Monday, 9 June 2008

FF ...

Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what clearly lies at hand.

Thomas Carlyle



Afew days ago, after checking her email, Maria informed me that "The solicitor says that our final papers are through." That is worthy of note, despite the fact that I've made light of the various delays we have suffered. City Hall, the local council and The Conservatory have been the latest 'flies in the ointment'. The solicitor we have hired to handle things at a local level hasn't been earning his crust either! He has our confidence, but has failed the acid test for how he conducts himself on a personal level. He has allowed the opprobrium directed at him by an elderly spinster in City Hall (the worst kind of bureaucrat!) to cloud his professional judgement. Much time has been wasted by the two of them, patting, placing and removing knives and hatchets from various parts of their bodies. And that is not to our satisfaction! Nevertheless, another fine Borba is called for!

Last week we had our first face-to-face with Joana, the Arquitecta (architect) we have hired. We met to discuss the completion of Phase-1 of her work. This is the phase where she has taken precise measurements of the inside and outside of the property and has committed it to paper, warts 'n' all. Fascinating! We hadn't quite realised just what we had acquired, nor how bad a condition it is in. But the juggernaut is rolling and we are as determined as ever to complete the project.

Drawing of the property with precise measurements.
Drawing of the property
with precise measurements.

We'd already had preliminary discussions with the builder to whom we intend to give the job. He is local and is actually an 'honest-Joe' (Maria has had dealings with him for many years). However, he tends to set his own timetable, so 'lighting-fire-under-butt' is a skill that will need to be renewed and honed to perfection. We have agreed that the first order of priority is to erect a brand new roof over the whole structure, standing on independent pillars, so that we can rip out all the internal walls that we consider unnecessary. Tiles from the present roof and the fallen outbuildings will be re-used to preserve the original look. Joana has agreed that this is a good idea, but has warned that it is probably going to be necessary to rip out ALL the walls - interior and 3 outer sides - to save us many future headaches. Fine for her to say, but I didn't have any intention of building a new house! It looks like I am stuck with the decision, though, because the two women have ganged-up on me.

Our brief to Joana was that, the front façade, the roof 'style' and at least one chimney must be retained at all costs. Everything else was 'fair game'. We are unsure as to whether we ought to register the property as 5, 4, 3 or 2 residences. The tax man would prefer the first, of course. After much discussion we (all three of us) have agreed that 4 distinct residences should be registered, and that includes the one that has been shoe-horned between the buildings and which we intend to turn into a passageway/courtyard leading from the front to the rear. If we retain it as a distinct registered address there will be no problem converting it back into basic living accommodation if we decide to do so in the future. Which has meant a further document needed to be drawn up and presented to City Hall and The Conservatory. Which also means my up-beat opening paragraph can be viewed as slightly optimistic. There will be another delay. What's new?

The submission showing 4 distinct plots.
The submission showing
4 distinct plots.

Briefly, before I move on to the next episode of the saga, our discussions with the architect also brought to light the fact that the local bureaucrats would accept an increased 'roof-space' of 20% without any requirement for planning permission, which effectively allows us to square-up the rear of the houses. We will lose a little off the length of the end house on the left, but gain a similar area by increasing its width. The other houses will gain massive amounts of living space. We were also informed that the measurements supplied by City Hall and The Conservatory show that the area in front of the property that has been neatly surfaced and claimed as a 'right-of-way' by the local council, is rightfully ours.

Our 'dirty little secret' for hiring Joana is that, not only is she a successful professional in her own right, but that she also 'free-lances' for the City Council. She knows precisely what will 'fly', and what won't, with the bureaucrats. Her advice in these matters is invaluable!

So, we are going to take it back without notifying anybody! It will still remain neatly surfaced and it will include the traffic island. We intend to build a low wall topped with a high wrought iron fence to enclose everything on our side. Two wrought iron gates at the extremities, wide enough to allow cars through to park off-road on our property, will complete the makeover. In our magnanimity we fully intend to leave the local council with the responsibility for the maintenance of their road!

I am assured that this is expected behaviour of property owners the world over. I hope so, or we will have the makings of another bureaucratic battle on our hands ...

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