My next door neighbour T--- died months ago, in early April. His little bungalow had been his pride and joy. Originally bought with his mum (he never married, nor had a family of his own), T--- had been living there alone in retirement for a very long time. He had good friends in the village, and some he'd used to work with up in London. He was well-liked, and his planting out of bedding plants, to achieve a glorious display of colour, was an annual event that he kept up into his early 80s.
He knew me as I used to be, when Mum and Dad were his neighbours and not myself, when I was just a twice-weekly visitor. We always got on very well, even when I moved in as the new owner of my house after Dad's death, and it was instantly clear to anyone not completely blind that I had embarked on my transition. T--- proved to be broadminded about that, and, bless him, made strenuous efforts to call me 'Lucy'. We generally had a good half-hour chat about all kinds of things when we saw each other in our front gardens. I sometimes wondered if he was lonely, or at least short of company, because those who don't see many people from day to day often are very chatty. But I usually liked a jolly good chinwag. It was also, let's face it, good for the neighbours to see us talking, because it meant T--- thought me OK as Lucy. His acceptance and respect meant they could treat me the same way, if they were at all wondering how to react.
On two occasions I asked him about what he was doing for a Christmas Dinner, and whether he'd like to join me. But he was very independent, and assured me he was fine, it was all in the oven. And really, there was no reason ever to doubt what he said. I didn't press him, not wanting to intrude, just as I didn't want intrusions into my private living space either.
I specially invited him to my 60th Birthday Family Gathering last year. He stayed to the very end, and he told the neighbours across from him that he'd had a very good time. Indeed I thought so too. He got on well with most people, and although he dressed like someone out of the 1950s, I believe he was nevertheless a closet party animal.
But he died this year, and was suddenly gone, his house bereft of life. And gradually nature undid his neat and tidy gardening. Thank goodness the solicitors, who had taken over all his affairs - no family to do it - authorised my mower man to keep his lawns looking decent. A neighbour trimmed the foliage around the front windows.
We all wondered when something definite would happen about the house. The last rumour heard was that it would be auctioned. But today, late in the morning, a man came to erect a For Sale sign. So: it was going to be sold normally. I looked at the estate agent's website, and got up the details. There it was, with pictures of the garden and the interior accommodation, most of which I'd never seen, having never been beyond the hall and kitchen.
Oh dear, it was, as I had guessed, full of old-fashioned furniture, and anything but swish and modern. But it was clearly clean and tidy. And actually, for any buyer wanting a blank canvas to work with, this would be an ideal property. It could quickly and easily be stripped back to a shell, and a smart new interior put in. T---'s house was a mirror-image of mine: a perfect house for an older couple without children, or indeed any single person who didn't mind a garden to look after. Future-proof, if one had any mobility issues and couldn't cope with stairs.
I am now going to be very curious about who buys it - and for what. The asking price is a bit over £300,000, more than I would have thought it was worth in its present state. But presumably the estate agents know their business, and have carefully pitched the price to get a sale without delay, so that the estate can be wound up. I expect that offers will be somewhat lower, maybe around £280,000. When I know the figure, it will be a good guide as to what my own house must be worth.
The photos taken by the estate agent were poignant: it still looked lived-in, a house as it would be if the owner had just popped out for a while and was coming back shortly. And not as houses look when they are artificially dressed up for sale. Buyers will understand at a glance that the previous owner has died, and that the house is being sold without fuss by the administrator of the estate.
I do hope that whoever becomes my new neighbour will be friendly and nice to know. T--- would want that.
The estate agent's property description had a Street View to click on. Oh, how strange: Google must have visited the village in 2009. There was T---'s house, and Dad's house (now mine), and the house across the road that belonged to a lady called S---. And there were their cars. T--'s dark green one, Dad's gold one, and S---'s orange one. All now gone, like their deceased owners, but still there to be seen on Google Street View. What a strange feeling to contemplate that.