Peace at Plenty

Peace at Plenty - Jo Kemp's 'It Happened to Me' at Plenty Cottage, Whitchurch Canonicorum

My mother only usually rang when she wanted something but this time it was different: “Jo dear, it’s got a four-oven Aga — and a cellar!”

Credit to my mother for tipping me the wink about Plenty Cottage coming on the market but why was she being so uncharacteristically helpful? She wasn’t. She was just doing what rocked her boat — viewing properties. Like something out of an old Western movie, estate agents would draw their blinds and hastily hang “Gone to Lunch” in the window when, riding bareback (metaphorically), she came into town hunting down what she called “The Particulars”.

Joanne Wessel, the somewhat elderly vendor of Plenty, didn’t want to move but was now in her 80s and “jested” that driving was becoming more hindered by black-outs. However, she was adamant she’d only sell to someone who truly loved her house. Not to that builder chap — too much jewellery — nor the Holiday Home lot but she did like me and saw it was love at first sight.

But there was a problem. There was another equally fervent buyer. Joanne had already agreed to sell to a charming lady who’d purred at her four-oven Aga and thought the cellar would be fun with the aid of a bilge pump.

By a trick of fate, we’d asked my brother-in-law (a builder) to call in at Plenty and assess what we’d be letting ourselves in for. While in the kitchen, he noticed my mother’s name posted (affectionately) on Joanne’s fridge. With my heart in my mouth, I rang Joanne later and asked: “The charming lady buyer wouldn’t happen to be Diana Phillips?”

“Oh yes!” enthused Joanne. I gently explained the relationship and how I’d had a long talk with my mother (I hadn’t) and we’d agreed that perhaps I was a more suitable buyer since my ancient mother owned only a tiny, ramshackle house, which was not even on the market, and Plenty needed some expensive TLC to stop it permanently slipping downhill into the Vale.

My mother capitulated sheepishly. “I did it for you dear,” she faltered in the practised tones of a ten-year-old: “So no-one else would get it.”

I didn’t altogether believe her, but graciously accepted her good intentions even though it cost us money; the opportunity for any fiscal manoeuvres on the price having vanished by her effectively bidding us up.

We moved into Plenty Cottage in 1996 to tackle subsidence, archaic plumbing, a swamp cellar (a free lovin’ venue for anything amphibian) and frightening “Old Wilf” DIY fixings circa 1950 but fortunately, there was another twist to come.

We’d also inherited an on-going insurance subsidence claim and because — and only because — we’d (inadvertently) paid the full asking price, we succeeded in winning what amounted to considerably more than the cost of my mother’s intervention.

Everyone was happy. My mother ceased hounding estate agents when she found a house overlooking the Cobb, Joanne blessed us, we set about fully restoring Plenty Cottage and all things amphibian re-located to the pond. Happy endings.

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