My last post was in August 2014, at about the time I finally made the decision to sell my Wicklow home of 25 years and move back to my home town of Enniscorthy, a mere 50 miles down the N11. Between prepping both houses, one for sale and the other for moving into, it took a full 12 months for it all to dovetail after a lot of renovating, decorating, decluttering/removal, blood sweat and tears! My return to the keyboard was interupted by this whole process and the follow on updating of my new home after the move as well as a major family upset.
Once the big decision was made and it hadn’t come easy after 34 years living and working in Wicklow, I had to start renovating/cleaning up the house, Brendan my tenant of c.15 years had to find new lodgings and the process of emptying commenced. Fortunately, thanks to my semi-retired status having closed my sail training business a few years earlier, my garden had been reasonably well updated and just needed ongoing maintenance.
My tired old kitchen got a lick of paint thanks to Brendan, 2 new floors were laid with laminated boards, most rooms were redecorated, the build up of bits over the years had to be inspected and the wheat separated from the chaff. I must have made 15 or so runs with my estate car to the recycling centre, there were 2 skips filled to the brim, a year apart, to take the non-recyclable materials and c.35 boxes with c.10 plastic bags were filled with
personal items for relocation to my new home. As I did almost all the graft myself, it took time to tick each task off the list before I could give my auctioneer, Brian Clarke, the call to put her on the market. Finally, after a lot of slog, I picked up the phone a few weeks after my 60th birthday and now there was no going back.
In tandem with the work going on in Wicklow, I started getting the house ready in Enniscorthy. When I set up my Sailing School in 1997, I took a career break from my job in Bank of Ireland and the possibility existed that I might not be returning. The following year 1998, I bought a small townhouse in Enniscorthy that my brother Simon was the selling agent for, to create some form of long term security. Now with my problem Roma tenants recently vacated, the option to move there was the ideal solution once the Wicklow house was sold.
Number 11 had been rented for c.15 years with various tenants, some good, some bad. Everything in the house was showing the trials of multiple users and the most recent Roma tenants had certainly left their mark on the property. I made the decision to completely overhaul the property with pretty much everything revovated – new floors in all the downstairs spaces, a whole new kitchen and living-room furniture with a stove as well as brand new bedroom furniture upstairs. The yard was full of junk and took a lot of trips to empty. I decided to put in a steel shed to house my tools and various useful bits in the yard. It was supplied by Adman Sheds and was my first addition, followed quickly by the new stove in the living room. What my dog Toesun thought of all the to-ing and fro-ing between the two houses – both in a “state of chassis” – and being constantly moved from his most recent comfortable perch while monitoring all the frenetic activity, only he will know.
By Christmas 2014, with the shed and stove installed, the next step was to paint all the walls and ceilings. I chose white as the uniform colour but it had to cover various shades of blue, pink, yellow and green, so 2 or 3 coats were needed to finish the job. My niece Sinead was visiting from Australia and volunteered to help with her traveling companion Andrea. While I was away working in the Canaries over Christmas/New Year, other family members rowed in to help finish the first coat.
Next came the kitchen and after many research visits to various kitchen suppliers, I settled on self assembly units from In House Paneling Centre in Deansgrange. My Wicklow buddy Geo Alcorn and his friend Morgan Davitt agreed to do the installation and got stuck in, once the painting was sorted. My new hot water cylinder was relocated to facilitate the new fridge. All the units fit perfectly and accommodated the various kitchen hardware items. My pride and joy was the new wooden topped kitchen island, which Geo built in situ for me. The living room and kitchen floors followed in quick order.
With most of the basic infrastructure dealt with, it was time to start furnishing the house. Rather than bring my tired Wicklow furniture down, I decided to scour the various Christmas and New Year sales for bargains to furnish the house and managed to save c.€1500 on all the various items purchased. A new 4 seater sofa, wardrobe, king size bed, light and bathroom fittings etc all arrived to be fitted as required, so I could be ready to move in once my Wicklow house sold.
With things moving on the house sale, several offers materialised and it was looking like my time in Wicklow was drawing to a close. The reason I had taken this drastic step to leave my adopted home was due to the oppressive weight of my financial affairs as a result of my failed sail training business, due mostly to the intransigence of the Irish Dept. of Transport Marine Survey Office. Despite having managed to keep my head above water through doing yacht deliveries and working for a number of other sailing schools over the previous 4 years, the lack of consistent income made it impossible for me to stay ahead of my bank commitments. To add insult to injury, just as the offers were being made, Bank of Ireland – my former employer – shafted me by refusing to extend my facilities for a few months to allow the sale proceed and downgraded my account. I might add that there was likely to be a very substantial surplus after all loans were cleared but neither this, my good standing or bank background was taken into account in making this arbitrary decision. The Bank I had given 25 years of loyal service to had descended into a soulless and uncaring organisation with no regard for the human being on the other side of the counter – a symptom of modern computer driven practices. Despite the fact I draw my pension from them, they will not benefit from any new business from me in the future. Luckily my good name had not been tarnished in my local Wicklow and Rathnew Credit Union who allowed me avail of the money that I needed to complete the various tasks in both properties.
Two bidders locked horns and offered a figure of €210k, just €5k short of my target price and my auctioneer Brian Clarke advised that it was probably as good as would materialise in the short term. Not wanting to hang on forever, I accepted it towards the end of May 2015, with a closing date in August to accommodate both myself and the purchasers who were getting married early in that month. I had contracted to bring a boat from the United States in June, so I needed time to work on the properties once that was achieved. With certainty now about the closing date, I set about preparing for the move – they required vacant possession unfurnished, so all my furniture had to be disposed of, apart from a few token items I wanted to bring with me.
Facebook turned out to be a great way of offloading many of the items, some for a token payment, more for free. There was however a price to be paid – an old oak double wardrobe was being moved down the stairs with me holding it below. One of the guys upstairs lost his grip and in a split second my forehead was headbutting this large errant wooden hulk. Immediately, I was pumping blood and my right eye was flooded restricting my vision. They were trapped upstairs by the wardrobe, so I had to try and deal with my wound on my own until they managed to clamber past the obstruction on the stairwell. My first aid training had me padding the wound before washing the congealed blood off my face and neck. With the flow stopped, they helped me clean and dress it with suitable bandaging. It was quite a gash and I needed a wraparound head support to keep the bandage in situ.
Despite my trauma, I managed to help the guys move the offending item to their van and say goodbye to another piece that had been with me all of my 25 years in the house.
I met several nice people from the greater Wicklow area who cherry picked items that suited their houses via the Wicklow Buy and Sell Facebook page. Some items didn’t appeal, so I displayed them outside the house on the grass verge – some opportunistic van borne scavengers took advantage of my living room suite, some tables and chairs, dressing table with mirror and other bits. The good side to this meant that I could fit the remaining lot of unwanted items and rubbish into my second skip, using a sledge hammer to reduce bulky items to manageable proportions for stowing.
I had been making delivery journeys to Enniscorthy with the mountain of storage boxes and bags over 3 or 4 weeks and now my old house was virtually empty as the skip was lifted from my front driveway. I borrowed a trailer to take the final load before turning the key on my home of 26 years.
While I had a good relationship with my neighbours, the thing I was going to miss most was the spectacular sea view out over the Irish Sea from the house. It was heartbreaking to be giving that up knowing that my view for the foreseeable future would be the bedrooms of the Riverside Hotel – no contest and a bit depressing. Of course I knew that when I made the decision to sell but it still hurt to know it was no longer going to be there for me everyday as I looked out over my garden.
With that door firmly closed, the money in the bank and a return to the town of my birth and childhood now a reality, I just had to lift my chin to grin and bear the pain of leaving my Wicklow friends behind. In a stroke of both bad and good luck, my boat Stravaiger had another engine problem and was stranded for now on the quay wall in Wicklow Harbour. It was to be a source of accommodation for a few months to enable me keep some reasonable contact for the time being, especially with Wicklow Sailing Club, where I had been given an Honorary Life membership as a parting gift.
While I had concentrated on getting no. 11 ready for my arrival, it was still needing a lot of attention and furniture to finish it off. As I only had one focus now, I spent my time searching for items of furniture and ideas for decoration as well as working on my yard, now cleared of all the junk. Bookshelves for the living room and office were sourced, curtains, lampshades, a sideboard, kitchen tiles, coffee table and a second double bed for the guest room. My paintings and pictures were hung, rooms finished, doors and skirtings painted, a deck, flower boxes and bin storage built and by Christmas it was all coming together.
Then, just as I was clapping myself on the back for bringing it all together, we got the news no family wants to hear. All through my labours, my mother Pauline had been a regular visitor and even managed to help out on a few occasions with little jobs. Less than 2 weeks before Christmas, she was admitted to Wexford General Hospital for tests and a few days later, we got the devastating news. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer and given only a few months to live. She was a very active and alert 85 year old, who loved her 12 children and 27 grandchildren equally without favour. As the news sank in, her children went into overdrive to help in whatever way we could. From my point of view, I pretty much suspended my own house activity and turned my attention to our family home which was going to need a makeover to allow her enjoy her final days. We were lucky to have a friend of my brother Johnny available over Christmas/New Year to fit a disabled bathroom, which would make life a lot easier for managing her. Most of the other jobs were simple enough to be done by ourselves.
Once Christmas was out of the way and Mam had enjoyed her time at home surrounded by family, I took the opportunity to invite the rest of the family for a hastily arranged housewarming. While she wasn’t up to the disruption of getting in and out of the car for the short journey, the rest of us made the most of the night, albeit with a cloud hanging over everyone. My house had nearly reached its goal but its most enthusiastic supporter was not going to see it again. Luckily, she had dropped in for a visit a few days before her trip to hospital, so she had seen most of the works completed. Her time with us was short lived and we bade our final adieus on 26th February 2016, a day all her family will not forget.
I know she would love to see my miniature apple tree in bloom, the roses starting to bud and the flower boxes brimming with colour.
Cheers Mam. Thanks for all the tips and encouragement.