Harriet had made an appointment to meet Mr Chow at the workshop to discuss the contract and had arrived in good time to look around. The workshop was still having renovations carried out, rows of strip lights were being installed on the ceiling and most of the stone wall outside had been taken down for rebuilding, exposing a view of trees and a hedge. There was scaffolding around the outside of the building and scaffold towers on wheels inside. Electricians pulled cables through conduits while carpenters repaired window and door frames. Harriet looked on and enjoyed the thought that one day she could be using her tools in the workshop too. As she watched the various trades people busily moving building materials about and tidying up the space as they worked Adam nudged her. “Looks like something from that DIY TV show, with all these builders everywhere. Any sign of the camera crew?” Adam winked.
Adam had come with Harriet, as much out of nosiness as support, Amanda would have liked to come along but was too busy at work. Adam craned his neck to look up at the scaffold as builders repointed the front wall.
Mr Chow walked through from the back of the workshop and handed Harriet and Adam a hard hat each. “I am glad you made it, Harriet. And this is?”
“I’m Adam, and old friend of Harriet’s.” Adam reached out his hand. “Harriet’s told me so much about your workshop, it is all very exciting.”
Mr Chow shook Adam’s hand. “Oh yes. It is quite a project, and I am looking forward to seeing it alive and back in use again.” My Chow replied, “But let me take Harriet for a proper look around and a chat. Do come along if you like, or have a look around the rest of the building.”
He then led Harriet out through to the back door of the workshop to show her the garden space at the back. It was less garden and more builders yard at the moment but there were clear signs of a railway track having been run around in an oval.
“I am removing all the old track and building a new layout, and what I’d like you to do, is to carry out some of the woodwork for me as and when you have time in your own work.” Mr Chow explained. “There’s a building going here, and a pond with a deck, a fence running around there…” He indicated with a broad sweep of his arm “Various structures, signals, props. It will all be in miniature and I can provide detailed plans if you want, or you can interpret as you see fit, as long as it fits in with the overall feel.” Mr Chow pondered for a moment.
“It’s mainly so that I can do the bits I am most interested in doing, and this stuff… well I could do it but it would be nice for someone else to do for me just so that I don’t have to. And, of course, I can pay you for the work you do.”
Harriet thought Mr Chow appeared to be allowing her to be creative as well as just working to his plan, and paying her too! How was that going to work?
“And there is no real rush, it will come in fits and spurts no doubt. The main thing will be that someone will be here to keep the place occupied and in use, caretaking it, if you will, reporting back any issues, maintenance, having lights on so people know it isn’t abandoned or unoccupied any more.” Mr Chow continued. “To keep it legal there will need to be payment for the rent of the workshop, and I propose a peppercorn, a token, to be paid on demand. I think that will keep the legal bods happy.”
“How much is the ‘peppercorn’? I’m assuming it isn’t an actual peppercorn, or is it?” Harriet asked.
“Oh, it will be a nominal sum of maybe a few tens pounds, or a hundred pounds, or whatever small amount it needs to be to satisfy the solicitor, payable once a year if, and only if, I demand it. It is really just to show that you are paying for the use of the building.
And I am paying for the carpentry services you are providing. It is in the draft contract and you can still negotiate and adjust the details before we sign it. Do get it checked out to make sure you are happy.”
Harriet accepted a copy of the contract to take away with her to read and continued walking around the grounds at the back of the workshop as Adam strode out to join them.
“It’s a great building you have here, you are putting in a lot of investment into it.”
“Thank you, Adam.” Mr Chow replied. “It’s become a sort of pet project of mine. The building has been in my family for a long time. It was my Father’s, he bought it as a ruin when he was young and built up his business here. I failed to look after it after he passed and I am making up for it now.”
“Wow! What did your Father do here?”
“He was a building contractor back in the sixties and seventies, he pretty much rebuilt this place and then used it to store plant, equipment, and materials for his business. He had his office in the town centre back then, before the shop values shot up. When he retired we kind of forgot about it. And then after he passed I found it was mine in his will and I didn’t know what to do with it for ages. The railway was something my Father built for us when we were kids. I had forgotten about that too but I think this is a good time to bring the place back to life.”
Adam and Mr Chow continued to chat for a while before they caught up with Harriet again.
“How’s the contract look, Harriet?” Adam asked.
“So far so good, we can check the details later but I think I will be happy here. Mr Chow will be in and out doing stuff on the railway, but the workshop space is mine to use as I need to. I have a few things to do myself to tidy it up and make it my own, but Mr Chow will take care of any reasonable changes I might need.”
“So how much of this do you get to use? Is it just the workshop?”
“I get the workshop, the studio space upstairs, and there is a small kitchen area, and a wet room toilet, and a storage room, that’s all in the newer buildings off at the side. And there will be a balcony and fire escape to go in for that door up there. I think the only thing I have to keep in mind to keep clear is the shutter at the back of the workshop, there is a railway line running in there for getting the trains inside the workshop for repairs when they need it. That’s it isn’t it Mr Chow?”
Mr Chow confirmed that was the case and then, looking at the site foreman, excused himself so that Harriet and Adam could continue their look around and discussion.
“So how long before you can move your stuff in?”
“It might be another month, but more like two, that will be getting into Christmas so possibly into the new year I reckon. That is ok for me, it gives me time to work out what I do then. In the meantime I can book half an hour or so with a solicitor to have a look at the contract to make sure I’m not missing anything important.”
Daisy spent most of her day with estate agents and house viewing. She wasn’t planning on any particular house but there were a few that were interesting. There were two different agents to go to and she had made appointments to fill the whole afternoon. Mostly she was just being cheeky and viewing to see what the houses were really like on the inside, for the money they were asking, and getting a feel for the viewing process and what she should be looking for. Daisy had taken a book out from the library about repairing old houses and had been learning about common faults that could be easily spotted with a keen eye. The book was a bit dated, the tradesmen pictured in it wore wide collar shirts and ties, and had moustaches, but she felt that subsidence and dry rot was the same thirty or forty years ago as it was now. It was also a good chance to have a look around each area in person while an estate agent did all the driving. Daisy wanted to keep an open mind about where she might buy but also knew that some of the houses she was going to view were also unlikely to be affordable or desirable once she had seen them in person.
At the end of the afternoon she returned home exasperated.
“Was the house viewing good today, Daisy?” Ingrid asked, as Daisy trudged back into the house.
“Ugh! Why does it have to be so hard?” Daisy exclaimed as she went to make herself a cup of tea. “Two of them cancelled as they had accepted offers already. One looked like they never cleaned, ever, it was horrible! My shoes stuck to the floor and I could hardly breathe for the smell! Another one, heck, even I could tell it needed structural work! The agent should have made that clear on the advert. The only nice one, the semi on Hargreaves Street, decided that as there was so much interest they would only be looking at offers well over the asking price. I was hoping to able to knock a few thousand off so I might be able to think about it! Oh, and that one with the mile long garden? Don’t go there. No, seriously, just avoid the whole road! Creepy doesn’t even come close. I’m sure that when he sells it he will keep a set of keys, and there will be secret cameras everywhere!”
“And bodies in the garden?” Ingrid suggested.
“Oh, don’t! I’m worried enough having been seen in there! He probably has video of me in every room now. I’m not convinced those smoke detectors are real, especially the one in the toilet!”
Daisy hoped she was just exaggerating but also in the back of her mind she was also glad she wasn’t there on her own and wondered if the estate agent felt the same.
“When I do find somewhere I’m changing all the locks as a priority!”
“That will be a good idea in any case. You can never be too sure, especially if the seller know you are a woman on your own!
I always wonder, why you are on your own? Sorry, that is personal. Forget I ask.”
“Oh, don’t worry. I just like keeping personal stuff to myself, not to be secret about it but I just don’t push my private life on people, not that there is much of it.
I’ve just not met anyone that really, you know, excites me. I’ve had a few boyfriends, but mostly they were interested in having a ‘fashion model’ for a girlfriend, and were only after a bit arm candy to impress their friends. They weren’t really interested in me for myself and, well, after they had their fun it was just boring. I mean, they were boring to me, only interested in one thing, and football. I guess I’m not really a romantic kinda person either. Never really looked at a man and thought ‘Oooh he’s hot!’ or anything like that. They all kinda look the same ‘nothing’. They’re just meh, so that probably doesn’t help!” Daisy gave a bored look and mimed a yawn.
“Never? No celebrity crush?” Ingrid looked concerned for her friend.
“Nope, can’t really see what the interest is really when you don’t know each other, and probably never will. I mean, there are men I like because, like women, they are actually interesting to talk to and have something to say, and are interested in stuff, and I already know them. But they are in relationships and I think that means they’re not really looking at me in the same way as single men. But I am also not interested in them for, you know, to go out with, cos they’re already spoken for, and, well, cos they are still just, you know, men.
But random celebrities? Nah, no chance, and probably even if I’ve met them I know nothing about who they really are, or what they are like as people.”
“That is unusual.”
“Yes. Maybe you have cats instead, like a… mad cat lady?”
“Oh no, not cats, they give me allergies. Fish maybe?”
“And chips? I am hungry now. Food delivery tonight? Fran has wine and none of us are going to church in the morning.”
“Yeah, why not. Lets make a party of it! Fran will be home soon.”