Tag Archives: mortgage

Buying the Canadian Dream

Sometimes, when you’re young, you do something that goes in a direction you’re not expecting. Like when you’re explaining how you’re going to ride this tray down the stairs, and you just put your foot on it, to show it slides and…WHOOOSH! You’re rocketing down the stairs, nearly balanced on one foot and suddenly very concerned about how you’re going to stop. That, in metaphorical terms, was this weekend.

It was always going to be busy. Tiniest Weasel was turning six, and we had a party planned. That was scheduled for Sunday, the day of her birthday (and, coincidentally, Valentine’s Day). Saturday was going to consist of light shopping, healthy walks and generally recovering from watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony the night before. So the first part of Saturday went well, with slow starts for everyone, phone calls made and Mrs Dim and Eldest Weasel hitting the shops before lunch. But then things started to slide a little, because we decided to visit a couple of houses. We’re in the market for a new house, after all, so when we saw these two properties were available for viewing, it made sense. Loading up the weasels and Moose, we zipped over to the first one, planning to catch the second one immediately after and then go for a walk on the Mountain. The first house was a bust, being too small and too expensive, although it was in a nice location. The second one was further away, but much more reasonably priced. It was old too, by Canadian standards, maybe as old as seventy years. The refurbishing had done a great job of the entrace floor and the upstairs, but the basement was still bveing worked on. That, and the odd visible sign that woodwork outside needed replacing, seemed to put off a lot of the viewers. I liked it, and Mrs Dim was looking thoughtful The layout inside is odd, but that’s the way the current owners did things, it doesn’t mean you have to keep it that way. So we talked it over as we drove on to the Mountain.

Releasing balloons on Burnaby mountain

Me, weasels and Moose releasing balloons. Mrs Dim is behind the camera

We were there to release a balloon for our friend Candy’s daughter Tali, a beautiful girl who had sadly died just a few days before. Candy and her friends were releasing their balloons in the UK on THEIR Saturday, and though we couldn’t be there, we wanted to take part in spirit. Middle Weasel also wanted to release a balloon for Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Luge Competitior who died on Friday. As we released the balloons, she said she hoped Tali would be happy in heaven and that Nodar could continue his career. Sometimes kids can give you some much-needed perspective on the important things in life, even when they’re tiny weasels the rest of the time.

When we got back we called our Realtor, Frank. We haven’t been a lot of use to him, setting such vague parameters for our ideal house that it was difficult for him to pin anything down. Now we had a solid prospect for him, he became a dynamo. Within minutes, we were agreeing to arrange a building survey for the following morning. I changed into my tux, because we were going out to a Murder Mystery Evening across the street, and Mrs Dim made phone calls. We arrived a bit late, and I had to make a few more calls during the evening (missing at least one vital clue. I accused Mrs Dim of the murder anyway. She seems the type. Trained killer, you know.) By the time we got back to our own house, we were on for a busy Sunday.

Tiny Weasel came with me in my car to collect a couple of friends on the way to the party, while Mrs Dim took the other weasels direct to the party location to install the cake and check the arrangements (because I made them, and could therefore have booked the wrong place, the wrong month or for eighty kids instead of eight. These are, so it seems, important details to get right.) Once I’d delivered my set of partygoers and made sure the other parents were happy to stay with Mrs Dim, I hopped back in the car and zipped over to the Prospective House (trying not to think of it as the New House yet…) to meet the Building Inspector and Frank. The news was pretty good, at least in the verbal report, with a lot of work that COULD be done, but nothing so pressing it would prevent anyone living in the place while they did the jobs. I brought Frank back to the Rental House and we met Mrs Dim and the Weasels, then talked House-y business for a while. First time I’ve made lunch for a Realtor… By the time Frank left, we’d decided to put an offer in on the house. We’d signed papers. Putting an offer in on a house we hadn’t even seen 36 hours before. Crazy? Not as crazy as the speed of real estate over here. Before the weasels were in their pyjamas we’d heard back from the owners. We were the only people making an offer. Did we want to change our offer at all? We did, and minutes later we had the verbal assurance that we had the house. In under forty eight hours we had gone from viewing to owning.

Now, don’t ask me about completion, title deeds, mortgage arrangements and so on. That’s all by-the-by. Important, oh yes, but by-the-by for now. We have a great house, a new hobby (fixing stuff, mending stuff, painting stuff…) and a packed schedule for at least the next three months. In the next post I’ll talk about the Elephants Theory of Time Management, but for now, I have to go, my head is spinning again.

Getting a job is such hard work!

I’ve thought a lot about this post, especially since it’s about something that only happened in the last forty eight hours. I often remember the phrase “A thought is never fully formed until it has been expressed.” and for me the best form of expression is writing. I need to have things written down so I can see what I think about them. It makes me useless in an argument because I can’t marshal my responses. I look at both sides of what’s being said, and often cave without arguing back. With Mrs Dim, I’ll quite often take her opening speech and run through how I think the argument (oops, meant “discussion” there…Sorry!) will go. Odds are, I’ll find I’ve run out of responses before we really get into it. This isn’t because she overwhelms me or is authoritarian or anything spooky or depressing like that : The fact is, if we’re having a difference of opinion, it’s usually because I am being resistant to change or reluctant to take on responsibility for something (see my previous post).

It may seem daft that I say I’m resistant to change after spending sixteen years moving from house to house, having three kids and numerous minor jobs. Here I am, thousands of miles from the country I was born in, saying I don’t deal well with change. Well, it’s true. I like routine, I like things to sort themselves out and then I can cope with them being the same every day. Having got Tiny Weasel into full-time schooling, I could relax into running my own day between 9 and 3, fitting odd things into that schedule when necessary.

A while ago, when we were living in Bournemouth and not sure if we’d ever get to Canada, I wrote a  magazine article called “Giving up the dream” which talked about the fact that I would have to stop being a full-time writer and go back to regular employment if we were going to stay in the UK. There was no other way we’d cope with the financial reality of life outside the RAF. And besides, with the kids in school and the writing business only growing slowly, there was no reason not to. I had hoped that coming out here, where the house prices are lower and the exchange rate was so good, that we could carry on as we were, and I could survive by increasing the number of published plays. Of course, I also had my grand plays to be visiting Rock-Star-Playwright at the local school and colleges, feted by all and showered with money for deigning to appear and discuss my process.

Well, the plays are still being written. We add new titles every month and our business plan for the next year is healthy enough, but the projected earnings don’t match up to the projected shortfall if we go ahead with the house purchase we’re both considering. Me getting a regular job is the only sensible solution, and this is what Mrs Dim said to me, in a very reasonable tone of voice on Saturday afternoon. I’d like to say that I nodded sagely and instantly suggested several courses of action that we could work on.

I didn’t. I sulked like a teenager. I whined and bitched. I muttered about having wasted the previous ten years building up a business only to throw it away. I said I would only be able to get a stupid shift job at Starbucks, since I’m qualified for nothing, and what good would that do? When this didn’t get me anywhere, I brought the dog into it. How was she going to get her morning walk if I go out to work? Pathetic, isn’t it?

Mrs Dim was more than a little disappointed. From her point if view, I was being very slow and unsupportive. She had shown me the accounts spreadsheet the week before and indicated how the incoming and outgoings wouldn’t match up if we take on a mortgage, or even if we just carry on the way we’re going now. I looked blankly at the lines of figures and nodded hopefully. I did not leap up and suggest I get a job and, bless her, right then she didn’t ask me. She gave me more time to figure it out myself, and when she felt it couldn’t wait any longer, she pushed the issue and I reacted like a spoilt brat.

Why? Well, have I mentioned that I don’t cope well with change? (Please understand, I am aware that everything said in this paragraph is an EXCUSE and not a REASON. I’m explaining my point of view, not asking you to agree.) I have exactly the life I have always dreamed of: I have time to write my looniest ideas down and send them away to my publisher, I get to tidy and clean at my own pace, I get to walk the dog in the fresh air at least twice a day and I don’t have an in-tray. I’ve worked in many different types of jobs in my time, and never really found one that I enjoyed. I worked behind a bar, behind a desk, behind a shop counter, in a factory and it’s only since I’ve been working for myself from home that I’ve been happy with the working hours and conditions. If the kids are ill or there’s a crisis at school, I don’t need anyone’s permission to shut down the computer and go get ’em.

But the point here is not how comfortable I feel in a new work situation. The point is that Mrs Dim has said there is a family crisis on the horizon, and I’m the one who can do something about it right now. If I step up and find work, I can stop that crisis ever arriving, and what kind of husband or father would I be if I just curl up under the desk and hope it goes away? It’s not like she’s asking me to stop being a playwright, and there’s plenty of examples of people out there who acheived more than I do on a daily basis while holding down a nine to five job. If I can’t carry on writing, reviewing and appraising while I turn in eight hours a day somewhere, then I don’t deserve to have all this time at home playing at being a famous writer.

On the other hand, if you know anyone who wants to hire a writer for a couple of thousand dollars a month, I can send you the number to call….