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Titivating the shed

So as soon as we decided to move to Wanaka in late 2015, Husband and I swung instantly into action. By which I mean: we prepared for action by reflecting on how we could best achieve maximum outcome with minimal swinging as such.

 

It was a really very thorough, measured and definitive thought-process.

 

Ideally we wanted to sell our house in Oamaru in summer 2015, but Husband wasn’t ready because he hadn’t titivated the shed. Or if it wasn’t that, he wanted to weed-mat the garden; or replace some panes of glass; or repaint the deck; or finish the garden folly.

 

(By the way: oh yes it is, ‘titivate’ is TOTALLY a word.)

 

Our beautiful old 1890s character villa with 2000sqm of landscaped cottage gardens may have been glorious and rose-scented and redolent of frilly parasols and croquet and cucumber sandwiches, but it was an absolute fucking motherfucker to maintain. Although we loved it, all our spare time was diverted to gardening or renovating or gardening or trying to convince the kids that pruning was fun or train the dog to differentiate between weeds and flowers.

 

 

I’d asked my unfairly talented mate Maxine to shoot the house, because her architectural photography is ‘jaaast stanning’ as the chick herself would say (not usually about her own work, although she could without risk of false advertising).

 

Eventually she just turned up with her camera. “Look, I don’t care- I don’t have time for this shit- no, I can photoshop in the garage door- fine, I’ll photoshop in the fucking HOUSE, ok? Get out of the frame. And take that fugly sofa with you.” (Only joking; Maxine’s a professional and would never swear on the job.)

 

By this stage – practically winter – we’d pretty much run out of time to list our house, which ideally needed to be sold in late spring / high summer / before the trees completely shit themselves in the autumn. However, being now engaged in full, actionable swing (see above), I went ahead and contacted four of the five RE Agents in town for valuations.

 

My history with RE Agents is somewhat tempestuous and honestly, I haven’t missed them at all since my last torrid affair back in 2011. We were all set to go with online real estate company 200 Square, but despite tracking the local weekly property listings we had no idea what the value of our house was. There was no consistency and nothing even vaguely comparable to our home. Trademe listings with photos featuring heaps of unfolded laundry and dead animals with an unfocused bit of shack in the background stated offers over $500k; some gorgeous character homes appeared to be in the region of less than $250k.

 

We figured industry professionals would know.

 

We figured wrong.

 

They didn’t.

 

I mean, they really, REALLY didn’t.

 

The range of estimates issued by RE Agents varied $90,000 in value.

 

That’s $90,000; or ninety thousand dollars; or FUCKING NINETY THOUSAND FUCKING DOLLARS.

 

(To add some context: we paid $242k for it in 2011.)

 

After looking around, they’d say: “Yaaas, weeell, it’s beautifully presented, but it’s not a great location and you know what we say: ‘location, location, location’ hahaha ahaha! South side of a hill *meh* . . . no view of the sea *meh squared* . . . and *meh to the power of 10* who wants to maintain 2000 square meters of garden?”

 

Well, apart from Not Us, I’m sure um lots of people specifically gardeners and – I dunno – outdoorsy types would like to . . . but WTF DON’T COME INTO MY HOME AND TELL ME IT’S SHIT! THAT’S JUST FUCKING RUDE! ESPECIALLY AFTER I OFFERED YOU FUCKING COFFEE!

 

Since I lived in the house for five and a half years, I figured I knew its limitations better than a RE Agent who’d spent only half an hour in the place staring mainly at their checklist. And I was fairly confident that someone would fall in love with the house: its charm, its privacy, the inspection pit in the garage.

 

(Well, that was what sold Husband.)

 

I’ve never liked the local branch of LJ Hooker’s approach to supporting the community, specifically taking out full page adverts in the Waitaki Herald congratulating themselves on donating thousands of tax-deducted dollars to local non-profits and charitable community organisations. However, we originally bought our house from the fully delicious Claudette, and she was the first agent I contacted.

 

I’d always suspected my feelings for Claudette were unrequited and was devastated as she struggled with commitment issues and grew increasingly emotionally distant.

 

An RE Agent from The Professionals suggested the house was worth only $18,000 more than we paid for it six years ago. So according to her dystopian proposal (and disregarding the thousands we spent on improvements and renovations), we would have ended up with a roaring profit of approximately $5,000 after she skimmed her commission.

 

“Well, I don’t think you exactly got a bargain when you bought this place,” she sniffed.

 

WTF don’t come into my house and tell me it’s shit AND THAT I’M STUPID! THAT’S JUST FUCKING RUDE! ESPECIALLY AFTER I OFFERED YOU FUCKING COFFEE!

 

When challenged with a moderated version of the above, she said, “Over the last month we’ve sold all our properties within days.”

 

“Um . . . does that not . . . kind of . . . suggest you’re undervaluing them?” I asked.

 

“I’ll have you know our clients are very satisfied,” she said defensively.

 

One RE Agent even kicked the dog (although admittedly it was after Jed had spent a good five minutes checking their crotch for contraband, and then worried their pleather folder on the floor . . . he also munched their biro a bit).

 

I was reluctant to go anywhere near Ray White after our experience with the company six years ago, but my To Do list had five items and I’d only ticked off four. However, I was lucky enough to be put through to Leona Stretch. When she came to visit, she patted the dog and loved our house.

 

“But what about the view- sorry; I mean ‘aspect’?” I asked suspiciously. “And locationlocationlocation?”

 

“I suppose it might be worth more if it were on South Hill, but it’s a beautiful home,” said Leona. “Great big section, overlooks the Gardens, minutes from town. It’s fabulous.”

 

When Leona returned with the estimate, she brought presents for the kids and the dog. I’d decided to list with her even before she said she believed our house was worth $350k. I know: I’m a whore. But we were in no particular hurry and um well her valuation was greater than anticipated, so we thought what the heck? We decided to list the house for a proscribed period, sale on offers over $350k.

 

I knew we’d made the right decision when the kids and I went to her office to review the contract and Saoirse applied crayon to everything except the thoughtfully-provided paper; then flooded the place. Leona was unfazed; even Saoirse couldn’t break her.

 

We were fully prepared for Leona to recommend dropping the asking price after a couple of weeks – not that she ever gave that impression, or indeed any impression other than being responsive, professional and striving diligently on our behalf – but evidently I have trust issues.

 

Her assessment of the market (for our home: out of towners), recommendations on how to present the house, and regular reports were all bang on. It took a couple of months, but Leona sold our house for pretty much exactly what she said she would. She could have negotiated a longer settlement than three weeks – but now I’m just struggling to find something to get my bitch on.

 

What I can and GODDAMN IT I WILL get my bitch on like white on rice on a Styrofoam plate in a snowstorm, is that had we gone with any of the other industry professionals’ recommendations we would now be up to $90k out of pocket. WHY DON’T YOU JUST BREAK INTO OUR HOUSE AND STEAL ALL OUR ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT AND . . . um . . . WHATEVER ELSE WE OWN THAT’S WORTH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ALREADY? (My combination oven? Husband’s sound system? Finn’s lego collection?)

 

And before you point out that grossly undervaluing our house doesn’t involve malicious intent: you might not have meant to kill the frog, but it’s still fucking DEAD.

 

Here’s the promo video for the house set to 70’s porn music.

 

And since you got this far: here’s a picture of Jed sitting on the swing:-

 

Terrifying wainscoting

Hindsight has imbued The Great House-Hunt with heroic and epic proportions. When realism catches up, I can acknowledge how quickly and relatively painlessly we acquired a house.

One of the most distressing things about the frequent trips to Oamaru (all two of them) – apart from the WWII documentaries over breakfast, the prolonged psychological exposure to RE Agents, the terrifying wainscoting, and the ever-present fear that it was all futile and we were going to end up homeless and I’d have to give birth under a bridge – was that The Rise of the Asset was completely overlooked.

Being fully gestational is so exciting that I resent any time not productively spent feeling incredibly blessed, excited and/or clever (honestly: being knocked up makes me feel like a GENIUS, despite all evidence to the contrary involving numerous teenagers demonstrating conclusively that it has more to do with stupidity and/or stunning quantities of alcohol). Although I feel satisfied in living a full complete life, pregnancy is undoubtedly the closest I’ve ever been to a genuine miracle.

During those trips to Oamaru, there were whole MINUTES where I completely forgot I was pregnant. Until I tried to leap over fences, or caught myself stealing food off other peoples’ plates, or assessing railway bridges for exposure to draughts. Which are generally not the aspects of pregnancy upon which I prefer to focus.

Now that we’re home – when we’re not dealing with lawyers, booking containers, performing extreme weeding, sourcing boxes, packing, and selling fishing boats – it’s all about The Asset again.

For a long time I hadn’t been sure whether what I felt was The Asset exploring the boundaries, or pickles negotiating the dangerous bends of my digestive system. But recently there’s been no doubt. I’ve sometimes wondered whether The Asset has a bouncy castle in there, or a squash racquet and ball. In fact, the little guy has been extremely active since the start of the Rugby World Cup. Coincidence? I think not. This is, after all, a Kiwi baby.

The other evening, I was sitting on the couch when the prodding got so extreme I wondered whether the effects might be visible to the naked eye. Although I felt a bit foolish – I’m just into the 24th week, which was surely way too early to visibly detect movement – I pulled up my sweater and stared intently at the Homewrecker.

Next thing, my whole belly did a Mexican wave.

“It was AMAZING!” I gabbled to Husband later. “Possibly the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen! It was like . . . like . . . like it’s ALIVE in there!”

“Er, Sweetie,” said Andrew gently, so as not to startle or alarm the pregnant lady. “It IS.”

Unfortunately, Husband has yet to witness the phenomenon. He’s too impatient to sit staring at the Homewrecker for longer than it takes to demand a cup of coffee; and The Asset refuses to perform on demand. Yet.

In any case, Andrew’s presence appears to have an incredibly soothing effect on his child.

Wild Rose House

So by now I hope we’re all agreed that there’s a special annex in Hell reserved for Real Estate Agents. Any place featuring a conglomeration of RE Agents can only be living torture; but I like to imagine this wildlife reserve also features rancid food, lashings of foul-smelling slime, oxygen that causes choking and taps that drip eternally.

It actually distresses me that Claudette is destined for this place. If she is, I fervently and sincerely hope she gets a room with a nice view.

Claudette is a RE Agent with LJ Hooker, and we love her. In a face-off between Claudette and Haemorrhoid, I just KNOW Claudette would so completely bitch-slap Haemorrhoid right back up her own arse.

I met Claudette while Andrew was still in Dubai, after a friend of The Outlaws’ referred me. Naturally I expected someone in a barely legal mini-skirt reeking of expensive French perfume, but in fact Claudette looks like she would take really good care of you if you had a head-cold. She wears a natty red leather jacket and has wonderful, twinkly eyes and round cheeks that you just want to rub because you instinctively know it would be a life-altering tactile experience. (Obviously you don’t, because being arrested would probably be a similarly life-altering experience.)

I was taken aback when Claudette actually appeared to listen to my description of what we wanted; and frankly startled when she processed that data and presented me with a short-list of property from her books that met all my criteria of being private and secluded with a generous garden.

One of Claudette’s recommendations was Wild Rose House. Since access to the house was tricky, Claudette said I was welcome to do a driveby. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the place. I was immediately predisposed towards it. I like things that are confounding.

On our first joint reconnaissance to Oamaru, Claudette took Andrew and me to see Wild Rose House. It wasn’t where I’d thought it was at all – which was why I couldn’t find it, if that makes sense.

The day we viewed the house it had snowed overnight. The garden looked lank and miserable, but Wild Rose House itself embraced us in a snuggly fug of cosiness. Cunningly, the vendor had just baked bread, so instead of stale cigarettes or mouldy carpet or a build-up of dead skin cells mainly comprising feet, it smelled deliciously yeasty.

Despite the fact that we loved the house, there were a number of factors that put us off. For me, it was the vendor not offering me a slice of bread. In retrospect, if she’d given me the whole loaf, I would have put down a deposit right there and then.

For both of us, the main issue was location – not from our perspective, but for its resale potential. Although you can’t see them from the house, warehouses line the main road below. But we were more concerned that the area is renowned for being the chilliest spot in Oamaru. When I describe the house’s location being “in the cold, damp gully”, everyone goes, “Ah, THERE”.

However, we were charmed enough by the house itself that it sidled unassumingly into the number four slot on our short-list.

After this first house-hunt, we were rather surprised to find that neither Orchard House nor Wild Rose House hit the top slot. In fact our first choice was a house on Tay Street, which the RE Agent advised we could probably get lower than the asking price.

The initial viewing of Tay Street was unfavourable, due to the place smelling of armpits and my fear of catching herpes from the carpet. The back of the house was was a bolt-on extension, with a ‘conservatory’ that was effectively a glasshouse chopped in half. However, it was a beautiful old period house with high ceilings and original fittings, in a wonderful location about five minutes from the centre of town overlooking the harbour. It also included a fully contained sleep-out at the bottom of the front garden.

Demonstrating a guilefulness I’d previously unsuspected of him, Andrew suggested we could sell the sleepout to pay for renovating the house. Cosmetic alterations, he hastily reassured me. Coat of paint, rip out the smelly carpets, polyeurethane the floor – that should cover it. Have it done in a weekend.

Her Goatiness and Agent of Death shattered our dreams when, upon our request, they went to check out the house. “Dry rot,” was Her Goatiness’ verdict. “Everywhere. Window sashes like butter. SOFT butter,” she elaborated. “Also the extension at the back needs to be ripped out. Doesn’t have a building permit.”

So. After we didn’t get our way with Orchard House, we moved onto #3 – Andrew’s preferred house on Bushy Bush Road. After his kindly agreeing to bid on Orchard House, the least I could do was pretend to reconsider Bushy Bush.

In the end, even Andrew agreed Bushy Bush was a long shot. It required extensive interior decorating and, since the asking price was significantly higher than our budget, it was clear that in the unlikely event we actually got it we would have to decorate the interior with artistic interpretation of wattle and mud.

Throughout all this, we kept coming back to Wild Rose House. We drove by it on several occasions to gauge the concentration of cold and relative saturation. High on the side of the gully, it enjoys sunlight morning, mid-day and afternoon. Despite our concerns about resale, we both acknowledged that it was precisely the type of house and location we personally wanted to live in.

Our offer was accepted and possession is in early October.

I just know we’ll be so happy living there.

Extravaganza bonanza

Well folks, it’s been a spectacular show at Deadlyjelly’s Travelling Circus.

We have now officially viewed every house/shack/shed for sale in Oamaru; got to grips with dry rot; negotiated until our eyes bled; counter-offered until the vendors’ eyes bled; and fought off ravening real estate agents with targeted nudity. We set the dog on one and currently have a hit-man contracted to take out another.

As if that weren’t enough, there was also a fortieth birthday party with possum; explosive goats; t-shirts with nipple holes; a caesarian resulting in two squeaking puppies; and five bags of baby clothes. In the meantime, I tested the structural integrity of a lamp-post with the rear bumper of the Outlaws’ Audi v8.

But in the midst of this extravaganza bonanza, by far the most exciting event was SANDWICHES!

No, wait. Not that.

I meant: the auction.

The auction with SANDWICHES!

Because the latest trip to Oamaru was scheduled around the sale of Orchard House.

Three weeks ago, after viewing Orchard House at the open home, we called in to see the real estate agent – not affectionately called Haemorrhoid. When we told her we were interested in the property, she practically gnawed our arms off.

Haemorrhoid agreed to show us the place again two days later and, while there, I reiterated our interest and suggested we might put in an offer before it went to auction. With a practiced pout of devastated regret – which she might have pulled off were it not for the smug smirk and misplaced air of self-importance – she said, “Weeell, we’ve had a lot of interest, you know. Lot. Of interest. Especially from out-of-towners. You’d really need to put your best foot forward.”

As it turned out, I should have followed my instincts to put my best foot forward then and there and rearranged her face.

That would be called a Benefit of Hindsight.

We came away with the distinct impression that we were too shabby to afford Orchard House – and that we should wash our car.

However, we had an undercover agent operating on our behalf in Waitaki. Concealed in a shrub with a pair of binoculars, Her Goatiness staked out the open homes every Saturday and Sunday in the lead-up to the auction. Her report stated: ‘Nil zero sum total zilch visitors. Quote lot of interest unquote appears alleged and spurious. Slash Haemorrhoid’s tyres? Please advise.’

A week before the auction, Haemorrhoid sent us a text message asking if we were attending. After analysing the slightly desperate tone of the text, Andrew and I deduced we were possibly the sole and exceptionally rare party interested in Orchard House.

Now, you may have picked up that Andrew was immoderately unenthused about Orchard House upon first viewing. And yes, of course I considered emotionally blackmailing him with the additional leverage of being 5 months pregnant with his child.

However, after many extensive discussions on the issue of property, we came to understand what is important to him and me and to us as a couple, and an awful lot of that is wanting the other to be happy. Which is just one of the reasons I love being half of this partnership. So I applied no further persuasion (apart from occasionally reminding him of the ORCHARD! just to be absolutely sure he was aware of the presence of peach trees.) Eventually he announced he ‘could live there if he had to’ – which, as far as I was concerned, was a seal of approval.

His change of attitude was more a gradually encroaching yet entirely grudging acknowledgement that Orchard House was perhaps the best of all the properties we’d viewed within our budget.

And so we geared up for auction. We notified Haemorrhoid we would attend; Andrew boned up on auction terminology; we confirmed our finance was set to go; we scoured the auction pack; we wondered whether there would be snacks.

Ok, I wondered whether there’d be snacks.

(I mean: they were going to a lot of trouble; you’d think they’d lay on snacks, right?)

We agreed Husband should do the bidding, since I was rather over-excited. My job – which Andrew made up on the morning to keep me amused and make me feel involved – was to note the progression of the auction: the order of bidding and amounts. I had a pen.

We were barely in the door when I was distracted by three huge platters of SANDWICHES! They looked WONDERFUL: cut on the diagonal with no crusts and an imaginative and challenging range of fillings involving mayonnaise. I asked Andrew to taste a couple for meat and/or poison but pushed him out of the way because he took too long.

I’d just about finished the first platter when the Old Girl – one of the vendors, who we’d met at the second viewing of the house – came over to chat. She asked after The Asset, then disappeared and returned seconds later with a gift: a knitted doll. Her husband’s hobby is knitting dolls. He’s Dutch. Really, I can’t make further comment, because it was an incredibly sweet gesture and I was – look, I was touched. It’s our first baby present.

Befjes Muff Diver

However, I do blame her for my neglecting to spot the plate of miniature Lamingtons until just before the auction started. The presentation was a thing of beauty: a mass of chocolate and delicate pink coconut-covered confections topped with puffs of cream. Unfortunately I only had time to cram one into my mouth before the auction kicked off.

There were about twelve bystanders: a couple of families with kids, some squinty-eyed mouth-breathers and a coven of real estate agents who all looked like they styled their hair with a deep fat fryer. I stood there eyeballing potential opponents to intimidate them – a difficult stunt to pull with a knitted dolly tucked under one arm and my chin pebbledashed with dessicated coconut.

Now, my Bucket List isn’t that ambitious. Well, it’s virtually indistinguishable from my New Year’s Resolutions for the last decade, except that it includes singing karaoke. I’ve never been much interested in seeing the Northern Lights because, you know, I’m pretty sure you can achieve much the same effect with certain drugs. And I’ve never had any interest in swimming with dolphins. They’re slimy, nasty, vicious creatures with a reputation for kidnapping, bullying, extortion and even murder. They probably don’t put the toilet seat down and also, DOLPHINS RAPE WOMEN. That last link is well worth reading for Pearl Caligula’s description of Ireland’s national treasure alone which, if it doesn’t make you laugh like a drain, either your sense of humour or mine is defective. No no, I wouldn’t like to say which. I’m sure you’ll giggle.

Bidding at auction was never originally on my Bucket List, but that, my friends, was an oversight. The tense battle of nerves between auctioneer and bidder was such a RUSH. And when Andrew bid – I swear I have NEVER experienced anything so SEXY. It was just as well he was the only person bidding. It could have got positively indecent except that, thankfully, Husband had a SANDWICH! concealed in his pocket. (Curried egg mayo with grated carrot – surprisingly delicious.)

Our bid didn’t reach the reserve despite the auctioneer’s increasingly desperate attempts to persuade us to bid against ourselves; or anyone else to join in. The auction passed in.

After all the excitement, the aftermath was a bit of an anticlimax. We went into the house and sat on hard chairs. Haemorrhoid seemed at a loss as to how to facilitate negotiating an agreement midway between the vendor’s reserve and our bid. We attempted to kick-start the process by upping our offer. She ignored that and instead, attempted to intimidate us by informing us there was another couple present who were prevented from bidding at auction but planned to put in an offer. Unfortunately for her, we’ve never been much intimidated by imaginary people.

At this stage, Haemorrhoid had a face on her like she’d been licking a cat’s arse, which was putting me off the remainder of the SANDWICHES! I realized it was all over when I discovered the fucking kids had cleaned out the Lamingtons. We made our excuses and left after the Old Boy attempted to confiscate his knitted doll.

As it turned out, we should have known better than to take on a Dutch couple with nearly 160 years of combined cunning, guile and inbred tightness between them. The last thing we heard from Haemorrhoid was that the Old Boy had asked her to relist the house at precisely the mid-point between his reserve and our offer.

So just to spite her, we bought another house.

ORCHARD!

We thought the house-hunting trip to Oamaru might afford an opportunity to shift some of our possessions.

We asked Sheriff if we could borrow his trailer – the official reason being that ours wasn’t big enough for the sort of Extreme Relocation Husband had in mind.

Unofficially, only two days before our extremely unpremeditated and totally disorganised trip, we realized our trailer’s warrant of fitness had expired. We considered renewing it on the way through Blenheim, except Andrew feared it would fail due to the condition of the wheels.

I suspect this officially qualifies us as Bogans.

Andrew wasn’t sure whether Sheriff had a trailer, because ‘he has a tractor’.

I really had no idea why possession of one precludes the other; so, “What the fuck are you talking about?” I snorted. “Of COURSE Sheriff has a fucking trailer. He has EVERYTHING. I’d stake my life and that of my unborn child and this delicious caramel slice on it. Oops. Too late.”

Admittedly an aggressively anti-dainty response, but I’m basically trying to spend my surplus swearing credit for the next 13+ years before the baby arrives. That’s a LOT of execration to jam into four months. My language is absolutely filthy. I’ll go back and attempt to edit it out of this post. (Note: this translates to a roughly 75% depreciation on wordcount.)

Of COURSE Sheriff has a state-of the art trailer that features its own braking system probably with anti-lock and hydraulics; it has four wheels, a jockey wheel, twice as much bed area as ours and a built-in spa pool.

Instead of merely touring our possessions around the country, we relocated my purple fridge, Andrew’s dirtbike, coolbox, a crate of Andrew’s junk oily man things, and two boxes of my crap beloved literature for storage at The Outlaws’.

Then we started into the property search, with a grand tour of all the open houses in and around Oamaru. This was equally uplifting and depressing. Uplifting from the perspective that there are some entirely habitable houses in Oamaru if you have a spare $200k and don’t mind strange, unidentifiable smells. Depressing due to the accumulative psychological effect of our standards imperceptibly rising with each property visited.

We visited pretty much every house for sale in Oamaru. Amongst the quite respectable family homes, we viewed places that would have been perfect had the garden extended further than the bush in a pot; houses with stunning views of the local landfill; houses with stunning aromas of the local meatworks; houses with State Highway One two paces from the front door; houses with patches of wall boarded up with plywood; places featuring grubby tenants in the front room preoccupied with snorting spliffs and erectile dysfunction.

Now, I’m not sure about Andrew, but I was expecting – perhaps it was naïve – or idealistically romantic for Oamaru – but I thought. Well.

I imagined Andrew and I walking into a house and our eyes meeting in an instant of perfect, piquant accord, our excitement swelling as we trail after the real estate agent until she leaves us to “talk it over”; barely containing myself until she closes the door softly behind her, then giving a shriek that somehow manages to be sexy and charmingly girlish rather than making the nerves spasm in cramp and leaping into Andrew’s arms and him twirling me around, laughing joyously. Then we’d both start talking at once and there’d be more joyous laughter and possibly more twirling.

So that didn’t happen. Didn’t come close. Possibly because I’m not sure Andrew’s given to anything more excessive than an enigmatic smirk. Also, of course, the social twiggle he issues to acknowledge someone has gone to the effort to make a joke although they’ll have to try MUCH harder to evince anything in the vicinity of joyous laughter.

He’s also not the twirling type – although I live in hope. Once – admittedly a LONG time ago – at least 10 years – also Andrew was really quite lopsided – we were at a nightclub and he treated me to a Dirty Dancing moment. You know after “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” Patrick Swayze throws Jennifer Whatsherchops over his head and then everyone starts dancing and he lifts her up in the air. That bit. Frankly, it was quite uncomfortable about the pits and after – ooh, I don’t know – four seconds, I felt a bit of a pratt poked up there. I know I was supposed to be carried away by the moment and Andrew’s strong, manly arms, and oblivious to anyone but him, but I ended up looking around thinking, “I hope he puts me down soon and nobody steals my vodka and ginger ale in the meantime”. But all said and done, it’s a nice experience to have shared together and I remember it fondly.

ANYHOO. It soon became apparent that Andrew’s and my preferences are – astonishingly – completely contradictory. Basically, the problem is that I prefer tasteful houses, while Husband doesn’t.

I fell for a gorgeous 1890 house in pristine condition about 25 minutes out of town with an orchard. ORCHARD! Everything I loved about it, Andrew hated: the walk-in larder off the kitchen (“That would just annoy me, having to walk down two steps to the fridge”), three bedrooms (“Too small”), original wood paneling (“Feels dark”), woolshed (“Eyesore. We’d have to tear that down”), a log burner and a destructor (“SNIFF!”), brass fittings (no comment), fully self-contained and largely self-sufficient (“Lots of maintenance”).

Andrew’s flat refusal to be swayed by the ORCHARD! makes me seriously question the foundation of our marriage if not our entire relationship.

Thankfully, whenever I struggle with doubt, I have that Dirty Dancing moment to fall back on.

The property Andrew liked didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. It had a roof, walls, driveway, whatever. View of the sea – but really, EVERYWHERE in Oamaru has a view of the sea. It also, admittedly, had lambs – but in my opinion lambs are overrated. I’ve just never understood their popularity/appeal.

It is probably just as well both properties are likely beyond our means at this point in time.

We will have to compromise between my search for a home that might sate my violent nesting instinct, and Andrew’s interest in investment potential and sale value.

I’m looking for a haven where I can hang mobiles and paint the nursery while considering the benefits of terry-cloth nappies over disposables. Andrew’s looking for a shack he can do up and make a killing on – preferably a massacre – in five years time.

I have visions of me going, “Honey, we need to go; contractions are 10 seconds apart and also: FU-” and Andrew saying, “Yeah, look, can you just give me two minutes until I finish plastering the fireplace.”

Infected labia piercing

Within about an hour of listing the house on Trademe, I realised more organisation was required than telling interested parties to rock up any time for a look.

I called everyone back and scheduled people at half hour intervals on Sunday. Then, when all available slots from noon to 6pm were booked, I moved on to Monday.

Husband and I scrubbed the house from top to bottom and chucked all our belongings in the pantry. The place looked pretty spruce by the time Doug and Susan arrived.

I had high hopes for Susan. She sounded quite lovely on the telephone. Indeed, she was equally lovely in person, if not even more so.

Shame about her boyfriend.

I encourage Jed to bark whenever anyone comes up the drive. He charges down the stairs at such speed I wouldn’t be surprised to follow him one day and find a Jed-shaped hole in the front door. I suppose he’s excited at the prospect of fresh crotch, and who can blame him?

I normally restrain Jed in the yard until I check whether the visitor is comfortable with dogs then, assuming the response is positive, release him. Unfortunately, for some reason, Doug was walking up the drive in front of his car – which was even stranger since it was raining like it only rains in Waitakere: with a ferocious gusto.

Unfortunately, Jed took one look at Doug, and decided he didn’t like him AT ALL. When Jed dislikes someone his bark sounds quite chilling, like he took a wrong turn on the way from Baskerville. I was aware Jed was making his “Don’t fuck with me mofo” bark, and he refused to come when I issued a recall.

I didn’t see this, but Andrew – who was watching from the bedroom window – reported later that Jed took a run at Doug.

Now, in my puppy’s defence, I didn’t like the look of Doug much either (not to the extent of attempting to kneecap him with my teeth, but still). Jed’s also been rather unsettled recently with the frenzy of packing going on around him.

“Don’t mind him; he’s very friendly!” I called, completely oblivious to my dog swinging out of Doug’s shorts.

“He doesn’t look that friendly,” muttered Doug.

I grabbed Jed by the scruff and banished him to the garage.

I decided Doug and Susan weren’t suitable because Doug tracked mud up the carpet. Also because he kicked my dog in the head.

(That’s the official version of events, and I’m sticking to it.)

Darryl arrived before Doug and Susan had left.

“Hi!” I said, “Darryl, isn’t it? Niamh. Listen, sorry about this, but these people need to get down the drive and your car is blocking them in. Would you mind just letting them out?”

“No problem, sweet as,” said Darryl – and that was the last we saw of him.

He just fucked off!

(Perhaps he was attacked by a tree on the way down the drive.)

Next up was Johno and Sandra. Johno introduced himself thus:-

“The drive won’t work with a boat.”

“Er, you mean because it’s tarmac not water?” I said, confused.

“No. I mean we won’t be able to get a boat trailer up the drive.”

“Oh, I see. You have a boat-”

“No.”

“Right . . .”

“But I’m getting a boat.”

“Ok. Well, I don’t suppose there’s much point in showing you the rest of the house, then.”

Bev turned up with Philippe, who came accessorised with a natty little moustache, a briefcase and a cravat.

I started into my well-practiced patter: “Aaand here’s the garage – plenty of bench space. Most important part of the house, right Philippe? <nudge>”

“I don’t think so,” said Philippe dismissively. “I don’t do . . . that sort of thing.”

I’m not sure what Sort of Thing he was referring to, but I decided that regardless what that Sort of Thing was, I would not endorse a man who didn’t do it.

I was surprised how many people were looking for accommodation because their current residence had been put on the market. Many gave off a distinct smell of desperation. Except the girl who turned up with eight nose rings, a stud through her chin, and a tattoo of what appeared to be a hamster on her forearm. I think the smell emitting from her was an infected labia piercing.

There was one no-show, and a woman who called to say the mobile reception was too poor for her requirements. Another woman called to say her teenager had gone on hunger strike at the prospect of living so far from civilisation. For a moment I wondered why she was telling me this – turned out she was cancelling.

The following day, we showed the house to four more couples, including Brian and Kushla, who – mistakenly and regrettably – I called ‘Krishna’ for the duration of the viewing.

That afternoon, a car drove up our drive. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but followed Jed downstairs. It was a skinhead and his girlfriend. The skinhead poked his head out the car window.

“We’re on a mission,” he said by way of introduction.

“Can I help you?” I said.

“Are the owners here?”

“Excuse me? No!” I said, so incredulous I didn’t even try to discourage Jed’s attempts to fire himself in the driver’s window and gnaw him.

“Do you have the owners’ contact number? It’s just,” he continued in the face of my rare speechlessness (and Jed’s slavering teeth), “we heard this house is for rent and we thought-”

“It’s been let,” I snapped. “This is my private residence. Please go away.”

Had he stepped out of the car, I would have ENCOURAGED Jed to bite him. As it is, I hope Jed clawed up his paint work.

But the best was yet to come.

Blobs of flobber

Two years ago, when Husband and I first saw Turanga Road listed on Trademe, we knew without even seeing the house it was where we wanted to live.

I sincerely hope I come across as enthusiastic rather than calculating when I say we treated the application process much like an interview. We launched a full-scale charm jihad against our potential landlords.

At least: we turned up on time; fully clothed (which we considered a basic pre-requisite but apparently NOT NECESSARILY); we were fragrantly aromatic with base notes of fresh skin cells and top notes of soap. I wore a pair of walking boots to visually support my claim that I was a robust, rugged, outdoor type, ready to machete a blazing trail through the bush at the slightest provocation.

We didn’t massage the truth, so much as shine a rose tinted, warm fuzzy light on it – but even had we lied, we would at least have MADE THE EFFORT to come up with compelling, vaguely plausible lies.

While we were viewing the house, The Competition turned up. Grimly, I considered sneaking out and telling them they had the wrong place, or pretending to be a neighbour and smashing in their windscreen with a dead possum.

But when I saw them, I realised these measures were unnecessary. The man looked like someone had conducted chemical experiments on his head; the exploding tufts of facial hair would most accurately be described as ‘green’. His partner was so obese she could not get out of the car. Great blobs of flobber blotted up against the windscreen. (The real mystery was how she got in there in the first place – there must have been heavy machinery involved.)

Two years ago, I thought that couple was an aberration.

Not any more.

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