The Cottage comes up for auction at Hove Town Hall early on Thursday afternoon, just four days ahead. The show starts at one o'clock. But to get in and seated, I'd best be there by twelve-thirty at the latest.
The auction has been dominating my thoughts of late. That's why I haven't felt in the mood to post much. I will have a lot to get off my chest afterwards, whatever the outcome, but for now I find it hard to concentrate, and I'm just passing time.
I'm not sitting around in a paralysed condition - there are plenty of little things to get on with - but it's rather like waiting for a very important interview, or a vital exam, or a consultation with a specialist when you think you might have something dreadfully wrong with you. I can't put this out of my mind, and I'm living from hour to hour until the day of the auction comes. But I have at least decided what I'll wear! And I've looked up where I can park nearby. I want to see what happens, and I don't intend to be late.
The Cottage is a failed investment project. The way we did it, mainly to secure a tax advantage if we made a profit - hah! - is that I took on the role of 'sole owner', and M--- became my 'private loan creditor' for a huge 'loan' that in the ordinary way I couldn't possibly have raised on my pension. The loan documents were lodged with the Land Registry, and M--- acquired the right to veto any sale that would sell her interests short. Which was all fair enough three years ago, but it has since then worked out to my gross disadvantage. However, short of an alternative direction by a Court, the 'loan situation' is fixed, and I have to live with it. But it sets a minimum requirement for the net sale proceeds, so that M--- can have what she expects.
Although a very pleasant and attractive property - a des res if ever there was one - the Cottage was never intended to be a home for M--- and myself. For us, it was just a stepping-stone, the first of a series perhaps, towards a million-pound house somewhere down the line. While the project matured, we thought we might use the Cottage as a romantic weekend retreat during the summer, when not away caravanning. (This was in the pre-transition days, in a world now vanished) It was in a charming, sunny, riverside village lately deemed to be within the new South Downs National Park. It seemed a very good proposition in September 2007, and we had every expectation of making a shared profit of £100,000 on a resale two years down the line.
If only we'd had a crystal ball. A month after purchase, the first rumblings of the UK property crash could be heard, and the market quickly took a downturn. Then on top of that, the Cottage became blighted by the building of an incinerator at Newhaven, a mile away across the meadows. The incinerator was in full view. Add to this the general economic uncertainly, and constant threats to economic stability from events in the Euro Zone and elsewhere, and it's little wonder that finding a buyer has been difficult. I've long given up salvaging any significant part of my own £202,000 stake. The ambition now is simply to sell for a price that covers selling costs, and gives M--- the loan repayment she wants.
Auctioning the Cottage is just another approach that we decided to try.
But there hasn't been much pre-auction interest, and I am expecting to find that no bids will reach the reserve price. There may indeed be no bids at all. But you never know. And sometimes, in the week after the auction, there are approaches from people who didn't bid, or from unsuccessful bidders who didn't go as high as the reserve price, asking whether the seller might accept an offer.
If there are any of these post-auction approaches, I'll be fielding them from Wiltshire. I'm going down there in the caravan for a week. How come, you ask? Weren't you going to leave caravanning till September, because of the physical effort involved? Well, two immediate things came up. First, I'm off to the opera again at The Grange at Northington, not far from Winchester.
The physical problem was this: could I turn the caravan around on my driveway by my own unaided efforts, without busting anything inside, such as a half-healed bit of surgery? If I could do that, I could handle any other physical task connected with a caravan trip. Well, I tried, and it was no problem! So I booked up at Pennings Farm at Coombe Bissett, and I'll be off soon after the auction. How nice to fire Fiona up, hitch up, and take to the open road with my little £10-a-night-luxury-hotel-room-on-wheels tagged on behind!
Mind you, I'm going to take it very easy. But every task can be broken down into little bits that won't strain my body. And I won't go mad with daytime sightseeing in between opera and dropping in on the local trans community. I intend to spend a lot of time on gentle country walks, and just sunning myself in a deckchair, in a swimsuit if it's warm enough. Rest and recuperation. Because there are still limits to my stamina, even though my energy level has greatly improved in the past month. That said, it'll be hard not to drive all the way over to the Dorset coast, and climb down to the beach at Durdle Door!