Monday, 16 March 2009

That Ordinary House 4 'Quagmire'

Not greedy but not stupid. We weren’t going to give the house away. This was the balance we were seeking. Twelve months earlier, in March 2007, we’d put dad’s affairs in the hands of the State Government Public Trustee. This was with the naïve belief that spending a few dollars of the inheritance would relieve us of the stress of decision making and the likelihood of chasing our tails. We didn’t want to be travelling down unknown paths into unpredictable dead-ends with the constant risk of becoming entangled in the undergrowth. That and the desire to avoid conflict..

My brother and I get on very well, but my assumption was that any family business involving money had the potential to become a quagmire. I didn’t relish the thought of coming face to face with my sibling charging headlong and at high speed down one of those jungle tracks in the opposite direction to me, papers in hand and a different set of assumptions fuelling his engine. Besides he’s bigger than me.

As it turned out the Public Trustee gave us plenty of time to consider our options.

The Public Trustee appeared to work on a failed sweatshop manufacturing model. It looked good from the outside. Lots of bolts of cloth on display in the busy front office gave it the impression of it being a hive of activity. Behind the scenes it was chaos. There seemed to be plenty of workers but no one quite had the full set of skills necessary to complete any one garment.

It felt like they only had one sewing machine which was constantly being used by different people, each resetting it to a new task – now overlocker, now button-holeing, now embroidery. Each required that the part-finished garment on the machine be dumped in the unfinished bin to wait until it emerged from beneath the growing pile of crap for its next addition.

The words prick and pin come to mind but they weren’t pricks though they did respond to pins. Every time I began to run out of patience I’d make a phone call. And hey presto there appeared a result. More often than not my query about progress was met with:
‘Funny you should call today Mr Capelin (deferentially offered) but I just happen to have your father’s file on my desk and was about to call you…..’
Miraculously, paperwork would arrive within days requiring yet another signature.

I am much too accommodating and the intervals between my pin pricking phone calls allowed the process to drag on and on and on.

Meanwhile the property market in Brisbane was raging. Raging towards the edge of an abyss as it turned out. Though we were as unsuspecting as every other punter.

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