So – after forgetting to post my last blog for several days, a lot’s happened in the intervening period, and my house-hunting mojo’s back! 😀
Following another fruitless day of property viewing in the Annapolis Valley – and, for sure, we did find one house that had been finished to an exceptionally high standard by its owner who’s a master carpenter, but in a less-than-thrilling location (thankfully, not another farmyard) – we decided to take another trip to the South Shore (the other side of the province). While the Bay of Fundy is spectacular in so many ways, it’s not the ocean.
So, last Saturday, waking bright and early to sunshine streaming in through our bedroom window (at 5:00 a.m. – we’re still adjusting to the much longer days north of the border), we leapt into action, bundled the dogs into the car, and headed off…. But I should first give you the prequel to this trip, and try to cut a rather long-winded story short so I don’t bore your socks off.
The driving license saga!
As there are quite a number of bureaucratic hurdles to negotiate when you move between provinces in Canada (some processes are dealt with provincially rather than federally), or returning from out of country, we knew we had 90 days to exchange our BC driving licenses to Nova Scotia but, as time can sometimes flash by in the blink of an eye, we decided not to waste a spare morning so headed to the relevant office in Digby.It was a good day – no waiting in line as there wasn’t another soul in sight. The woman behind the desk took our BC licenses to run them through the system, returned and said: “Peter’s has been cancelled, so it’s invalid.” WHAT! “Since when,” we asked. “Since last July.” Again, WHAT! “So, you’re telling us that for the past nine months Peter’s been driving illegally, and uninsured?” Yikes!!! She suggested that it was perhaps due to an unpaid traffic violation, but as neither we nor our vehicle were in BC nine months ago…. Returning to the cottage in great haste (with me driving), Peter called the BC licensing authority. “Ah, yes.” He was told. “We cancelled the license because we sent you a medical form nine months ago which was returned to our office as undeliverable”. (Yep! Because we’d moved, and the six-month Canada Post forwarding directive had already expired.) Here I should explain that Peter has a class 2 endorsement on a regular class 5 license, which was for driving the ambulance during his paramedic days, and every couple of years he had to have a medical in order to renew the endorsement. However, when he renewed our BC insurance last May (necessary when the car is out of the country but remains on BC plates), he gave them our new address – which was only entered into one part of their system. Now, I should also mention, that BC vehicle insurance and driving licenses are managed by two interconnecting offices, that apparently don’t talk to each other, nor do they work with integrated computer systems. Because, we had assumed, and likely so would many other people, that information is centrally recorded by the two departments. WRONG!
With me so far? Okay – so Peter asked why his class 5 (the regular license that everyone holds after they pass their driving test), had also been cancelled when it was only the class 2 endorsement that was out of compliance. “Ah! Well, all the classes on driving licenses are integrated, so when we cancel one, we cancel them all.” So the driving licenses can be integrated, but not their computer systems? Peter explained that he no longer needed the class 2, but DID need the class 5 reinstated enabling him to drive, and also required by the Nova Scotia office so they issue a new license. “Ah! Our office can’t do that, you need to call another number.” Of course, why didn’t we think of that!!!! The call-centre run-around!
Several phone calls later, and after speaking to various people who provided a diverse range of explanations as to why they couldn’t simply reinstate his class 5, and suggesting various ways that Peter could move forward, including attending a BC licensing centre in person, precisely 4,444 kms away by air, at a cost of over $1,500, plus a couple of nights in a hotel…. Grrrrrrr!!!! One person, trying to be helpful, said she would email an abstract of Peter’s license showing that there were no driving violations, which was something we’d already tried but it failed to reinstate his class 5.
At a complete loss, we returned to the Nova Scotia office, and this time a supervisor stepped in after hearing the ridiculousness of the predicament, picked up the phone, read the riot act to the BC office, heard that there was no reason why Peter’s class 5 should have been cancelled in the first place, reinstated it herself on the NS system and…. EUREKA! Peter is officially a Nova Scotia driver, and we love that lady! 😍
Once the licensing dust had settled, we started to wonder what might have happened had we been stopped by traffic cops during our drive through the US, who would have discovered, unbeknownst to us, that Peter was driving with an invalid license – maybe even a felony in some states! Chances are we’d have still been there trying to sort it out. To say nothing of being involved in an accident and discovering that we were uninsured, which would have been the case if Peter had been driving!!! Ye Gods – the wheels of bureaucracy sometimes turn in unfathomable ways! 🤬
The South Shore
Driving license frustrations sorted, we trotted off last Saturday to meet Cathie Billings, a Bridgewater realtor to whom we’d been introduced by phone, who turned out to be a pit-bull-angel in disguise, and with the entrepreneurial qualities of a venus fly trap when it comes to property negotiation! She’d already lined up four appointments to view houses we’d seen online – with some trepidation on our part given our previous experiences with online information and photos. However, you have to start somewhere. As it happened, our first viewing was our favourite house at the top of our short list, and also the farthest south in Lunenburg County. (Do go online and Google ‘Lunenburg, Nova Scotia’ if you’re not familiar with this place – you’ll likely be as gobsmacked, as we were. It’s akin to a real-life and historically sea-faring Legoland. And, for anyone who sails, the iconic birthplace of Bluenose – something else to Google. Today, there’s a precise replica – Bluenose II – on which I have no doubt we’ll be sampling a trip in the not too distant future.)
Anyway, to continue…. I realized my house-hunting mojo had returned when we stepped out of the car in the driveway of this house and I could hear the surf crashing on a beach (some 500 metres away, as the crow flies) and smell the ozone! Yep! This is what the ocean means: Sunny days strolling along a five-kilometre beach, burying your toes in the sand, swimming with the dogs to cool off during heatwaves, sitting snuggly in front of a wood-burning stove watching the storms roll in on winter days, leaning into the wind during a blizzard then waking up surrounded by a snowy wonderland…. Home! Okay, my romanticizing may be a long way from the initial sound of the waves and smell of ozone, especially if the house was a complete turn-off – but it wasn’t. In fact, it exceeded our expectations, along with the 50 acres on which it sat, so we cancelled our other viewing appointments, left the negotiating in Cathie’s more than capable hands, and within 24 hours we’d bought a house – albeit conditional upon a home inspection. Our relationship with Cathie was certainly compatible from the outset, because the minute a thought hit our minds, her realtor wheels were already spinning. By Monday she’d organized a home inspector, who said it was one of the best-built homes he’d ever inspected (okay – even if he says this to everyone, it’s still good to hear…) and couldn’t find anything deficient to report, other than a small window seal that had caused a miniscule patch of condensation between the double glazing. NOT a deal breaker, that’s for sure. He also considered that we’d bought ourselves an absolute bargain for the price (for perhaps the first time in our lives).
Of course, Peter was as excited by the 50 acres of mostly forested land, perhaps dreaming of becoming a lumberjack, especially as we noticed swathes of very handsome Christmas trees throughout the property. Do we need 50 acres? Nah ah! But it sure guarantees peace and privacy, plus I can picture myself choosing a Christmas tree for the house – digging it up, of course, so it can be replanted – and stringing lights outdoors to create our own Santa grotto around the house. Sigh! We’ll also have the magnificently woven corn-stalk Christmas star that we purchased in Mexico to hang on our new front door.
So, our current move-in date is May 29, but this may be brought forward if all the paperwork is completed, and the sellers are able to vacate the house earlier. Yippee!!! I now can’t help but give Cathie a big hug every time I see her. (Of course, this is all contingent upon contractual conditions being met before May 5. 🙏)
As it’s considered traditional for buyers to attend during the home inspection, we drove back to the area last Monday, leaving early so we could also visit the lawyer’s office. Then drove the 331, which runs along the coast, stopped at the famous Lahave Bakery for lunch (smoked salmon bagel for Peter, carrot and orange soup for me, together with a huge pot of tea and chocolate oatcakes for afters), and still had time to walk the dogs along a sun-bathed (albeit cool and breezy) Crescent Beach – a two-kilometre scimitar of golden sand – barely believing that we were a gnat’s whisker away from living here. (On this occasion we didn’t dip our toes in the surf as it would have been bloody cold! But, I should add, that due to the gulf stream drifting north from Florida, the Atlantic waters along the coasts of NS and Prince Edward Island are among the warmest in Canada during the summer months. Ha! Can’t wait for the warm water to start drifting…)
It’s not difficult to be excited by Nova Scotia – especially the people. Everything we’ve been told about their friendliness has been grossly understated as they appear to have an insatiable curiosity about everyone they meet – even the transplants from other provinces and countries. It took Peter 20 minutes to get out of a pet store having only popped in to buy some poo bags last week.
Then, last weekend, we needed to return to the store to look for a new dog guard for the back of the car. The one we had, which was used to hold back the tide of belongings that we’d packed into the car for the drive north (allowing the dogs to travel directly behind our front seats), gave up the ghost somewhere north of Dallas, Texas, so was held in place by knotting together the rear seat belts. The same poo-bag assistant was on duty in the pet store and informed us, rather sadly, that they were awaiting a delivery of dog guards. BUT! In a ‘eureka’ moment, she remembered one that had been ordered online, and returned to the store because two plastic clips had broken. (Perhaps, we later concluded, when the person initially installed it back-to-front – which creates a definite and recognizable breaking point – or maybe when their 150-lb dog hurled itself against the bars the first time it was ‘caged’). Anyway, after rushing to the stockroom, she returned with a bundle of parts, nothing missing, that she handed over ‘free of charge’ because it was simply cluttering up their floor space. So, returning to the cottage, and Peter never being without a roll of gaffer tape, it took all of five minutes for him to re-create a functional dog guard. Gee! A $200 dog guard for free – that doesn’t happen every day. Nova Scotia just gets better and better.
FINALLY – in the two days since I started typing (and please forgive any typos or grammatical blunders – the very speedy translation of words from brain to fingers sometimes suffers a FUBAR) – we ARE now the proud owners of a house as we’ve received the written report from the home inspector, a perfectly clean water test, and home insurance approval which is mandatory in Nova Scotia – so all the contractual conditions have been successfully met – three days early. 👏👏👏
Again…. YIPPEE! Our door will, of course, be open for guests this summer, as soon as our furniture and belongings arrive from Mexico – should be by mid-June – but undoubtedly that will provide the ingredients for a future blog.
Hugs to all – and I promise that more pics will follow with my next blog.
ps – Today I learned how to insert Emojis into my blog (it’s only recently that I even knew what they were…) and thought their judicious use offered a graphic illustration to emotional thoughts when words sometimes fail me! However, they’ve appeared as questionmarks, so I now need to learn how to use them!!!