No TV. No internet. We couldn’t care less. We are finally home

‘I think everything that can go wrong already has’ . . . then Covid-19 hit

Inside a beautiful little box tied with a ribbon  was a set of keys for our new house. Photograph: iStock

Inside a beautiful little box tied with a ribbon was a set of keys for our new house. Photograph: iStock

 

In November, my husband and I went “sale agreed” on a family home near the sea. After almost a year of house hunting, relocating from our west Dublin home to a temporary rental, settling our children into new schools, and two false dawns with other properties we liked, the finish line was finally in sight and I was determined to cross it as quickly as humanly possible.

I rang our mortgage broker and casually floated the idea of getting into the new house for Christmas. After all, it was sitting empty and our loan approval was – thank God – in place. The broker laughed and said it would be a Christmas miracle. He was already working hard to close on other transactions that had been in train long before ours, and flu season was making things difficult. He told me about a solicitor’s office that had to shut because almost everyone had come down with a dose.

Christmas in the new house would have been lovely, but we would happily settle for a move early in the new year. I rang our solicitor and she arranged a meeting in the first week of January to exchange contracts. “By the way,” I said to her, “I’ve given notice to our landlord. We have to be out by the end of January.” Our solicitor sounded unnerved. “But you don’t know what we might find,” she said. I wasn’t worried, secretly suspecting that everyone would pull out the stops, no matter what they found, if there was a hard deadline.

We spent the two-week festive period visiting kitchen showrooms and furniture shops and packing up almost all our belongings. But when everything reopened for the new year, there was very bad news. One of the vendors – it was a couple selling the house – had passed away.

It was a shock. And it was terribly sad. Our hearts went out to the husband who had lost his wife, and to their family.

We didn’t know what to do.

Our solicitor was great, steering us through the situation, and advising us to see if we could stay on in our rental till the end of March. Fortunately our landlord hadn’t yet found replacement tenants, and kindly allowed us to extend our time in the house.

A month passed and things began to move again on the sale. The vendor’s estate agent, a true gentleman of the old school, went way beyond the call of duty to sort out any outstanding issues, while showing great kindness and sensitivity to the vendor’s situation.

I’m not superstitious, so I laughed and said I think everything that can go wrong already has

There were delays on our side then – our life assurance application had moved at a glacial pace, taking two months to process, but finally we were accepted for a policy. We paid our deposit and the bank surprised everyone by releasing the mortgage funds more promptly than expected.

Our solicitor suggested we set a closing date of Friday, March 13th and then backtracked, saying maybe we should opt for the day before. I’m not superstitious, so I laughed and said, “I think everything that can go wrong already has.”

“Don’t say that,” she replied.

A day earlier was fine by me. And she was right, something else did go wrong – Covid-19 arrived.

Closing day inched towards us, but the nearer we got, the more worried I became that our plan would be derailed. If the plain old regular flu had closed a solicitors’ office and delayed sales, what might an approaching pandemic do? My concentration was shot. I left our children’s scooters behind in a giant park, lost for good. I couldn’t remember our address when the pharmacist asked for it.

And then finally, last Thursday, closing day arrived. We kept our little boy out of playschool so he could come with us to collect the keys. Our solicitor said they’d probably be released at midday at the estate agents in the next village over, so we camped out in front of their office . . . waiting, waiting, waiting.

As we sat in the car looking out over a glorious stretch of beach, a WhatsApp message came through from playschool: they had to shut for two weeks. In fact, Leo Varadkar had just announced that all schools would be closing. It was just before 12 noon so I went into the estate agents. They had not received word from the vendor’s solicitor. They could not release the keys.

Back into the car to collect our little girl from school, then back over to camp out at the agents again. As we neared their office, we passed Dunnes Stores – the car park was wedged, and all along the road cars were thrown up on the grass at mad angles, wheels hanging off kerbs. We drove on a little further and saw a woman walking home, taking a loaded-up trolley with her.

This time when I went into the agents, miracle of miracles, there was a yellow gift bag sitting on the counter. Inside was a beautiful little box tied with a ribbon, and inside that was a set of keys for our new house.

The next day, Friday the 13th, we moved in. Our daughter cried with happiness. Our son ran round and round in circles, high with excitement.

We have one bed, no TV connection, no broadband, no washing machine. We couldn’t care less about any of that. We are finally home.

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