Saturday, July 12, 2008

House Hunting Adventures

(Remember that any of the pictures below can be enlarged by clicking on them).

I've been offline for the last few weeks, mastering a military manoeuvre (man, I hate spelling that word!) called the House Hunting Trip. This is a perk of military service that gives you and your family a paid trip to the locale of your new assignment (posting in military parlance) to find a place to live. In our case that was purchasing a home of our own rather than rental accomodation in base quarters or "the Qs" as they're known locally.

Kay and I flew out to Halifax on July 3rd and proceeded by rental car to our destination, Canadian Forces Base Greenwood in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley. This was the first time in Atlantic Canada for both of us, and our first impressions were of a very diverse geology (the first bit north from the Halifax airport is reminiscent of the Canadian Shield/Muskoka region and then the Valley is totally different), friendly people, and relatively empty highways compared to Ontario. On nearing Greenwood, we were hailed on my cell phone by Padre Jack Barret, who is leaving the Greenwood chaplaincy team for a posting in his native Newfoundland. Jack has been my move sponsor (basically a move buddy/mentor) and has been a big help in getting us oriented to the area and the CF move system. When he heard we hadn't eaten, he insisted that we come to his house for burgers, even though it wasn't until 8pm when we reached him. Jack is an ex-sailor, a warm and wise guy, and in the days to come I realized he had great pastoral relationships with the staff at the base. He's a great example of the teamwork and camaraderie that I'm learning to appreciate in CF chaplaincy.

Over burgers at Jack's we met our realtor, Reg White, a guy with the personality of a Jack Russell terrier and the professionalism you'd expect of a CF Master Warrant Officer. Jack reminded us that we came prepared to work and based on our conversations with him before arrival we had ten houses to look at the next day. We made our way to our hotel feeling that we were in good hands.

Our hotel was (and nine days later, for me, still is) the Falcourt Inn, owned and operated by the Legard family. The Falcourt sits on a low ridge overlooking the Nictaux River, and the view from the front porch and dining room is quite lovely, as is the food.

The little meadow between the Falcourt and the river is home to a four Shetland ponies and a very assertive donkey, who were quite eager to come over and visit the first night that Kay and I went for a walk, no doubt expecting a treat. We got the hint, and the next time I visited them it was with a bag of carrots. We didn't ask permission of the owner, but the donkey promised that it would be our little secret.

Our first day with Reg White was a blur of eleven showings, one more than we planned on. After our experience of repeated showings of our London house since we went on the market on June 4th, we had considerable empathy for the owners of these eleven houses. Greenwood is a buyer's market at present, and almost all the houses we looked at were owned by military families who are moving on to a new posting. The military's relocation program will carry the interest payments for some time on an unsold house, but contrary to popular belief the military will not buy a house if a member is unable to sell it befor beginning a new posting. Reg told us that some of the houses we had looked at had been on the market for several months and the owners were getting anxious. I can relate, as our house in London still awaits its buyer.

Reg's biggest advice, given the dynamic of frequent (every 2-4 years) postings, was to look at a house in terms of its resale potential. The first day was a blur, and we saw many we liked but we ultimately ended up on what Reg called the cheapest house on the best street in a residential subdivision of Greenwood called Ravenswood. The area has a good mix of families so my son John, who is joining our family this summer, will have a good opportunity to make friends. The owners of the house had been on the market for three months. She is an Air Force officer posted to Ottawa and he is an Army sergeant, originally with 3RCR (no doubt explains the good feeling I had about this house and the immaculate condition we found it in) who is going to be a speaker and advocate for the CF's OSISS (Operational Stress Injury Support Services)program. They and their two daughters are clearly a loving and healthy family, and our negotiations with them were pleasant and positive.

So here's our new house, 1788 Cartier Court, Kingston, Nova Scotia, B0P 1R0, if you're wondering:

We made the original offer on Saturday, spent Sunday visiting St. Mark's protestant chapel on the base where I will preach and preside from time to time, and received a warm welcome from the small summer congregation there. We spent the afternoon driving north to visit the Atlantic Ocean, though this part of the valley does not have the choicest beaches for the Bay of Funday. We climbed out of the Valley and found ourselves on a small highway beginning at Margaretsville, which appeared to be a small collection of summer houses. From there we found our way to Morden and got out of the car to experience a wall of fog and a noticeable drop in air temperature, five degrees C at least. We had discovered the Atlantic.

Apparently the nice sand beaches are either further up or down the Bay of Fundy or on Nova Scotia's south shore. However, we agreed that it was pretty darn cool to be standing at the edge of an ocean, even if our summer clothes seemed suddenly inadequate for the chill. Here we are looking cool in both senses of the word.

Morden was originally known as French's Cross - this badly photographed monument tells a dismal story about the fate of some Acadians who fled to this part of the coast to escape deportation. No doubt they found this place more desolate than we did.

Monday and Tuesday were spent chasing various bits of paper and meeting with folks to get he home sale finalized. On the morning of Wednesday the 9th Kay got in the rental car to head back home to London for the next phase of our move, and I set off for work on my Canadian Tire bike, my mode of transporation for the next week until I head back as well for the move. Results of the House Huntin Trip - a new house in the bag, two mortgages (as someone said to me that week, when you use the word mortgage it should always be singular, not plural), a better sense of where we are going to be living, and the Atlantic Ocean discovered. Not a bad week.

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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