3 Day Rollercoaster of the Housing variety

What a difference a week makes. We woke up on Friday without feeling like it was the middle of the night. Waking up today (Saturday) at 7.30 felt like a lie in! Nobody forgot anything or lost anything during the day yesterday. Small milestones but they mean a lot. My short term goal is to have a day where nobody cries for the whole day – we’ve had a few near misses but haven’t quite hit that bullseye yet. We almost did on Thursday but I blew it by getting lost on a motorway heading out into the desert on my first solo school run – Colin had gone to Maseru.

Anyway the main story of the week has been about housing. When we came in June we were looking to buy a house, and a few properties to rent out to students to support ourselves. Whilst we were ‘stuck’ in the UK we changed our minds, left our money working in the UK and decided to rent for now…. it has taken the pressure off us trying to get businesses up and running at the same time as everything else. One day though.…

So on Sunday we started looking online for a rented house. I have had people say again and again and AGAIN that “God has got a house for you”, “God has seen the sacrifice of getting rid of your house, and he’s no man’s debtor”, “Don’t worry about a house, God’s got it sorted” etc etc etc. OK, so we’re looking online and…it’s…all…a….bit…depressing, a massive difference to the properties for sale. Bars on the windows,  scratchy little patches of garden, terrible old cardboard kitchens… and the biggest problem of all? There’s only 5 or 6 of them to choose from in the whole city. There’s smaller houses, and there’s vast houses (I guess to rent out to big groups of students). Not much in between. Oh.

Next morning we drop off the kids and begin. They wobble into school looking forlorn and faun-like on spindly little white legs. Forlorn fauns… add in myself and that made Four Forlorn Fauns on a Maudlin Monday Morn. (Instead of four French hens, three calling birds, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree). Wait – I have completely gone off the point….. Anyway we were all a bit weak and watery. Colin said if we can’t find somewhere nice, we’ll re-think the finances and buy, it’s important I’m happy. Nice husband, holding it all together as always. (He could live in a cave and be happy.) Meanwhile we don’t know when our stuff is arriving from the shipping company. Sigh…

First estate agent: they’ve only got 2 properties with four bedrooms. We saw one that day (with the dead bird and the G string) and took the kids to see one after school (to help lower their expectations in case there was a big disappointment round the corner). It smelt of dead cats. We teased Evie and said this is what her house will be like when she’s a crazy cat lady with loads of random animals and children later on in life. The kitchen and toilets were BAD – even Colin went quiet.

Next estate agent: our old friend Annette – she of the bling and the near house-sale with Leonnard way back…. FAB to see her, and there were hugs all round and my first good coffee since landing. No houses to rent…. oh hang on, maybe one… actually it would be perfect…. can somebody check? Nope, it just got signed off this morning. We promised her if we try to buy again, she’s our girl. Meanwhile she phones Marcelle, her friend who deals in rentals. No reply.

Next estate agent: a sweet grandpa type. We chatted for ages about soccer, London, the decline of the Rand, our church, and of course the fact that the Brits had just whipped SA at cricket. But did he have any houses? Errrr.. no.

Next estate agent: receptionist shows us in to wait for someone. In walks a switched on chick. Her name? Marcelle. She’s not got much…. one house where the man died and the wife just locked the door and left so EVERYTHING is still in there, and it’s a state… dust this thick, garage is full too, but it has potential at least. And one out in Waverley Hills but the owner (a judge) is living it up in Las Vegas.. she’ll try and get the key….

Day 1 over. Oh dear. But God.

Day 2. Nothing to do but just wait and see if anyone phones us. Marcelle eventually rings, then takes us to Waverley Hills… out through the countryside, onto a long drive past buck and horses.. in through a secure gate thing, and we’re in a kind of world-within-a-world, with fountains and green lawns and its own hospital and pub… huge house, all brand new… with an enormous living space, more like a community hall in size, with tons of fancy furniture. Hmmm… good to know there are nice houses to rent but how would we build community with people of all economic levels and backgrounds, when they would need to give fingerprints to even get in to the complex, and there’s no public transport to enable them to even get to us?

Marcelle suddenly said, “You know what, you guys like more cosy places? There’s one came up yesterday, I think you’ll love it. I’m going to take you to your house now!”

And she did!

It had been on the market to sell for ages, but on day 1 the owners had given up and put it up to rent. It wasn’t much more money than the dead bird house, but it had a pool, a thatched outside area for parties, even an old hot tub, a granny annex and more… a mezzanine level overlooking the garden, a wooden giraffe door, and walls with COLOUR on! It’s in a friendly, mixed part of the city called Langenhoven Park, near all the garden centres – yey! Funniest thing – they kept pigeons all down the side of the house, in huge cages (after I said no more bird stories)! The owners quizzed us: what kind of church would we be gathering in our home? Would we care for the poor? Would we welcome all races? REALLY unusual questions – and yes yes yes were the answers! It felt like a match, but with all these things you have to hold your nerve and wait.

We went to collect the kids. By the time they were out of school, Peyman had sent us details – “look at this house, it just came up on Gumtree, it looks really unusual”. It was our house. By the time we got back, another couple were looking round it and they wanted it too. It’s ‘first come first served’ here, once your finances are checked. Would the Nichols kids approve? With this whole journey we’ve said ‘it works for all of us or none of us’. Often in our family two children will say one thing, and one disagrees. (“Would you like burgers or pasta?” 1.burgers. 2.burgers. 3.Oh I wanted pasta. It’s like that.) Not at this house – they were ALL grinning from ear to ear. As we pulled away from the house, a few doors down I saw a sign “Annettes Creative Sewing. Sewing courses”. NOOOO! It couldn’t be true!! I am going to stalk my new neighbour – “can you load my bobbin please? can you help me hem this sleeve? which border do you think goes best with this fabric? can you be my friend?”  Please pray for her! (Some of you know what I’m talking about!)

Form-filling began, at breakneck speed. Banks were accessed vie intermittent internet connections.. Eeeeeeeek.

Day 3.

7am I’m filling in forms that Nigel has printed off for us (we don’t have a printer) and I googled the name of the road, “Toitus”. It’s a pen name for Du Toit, an Afrikaner poet who was a chaplain during the Boer war. One of his most famous accomplishments was to translate the bible into Afrikaans. LOVE IT. This MUST be our house! We’re at the estate agents by 8am. Another couple have gone for it too but we’re ahead of them with financial checks as we have that work visa that took so long to wait for. Luckily Marcelle is free to crack on and do her side of things. (What do you do if your estate agent is busy? Lose a house?) It’s a waiting game. Sweet grandpa type estate agent rings with a house that’s come up on another website – it’s the same house. People are all over this house! Later on, after school we’re back in Marcelle’s office with the boys, signing terms and conditions things so she can fax them off ASAP and get the owner’s signatures to seal the deal before he signs anyones else’s. She’s just had a fisticuffs phonecall with another estate agent who says their couple was first! AND… after we left her that morning, another couple had gone in with forms/ deposit after we’d left, so they’d gone back to the actual house to offer the owners more money, and to propose that they leave out the estate agents. Thankfully our landlord did the honourable thing and stuck with us. Smiley face.

It’s ours from the 1st Feb. We’ve paid at the guest house until 13th Feb so there’s a nice overlap to get sorted. Want to look? This is the very fanciest view – it’s not all this amazing by any means, but just take a look at this bit!


Anyone for a G&T? 

The only bummer is that we found out yesterday our stuff doesn’t arrive until March. So we have another month still, camping out of suitcases. In the light of my photo you’d think that that wouldn’t get to me, but it did. And then I recovered and got back with the program again. Rollercoasters – they can make you feel quite queasy after a while.