Saturday, 7 June 2008

Death ...

I wouldn't mind dying - it's the business of having to stay dead that scares the shit out of me.

R. Geis



I have deliberately chosen an irreverant quotation to start this topic. It is not my intention to make it a long post as the subject matter leaves me deflated.

The old lady in the second house died suddenly. Sure, she was knocking on a bit, but she appeared to be as healthy as the next person. No cause for celebration. We truly did not wish her on her final journey; indeed she may have become a welcome neighbour had our plans been allowed to move along a little more speedily. There is a little verse by Henry Worton that probably sums up this lady's latter years. It goes, "He first deceas'd; She for a little tri'd to live without him: lik'd it not, and di'd." I say 'probably' because I don't actually know that that was the case, but I prefer to interpret her sudden departure with poignancy rather than sadness.

No sooner had we managed to put that unexpected event behind us (time does heal, or at least it dulls the senses) when, a couple of months later, the old fella next door also passed away.

The old man was the father of the 'geezer' son I've mentioned in an earlier post. He got some of our sympathy, but the largest part was reserved for the old lady. We waited several months to find out what plans she had for her future. We wondered whether she, too, would move in with her son. It soon became clear that the son's filial responsibility didn't seem to stretch to his mother's wellbeing; only the property in which she lived. Eventually Maria paid her a visit to offer our belated condolences, fully aware that the visit could be construed as being slightly insensitive. As it turned out it was less traumatic for Maria than she expected. The old lady was relatively upbeat, readily accepted that her loss had an inevitability about it, considering their ages, and then timidly asked how soon it would be before Donna Maria moved in next door? She declared that living on her own, cut off from the rest of the village, was not to her liking. She really was a lonely old lady!

Maria asked her if she was prepared to move closer to her friends, if she could fix it. The old lady was delighted with the suggestion. Maria fixed it. She talked (persuasively) to one of the partner-directors about the possibility of allowing the old lady to move into one of the small houses that he had already bought, same terms and conditions, for as long as she lived. He agreed and the move took place soon after. What's more, the old lady was now moved into a house that was 'luxurious' compared to the one she was leaving. She even had an indoor bathroom and toilet, and she was amongst her old friends. Happy outcome, all things considered!

And for the less charitable of my readers, yes, we too came out ahead of the game!

But there is always a 'gotcha'. The price of the property , now vacant-possession, went up a tad.

Hmmmmmmmmmm ...

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Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Headaches ...

Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth.

Joan Lunden



Well said, Joan Lunden, but I am sure that readers have had similar experiences so I am not going to write at length about each darned obstacle. I shall content myself with mentioning a couple of examples of how things conspired to delay our move forward.

Dealing wth the bureaucrats was a breeze compared to dealing with 'The Bank'. Not our bank, but one that popped up out of the blue to tell the company that they owed them big bucks and would they please pay up immediately - or else! This bank, which will remain nameless, was the product of 5 mergers over several years. As banks go they must be considered efficient, as they trawled through all the records of the previous mergers and started to collect outstanding debts.

Years prior to Maria becoming the company's main troubleshooter and 'Girl Friday', way back in the dim distant past, they had borrowed a relatively small sum of money for a project, from one of the defunct (and now merged) banks. Over a period of time, with banks disappearing and then re-emerging as something else, the company also overlooked the repayment of the loan. Each bank reincarnated compounded the situation by omitting to inform the company of its responsibility. The new bank were much more switched-on turkeys, and were now being total bastards about the matter. They not only wanted the capital sum repaid immediately, but also about 15 years of unpaid interest, which by now exceeded the capital sum by a huge amount. The weasel-wording-winkers even had the nerve to magnanimously offer to negotiate the repayment period and terms. This prickly little problem landed squarely in Maria's lap!

You might wonder how this affected us. Simple. The bank now had a claim on the company and made it clear that they were calling the shots. The unspoken ultimatum was, "Do it our way or we will foreclose." For Maria to be able to produce the money (that the company did not have readily available) she needed to sell off company assets, mainly agricultural plots. But each time she negotiated with a prospective buyer she needed to get the nod from the bank before she could close the deal. This soon became a marathon nightmare. Negotiate a price, check with the bank, get the nod, sell the plot, pay the bank. And they still hadn't begun to discuss the small matter of the outstanding interest!

You are probably ahead of me by now. I've hinted previously that we had negotiated a very favourable price for the property, based on several factors like sitting-tennants, condition of the property, the split in valuation between 'rural' and 'urban', and several other smaller 'gotchas'. But if that 'firm offer' was referred to the bank, we were certain that they would reject it. So we had to wait, and wait, and wait, until such time as Maria could slowly, inexorably, clear the company debt. Long story short, she eventaully did it, but it took what seemed like an eternity. The one thing she was determined to do was to ensure that she could present herself personally at the bank to make the final payment. This was so that she could show them 'the finger' and tell them to 'get out of her life'! I wish I could have been there. Banking in Portugal is still a male-dominated sphere, and they don't like dealing with a female. Less so when the woman has managed to outmanoeuvre them!

The furstrations we continued to experience can be highlighted by mentioning one other, concurrent, episode that impacted on everything that was happening at the time. Maria managed to negotiate the sale of a small plot of land adjoining 'our' property (always the optimists, us). The deal was with a local landowner who wanted that bit of land to build half a dozen units to rent. We weren't too worried about his plans because the rented houses would be separated from us by a wall several metres high that he was prepared to erect as part of the sale agreement. The sale was completed (jumping through the hoops I've recounted in the preceeding paragraph) and the new owner started to clear the area. Maria, always the 'wheeler-dealer', had a quiet word with him and he agreed to divert his tractor, for an afternoon, free of charge, to clear and level the back garden of the first property. We still didn't own it, but we've always been optimists - and tenacious!


Oooops! But not all bad news. The tiles will be reused. Not sure what it is, but it will have to go! Slightly overgrown. No tigers!
More rubbish. That tree will need attention. More dilapidated huts. Still no tigers! No plastic garden furniture for the previous owners!
The tractor has done the job. The jungle has disappeared. No tiger remains found! Things look a bit clearer. Those tin shacks will all go, but there are people currently living there. That is the boundary wall and farm building. A wall will go up on the right.


Continuing the saga: the new owner of that newly acquired bit of land was duly notified by the local council that permission to build was being withdrawn. They, the council, had reappraised all the properties in that area and in their considered opinion building in that area was risky due to the tendency for the river to flood once every ONE HUNDRED years! The new owner immediately asked for his money back, naturally, and Maria was sent two paces backward in this infernal tango. The decision by the local council was eventually overturned, mainly because they had no hard evidence to substantiate their claim, other than 'Urban Legend', and that allowed the sale to go through. But all this tap-dancing was eating up valuable time. Weeks turned into months, and months into years!

We were beginning to wonder whether somebody had actually hatched some sort of Machiavellian plot against us ...

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