When someone asked me the other day how our house-building was coming along, I said that so far it has been like doing an obstacle course in the dark; as we negotiate one hurdle another totally unexpected stumbling block seems to loom up out of nowhere.  Fortunately we have not been under any real time pressure so it hasn’t caused us much stress.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for someone who has sold their existing home and has a definite moving deadline ahead of them.

The consulting engineer seemed to have some challenges getting the ground levels right and that all took longer than expected but is now finally sorted out.  There is quite a slope to the property and the cottage, which will be built on the street level will be quite a bit higher than the garages and the house itself will be almost at the level of the park.

Our plans were submitted to the Johannesburg City Council for approval approximately 6 weeks ago and we hoped to have them approved and returned to us within 2 weeks, or 3 at a stretch.  As advised, we used a ‘plan-runner’ in the hopes of facilitating and speeding up the process.  The silence that followed our submission was deafening until eventually, about 10 days ago, we were informed that all the ‘systems’ in the planning division were down (and had been for a while) so no data could be captured and nothing could be processed.  This situation apparently lasted about 3 weeks.

And then two days ago, Bernard our architect was asked to go in to the offices to discuss one or two aspects of the plans so we are under the impression that the ‘systems’ are up and running once more.  This morning Bernard was able to tell us that he needs to make a small adjustment to the height of a verandah wall, he needs to show that the previous house had two driveways – one for the cottage and one for the main house – and that he needs confirmation from the parks department of the council that the property borders on open land…

All three requirements seem to be easy to fulfil (although we’ve learnt not to take anything at face value) and he hopes to get the approved, stamped plans back during the course of next week.

By which time we will be in another country in another hemisphere.

So we did have a slight sense of time pressure leading up to tomorrow, the day of our departure for England and Italy.  Last November, when we bought the property, we imagined that our new house would be almost at roof height by now and we were concerned that we’d be nearing the stage when finishes needed to be chosen while we were away.  Just shows how wrong one can be.   Now we’re quite relieved that no major decisions should need to be made over the  course of the next 5 weeks…

But we did want to get the ball rolling so we were pleased to have a very productive meeting with our contractor this morning – virtually the 11th hour – and to get the final contract for the building work signed.   So from as early as tomorrow, work can start on the retaining wall and foundations of the cottage.  At last.  And Mark, (the contractor) went so far as to say that he foresees May 2014 as being the likely completion month.  Finally we have some sort of time frame to work with.