Chapter 24 Retirement looms
The situation in the hotel trade was getting worse and the bank base rate was fourteen and a half percent, and I was paying three and a half over base. But there was a property developer looking for another site as he was just completing five blocks of flats just up the hill.
He was interested in buying the hotel to demolish it and build a block of flats on the site, I said that I wanted to sell the flats next to the hotel at the same time, and we negotiated that he should take out an option to purchase the hotel and the flats, we got to the stage where the solicitors had drawn up the document and the purchase price was to be 1 million and 50 thousand pounds.
I remember standing with him and a lady from the conservation department of the town hall beside the hotel and the conversation went like this she said “ look at those beautiful old windows with their half around tops, and I do love these old red roofs, and these beautiful cast iron railings, you must save those whatever you do” I don’t know what she was on but I do know it was too strong for her, one of the windows had been bricked up, the old roof she couldn’t see from where we were but in fact it was gray slate, and as for the rusty old railings I felt like saying if you want them take them with you.
The developer whispered quietly in my ear “this woman is costing you a lot of money”
What happened then could only be described as housing slump nobody had any money and you couldn’t borrow any, I had decided to retire from the hotel business and had canceled any bookings that we had for that year, so I put the hotel on the general market and concentrated on improving my block of flats.
All the flats had old wooden sash windows so I decided that I would fit them all out with plastic double glazed modern units, I was still fit an active so I did all this work myself, because of the housing slump there were plenty of people looking to rent apartments so I still had an income as a landlord.
I was not doing any business in the hotel but I was still having to pay the rates, despite my best efforts I still couldn’t sell it, one of the problems was I had to sell the hotel without the lift which I needed to service the flats, eventually some builders came along and as they were only interested in opening up the two lower floors as bars, they didn’t really need the lift.
The only problem was that I had to practically give it away and we negotiated at two hundred and fifteen thousand pounds, as the time came closer they gazumped me down to 200 thousand and then would only sign if I agreed to leave 25,000 outstanding as a loan, I was desperate to sell and they completed the purchase and took over in 1991.
I chose to set myself up in the best apartment in my block and with the departure of Ineke I had little or no desire to get involved with another woman, I was still paying regular visits to Studland naturist beach and during the summer would rent a room in nearby Swanage, I took a trip to Holland with another of my granddaughters and a solo trip to Cap de Agde.
With the sale of the hotel it was necessary to divide the property on each floor and build a separate entrance to the apartment block, the lift had a three phase electricity supply from the hotel, so I had to rewire from the switchbox in the motor room, and down the elevator shaft to an isolator in the hallway, then lay ducting out to the road so that a new three phase supply could be connected by the power company, I had fun digging out the front garden with an excavator that I hired so that we could have a car park in the front.
I was spending a lot of time on the computer so I decided I would set up a charity site which I called thankstoyou.com it was an interesting exercise and finally had nearly 300 Internet shops covering practically everything, thankstoyou.com never really got started but it was a good exercise. I was also keeping my eye on opportunities for buying and selling domain names, I noticed that one .com car sales site had not registered the .co.uk name, I registered it for the few pounds that it cost and a few months later they contacted me and paid me seven hundred and fifty pounds for the right to use the domain name.
Then the UK national lottery started in 1994 and I decided that it would be interesting to write a program in visual basic to forecast the results, and for a few years this became my winter hobby, the program got more and more complicated as time went on, I created a limited company called Chosen Options Ltd and became a CEO, people would pay me for the forecast sheet in postage stamps, they sent in three first class stamps and I would post them back the forecast and keep two first class stamps, I was still using those stamps years later.
I also sold an executable version of the program to a man in Israel, he never asked for any help so I presume he managed to run it satisfactorily, there was a company running a competition to try to find which of the many forecast programs produced the best results, I entered this competition but for some strange reason my program did not do as well as some of the others, another of life’s little mysteries.
Here is a view of one of the screens in my forecast program, looks very complicated but was easy to run.