I just sold my longest-lived-in home. We’ve been here sixteen years. After being given a long fixit list I decided to sell voetstoots – as is. It sold on the day it hit the market – for a song, if you ask me.
Here’s my sequence:
First home Whittington Court. I forget how long, but bought as a bachelor, then Trish moved in ca.1986. When we moved out, sister Sheila lived in it for a while. It was a lovely old one-bedroom flat; big rooms, high ceilings.
1989 we bought our first suburban home at the bottom end of the cul de sac River Drive in Westville. A magic place right on the banks of the Mkombaan river. Stayed there fifteen years.
Then we rented Ian Whitton’s lovely home in Windsor Avenue Westville for about two years.
2005 we bought here, a magic home in a cul de sac above the Palmiet river – ‘to be near the schools.’ Now, there’s a story for ya!!
This pic is the house as we bought it – the feature image is Elston Place after our 2011 / 2012 revamp.
Another chapter begins. I’ll be leaving the home I’ve lived in the longest in my life – sixteen years. The kids were eight and four when we moved in.
How hard can it be, right? You sell, bank the cash and drive off into the sunset. So I called Aitch’s friend and colleague in her four-year stint as an estate agent, Pam.
Pam, You Know What You’re Doing, You Come And Do This.
So you know what she does? She gives me a list as long as your arm! You do this, then you do this, then . . she’s as bad as Aitch was!
So she tells me: Sell your furniture; sell your books; sell the many wall hangings which haven’t hung on a wall for ten years since Aitch went; Fix the cracks, the windows, the doors, the ceilings; Paint – a lot; Rip up those carpets; New light bulbs;
Mow the lawn – WHAT!? Now you’ve gone too far!
Hell, if I didn’t do all those things for us, why should I do them for strangers? Cos you want to sell the house, Pete.
I decided I’ll never get this done, so we put the house on the market “as is” – its called voetstoots in South Africa. And on that very day we got two offers for the full asking price. A week later their finance was approved and so I asked ‘Must I Leave Now?’ No, they said, it takes about three months before you’ll have your money! Damn!
Now it is very real and I sat Jess and Tom down and broke the news. They picked what they wanted from the house, a truckload went off to Tom’s rented rooms:
Jess wants less, but the other fridge and microwave will go to her.
When we bought this home over fifteen years ago I reluctantly said to my estate agent wife Aitch, OK, we’ll do it, but then we live in it as is, no spending anything on it for five years, OK? I was making like I was in charge, knew what I was doing and, as the Head of the Household I was Laying Down The Law.
‘Of course, Koosie,’ said Aitch, patting me on the top of my bald head soothingly. ‘After we’ve sorted out the security we won’t spend anything on our home for five years.’ One of the things I liked about the place was it was unfenced and there were no burglar guards on any windows or doors. It looked great. Wide open spaces overlooking the 100ha Palmiet nature reserve. So after Aitch had a new high fence installed with two automated gates, an automated garage door, trellidoors on all the doors and guards on all the windows she said, ‘There you go. No more expenditure.’
And she was as good as her word. As the five year deadline dawned she made plans to ‘sort out’ the rest. Big plans. Dammit then she died on the very day the builders arrived to start the huge changes. Right now she’s wagging her finger at me from up high on her cloud for the lovely open-plan kitchen she never got to use (which, BTW Aitch, is WAY bigger and more-er than I need!). The best-laid plans . . .
Due to no supervision the new wide sliding doors have no trellidoors – cos I think trellidoors are ugly; and due to normal neglect and lack of maintenance the gates and the garage door stopped working in time. I know – or I’ve heard – some people are organised enough to put moth balls in their gate motors every month or so, to keep the ants out, but not everyone has that technical skill set. So we reverted to manual operation and to often leaving the gate or gates open for convenience. The garage door too, reverted to manual up and down. It’s a bit like Eskom: What did we do before candles were invented? We had electricity.
Now we’re automated again, and even have cameras nogal! New gate motors, a new garage door motor and new security gates on doors. An insurance assessment laid out what I needed to do to not be paying for insurance only to have a claim refused. Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted. By turning over a new leaftree forest I’m sure I will be so much better on routine maintenance from now on. Already my neighbours who charge their cellphones here and draw water at our tap have asked, ‘And now, Pete?’
They do approve, though. They’ve ‘always said, Pete you should . . . ‘ – You know how it goes.
Since the new year rains the garden has been bursting with noise and activity.
Overhead the fish eagle and crowned eagle, the goshawk and the YB kite; In the trees the trumpeter and crowned hornbills; In the garden toppies (black-capped bulbul), yellow-bellied bulbul, GT and cardinal woodpeckers, brown-hooded kingfisher and FT drongos dipping into the pool for a bath and after drowning insects. black and dusky flycatchers, the first paradise flycatcher, golden-rumped tinker, scaly-throated honeyguide, black-collared barbet, white-eared barbet, black-headed oriole, white-eyes, cameropteras, TF prinia, bar-throated & yellow-breasted apalis, black-bellied, redwinged and glossy starlings; Hadedas probe the lawn, hamerkops inspect the pool; Pied crows and gippo geese sit on the high office building above us. Black, Klaas’, Diederiks’ and piet-my-vrou cuckoos.
In the shrubbery the natal robin (red-capped robin-chat) calls and mimics and a trilling noise tells me there are firefinches or (hopefully) twinspots around – haven’t been able to spot them yet. Boubous and puffbacks lurk. Red-eyed doves, mousebirds, Indian ringneck parakeets screech as they whizz past overhead.
Amethyst, collared, white-bellied and olive sunbirds. Bronze and black-and-white (redbacked) mannikins and YF canaries love the seeds in the long grass, swaying on the thin stalks; Loud louries arrive and chase each other around before stopping for a drink; The woodhoopoes are also loud; Spectacled and spotted-backed weavers compete with the sunbirds (and the vervet monkeys!) for the nectar in the strelitzia flowers; Forest (dark-winged) weaver sings his lovely high-pitched squeaky song; The streaky-headed canary also sits and sings happily; At night (late, 3am) the wood owl calls pondo, pondo no-shilling and earlier the nightjar says good lord deliverr us as the francolin settle down noisily.
Gotta have jungle and scrub and hideaways for birds. And a dripping tap.
Today’s the third morning I’ve watched an urgent, furious ruckus in my front garden. A bird screaming its head off while furiously chasing another like a fighter jet in hot pursuit. So fast that I couldn’t get a good view as the target dashed in and out of the copse of trees and shrubs. I was facing into the sunrise which meant even when I got a half-decent glimpse it was of a silhouette with his beak open, screaming like a banshee. Interesting! Made me late for work!
I figured it was a black-collared barbet, and if so that would be a hole-nest parasite he’d be chasing – which would be a honeyguide. But I needed to see. Yesterday I got a good view of the pursuer: Red face and throat, stout beak. That was him alright.
Today I got a glimpse of the suspect: White outer tail feathers. Most likely a Lesser or Scaly-throated Honeyguide. I’ll try to make sure, but I don’t think he’ll be sitting still in plain view anytime soon. I wonder if it’s the male, and while the barbet is doing his over-zealous patrol, his lady friend is plopping her egg in the hole nest?!
I’m on their side – I hope they lay their egg in the barbet’s nest so a luta (the struggle) can continua!
We were moving don’t ask me why. I would happily die here, I said to Aitch. “It’s outside the best schools’ catchment area” Aitch said to me. Which was why I was loading stuff into a rented trailer after fifteen years in River Drive.
Look, it wasn’t a bad trailer. It was – OK, it was a BIG trailer. And it was cheap. It was covered, too, in case it rained, which it didn’t. We had picked Pickfords to do the bulk removal, but I was doing the fragile and precious stuff, me being reliable, dependable, organised, punctual – OK, slightly some of those. We were only moving about 4km to our new temporary home while Aitch searched in earnest for her ideal place.
Picture frames, certain favourite big terracotta pot plants, some old furniture was expertly packed by me, learning as I went.
So I hitched it to the kombi and off we go. River Drive is right at the bottom – where you have to be to be on a river – so I gunned the kombi up the steep hill. She battled at first but then seemed to catch power and roared off lustily. I started humming that song from the removals ad on TV. Y’know: The toothless ou driving along oblivious that his load is falling off the back . . ?
A glance in the mirror showed the trailer right there behind me. Except it was getting smaller . . . Whoa! The trailer had escaped! Which is why the kombi had suddenly felt quick! I watched in horror as it careered down the hill heading straight for Geoffrey’s new gate and wall!
Yanking up the handbrake, I leapt out and ran after it in slow motion, like in a movie. Pointlessly. What would I have done if I’d caught it? Luckily it slewed to the right and hit a small palm tree on the pavement just before Geoff’s gate and smacked to a halt.
Ignoring the big gouge out of the tar where the disselboom had hit the ground, I reversed the kombi up to it, hitched it up again (checking the ball hitch more closely this time), and gunned the kombi up the steep hill . . .
I would clean the potting soil off the pictures later.
footnote:We found a lovely new home in the Palmiet River valley right near “the right schools,” just as Aitch had planned. Then – Murphy's Law - the kids were sent off to a remedial school in town 20km away!! The best-laid plans of mice and Aitch . . .