“Today is a crossroads” thought Alice as she walked to open the door at the sound of Morgan’s car on the gravel outside. They were to meet Mr Yeeeeeoooo at Thudder House at ten thirty. He was due to take them through his detailed final report of the building & contents condition survey, after months of prodding, poking, creaking, tea drinking, ‘Aaahing’ and shouting ‘Yeeeeeoooo’. Alice was glad to have Morgan with her today for this morning session and again for the meeting with the Solicitor in the late afternoon. By the end of the working day, Alice hoped to have news of what could and should be done to the house, roughly how much money was required, and later discover how much would be available for the task ahead.
Morgan seemed quiet on the journey, as if struggling with a problem, but Alice did not probe. He had been so generous with his time so far, the thought that he would want to step back at this stage was not one she relished. They worked well together and she had grown to enjoy his humour, gentle teasing and helpful advice.
Mr Yeeeeeoooo, turned into the drive of Thudder house ahead of them, so they walked into the house together. Alice offered to make tea and bring it to the library. The table there was ideal for going through the paperwork. Alice had requested two copies, one for Morgan and the other for herself. Old Yeeeeeoooo said he would join them in a few minutes, he wanted to check something up stairs first.
“Come ‘till I show you what I found yesterday, after studying the layout plans for the umpteenth time.” Said Alice, leading Morgan along a hallway. “ You know that strange key we could not find a door for? Well I have found it and realise why we missed it.” She added as she approached the arched trompe l’oeil panel of stained glassed windows.
Slipping the key into a well disguised keyhole she unlocked the door and ushered him into a room that housed pews and space for a table at the far wall. There were three stained glass windows on the long wall. “This house must have been a convent before the Slythes bought it.” “The bell tower is at this end of the house, right above….”
A thunderous crashing sound interrupted Alice mid sentence. She was left standing with her hand pointing upward as in what look like an explosion in a confetti factory, Mr Yeeeeeoooo, for once silent, fell through the ceiling and landed in a heap on the floor in front of them. Looking from one to the other, Alice was not sure who was in the most discomfort: the heap on the floor, or Morgan, struggling to keep a straight face and stifle the laughter.
Mr Yeeeeeoooo protested, he did not need an ambulance, or a doctor and would be fine after a cup of tea. He made it sound like this was a regular occurrence. Once satisfied that there were no broken bones they brought him through to the library and set him on the half sofa, half arm-chair, by the fireplace. Alice went to the kitchen to make the tea.
The kettle was just boiling when Morgan came to join her. “I just had to get out of there, I’ll burst if I suppress this laughter any longer!”
“Morgan, I just realised that the room our friend descended from, is where I found the jewels!”
“You mean I should go back and check the dust in case there are any more gems in all that confetti? I wonder if that is the room where Andrei Shuyski stayed?” said Morgan.
“Morgan, right now I am wondering if our Mr Yeeeeeoooo Yates stepped into the gap where I found the gems as you call them, remember I lifted the loose floorboard and placed it against the wall. The one thing I do not need right now, is a claim from the man in the library!”
“Right I’ll take the tray. You lead the way. No more delay. We do not want to find a body in the library. We have no time for fun and games to day, Miss Scarlett!”
Mr Yeeeeeoooo, was at the table when they walked through the door, sorting his paper work and pushing two bundles across to the other side for Alice and Morgan.
Alice Handed over the monster mug of tea, not the well stewed variety the surveyor was used to, but a weaker brew for shock, with the usual bucket of milk and a bag of sugar. She asked again if he was in any pain.
To their surprise they saw him straighten up in the chair and smile. Now Alice and Morgan were in shock, they had never seen this man smile in all the time he was in and out of the house.
“I am fine. If there is one thing I know about, it is how to fall! Your ceiling was not the first I fell through, or the highest. I bounce like a sponge ball. I should explain. I set my heart on becoming an architect and needed funding to help undertake my years of study. Between 10-15 per cent of students in my year, did not continue their studies past its three year BSc stage. They could not afford the fees.”
He stopped to take a long slow drink of his tea.
“I have an alter ego. As a young child I wanted to be a stunt man, jumping off buildings or out of fast cars, like I saw at the movies. In my final years at school, I took up the hobby and loved it, seemed to have an aptitude and timing for the many stunts we were learning and undertaking. I was put in touch with an agent and worked with his team for my last summer, before the university year began. The more difficult the task, the more money I was paid. By the beginning of the term, I had my fees for the year and a little left over beer. I was employed for each summer while at college. Most of the work was out doors, so I was paid to have fresh air and exercise.
By the end of three years, I discovered my heart was not into designing new modern glass boxes. I was happy in the dusty dark corners of older properties with character. Advising clients about building or property issues, undertaking property and land surveys and valuations, monitoring the deterioration of a property and offering advice about remedial work that was the world I wanted. At that point I changed course and never looked back.”
“Surveying is an active job role. While I do have an office, I am more likely to make regular site visits and work indoors or outside whatever the weather. So despite my shape and size, I am fit and supple. Now, enough about me.
Before we begin, I would like to take a walk round the side of the house where I came down to earth with a bump. I do not remember seeing those windows before. How come I missed them? Perhaps either or both of you would like to come with me.”
“Yes! We will.” They said together.
“How come I missed the oratory in all the time I was here?” asked Mr Yates.
“I only discovered the room yesterday and was showing it to Morgan. When we come up the drive we park at the other side of the house, so never pass by in the car or on foot. The Rhododendron bushes are quite mature and tall so they shield that side of the house.” When I found the room yesterday, the sunlight shone through the stained glass spreading an arc of colour across the room like a rainbow. It was wonderful.” Said Alice.
“I had been checking the plans in great detail and something did not tally for me. I checked with my notes and counted all the rooms I had visited, measured and made notes for. The plans had one more, so it was out with my measuring tape, when I discovered where this room should be, I scoured the wall with my eyes feeling along with my hands at the same time. Thankfully my little finger found the keyhole, I immediately knew I had found the home for the extra key. Voilà: the oratory.”
Once they settled back at the table, refreshed from the short walk outdoors, it was down to business.
Mr Yates began:
“It is an elegant detached house on three floors plus cellar.
The roof tiles, beams and chimneys are in excellent order. The lofts would need to have the insulation updated to fulfil modern regulations. I suggest having the chimneys cleaned before any internal decoration begins and cages fitted to prevent the birds building nests in the chimney stacks.
When it comes to original features, this house has them all: Heavy outer doors, leaded windows to the front and sides, high ceilings, some oak panelling, exposed timbers, beams and some delicate plasterwork for detail. The other features included open fires with marble or timber surrounds complete with cast iron fire baskets, supported by ornate fire dogs. As to be expected with items of this age, there are some minor cracks and chips and a long crack to the hearth in the dining room which could easily be repaired.
The main feature to the hall is a nice wide sweeping curve as the staircase leads upwards and turns to the level of the floor above. The staircase and most of the hardwood floors are in good condition, the exceptions being in the kitchen, near the sink area and the floor I descended through today. The latter will need to be completely replaced and with it the ceiling below. I will return to the kitchen later.
“The room off over there,” he said pointing to the secret room, “Would make a cosy morning room, office or meeting room for small groups, with that elegant bay window to the front of the house, a bonus. I have come across secret rooms before with no windows, and that curtails their usage and value.
The doors and windows throughout are solid and in good condition. Three of the windows need new catches, I have listed them with all the other repairs and where to go to find matching replacements, we will come to that later.
The six bedrooms on the first floor are spacious and two with dual aspect with lovely light. The four rooms between them have dressing rooms. These bedrooms enjoy the use of 2 bathrooms and a further separate WC. A walk-in linen cupboard completes the first floor. All six rooms have space and are suitable for conversion to en suites. I particularly liked the antique carved mahogany fireplace with three panel over mantel in the master bedroom, it is of excellent quality and in great condition.
On the top level or attics, are two large bedrooms, with plenty of room to tastefully add en suites. There are other storage rooms up there that could possibly be converted to single bedrooms if wished. In one of them, I found a Victorian oak door with leaded stained glass panel, I’d thought it possibly originally formed part of a church vestibule.
My heavenly descent earlier, makes me think it had at one time hung at the entrance to that little oratory. I need to check out those 3 leaded stained glass lancet windows, I guess they are hand painted with an elaborate floriated design. I cannot tell you at this point, about their overall condition, or if there are any cracks. I will check them and advise you later in the week. I forgot when we were outside to check the walls at either end, since the room runs from the front to the back of the house. The room above has dual aspect, or now triple if you count the hole in the floor!” So why not the oratory at that far end? Maybe a doorway could be opened to the outside, if you wanted to run a coffee shop or serve afternoon teas.
With the mention of tea, he pushed back his chair and said he would like to break for a cup of tae.
“I’ll put the kettle on and make a few sandwiches, I brought the food in case we ran late” Said Alice.
Morgan gathered up the used dishes and carried the tray to the kitchen. “I am glad of a break too, he said. There is so much to take in and we have not started on the kitchen area, the out houses or the land about outside. This could take a week. I think you should phone the solicitor and re arrange the appointment for another day?”