We are becoming British.
Our freezer is very small. It only has two drawers and one is filled with ice-cream (dairy and vegan). It may be winter, but we are firm in the belief that ice cream in a cone, on a stick or in a bowl, makes the world go round.
Our Britishness is further shown in our delight at continuing to watch UK programmes on the telly and we now understand the jokes, even if the Northern accents run away without us. We have made a start at watching quiz shows on the telly. Next up will be game shows.
Having paid rent in London for almost 3 years now, for which we could have bought St Helena Island, we investigated the option of buying a home in England. We laughed initially, realising that as we age, we are not such attractive mortgagees for a bank. Next thing we knew it, we had found a little house in a village in Kent, where until last year, the local shop (the only shop apart from a part-time post office) used coal for heating. The phone reception is so bad you are definitely in the “sticks” and the little house is heated with oil. Cause of great confusion for Ivy on her first viewing, was that we were in an empty house and it had green carpets: “were we inside or outside?” I am sure she wondered. This little house is nestled behind a blackcurrant orchard, and the one fence is a hedge of brambles.
The road to owning a property in England is a strange one for me and I have grumbled many times at how I preferred the Roman-Dutch property system in my home country. The English system is all about uncertainty. Nobody knows if the offer is accepted and nobody prescribes what must be in the offer, and once someone realises that the offer is accepted, nobody can really tell you what happens next other than you may need to panic. Well I did, because one moment we were contemplating an offer and then we were on the road to securing the deposit, and all the many things that need to take place. What is the timescale you may ask? I do not know. Nobody knows. There is still no final agreement between sellers and purchasers yet we are about to give notice on our London flat, we have put deposits down for neutral carpeting, a sofa and a bed. We have shutter people quoting soon, we have the surveys almost all done. Ivy will move to a smaller local branch of her existing daycare and the cat will have to learn how to avoid temptation to jump over, onto or go through the hedge while we apply for permission to have a fence put-up outside the tiny area that has the potential to be a garden.
Imagine to my surprise when I read our solicitor’s report which is part of this process and she advised that since the property has not changed hands since 2006, there is a possibility that a church (unspecified and unknown) could have a claim for money from us to maintain its chancel (which I now know is part of a church – usually the choir sits there and this goes back to King Henry VIII). And that the church need not be very close to us. I was not shocked but I was suddenly in awe that this property system functions despite uncertainty. Further reading lead me to all sorts of other strange things in title registers and title plans. Our potential little house has one of these: an easement of support. That means, as an end of terrace house, our neighbour needs to keep our communal or party wall up and support our little house. It is brilliant. We have a reciprocal right to this neighbour.
As we go along this journey, we may come across other rights since we are in a county in the country. Rights can be in our favour or in favour of others. Even commoners (yes, us) have rights over common land. These can be: rights to the pasture of geese, the right to take peat for fuel (not sure if this remains a green option), pannage rights which refers to the right to allow pigs to feed on acorns in a woodland or the right to (take) clay or gravel.
I am left clueless though on one thing: what motivates a person to have a green carpet throughout their home?!