In the meantime, while this was all going on, I was trotting back up to the North Island on a reasonably regular basis to care for my little farmlet up there. It was obvious that the ‘Middelmost’ in the Rangitikei should be sold so I called the local real estate agent and started the process. She couldn’t believe her luck having such a lovely wee farmlet to sell and I couldn’t believe my luck as to how confident she was that it would shift as quickly as she predicted. My long trips north to keep the place in tip-top condition had taken on a new value but little did I realise what lay ahead.

A few days after I had returned from that trip north, the estate agent rang to say she had found a buyer – could I come back up? Naturally … I could. The couple was lovely. They appeared genuine, they went through the property with a fine tooth comb, they adored the gardens, and they had sold their house and were just waiting for the money to come through … would it be possible to move in within a month? Naturally … it would. The agent organised the documents over the weekend, had them signed by the couple, and then brought them out for me to sign. But she had made a couple of glaring mistakes – our solicitors were mixed up and the legal description was wrong – and I didn’t wish to put my name on a document that wasn’t correct. Off she went to repeat the process only to phone me two days later with the shattering news that the deal had fallen through. Apparently, and according to the devastated husband, their funds had come through to their bank account, and the wife had … “grabbed the money and run”. Naturally … I was gob-smacked!

The agent's next bright idea was to have an ‘open home’ but, after another trip north and two days of frantic cleaning, tidying, and titivating, all that happened was an afternoon of sitting on the veranda drinking coffee, eating savoury pinwheel scones, and making small talk with the agent. Nobody turned up. Naturally … I was annoyed.

A handful of ‘rubber neckers’ followed over the next few weeks which really didn’t excite me or the agent but, eventually, another call came and I raced northward again to meet a “deadly-keen-young-couple” who wanted a pre-purchase professional inspection done. Naturally … I would be as helpful as possible. But I didn’t realise what a horrible experience it would be and, by the time it was over, I felt quite violated.

The ‘professional inspector’ was an extremely horrid little man who literally crawled his grubby little hands all over my beloved little piece of paradise. He had a log book the size of the Auckland Business Directory and he went from room to room criticizing absolutely everything. I had been very polite and friendly when he arrived and I had offered to answer any queries he might have. His response was short, sharp, and rude so I backed off and left him to it. However, when I heard him bashing away at a large sash window in the lounge, I decided to intervene. When I asked what on earth he was doing, he accused me of having windows that wouldn’t open. I pointed out that they wouldn’t open until the second security catch (which he hadn’t seen) was flicked across. He snorted and wrote more in his large log book. I decided I was going to tail him for the rest of his ‘inspection’ and he made a point of pulling things out of cupboards and wardrobes supposedly to check for rat holes. My relationship with him deteriorated rapidly when he hauled personal items out of the bathroom cabinets, flushed the loo, and turned the shower on. I asked if he would like me to run him a bath! He eventually left and I rang the agent and told her to never put me through that experience again.

The inevitable happened. The deadly-keen-young-couple made a ridiculously low offer because there was “so much that had to be done to the place”. There was also an attached list of things I was to do before the sale went through – including the removal of a large tree because its pollen would cause hay fever. Good grief! I told the agent, “Middelmost is one hundred and thirteen years old. If they wanted a brand new standard house they should find another $500,000 and go somewhere else.” I took the property off the market.