Archive for March, 2015
After Sandie’s return from Glagow, we spent a further two and a half weeks near Stroud, staying with Ian’s sister Maggi. We were kept busy, not just with Ian’s work, but with property buying and selling on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ian (and his colleague Dougal) made good progress with their statistical analysis. It seemed that they were well on course for completing the project by the March 31st deadline. There was a panic on the 16th when Ian learned that they were due to submit a draft report next day: this was stated in the contract, which he had not seen, and Dougal had not noticed the relevant clause. So there was a rush to get a draft report together, and Sandie became involved in some editing. There was no way the report could be submitted on the 17th, but it was ready soon after. The only problem then was that the length of the report (with multiple graphs etc) made sending it electronically very difficult!
House buying and selling in the UK
We mentioned in our last blog that Claire had decided to move to the Stroud area. Things have happened much more quickly than we anticipated, though (as often with buying and selling property) there have been problems along the way.
The house in High Wycombe went on the market Thursday March 5th, and we were amazed to learn that 14 viewings had been arranged for the following weekend. Two of the 14 people made an offer, one at the asking price and one just above. This meant that we had to get on with finding a new house, and Claire paid three visits to Gloucestershire over the next couple of weeks. She decided that she wanted to live in Bussage, close to Maggi, and settled on a house which seemed ideal, even if over our budget!
So all seemed to be progressing well – until Wednesday 18th, when we were told that the buyers of the Wycombe house had pulled out! But our agent went back to the other couple who had offered for it, and after a second visit to the house they reinstated their offer. Sighs of relief all round – and fingers crossed that it goes through this time.
Condo buying in Florida
The American system of buying and selling property is very different to the English system: you are locked in from the start, so no chance of a buyer or seller backing out.
All seemed to be chugging along smoothly; we were occasionally sent papers to be signed, scanned and returned, but that was all we had to do.
But on March 12th we hit an unexpected snag. We had already submitted an application to the Condo Association, together with two references as required. This was approved BUT they then informed our agent that we had to produce either copies of our visas (we don’t have any) or criminal record checks in England. This set us in panic mode: we were legally committed to close (complete) by the end of March, but could not do so without approval from the Association, which they would not give until we provided these documents.
We were annoyed because the Association had not mentioned the requirement earlier.
So while arguing (unsuccessfully) that it should not be necessary, we tried to find the quickest way of getting criminal record checks done. We submitted online applications and were told that they would take ‘up to 14 days’; moreover, they could not be emailed, but had to be sent to our home address. The timing was very tight, so we asked Claire to call round at our flat every day and check our mailbox. Luckily on March 20th, they appeared! So hopefully all will be well.
Maggi had her eye operation on Tuesday 17th. Her recovery was in some ways quicker and easier than she expected, but when walking around she felt dizzy and nauseous, so she spent most of the first few days in bed. Her neighbour Jim took the dog for walks, so our role was limited to organising food and regular cups of tea!
With all of the above, we were kept busy, but we did manage a few breaks. One day we walked from Bussage through the neighbouring village of Eastcombe and over the fields to Bisley, another village. We had a leisurely lunch there before returning by a different route. Another day Maggi drove us to Gloucester, and after sampling the shops and pubs there we picked up a hire car to use for the rest of our stay in England.
On Saturday 14th March we visited our friends Brenda and Phil. They live in Evesham, which we had realised was not very far from Stroud. They took us to their favourite pub for a very nice lunch, followed by a brief tour of the countryside. Then it was back to their house, where we played board games based on Terry Pratchett books. We left early next day as Brenda and Phil had to go to church. We returned by a different route, and had brief stops in two well-known Cotswold villages: Stow on the Wold, and picturesque Bourton on the Water. But the day was very cold, so spending a lot of time outside was not appealing. We ended up in Cheltenham, where we could hide away in shops and cafés!
When we left England on January 8, the plan was to be away until mid April: in fact we had (still have!) return tickets for April 15. Until Feb 18, everything went according to plan: the Caribbean, Venice, New Orleans. After that there was a gap in our itinerary, till Claire and the boys came out to join us on March 27. We thought we might do some travelling in Central America, but then our ERA group was awarded a project which meant work for Ian in Feb/March. We therefore needed to stay in one place, so looked for a flat to rent in Florida – until we spotted a clause in the contract which said the data could not be accessed outside the EU! So we had no alternative but to return to the UK for a month or so.
This raised a further problem – where to stay in England? Two Australian ladies were staying in our flat (via our home exchange website) so going home was not an option. Fortunately Ian’s sister Maggi offered us a refuge at her home near Stroud, Glos. We thought we might be able to help her in return, as she was scheduled for an eye operation on Feb 17, but unfortunately this was postponed for a month.
From New Orleans we returned to Florida by bus, as planned, but instead of going all the way to Sarasota, we stopped off in Tampa and took a taxi to the airport. Then it was a direct flight to Gatwick, using staff travel tickets which Claire had organised for us. She and Oscar were there to meet us when we landed, and took us back to High Wycombe. We stayed there for four nights, sleeping on Claire’s bed. Claire spent two nights on an airbed in the boys’ room; the other two nights she was away on a trip to Dubai. This meant that we were i/c Charlie and Oscar again. Sandie took them out as much as possible, leaving Ian to work in peace. However, Claire was unwell after her return from Dubai; she had promised the boys a treat, so we took them bowling. It was Oscar’s first attempt, but somehow he managed to win!
Although we could not stay in our own flat, we had to call in there, to collect some winter clothes! Our packing was hastily re-organised, and summer clothes left at Claire’s. On Monday 23 she drove us and our luggage (plus Oscar) to Stroud.
By a fortunate coincidence, both of Maggi’s sons were visiting that day. We’d seen Chris on Boxing Day, but had not seen Tony for over four years, and had never met his partner Petra. It was a rare opportunity to see them all, as Chris is in the army and Tony and Petra live in Sweden. We had an enjoyable day, and Oscar had great fun playing with a toy gun (wooden and elastic bands) which was bought for Chris and Tony 20 years ago!
Maggi had arranged a desk for Ian in her spare room, an ideal working space. So he spent most of his time up there, making progress with the analysis he needed to do. Meanwhile, Sandie and Maggi had another task! Claire had decided to move to the Stroud area, in order to get a bigger house and be closer to her aunt who helps with the childcare while Claire is flying and we are away. There was a choice of several different areas around Stroud, so Sandie and Maggi did some exploring (as well as online research), aiming to decide which had the most suitable houses and schools.
On Saturday 28 Claire drove to Stroud again. Sandie and Maggi took her on a tour of some of the places they’d seen. She stayed overnight with friends in Swindon, while the boys stayed in Stroud with us. This time it was Maggi’s turn to sleep on an airbed! On Monday she and Sandie paid a return visit to High Wycombe. Maggi did some essential painting, prior to the house going on the market. Claire helped, and Sandie did her best to keep the children out of the way!
Strangely, we were involved in property buying and selling on both sides of the Atlantic. After a lot of thought, we decided to put in a higher offer for the Florida condo we liked so much. To our surprise and delight, a deal was eventually agreed. By the end of March, we shall own our ideal condo in Central Park, Sarasota!
On Wednesday 4 March Sandie and Maggi flew from Bristol airport to Glasgow to visit Aunt Margie, who was 95 the next day. Ian was left in Stroud, working hard while in charge of Maggi’s dog, cat and house. The timing of the flights meant that they were able to pay three short visits to the nursing home where Aunt Margie lives: one in the early evening, after they had checked in to their hotel, and two the next day. Aunt Margie is frail and tires easily, so this pattern worked well.
She has moved to a new bigger room, and is transported around the home in a large armchair on wheels – much better than being moved frequently between armchair and wheelchair. She is getting deaf, so communication was not always easy, although she remains quite sharp and understands well what is going on. She enjoyed looking though a large collection of birthday cards.
After their final (Thursday afternoon) visit, Maggi and Sandie flew back to Bristol, and drove home, where Ian had the dinner ready!