When we were buying the land a couple of years ago, we were standing where the orchard is now, looking at the boundary several hundred metres (yards) away. ‘Next year,’ I said letting myself get carried away for a moment with the whole land-buying thing, ‘we’ll buy the bit beyond that – then more and more until we own everything!’

When we were selling our house last year, various people were talking to us about the sizeable amount of cash we were about to receive. ‘Yeah, but next year,’ I said, ‘we’re going to spend the lot. Every penny.’

On the Friday before last, during a meeting a few doors away from when I am sitting right now, we signed a contract for our next bit of land and handed over a cheque representing our last bit of cash.

So excuse me while I think about (and not say) what’s going to happen next…

We have some Very Excellent Friends.

Right now, for instance, I’m sitting at Brian’s Mac (one of those very lovely self-contained flat-screen jobbies with the hard drive in the monitor), the keys to his flat on my keyring and the run of the place while he’s away in Wales. Clare’s taken the kids to Hove Park and I have a few stolen minutes in which to blog.

It’s been a bit of a week.

First, we had to wrestle a Completion date out of our sale. (Not easily done, even though the buyer’s a first timer with no chain.) We were supposed to Exchange a week ago last Thursday. Then the Friday. Then early last week. We needed this date so we could book a removal company – in August – the busiest month of the year for removal companies – and a ferry crossing. So we can get on with our lives (the daughter’s supposed to be going to school in a couple of weeks!).

Then there’s the eversoslightly sensitive issue about the money we owe the bank. You’ll remember, if you’ve been reading this chronologically (I wonder how many people do that), that I extended my overdraft to buy our new used car, assuring the bank they’d have a huge pile of cash on June 21st. Didn’t happen. Then I extended until the end of July, assuming we’d definitely be goners by then. Weren’t. So I got a final, if frosty, extension until the 15th of this month.

With solicitors incapable of making firm commitments and sticking to them, it was time to make a move.

At short notice, our removal company of choice (GB Liners, if you really must know) could only pick our stuff up on Friday. Which only gave us only a couple of days to pack up the house, finish the yurt cover we’re sleeping under next week, wash all our stuff, buy anything we didn’t have… you get the picture. I don’t know what Clare had in mind, but she didn’t seem too happy when I asked her to help me empty the loft at 10.30 on Thursday night.

Friday was mental, as you can imagine. Not just clearing the house, but emptying our (Big Box) storage space of yurts, sewing machines, recycled wool insulation et cetera. By four o’clock, absolutely everything we don’t absolutely need for the next few months was gone, waiting in Brighton for us to find it somewhere to stay in France.

Last night, I booked the ferry crossing. Tuesday. Overnight from Portsmouth to St Malo, with a cabin with a porthole.

Tuesday. You read it here first. We’re supposed to be Exchanging and Completing on the same day. But it’s hard to believe when we’ve lost complete faith in the process. Don’t get me wrong. Our estate agents (Brand Vaughan) have been superb. Our buyers, old and new, have done everything they can. It’s just that selling a house in England is rubbish. Even worse than buying a coffee in Pret a Manger during rush hour. You can see where things are going wrong – it’s clearly unfair and in need of improvement – but no one seems to be doing anything about it.

All we can do between now and then, apart from tidy the house – which looks better now than it ever has – is enjoy our holiday in Hove and the generosity of friends. (This is not the only place we’ve been offered for the weekend.) Like I said, Very Excellent people.

(Clare just phoned from the park. The friend she was seeing just offered to look after the daughter for the rest of the day. Excellent.)

You know how, most days, all you get through the front door are bills, bank statements, junk mail and flyers for pizza-burger-chicken joints you’re never going to use?

Well yesterday, that didn’t happen.

Instead, we had a letter from our English solicitor, enclosing a formal declaration about the path behind our house, which I had to sign in front of another solicitor, at a cost of £5, because I declined to spend £220 on a bullshit indemnity policy. Behind this, we had another letter, from the same solicitor (always confusing when they do this), enclosing the Contract to sign and return. And finally, a letter from our French solicitor, enclosing a cheque for €350.


A flurry of activity and a few flourishes of cheap biro later, the Contract is with our solicitor, signed and ready to Exchange, with a provisional Completion date of August 8th. Of this year.

If you’re wondering what we might find on the doormat today, the postman’s already been. Nothing but junk.

I spoke to our solicitor yesterday. She told me our buyer’s legal beagle has only raised a couple of issues with the sale of our house, one of which she’s already resolved. The other was an invitation to take out an indemnity insurance policy.

How kind.

“OK…” I said, expecting it to be the same one we were told about a few weeks ago. But no. This was not a policy to cover the missing piece of paper approving the beam that separates our living and dining room. Nor was it a policy to cover the danger of the Church of England tapping our buyers for repairs to a pre-reformation church somewhere hereabouts.

This was a policy to cover the apparent fact that our access to the path running behind our house has no legal somethingorother. The council could, at some stage hereuntowhatever, take the assumed right to use this path away, and the value of the house could, in some way, be affected. (In Brighton?) But look at how much we’re being asked to pay: £220.


That’s my first wrong: Bullshit insurance policies.

Needful to say, we declined the invitation.

My second wrong is this: Taps without washers.

Our bathroom tap’s been dripping for a few days. In an attack of Practical Eco-Manliness, I unscrewed, unscrewed, took off, unclipped, unscrewed, unscrewed and replaced the washer with one of the several that have been floating around the bottom of the Really Useful Drawer in the kitchen these past few years. Prompted partly, it must be said, by the need to prove the shiny new socket-and-spanner set I bought recently was not a waste of cash.

Ten-minute job. No more drip. Didn’t even cut myself.

Then I remembered, those washers were originally bought to fix a dripping kitchen tap. But when I prized off and unscrewed (clearly an easier operation to this point), instead of a washer, I found a Modern Ceramic Piece Of Shit That Was Singularly Failing To Do Its Job Despite Being Only A Few Months Old.

Job for a plumber. No more drip. £40. Which hurt a lot.

Here’s the right: Right in the middle of my manly fixing, glass artist David Watson turned up with the medieval-style goblets he offered to make from some of the champagne bottles emptied during our party in Stanmer Park on Sunday. Two of them now look like this:

With the rest of the bottles, he’s going to make some doorknobs for the doors Mark just finished (see below). Which is about as right as you can get.

And at the very least deserves a link to his website.

So here we are again. Or should that be still?

As far as we know, Plan B has swung into action. Plan B was for the lovely couple who wanted to buy our house after the first fiasco (see Sold. Again.) to buy it. With no chain. So we should only be delayed for a week or so.

Even longer to say goodbye to people. And make yurt covers. And enjoy Brighton in the summer. And plenty more ands. Like and write the website for our yurt campsite (more on this later).

Our English Estate Agent phoned yesterday.

Our buyer’s buyer’s buyer has pulled out.

So we’re not moving.

On the 25th.

Of next month.

I should have been doing this

a week ago.

I didn’t tell you.

When I was going up to Loughborough last Monday, to buy the new used car, our English estate agent phoned to say our house sale was in danger. Not the best news, when I’d just negotiated an extra two grand on the already considerable overdraft, on the strength that all would be repaid on the 21st. Of this month.

To be fair, it wasn’t our buyer that was the problem, but our buyer’s buyer.

They pulled out just before exchanging contracts, a week before we’re all supposed to hand round huge virtual bags of money, and they don’t have to pay a penny! If we’d booked our international movers, it would have cost us two grand. Not to move. Absolument ridicule!

What’s wrong with a 10% deposit up front to show how serious you are about buying a house, which is forfeit if you pull out? Isn’t a verbal agreement to buy still a contract?

Don’t ask me.

I clearly don’t know.

On Wednesday, the sale was off and we had to put the house back on.

On Thursday, instead of packing for France, we spent a mad half day tidying, so the estate agent could take some interior photos. Last time, they didn’t need them, as the house was sold on the first viewing. Twice. (The friend our buyer brought wanted to buy it, too. It’s a nice house.)

On Friday, there were a few viewings. One of which turned into a second viewing. Then an offer. Full asking price. No chain.


An hour later, our estate agent phoned.

Not to tell us that all was going ahead smooth as you like, but to say that our old buyer had also sold her house. Again. And her buyer could also match our now-fixed(ish) deadline of July 25th. Of this year.

Now, our old buyer absolutely LOVED this house. She wanted it before she even set foot in the door. Coincidence watchers will really enjoy the fact that she was talking to someone coming out of her yoga class and it went something like this:

Our Buyer (OB): (EXCITED) I’m buying a house near Brighton College.

Yoga Woman (YW): Not on [NAME OF ROAD]?




It turned out Yoga Woman lived in this house in the 80s. She loved it too. So did the people we bought it from. So do we. Our Old Buyer just had to have this house.

So we sold it to her. Again.

On the Friday before last, me and Clare were talking over dinner. Our estate agent had told us that the person buying our house was good to move in on the 21st. Of this month.

So we needed to find somewhere to rent in Brighton for a couple of months, before going down to France as we’d always planned. My suggestions of a caravan in a trailer park and a houseboat were swiftly rejected on the grounds of comfort and sanity. Short-term lets being non-existent in this part of the world, I’d found a campsite near Hassocks where we could pitch a yurt. It had washing facilities for clothes and people, but Clare wasn’t crazy about spending the first part of the summer holidays with two kids, in a field, while making yurt covers, just so I could carry on commuting to pay our still-considerable bills.


Then Clare had the radical idea of going to France, instead. We looked at the figures. It would cost half as much to live in France as it does here. And if we stayed, we’d probably have to sign a six-month lease, only to leave after a couple of months and risk losing a few precious grand. Why not lose those few grand in France?

Look after the thousands and the hundreds of thousands will look after themselves, as my grandmother never said.

Not to be outdone on the ideas front, I remembered the wwoofing network. We could go and stay on an organic farm – for nothing. And learn valuable skills about working the land. And meet people. And get an early start on our French. And start working on our land. And other ands.

Like: And turn our three grand a month of bills into… zero.

We slept off the wine we’d drunk on the way to having this idea, and we were still happy. So after a very excitable weekend, I went into work on the Monday and told them it would be my last week. Then we started getting ready to move to France. On the 20th. Of this month.

I sourced a trailer – a nearly new Daxara 238 if you want to know – eight by four – very handy – and we talked to a company about moving everything else. We found a car to replace the one that had decided to die in this country. (More on this, later.) We brought the deadline for our guest yurts forward and Clare started making a cover for 18-foot yurt we were going to take to the organic farm.

Now the reason I’ve been writing in the past tense.

Two days ago, our buyer’s buyer dropped out of the sale.

So we’re not going to France. On the 20th. Of this month.