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Town Talk , I

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Feb-10-2004

I met our new neighbor this morning. I was by the door, chatting with the man from mumble- mumble, when the new neighbor came out of his house and asked mumble- mumble if he had time to look at their heating system, it wasn’t working. Knowing what I do about the house, I wasn’t surprised.

Before the war, it was a charming house, white with a lovely , clock- shaped facade. Unfortunately, that same war which found the back of our house lying beneath a church steeple, destroyed the facade of the house. They rebuilt it, quickly, cheaply, as was the wont in our town immediately after the war. Recently, clever real estate agents have been claiming that the house was rebuilt in what they call- something like- the Amsterdam School, or Style. They get away with it, but knowing what I do about this town and the original family who lived in that house, well, I think that that is just a bunch of real estate agent’s hooey. You know, that kind of double-talk, secret code language that real estate agents use, where ‘cozy’ actually means ‘microscopic’.

Our new neighbor looks like a nice man. A bit on the bohemian side , perhaps a bit of a mature hippie, calls Neil Young to mind. You, too, could have been our neighbor, lived right across the street from us, peeped into our windows on calm winter nights. But, truly, I wouldn’t wish that house upon anyone except a permanent occupant of my official ‘Shit List’.

The house has changed hands 4 times in the last ten years. When we first moved here, the house- which we call ‘The Ugliest House in Town’- belonged to the family who had lived there…forever. Since long before the war, for perhaps a hundred years. Forever. About 10 years ago, the elderly wife died and shortly thereafter, the house was fixed up and sold. Again and again and again.

Mr. Jo was around, even then ( Mr.Jo has always been around). He would hang out with their workers, come back and shake his head over his cup of coffee : the supplies were of an astonishingly poor quality and the workmanship, he told me, brought tears to his eyes.

So why do people keep buying ‘The Ugliest House in Town’ ? Well, for one, it’s always a good buy, comparatively speaking, for a house in our town. Despite being ugly, it is quite roomy- spacious even – by Dutch standards ( it is somewhere between 500 and 600 cubic meters inside). And on the surface, it always appears bright and fresh inside.

But what the new owners don’t know ( but quickly find out) is that the house has a serious problem with dampness. In fact, the whole east side of the house will soon lose it’s bright new wall paper, revealing a wall covered- for all three stories- with mildew and fungus.

Mr. Jo told me what caused this, and of course, I have forgotten the details, but it has something to do with the foundations of the wall and with the very high water level in our town. We had a couple of walls with mildew creeping up from the baseboards, but Mr.Jo mixed up some magic potion he learned about during his days as a ship’s carpenter and we haven’t one ‘wet’ spot anymore.

But the damp in that house is so bad that the first ( or were they the second? ) new couple who moved in found that their young son developed asthma from all of the mold floating around in the air of the house.

I feel sorry for the new neighbor. He looks like a nice man.

  1. Catherine Said,

    How awful! Here it’s routine to get a survey done of a place before you buy it – is that not the case over there, or does the damp problem just not get picked up? Oh that poor man.

  2. sue Said,

    Catherine, you can have a survey done here as well. Han and I did, and paid a pretty penny for it as well.

    The funny thing was – now that I know this house inside out- while the house did have major faults, they didn’t pick up on one of them. They did tell us that there was a problem with our foundation : buzz ! Wrong ! And totally missed the fact that the main cross beam to the house was, well, missing.

    Did you ever notice that our house has curvature of the facade ? That is what happens when you remove a major cross beam.

    I think the problem is that with older houses ( I would guess that the bare bones of the house across the street go back to the 1700′s) rebuildings through the centuries have made it impossible to clearly see the inherent structure of the house.

    Much like my CSS.

    Catherine, I’m sorry that it took me so long to answer this. I knew that I wanted to give you more than the minute of ‘up ‘time that I get every 5-10 minutes and so cleared out the under- one- minute- to- answer things first.

    Huh. Catherine, I really want the bearded brute to come home.

  3. Catherine Said,

    Hey you – no need to apologise! Hope he’s there now and that you all have a lovely weekend. Oh – did he come bearing gifts from the East?

  4. sue Said,

    Thanks Catherine. He did bring gifts, indeed. I am almost wordless.

    Maybe more later if I can get a picture that doesn’t catch the colors too well and make it look , a wee bit garish.

    Happy weekend toyou as well !

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