did grab Arnie's attention, at least momentarily, was the site manager's comment that he was hoping to have the CML inspection completed on 08 November, Vera's and Arnie's wedding anniversary. After that, The Rook anticipated that legal completion could be within a week. That was some small glimmer of good news among the rest of the information they had taken that day. It would have meant that Arnie might not have to stay in the cottage whose former owners he thought were 'The Borrowers'. He'd lost count of the number of times he'd cracked his head on the beams in the place. 'If that's character and charm, you can stick it where the sun doesn't shine' thought Arnie.

When they arrived at the sales office, Christine was just inside the door speaking with some other prospects. Arnie would have liked to tell them about their experience, but thought better of it. Christine interrupted her conversation with the other visitors, saying "Excuse me" to them. She then turned to Vera and Arnie and enquired "So what do you think? Was everything all right?"

Arnie looked at Vera sensing her gaze boring into him. "Thanks. I can see you're busy; we'll get out of your way."

The sales woman was slightly puzzled, but exchanged 'good-byes' with the Squires who no sooner had said theirs, than they were out of the door, barely acknowledging The Rook.

When they sat back in the car Arnie expleted: "That lazy fucking bastard! Why didn't he level the garden as he said?"

"I don't know" offered Vera. "We'll just have to sort it out, I suppose."

"Yeah… and that won't be cheap or easy" replied Arnie. "There must be a good two or three tonnes of soil there to get rid of. Bastard."

The drive back to the rented cottage wasn't the most enjoyable — least of all for Vera having to put up with her husband's foul mood.

For Arnie, the final few weeks before legal completion did not improve his mood at all. Not only did The Rook fail to deliver on his commitment to level the garden to Arnie's requirements, but he also failed by more than a week, to meet the CML and legal completion dates he'd indicated. During one of the regular telephone updates that Vera and Arnie received from the sales woman, Arnie even told her that of the four moves they had made in the previous ten years, he was looking forward to this one, the least of all and in all honesty, wished they'd never proceeded with the purchase. Little did he know that the worst was yet to reveal itself.

Chapter 7

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