Now, I don’t want you thinking we were just sitting around moaning about the cold. We had intended to stop and try to recover a little after the recent insane few months but we were struggling in the cottage. It was a perfect base for a holiday but not really set up for long-term life and so we spent a lot of time looking at available houses. Remember my inability to visualize sizes? Yes, that became very apparent when we compared the homes for sale with the property we were in. Many of them were almost the same size. A radical rethink was needed.
One morning I was sitting at the table with my coffee and I stumbled on a house I’d not seen before. It was obviously built on a traditional cottage but considerably extended. There were a lot of rooms, a decent little garden and looked very nice inside. It also had a small wood that came with the house. That made me laugh and I took the phone through to show Jacqui. We could be owners of a wood – hahaha! A bit more of a radical rethink than we had in mind. Ten minutes later we were on the phone. It was December 22nd, we were just out of quarantine and everything was about to shut down for Christmas. Why not start buying a house?
It was a miserable day. The locals had all been complaining that it was wet, even for Ireland. There were rainy days, stormy days and “dirty days”, when everything turned to mud and the rain was relentless. This was a “dirty day”. Our satnav decided the best way to send us was along a series of ever-narrowing roads with few buildings and mud across the surface. We had always said it was not a good idea to take a road with grass growing down the middle. Well, if we’d stuck with that we would never have got there.
The house, when we finally arrived, was perfect. Well, not perfect but very, very good. Our good friend is a builder and he drove out to meet us and the agent, to look it over and give a professional opinion. It was cold inside as it was empty but the log burner in the small front room (a “snug” we were informed) was on and this had the same effect coffee or fresh bread is supposed to have. We walked through the house mentally checking off the space we needed. It was big enough, it was fairly modern and we would be able to afford some of the changes we might want.
Outside there was a lot of room. Not only the garden and the wood (!) but a big outbuilding with a bit more land behind. There were a few issues. It was well water, not mains, and this was shared with a neighbour. The heating was oil, one of my least favourite fuels, and there was no mains drainage. This set-up is quite typical for much of rural Ireland where there are few main services however. We could have the space and the beautiful views or try living in a town. Standing in the garden I could hear – nothing. Then a few birds, then nothing again. I felt a little bit more of the recent stress slip away.
My concerns about the relative isolation were relieved when the agent pointed out a more direct route back home. We were closer to some other houses up the road and about ten minutes drive took us into the nearest town. We sat down and drew up a list of positives and negatives when we got back. A few negatives like no outside street lighting – actually no street which was a positive in many ways. And “no lighting” could be fixed by us easily. A few questions about the water, of course. The positives list was much longer. The next day we put in an offer, emphasising we were cash buyers and wanted to move as soon as possible. So by Christmas Eve we had an offer accepted on a house, just two weeks after we arrived.
With the Christmas festivities behind us we began to plan for the New Year, only to be hit by the announcement of a full level 5 lockdown beginning on the 30th of December. This was a major blow. We had barely been able to go out since our arrival and were desperate to try and get some things from our storage. We had no idea how this would affect our move either. A five kilometre travel limit loomed except for essential shopping, which did not include clothes. I had to resign myself to my raggedy wardrobe for a while longer as we couldn’t unpack anything else from the lockers without the whole lot collapsing on us. Jacqui made a dash into town before the deadline and found me a decent shirt and spent some long, quiet evenings patching and darning my pitiful garments.
What could we do? We hunkered down, chucked more peat on the fire and began to work our way through the process of house purchase remotely. We wanted the house very much and we were determined to get it – and as soon as possible. Especially as, most unusually for the south west of Ireland, it began to snow.