15th & 16th November, 2009
Spent the whole two days researching our trip to Kent. We are determined to have new-build and to have excellent facilities close at hand – Health Club, shops, restaurants, theatre/opera, etc. Pauline is quite keen to see the sea or be close to it as well. Hours and hours of Googling New Build Kent produced reams of Builders, Estate Agents and properties. I worked out an itinerary in best teacher fashion. On Tuesday we will drive down early and, in the afternoon, look at all the developments in Maidstone where we were staying followed by a trip down to Ashford, Folkestone, Hythe, Dover & Deal. On Wednesday, we will do the Medway towns of Rochester, Gillingham & Chatham followed by Sittingbourne. Pauline thought I was being optimistic.
17th November, 2009
We set off at 6.00 am up the M62 and down the M1. We had been told the weather would be foul – wet and windy. In fact, it was bright, beautiful and warm. There was little or no traffic. It was one of those occasions when cruise control works uninterrupted. Stopping only at Watford Gap for a revolting breakfast, we reached the Hilton Hotel, Maidstone by 10.00 am..
They don’t ‘check-in’ until 2.00 pm so we started straight in to our tour of the new build sites of Maidstone. Crest Nicholson, Bryant and Ward Homes. We toured Site Office with pushy sales woman (no men) after Site Office with pushy sales woman (no men) looking at badly built match boxes with ghastly decorations in much vaunted show homes.
Although the drive down had been wonderful and the optimism had been high, by the time we left our last Maidstone site, it was 3.30 pm and our spirits were on the floor. We hated everything we saw and everyone who showed them to us. We thought we were prepared for downsizing but there is a limit! The itinerary said we should go on to Ashford, Folkestone, Hythe, Dover & Deal. Our hearts said, No chance! We stopped at the nearest Sainsburys, bought a lovely bottle of red wine and some nuts and checked in to the hotel. We had booked a double room with breakfast. The gave us what they call a Double Double. This is a huge room with two double beds in it. In what circumstances would anyone want two double beds. I have led a very sheltered life and there may be certain positions that require two enormous beds but I am past all that. We drank our wine, ate our peanuts and watched Countdown.
We had dinner in the hotel and it was very pleasant. Our room was too. It had a settee and armchairs and a large, flatscreen television. There were coffee/tee making facilities and, although there were too many beds, the one we slept in was magical. There was a pool and gym, etc but we were too deflated to use it. We did, however, sleep like logs. During the night, a copy of tomorrows Times newspaper is slipped under the door.
18th November, 2009
Up at 7.00 am for breakfast. Normally, we have a huge cup of Breakfast tea and a plate of hot buttered toast (Pauline’s home made bread & home made raspberry jam) or we have porridge which I am really learning to like again. Neither of us can eat much at that time in the morning. Why does one’s constitution change, I wonder, when one wakes up in a hotel? Pauline washes her hair and dries it every morning of her life. It is 8.00 am before we get to the restaurant. A buffet breakfast of fresh fruit, fruit juice, bacon, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, hash browns (sic), black pudding and sausages is accompanied by slices of toast and completed by a couple of croissants with apricot jam.
We staggered out to the car and programmed the Sat. Nav. for Sittingbourne. More unmentionable houses that we were desperately trying to like built by Barratt, Bryant, Bovis, etc.. We drove on to Rochester trying to tell each other we had seen something worth coming for. The drive from Sittingbourne to Rochester was delightful – lots of fruit fields and autumn trees, small villages and quaint old pubs.
That’s not what we want but at least we could relate to it. Rochester was impoverished and run down – much more than I had remembered or expected. Chatham wasn’t much better. We even went to Snodland but decided we couldn’t possibly live in a place called SNODLAND. We were fairly dispirited as we drove into the Sainsburys carpark in Maidstone for another bottle of red. We shared it sitting on the settee in our room with salted peanuts and watching Place in the Country. It’s a programme that retired people watch about retired people leaving their urban/city homes from which they have set out to work each day for the past 40 years and who now want to realise their rural idyll with a thatched roof, dark low beams, an Aga and enough land to keep chickens, pigs, llamas, etc..
Pauline & I want just the opposite. We have lived the rural life and we now want minimal, town life. We found a version of that but we didn’t want it made out of second hand Lego.
19th November, 2009
Another breakfast to contend with. We settled the bill and left Kent feeling quite fed up. (Us that is not Kent. Kent didn’t really express an opinion although a number of the sales staff at the site offices almost threw us out on the spot when we admitted our property was still on the market. We drove up to Surrey at about 10.00 am on an earily empty M25. We were going to stay the night with Pauline’s sister, Phyllis and her husband, Colin who retired down there to be near their daughter, Mandy (Director and General Manager Xerox Global Services) This is Phyllis and Pauline:
They live in West Byfleet and, out of idle curiosity and thinking we wouldn’t be able to afford anything there, I looked for new builds in West Byfleet. It threw up a couple of places and we called at the first one as we drove there for lunch. It was an apartment in a gated community with high tech security and covered courtyard parking. It was a two bedroomed apartment on the first floor with a lovely big lounge, a fully fitted kitchen, a good bathroom and an excellent en-suite. The whole apartment had underfloor heating. It was absolutely ideal if a little expensive for what we want to pay knowing that we would only be there for 6 months per year. It was within walking distance of two excelklent Italian restaurants, a Waitrose and a Sainsburys, a Health Club with a pool and is not far from a theatre. We would have bought it on the spot if we could but we need to sell our house and then, as a cash buyer, we will negotiate on the price – if the apartment hasn’t gone. There are ten left so we have a chance.
Mandy had a career break from a very high powered job and adopted three little boys from one family. They came from a drug addict in Newcastle. They are delightful but very tiring. They all attend private schools. David is now 11 and goes to a fee-paying Grammar School. James is 9 and is a very good rugby player. Daniel is 6 and he is currently having trials for Fulham F.C.. Yes, you read it right. He was spotted playing for his local little boys team. They like his aggression, apparently. He likes kicking other boys and why not?
20th November, 2009
We set off thinking it would be a bad journey back to the North. We expected terrible traffic and awful weather. We had neither. The M25 & M1 were wonderfully quiet at 8.30 am although we did have to shield our eyes from the sun. We were back in Huddersfield for 1.00 pm. It doesn’t matter where one goes or wants to go, arriving home is delightful. And yet, what this week has taught us is that we consider nowhere particular home. We can be happy anywhere as long as the property is right. As soon as we got home, all the stress and tiredness of the past four days overwhelmed us. How do these travelling salespeople survive? Drive 200 or 300 miles and then bound enthusiastically in to a client meeting as if nothing had happened. Amazing.
21st November, 2009
Watched England lose to the All Blacks again. Pathetic! In a week when we have been away for four days we have still used 1.5 cm of water. I got an email from Jane BG this week to say that she only used 14cm in six months. I really do think I must be washing too much.