An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 3

The Fixer-Uppers.

The Brothel was one fixer-upper. Saw another in same town, also good location: ranch house with good bones, in process of being rehabbed. What looked from pictures like solar panels on roof proved to be tarp. Windows had broken seals, rotted wood in frames. New appliances in kitchen and new kitchen floor. Other floors wood but still in need of refinishing. Odd loft room over garage leading to laundry room. Never could find how to turn off light in living room.

Another was same basic model as the Gambling Den, minus added family room and basement rec room, bedrooms to the back rather than the side. Darker, as walls added between kitchen, dining room, and living room. Bedrooms and basement all carpeted. Dislike carpeted basements: you never know what’s under there. Shabby grungy bathtub still in place. Uncaulked hole in laundry room to admit mice. No washer or dryer. Sump pump in what is marketed as bedroom.

A small ranch house looked lovely in pictures; rehab nearly complete. New roof going on the day we saw it. Still enter straight into living room, no foyer. Enclosed breezeway between house and garage, probably supposed to be “three-season room,” which in this climate means too hot in summer, too cold in winter, endurable for a month or so in spring and fall. Original 1950s kitchen cabinets preserved and beautifully refinished, likewise shelving in living room. Third bedroom below grade: deal-breaker.

Completely adorable house built in the International Geophysical Year and looking very much of its time, with many original features and excellent mid-century vibe. Signs of structural problems in roof, as well as damaged seal and surrounds on front bay window. We could live with detached garage if it were only the window, but cannot face possible structural damage to roof.

And with closing date on current house set when it is, do not have time for house that needs work.

Fairy Gardens

They’ve popped up all over Our Quaint Village, with variations. There’s a Dinosaur Garden that I often pass on my walks; it is popular with toddling boys and their fathers. Not far away, my eye was caught by an enchanting miniature chalet, standing among tree roots, behind a little courtyard paved with shiny glass cabochons; then I noticed the old 1930’s style model car partially sunk into the mud a foot or so away . . . and then a dinosaur looming behind the tree.

What sort of fairy would move into this Jurassic Swiss Appalachian Park? Someone out of an urban fantasy? Emma Bull’s Finder? I’m still pondering this.

An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 2

The . . . Frat House?

Location excellent, near station and highway access. Front yard mostly asphalt, though long driveway leads to garage. As agent taking some time to get code for door lock, we explore back yard. Half a garbage can is dug into ground near patio area: makeshift ice chest for brewskies, I suggest. Sir John notes fire pit. Agent notes tiki torches along high fence dividing yard from neighbors. We enter. Despite new fancy front door and kitchen appliances, house not (as advertised) fully rehabbed: water damage to front window and living room floor, bathroom floors damaged. Lower level family (?) room, opening to back patio, tiled, not only floor but halfway up walls. Ceiling fan in lower-level bedroom filthy. Upstairs bedrooms have chain locks on the inside. Definitely a multi-person rental, agent says. Sir John suggests sex traffickers.

Locks would then be on outside, I say, and what about the party-hearty backyard? Frat house.


But we are not in a college town.


We are not even near a college town.

I reconsider Sir John’s suggestion. Too too lurid, but as we refer to the first house as The Gambling Den, this one becomes The Brothel.

Autre temps, autres moeurs

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of mid-century light fiction by women. Barbara Pym, of course, and also D. E. Stevenson, E. M. Delafield, Elizabeth Fair, and similar works either suggested by Amazon or discovered via Furrowed Middlebrow or Clothes in Books. Having read gobs of British fiction from an early age, I don’t generally have any difficulty over vocabulary differences (sneakers/trainers, sweater/jumper, jumper/pinafore dress, etc). But I had a glitchy moment last night when reading Wine of Honour, by Barbara Beauchamp; maybe it’s my years as a vegetarian, or where I went to college:

“[Lady Gurney] expected her children to return to her as they had left her. . . . It was a lovely picture, misted with her tears and rosy with the port Sir James would bring up from the cellar and decant for the first family gathering round the dining-room table. There would be flowers and a huge joint . . . ”

Duuuuuude. When I get out of the RAF I’m going to get so wasted with Mum and Dad.

An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 1

The Gambling Den

From outside, house is well-cared-for split-level, vintage 70s. Flagpole and bird feeder in front yard. Attached garage. We enter straight into living room; behind it, kitchen and dining room; to our left, stairs down to lower-level room apparently used as bedroom. Bath and laundry off this room; also exit to garage. Ideal for health-care worker, we say: come in, strip, shower, wash clothes, before rejoining family. Above this area, 3 small bedrooms and another bath. Behind kitchen, enormous room, nearly doubling the square footage of main floor of original house. Additions are a deal-breaker. Explore anyway: was this a garage converted to living space? No: garage in front, not enough space between houses for there to have been a driveway to the back.

We find back door and another stairway leading down to equally large basement room, lower than garage-joined bedroom, not communicating with that level. On wall, rack for pool cues, also what at first I take to be dart board, then discover is sort of mini roulette wheel. A house for gambler and health-care worker: nearly the same thing, these days.

An Academic Lady’s House is Inspected

After contract signed, buyers have five days to perform professional house inspection and negotiate further. In our case, “as-is” clause meant no further negotiations, but buyers could walk away.

For inspection, we incarcerate cats and leave things tidy, but do not remove litter boxes, set up fancy bedding, or otherwise stage the house. Rain, again, and again we have nowhere to go, so sit up the street in our car, each with book to read. Agent arrives. Tall woman in purple sweatshirt, presumably buyer, arrives (approve choice of color). Inspector arrives in white van.

Half an hour passes. Another van drives up. Radon testing unit unloaded, taken into house. Second van departs.

First hour passes. I check e-mail and respond to students.

Second hour passes. Regret second cup of tea with breakfast.

At two and a half hours, see hands trying to open windows in living room. Chance would be fine thing: old owners painted them shut and only two open partway in dry weather.

Third hour passes. Discomfort now extreme. Buyers understandably cautious about checking everything out, but would you please finish and go away?

Finally back in bathroom house. Cats indignant about prolonged visit from unknown people: Reina because she denies existence of hoo-mans other than her own, Glendower because he wasn’t allowed to supervise their activities, Basement Cat on general principles. Hoo-mans also ruffled from feeling of strangers evaluating our house and lives.

Two days later: Sir John goes to basement to put in load of laundry, discovers dead mouse. Consternation ensues. Consider questioning Sir John as to freshness or otherwise of corpse, but desist, as likely to prove highly unprofitable discussion. Maintain private hope that mouse died since inspection, but have little hope that in three hours including installation of radon detector in basement, inspector failed to see mouse if present. Spend weekend expecting deal to fall apart due to rodents, also planning to unpack everything stored in basement to inspect for signs of mice.

Next week: Radon at acceptable levels (no surprise, as old house is leaky sieve, despite sticky windows in living room, new windows upstairs and in kitchen). Mirabile dictu, deal goes through, despite mouse.

Onward to our own house hunt!

An Academic Lady Shows Her House

Comically bad timing, I said. Nonetheless, app pings with request for showing.

Accept, with mix of incredulity and joy. Go through usual stages of prep, expecting cancellation all the while. Add stage of wiping down all surfaces with Lysol: perhaps this is year to sell house not with smell of fresh baking but with fresh cleaning products.

Run out back door, each to own car, as Sir John has errand at bank, while I have plan to drive a few miles away to walk in different neighborhood for a change. Consider parking up the street to watch for potential buyers, but decide this would be Bad for Mental Health, as would be likely to invent stories about people and why they would/would not want to buy our house. After pleasant walk, return to house, re-apply Lysol with special attention to switches, knobs, etc., free cats, begin to restore impedimenta of daily life.

App pings.

Hope surges: same people for second visit? No, different agent, so new group. Limit amount of restoration in order to save time next day. Litter boxes essential.

Second showing: same prep, light rain, no errands to run, so we sit in car up the street to watch for potential buyers, never mind Mental Health. Two cars, one for agent, one for . . . “Three people?” says Sir John. Appears to be couple plus tween-ager of indeterminate sex. They spend 23 minutes in house. Five minutes later, return to Lysol routine, get out litter boxes, put away fancy bedding, wish had seen first viewers.

Agent calls next day. First viewers want to know if built-in bookcases in Sir John’s study come with house. Yes. Perhaps now working from home, need home office? Hope stirs again.

First viewers make offer.

Offer insultingly low. Counter.

Viewers adjust offer slightly, say is final and best.

Consider waiting for better offer. But pandemic: market uncertain. Accept offer with “as is” clause and later closing date, to allow us time to find new place.

Buyers consent. House under contract. Next stage: the inspection.

Six on Saturday

It’s still Saturday in my time zone, anyway.

The apple tree is still blooming, and the scent is lovely, but I can’t photograph its perfume. We’ll begin, instead, with a new entry, the columbine that established itself by the back door. It’s pale pink, when it flowers.Next I have a time-elapsed sequence of coneflowers, one taken last week but not posted then, and one from today. I planted two fancy coneflowers last year, and this afternoon I found the tags giving their proper names, but I’ve forgotten (maybe Cheyenne?) and I have a cat on my lap, so I’m not going to go find the tags now.

Three, more evidence of clematis growing enthusiastically. The bigger one will be purple; it seems to be the kind that likes to be cut back, as I was firm with it a couple of months ago and now look at it. The smaller one is red-violet and seems not to be so happy about being pruned, but as the two share the trellis it was hard to know how to distinguish them.

Four, more violets. 

Five, the unknown yellow thing again. I don’t think it’s mustard, nor broccoli rabe, and yet there’s a certain resemblance to both.


I’ll end with another columbine coming up among the pinks that edge the front walk. I’m glad to see the pinks coming back, since when I uprooted the oregano last year, the pinks also took a beating. (Of course now the oregano is coming back all over the place.) 

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator.

When everything’s fine, but nothing’s right

It’s everything but party night!

I was thinking about summer work. One thing I need to do is evaluate a promotion application, and I thought “I’ll tackle that in July, and intersperse it with watching the Tour de France.”

Well, no. The Tour is on a two-month delay (if we’re lucky; the UCI still says it’s on, but the French sports minister has expressed doubts).

Sir John and I are fine. Much of my life is going on as it usually would: grading, paying bills, doing yoga at home (I gave up on classes well before the Pandemic), cooking, whatever. And then I have these moments when I’m discombobulated because I’m not rushing to finish off a conference paper, file grades, pack, and leave for Kalamazoo, or when I realize I will not be watching the Tour de France this summer. It’s fine, but it’s just . . . not right.

If you now need to listen to the Go-gos “Everything but party time,” here’s the link: