I guess we've always been a bit different, I don't mean odd ... or do I? Well, to start off with it's just my sister and me, so I suppose we are an odd couple, but I doubt we're alone in that. Oh! I know what you're thinking, well, you've been read too many stories on the internet, we are just brother and sister, nothing more. When we were kids we didn't worry too much about who saw what, not nudity, just not bothered, and since I've had to look after her it would have been difficult to be prudish, but nothing more. We have both been married and divorced, and neither of us have any children, and when my sister had an early stroke, fortunately not too serious, I looked after her. We decided that she should come and live with me; I had moved into our parents old bungalow when they died, and she joined me there, and as she recovered from her stroke there were times when I had to see more of her than would normally be expected, but nothing ever happened, and I don't think either of us wanted to anyway. So that's that out of the way, no more nasty thoughts.
Our parents had moved from the old family home in the country to a suburban bungalow, but it didn't really suit them, and truth to tell it didn't suit us either. It just didn't seem right with us living there either, almost as though our parents were still watching us. So we wanted somewhere that we could start out on our own.
It took a long time, but we finally sold the old bungalow, and set out to find that place that we could really call our own, and being used to using the internet that was where I started to look. And that's where being different showed. You see most people select and area in which they would like to live, and then they work out how many bedrooms they need and all the other things, big kitchen, study, perhaps an 'en suite', modern or olde worlde, all those sort of things, whereas our first requirement was 'isolated', middle of a field, and 'interesting', it had to be interesting, and it had to have a barn, or some sort of outbuildings. After that we'd look at the house, or bungalow, cottage, or even mobile home, and check that it's got two bedrooms, or three or four it didn't matter, and all the usual things like a kitchen, not to worry if there is no bathroom, that's something I can soon sort. No electricity or water? No bills then.
So you see, different, and that means you can't use the internet property sites because the first thing they want to know is how many bedrooms. Like normal people would ask.
We had picked an area, well several and even they weren't fixed, so we started our hunt on the ground. What we needed was an estate agent who knew the property on his books, but also had a knowledge of what else might be available and was able to think away from the normally accepted formula, outside the box, and to us that meant finding one who tended to specialise in rural areas and dealing with the agricultural community. These people will often know about things that are not actually advertised for sale, but may be with a bit of negotiation...
We were lucky in that our first choice of agent turned out to be sympathetic to our requirements, well, let's be honest he was going to get his fees from whatever deal took place, but Tim seemed a pleasant young man who knew his job, and provided us with several properties to look at. None of them hit the spot though, they were all good, just not quite good enough. Sitting in his office on the morning of the second day he told us that he had thought of something that might suit, if we had a cup of coffee he'd make a couple of phone calls and see if he could line something up. What, he wouldn't say. It took him about twenty minutes, and when he returned he was all smiles and ushered us out to his car.
A couple of miles from the small town where he had his office was a pretty little village, and about a mile beyond that we turned onto an unmade road and past a neatly kept cottage. An attractive blonde woman in gardening kit waved as we went past.
Half a mile or so along the track we crossed a bridge over a small stream and there before us was paradise. Sitting in a shallow east/west valley was a rambling part single and part two storey stone cottage with a barn and some other outbuildings nestling protectively on the north side. There was, we were told, about ten acres of land that went with it. Like I said, paradise.
"There you are," said Tim. "Valley Farm."
"Great," I said, "but how the hell can we afford this, it's gotta be way over our budget."
"Don't be too sure," Tim, the agent said. "Wait until you've seen it all and then we'll discuss it."
We commence the tour. There was certainly plenty of accommodation, although you tended to go through one room to get to another, and the place was habitable; just. The kitchen was rudimentary by modern standards and the bathroom was, um ... let's just say the first thing that would happen would be total replacement whilst we used my old caravan. There was an electricity supply, although the wiring in the house looked distinctly unsafe, and a telephone connection arrived on the same poles, and yes a reasonable broadband connection was available. Altogether there were nine rooms on the ground floor, although one or two were small, and there was a large entrance hall with a staircase to two further rooms on the first floor. Outside the garden area was overgrown and the land was just rough pasture and a small amount of woodland. The barn, and the other outbuildings suited me right down to the ground, storage, garaging, workshops. Like I said, paradise.
And better still we both liked it too. My sister, Sally by the way, could see all the possibilities for doing her things, as well as continuing to run her business - well, somebody has to earn our crust – and I should be like a pig in ... well, you know what...
We went back to the estate agent's office and talked it over. An offer substantially less than our budget would be acceptable we discovered, leaving us with enough to carry out the work required to make the place fully habitable.
We completed what paperwork was needed to seal the deal and decided that we would take another look before we left for home. We stopped at the start of the unmade road when we saw the blonde woman in her garden and introduced ourselves as her new neighbours. We chatted for a few minutes and she told us her name was Charlotte, that she lived there with her sister Letitia who was a solicitor in the nearby town. And yes, they were called Lettie and Lottie.
"Are you sure you'll be able to cope with the house?" she asked.
"I don't think we'll have too much problem," I replied.
"Well, I think you're very brave my dears, yes, very brave."
And with those words we took our leave and drove down to have another look at what we were buying.
After we had had a good look round again we sat on an old bench that was in the garden.
"It seems such an incredible deal," said Sally, "but you've a hell of a lot of work to do."
"Nothing I can't handle."
"I wonder what she meant by us being very brave?"
"Lots of work I imagine." I replied.
We completed the purchase a month later and proceeded to move stuff in over the next couple of weeks. Fortunately I had a reasonably large caravan that we would be able to live in for a few weeks whilst some of the work was done on the house. One of the first things I did was install a closed circuit television system which, even with four cameras and oodles of recording space didn't cost too much and allayed some of the worries we had about being somewhat isolated.
Of course we spent several nights in the caravan during this period, and it was on one of these that we were invited for a drink and nibbles by our nearest neighbours, the ladies at the end of the lane. This was the first time we met Lettie who was the elder sister. She was a handsome woman, very good looking, not what you might call a beauty, but very striking, and certainly not femininely 'pretty', no, that was Lottie. Lettie was slender, about five eight, with slightly greying auburn hair which I thought was quite long, but worn in a tight bun, whereas Lottie was five three, had a delightful slim but feminine figure and a cloud of wavy blonde hair. Lettie was the one who worked, and Lottie kept house for them. Both were in their mid to late forties, about our own ages. Their cottage was typical of the area built of stone with a slate roof, with a well modernised interior, and set in a well kept garden. They proved to be good company and very informative about the area, although strangely reticent about our predecessors at Valley Farm, about whom we learned nothing.
.... There is more of this story ...