Friday, July 3, 2009
We wrestled late into the night and over breakfast with yesterday’s question: why here, instead of anywhere else in the world?
Because it is Demetrios’ lifelong dream. Because it will give us a chance to learn another culture. Because northern England will be a cool place for escaping the heat of the summer. Because the Pound is going to rise, in the long run, against the Dollar, making this purchase a good investment. Because this is a good base from which to get to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Because we already know the language (approximately). Because my dreams of all the other exotic other places were based upon childish fantasy.
The Ormskirk dollhouse won out over the ocean-front flat in Southport, after much agonizing. Ormskirk, after all, was The Dream, not Southport. And the absence of an elevator in the Southport flat would mean climbing two very long flights of stairs with heavy luggage, every time we arrived. We would have to lug groceries and everything else up those stairs, and go up and down them several times a day. And who knows how long before we may be unable to do stairs at all? Old age is around the corner. Putting in a Stairmaster is not feasible, for several reasons, including that the stairs are curved and that they are communal property; they would not be ours to do with as we please.
Besides, the flat in Ormskirk is furnished, ready to move into. The flat on the Promenade is empty and would need new carpeting, probably. And decorating. And it only has one bedroom.
Our plan for the day (yes, we made one!) was to go to Ormskirk and try to discover what sort of a life we might have there. Our first stop was the Civic Center. They had very little information for us (except that they have Tea Dances on Saturday afternoons) and directed us to the Council offices, the equivalent of the county offices in America, I think.
There we were handed a fistful of brochures all about Council services and various activities and things to do. We decided to have a look at them later, over tea. For now, we borrowed a telephone book and began looking up names of Old Friends. We found three before we grew tired and left. That's an excellent start.
Ormskirk is a college town, as it turns out, and there is plenty to do. There are ample opportunities to meet people and make new friends.
The more we read, the more encouraged we felt.
We asked the cashier in a café if she knew anything about buying real estate in Ormskirk. She said she did; she had bought a place herself, recently. So is it customary here for people to ask a lot more than they are expecting? In the States, one usually offers about $2,000 less, or at least it used to be that way, before this depression. Yes, she said, you must offer dramatically less! “For example, if the asking price is 170,000 pounds, you must offer 150,000. It’s a buyer’s market.” And then, after a moment, she added, with a little gleam in her eye, “I’ll do yer negotiatin’ fer ya!”
I wish she would!
At four o’clock, we finally ventured into office of the estate agents, and with fear and trembling, told Kathleen we were ready to make an offer. It was substantially lower than the asking price.
We expected Kathleen to do what a U.S. realtor would do, whip out a standard contract form, write in dates and amounts, have us sign it and attach a check for a deposit. Nope, it doesn’t work that way here. Kathleen got on the phone, told the vendor what we were offering, and she accepted immediately (thereby letting us know the offer had still been high).
Don’t we have to sign anything? No. Kathleen just printed us out a letter confirming that our offer had been accepted. The house is still on the market until the “exchange of contracts,” which appears to be the equivalent of what Americans call the closing. Meanwhile, we must appoint a solicitor (lawyer) and Kathleen could recommend one. She wrote down his name and address for us, and commented that she would be going away on holiday tomorrow.
And where was Kathleen going for her holiday? To Greece! To our own part of Greece, yet! Demetrios wrote down Christos’ telephone number, in case she needed any help while there. His English is adequate.
We walked out of there dancing and in a sort of daze. “I can’t believe it!” is what we kept saying to each other. It’s perfect! It’s even furnished; who could have imagined? It’s more than the dream come true, because we didn’t dream we’d find anything this nice.
We’ve actually bought a flat in Ormskirk! Well, technically we haven’t yet because we aren’t legally obligated until the very end of the process, but the process is underway! God willing and the Pound don’t rise (too much), we’re going to own a flat in Ormskirk, Lancashire!
I said I supposed we’d best learn how to pronounce it. Demetrios says its "LANK-a-shire" and I say it's "LANK-a-sheer". We asked Jacqui, the receptionist, and she wasn’t sure. She actually lives in Merseyside, she said. We've noticed, too, that many people just say (and write), "Lancs."
The meteorologist on the television finally settled the debate for us. It’s
"LANK-ush-uh" and the town is "OHMZ-kuk".
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009