Monday, 14 March 2016

In which we get a proper look

Where were we?

Oh yes...We'd go to the auction, where we'd sit amongst the hundreds of eager would-be property buyers and soak up the 'Homes Under the Hammer' atmosphere and see what the little, unloved cottage in the pretty town went for.  

It'd be a nice day out - we'd never been to Stroud and, lover of 'Cider with Rosie' that I am, we'd try and find nearby Slad and have a look around.  We'd have a pub lunch - in fact, we'd invite our friend Jane and make a bit of a jolly of it.

At the auction, we'd garner useful ideas on the best approach to adopt if, in the future, we decided to buy our next home at auction. We'd sit with our hands firmly tucked away under our thighs or inside our jackets to avoid gestures that might be misinterpreted by the auctioneer, with whom we would also avoid all eye contact.

But of course the outcome was quite different!

We never did find Slad, nor did we learn how buying at an auction is done. 

In a room 'jam-packed' with about fifteen people (at least five of whom were the auction house staff, four the sellers of the cottage and three me, Mr U-t-B and Jane) only three properties were to be sold, two having been withdrawn that day.  And the one we'd looked at was first!  So absolutely no chance to see how it was done...

Mr U-t-B forgot all about keeping his hands inside his jacket and put in the first bid on the cottage, maybe because the auctioneer's first, second and third 'What am I bid?s' were met with no response.

This prompted someone else to join in.  

After a brief bidding skirmish (you couldn't call it a war - too short and fairly half-hearted on the other guy's part) the hammer was about to come down.  Mr U-t-B, though he had been raising his hand quite emphatically, had convinced himself that there was a third bidder, directly behind him, and it was him that was about to get the property.  Although the bidding hadn't reached Mr U-t-B's limit, he'd decided not to bid any further and was happy to let the third bidder have the property.  When the auctioneer said 'Your bid.  Man in the checked shirt,' Mr U-t-B looked down and found that he was, in fact, wearing a checked shirt .  (This should not have been a surprise as he rarely wears any shirt other than a checked one!) 

And the hammer fell!


When you buy at auction, you complete a mere twenty working days later, so very soon, we found ourselves with the keys and going to take a closer look at what we'd lumbered ourselves with the sweet  little cottage.

Let's take a look around.

You enter straight into the kitchen/dining room.

It's rather dark in there as there are just three small windows two of which are high in the wall, so you can't look out...

Plenty of kitchen cupboards though, even if not to my taste..

Windows - 80s replacements, totally out of keeping with the age of the property.

Off the kitchen is a lobby, the back door and a cramped and impractical utility room 

Yellow so bright it may be easier to knock it down than cover it up!

The sitting room is dominated by a not-too-authentic fireplace, red carpet and the stairs...

The staircase oozes 60s/70s new-housing vibe.  Not keen.  

Upstairs is a very long corridor with three changes in level and three bedrooms and a bathroom leading off...

This is the second bedroom with its door leading up to the attic.  I like this quirky door...

...and we discovered there was some sort of wood panelling beneath the layer of woodchip.  Possibly exciting!

We scraped a bit of paper away.  Stripped back this could be a nice feature.  Perhaps?

The colour schemes need re-thinking.  I'm not a fan of the deep pink, eau-de-nil, magnolia and purples, though that little cupboard is kind of sweet.

The bathroom is upstairs.  That is its only redeeming feature. The 'mushroom pink' suite, yellow walls, red carpet (carpet!!!) and gold-glitter loo seat, plus the mirror tiles above the bath and brown woodwork won't be staying.  

It was going to be a challenge, but that's what we wanted, right?  

Thursday, 3 March 2016

In which we attend a Saturday viewing

So, we'd stuck a toe in the housing market by putting my flat on the market and after one viewing it had sold!  

With this fresh in our minds we headed back to Wiltshire to have a look at the cottage that was up for auction.  It was a beautiful sunny day.

No - that's not it!

Although a town, the centre of Cricklade is quite small.  There are lots of attractive, mostly Georgian, houses and a peaceful atmosphere.

That's not it either!

This one was for sale, but not up for auction, and not within our budget...

Although part of the plan was to downsize, the aptly-named 'Little Cottage' would be a step too far, methinks.  My fabric alone would fill this place!

Yeah - it's not this one either!

We had a coffee in a friendly, independent grocery/tea room and a wander around.  We chatted to a couple of locals at some length, about gardens and model aeroplane flying.  This does not happen in Aldershot, where mostly people avoid eye contact in case you might dare to say hello to them...

This made me giggle!

We went to the 'Open House' for the cottage.  We chatted with the agent and the owner and had a look around. It wasn't a 'love at first sight' moment, more a 'poor little house, it needs taking under someone's wing' type of thing.

The cottage is approached from the High Street, down a passageway leading past the house that fronts onto the High Street.  From the High Street you see four large windows and a door to the side, but the door is not the front door to any house, it's a door to the passage leading to the front house and then beyond, to the cottage. 

This is the passageway, and that door, just before the gate, is the door to our cottage.  The white and stone part is ours, the cream part is the house on the High Street.  

There is a rather unattractive rear extension that was added in the 60s.  And a falling apart shed.  But at least it has net curtains...You need a bit of privacy in your shed!

The garden, though small, is larger than we have here, and it has a lovely old brick wall.
There's also a large, paved area beside the extension.

Inside, the kitchen/diner is well-supplied with cupboards and worksurfaces.  There's an enormous range style cooker, but if I was churning out the quantities of food this beast could produce, we'd be hard pressed to fit in all the guests required to eat it.  It's also rather dark...

There's a cloakroom/utility room, but the washing machine door bangs into the loo.  Loading the washing machine over the loo doesn't seem like the greatest idea!

In the sitting room there's a not too authentic looking fireplace with a condemned gas fire.

Oh and swirly deep pink carpet.

But there is a beautiful, genuinely old door.  The first real bit of history we found in the place.

Upstairs, there are three fairly good-sized bedrooms.  All are challenged in the decorating department!

That's an old cupboard with a nice old door.  A keeper.  Not like the wallpaper!

The master bedroom has almost bearable wallpaper, but it also has a useful ridge to trip over in the middle of the carpet...

Leading from the bedroom with the cute cupboard is a narrow staircase to two further attic rooms.  No windows here, but 'potential'.  Even if they are disguised as a giant billiard table at the moment.

So, not exactly your dream cottage!  But it was just crying out 'Love me!'
We repaired to the local hostelry, which you may have seen in a recent episode of Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feast'.  Lunch was so good that the pros of the place seemed to far outweigh the cons.  We'd go to the auction.  I mean, we probably wouldn't get it - we've watched enough 'Homes Under the Hammer' to know these events are always packed with people desperately fighting it out and paying way over the guide price...

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Climbing back aboard for a new adventure

So... What's the best approach to adopt when you inadvertently fail to update your blog for nearly two years?

I think maybe the best bet is to just get on with it pretty much as if nothing happened.  I mean, nothing really did happen - no really big life changes, just maybe not having enough that I was interested in enough to spend time boring telling my readers about it.  

Things have, of course, moved on a bit.  Miss U-t-B did that thing that children will, and grew up enough to head off to the North in search of a university education.  

Mr U-t-B retired for about the third time, this time properly.  No more lessons, no more financial managing and no more board meetings.  Freedom!  

And then a series of things happened, none of them major, which has resulted in the adventure that we are just embarking on.

First I decided that enough was enough and the woodchip wallpaper on the stairs and landing would have to go... 

This involved peeling two extremely stubborn layers of paper off an awful lot of wall.  My brain has mostly erased the pain and boredom of this, but I seem to remember it took about six weeks!

We then plastered and painted and re-carpeted, ending up rather pleased with the results...

Walking into town one day,  a wave of something risky overcame both Mr U-t-B and I.  We decided to go into an estate agent and get them to come and give us a valuation, what with the house finally having that 'walk-through-the-door' appeal.  

(We'd only a year before upped the kerb appeal by replacing the old front door of every 'first day back at school photo' ever taken...

...with one we rescued from along the terrace...

(Last day at school!)

Then a pane of Edwardian decorative glass above the front door became broken.  

We didn't want the estate agent to base his valuation on a house with a broken window, but replacing the glass in time meant we had to drive to Cheltenham to collect it.  And that's when fate decided to lead us a merry dance...

Zipping along the A419, Mr U-t-B saw a sign saying 

A Saxon Town

'Let's have a look at that,' he says.

So we do, and it's rather lovely.  We have a wander and some fish and chips.  

First town on the Thames.  

And there's this place up for auction.

Long story short, as they say.  We are now the somewhat surprised owners of a Grade II listed cottage in desperate need of updating.  And we sold our house, so I guess, in the words of The Village People, it's time to 'Go West'.

(Actually - and this is very strange and makes me think this move is fate - on the afternoon we were waiting to hear from the estate agent that it was all okay and we could collect the keys (there had been some doubt as to whether the sale would fall through) I was listening to Radio 2 and this song was played.  And about ten minutes later, the phone call came!)

Tune in next time for the photos that will show we may need our heads examining!