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Open Features: A Bit of ‘Doins’

There's a wonderful warm feeling to the house which is on offer for £700,000. But why is it £100,000 below market value?

Derek McQueen tells another intriguing tale.

To read more of Derek's well-told stories please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=Derek+McQueen

His real name was Albert Fairclough but everybody in the building trade called him ‘Doins’. We were having an extension built when I met him for the first time. Six thousand pounds it cost for a dining room and two bedrooms on two storeys. It overlooked farmland at the back. Really nice it was - faced south as well.

Using a bit of ‘doins’, as he so quaintly put it, solved all Albert’s building problems. ‘Doins’ could be anything from a mix of two buckets of lime mortar to a £50,000 trench-digging machine. It made no difference to Albert. Astonishingly, twenty years later, I had a call from him. He had heard that I was looking for an older house to renovate and phoned on the off chance.

“It’s an absolute snip Tom, I can’t tell you. A bit a ‘doins’ and it’ll be perfect. It’s going for a song Arthur. No doubt about it.”

I met him by arrangement on Waddington Gardens. Albert had done very well; his dark red Porsche, AF 1, was parked in the drive of number 32 or ‘Woodlands’ as a previous owner had named it.

“Good to see you again,” I called out, as I crossed the leafy, tree-lined road. Albert was leaning on the gate in the brilliant sunshine.
With his shock of unruly blonde hair and wiry frame he still looked capable of building graft, despite getting close to retirement age.

We shook hands. “Well, this is it Tom - £700,000 of prime real estate in the smartest part of Nottingham. Let me show you round.”

The gardens were in need of some tender loving care, mainly pruning and weeding. No more than a weeks work.

“It might need someone to come in and look at these two beech trees Albert. What do you think?” I said.

“A bit a doins ‘ll sort them out Tom, no problem. There’s three more round the back. We’ll take a closer look when we’ve been round the house.”

We were at the top of the long drive and the house seemed enormous, four huge stone bays soaked up the sunshine. The walls were part local stone sets and white painted stucco.

“The main roof and the dormers are in good nick,” Albert said.

“In fact the structure of the house is sound. They were built to last these places Tom.”

He pulled out a bunch of keys and opened the oak front door to the hall. The ‘empty house’ smell was rich and warm.

“I must say Albert, considering there’s not a stick of furniture or any curtains or carpets in here, this place seems very inviting. It’s got a comforting feel about it some how.”

“You might want to do something with the kitchen though. It’s a bit dated even for my taste,” Albert said. “Magnet would make a real good job for you there.”

We went up the impressive staircase with its three turns to the balcony landing and stood admiring the view over the side garden and woods at the back of the house.

“Just the bedrooms and bathrooms to see and then we’re done,” Albert said. Fancy a quick pint in the pub after that? The ‘Goose’
is only five minutes down the road.”

“Great idea, let’s do that Albert,” I said. "Can we look at the bedrooms; I’d like to take some measurements of the two smaller ones.”

I really think I would love to live here, I thought.

We roared down the road to the pub in the Porsche, job done.

The Goose beer garden was a delight in the warm sunshine. As I relaxed, I felt as certain as I could be that I should buy 32 Waddington Gardens. I knew that ‘Doins’, I mean Albert owned the house. What I was less sure of was why he was prepared to accept £100,000 less than market asking price. There were no snags, as far as I could see. Perhaps I should just strike while the iron was hot. We chatted about the house and old times and two pints later, prepared to go our separate ways.

“My solicitors are Dunstan & Varley in Castle Square. If you decide to make an offer, contact Peter Varley. He has all the information. This is his phone number.”

He handed me a card.

“Thanks George and thank you for showing me round. I’ll phone them first thing tomorrow.


“Can I get you a coffee or tea Mr Curtis? Mr Varley will only be a few minutes.”

The secretary was extremely attractive

“Thank you,” I said, “black coffee would be great.”

After about ten minutes gazing at the certificates and various accolades to Dunstan and Varley lining the walls, Varley himself called me through. Early forties, I guessed – crisp navy suit, wide striped shirt and military tie, he was both immaculate and impressive.

“Glad to see you Mr Curtis,” he said. “You’ve been looking at the Waddington Gardens property I gather.”

He fidgeted with a sheaf of papers on his desk.

“It’s on at a very good price, as I think you know. Offers over £700,000.”

Varley shuffled the papers again. Was there a missing ingredient here I wondered.

“I love the house,” I said. “Its got such a warm family feeling when you walk through the door. I just don’t understand the price. Is it the problem with the five beech trees because I could soon sort that out?”

Varley was messing with his papers again.

“Did Mr Fairclough tell you what happened to the previous owners, David and Alice Bridges – the reason this house is on the market?”

Varley looked me square in the eye for the first time since I’d entered his office.

“It’s clear to me that you didn’t know about it. The ghastly truth is
that David Bridges killed his wife by cutting her throat and he then blew his brains out with a shotgun. Alice was having an affair with one of her husband’s co directors. The cleaner found their blood soaked bodies in the hall, the following morning. That would be nearly three months ago now,” Varley went on. “To be honest we have had very few enquiries for the house – no more than a dozen since it went on the market in April. I’m sorry to be telling you all this Mr Curtis. I can see you’re shocked. Why don’t you take some time to think things over and then give me a call?”

“Thank you,” I said, “I don’t need more time. I’ll make you a firm offer of £700,000 right now.”


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