Saturday, May 9, 2015

General Election

Friday 8 May 2015

Cloudy with sunny period
18 degrees

Get up extra early to see how the general election in the UK is progressing.  All through the six week campaign, the polls had given neck and neck rating to the Tories and Labour, with a very strong support for the SNP in Scotland and the UKIP in the UK.  The exit polls were shocking, to say the least.  Almost immediately, it became apparent that the Tories were in a far stronger position than had been polled.  By the end of the day, the Tories had an overall majority and a surprised and delighted David Cameron was back at no. 10.  The SNP won all but three seats in Scotland.  The Liberal Democrats paid the price of going into coalition with the Tories and their supporters deserted them in droves – in the North their vote went to Labour and in the South to the Conservatives.  They lost over 50 seats and ended the day on just 8.  Even the DUP of Northern Ireland had more.  UKIP, despite polling over three million votes, obtained just one seat and Nigel Farage, the person we all loved as long as there was no possibility of him getting into power, was not elected.

By ten pm, Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems, Ed Miliband of Labour and Nigel Farage of UKIP had resigned.  It had been one hellova day in politics.  I shall miss Nigel, pint in hand and smiling manically.  OH said that Ed reminded him of Wallace from Wallace and Gromit. 

I went into town first thing and bought some veg plants – beans, sweet peppers both long and short varieties, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and herbs.  It was a bit of a bean fight (lol).  OH looked peaky and had a bad headache.  He had a rather severe hair cut when we were on holiday and decided to compensate for the lack of hair on his head, by growing a beard.  It was mostly silver and it made him look ancient.  He decided this morning, whilst I was out, to shave off the white bits and has only left a small ginger moustache.  Combined with the no. 1 haircut and his naturally belligerent nature, he looks like something out of a 1970’s domestically produced TV police series.  I despair but say nothing because if I say I hate it, he will deliberately retain this ghastly growth and it will torment me for weeks.  We decide some sea air may do him good so spend the day on the coast.  The weather is glorious and people are sunbathing and OH is considerably revived by coffee, tapas, and the sight of some lissom young ladies wearing the short end of not a lot of clothing.

I get an offer on the property which the Russians had supposed to be buying.  I had told the people how much they needed to offer in order to be in with a shout and they offered well below it.  The owners refused and are now really pissed off.  They are currently in Spain and trying to persuade the estate agent there to extend the period of the 3000 euros deposit.  We could do with that system over here.  At the moment, all I have done is spend a lot of time, effort, correspondence and phone calls and had my holiday interrupted, and I haven’t earned a penny on it.

It’s a miracle!

Thursday 7 May 2015

Hot and sunny 26 degrees

Get up early and by 9.30 am in town and waiting for the SFR shop to open.  Obtain a 3g key to see me through until if and when we get internet back.  Ring SFR and complain that no one from France Telecom has rung to fix an appointment and get a man who is the French equivalent of the sales assistant played by Rowan Atkinson in Love Actually.  ‘Tis just the work of an instant’ He insists on going through the whole checking rigmarole before actually admitting that I have a phone line problem but, to give him credit, does actually fix up an appointment for this coming Saturday.  Yet another week with no internet and no landline and a mobile which doesn’t work at home.  I don’t know how anyone is supposed to run a business in this country.

My colleague rings me to say that she has received the offer letter signed by MD and she emails it through to me but I can’t print it because I have no internet at home and she can’t print it because she has no colour ink and is working all day and tomorrow is a public holiday.  I email it through to the clients and say I will see them Saturday and they say they will print it.

She also says that the clients which we share, and with whom OH and I spent eight hours on the day before we went on holiday, say they do not want to work with me anymore because I did not tell them that I had colleagues in the area.  What bollocks!  I even showed them my colleague’s houses!!!  They have made a request to see one of my properties which I know they won’t like and my colleague knows it too but rather than talk them out of it, she is going to drive 75 kilometres there and 75 kilometres back and waste a day.  OH says that is no way to run a business and I am inclined to agree.

I get a text from the people who came to see our big rental unit and they want to see it at 11 am.  Feel wildly excited and totally unable to concentrate.  Wander around the market and chew my finger nails.  The couple arrives and they still love it and say they have two other properties to revisit.  One of them is in a village with a huge quarry so I manage to knock that one out of the running easily.  The other one is more expensive than ours and has management charges which make running costs annually more expensive than ours.  They leave and say they will make an offer next week.  I can’t ring OH and tell him because the sodding internet and phone is still off.
Meet the electrician at the beautiful villa which has been offered on by the NZ ladies and he is stunned by the volumes.  ‘Oh la vache’ he keeps exclaiming.  I tell him the estimate must not terrify the new owners and to keep it basic.  He says he will do his best and leaves, looking back and shaking his head at the idea of anyone taking on such a property.  It is fortunate for the heritage of France that there are foreigners who are prepared to take on older properties and lovingly restore them.

Quick lunch and then off to see a chateau.  Built of pale golden Angouleme stone, it has twin towers and an impressive façade.  A fleur de lys flag waves lazily in the breeze.  The owner is a bit of a character, to put it mildly.  OH waits until he has gone to print something and asks if he is somewhat grumpy and I say he has not met enough French people.  There are more odd people over here than you can shake a stick at.  The rooms are spacious with beautiful, ornately decorated plaster mouldings and ceiling roses, marble fireplaces and tall windows, whose glass – hand blown – distorts slightly the view.  It is very good order apart from the electricity which is absolutely terrifying and fizzes every time the man twists a button to turn on a light.   He then shows us a house belonging to his brother, which is just next door.  It is also vast and I start feeling really tired.
En route back home and the phone rings and it is the people who saw the flat this morning and they want to revisit.  Have a quick cup of tea and then back down town and to chew my remaining finger nails.

The couple arrive and the man makes an offer which is on the low side but just about acceptable and then says he wants to pay ten percent ‘en liquide’ (cash).  I am very unhappy about this and all my fizz departs.  I say the only way we could accept this is if he pays us before we sign the compromis.  He makes a moue and then says OK and I say I will talk to OH.  He leaves and OH arrives and we agree and then I ring back the clients and agree terms.  He says he can come down the third week of June.  Just wish we could have done it on normal terms but a sale is a sale and it has been five long years.  The French just don’t ‘do’ stairs.  Only 42 of them but you would have thought it was the Eiger.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

We meet a Transyvanian barista and the Pyrenees are spectacular

Wednesday 6 May 2015
Fresh 19 degrees sunny
Get email from Russian in response to my request to prove that he will be receiving the funds and asking as to their provenance.  He has replied that he does not see why I need proof of funds or to know where they come from.   We are now convinced there is something very dodgy about him.  I speak to the other interested clients in the afternoon and they are very happy that they are back in with a chance to buy and say they will come back tomorrow with an offer.

We ponder why the Russians would have driven over here, twice, in their car.  Perhaps they were dropping ‘stuff’ off on the way?

OH is in extra bad mood as the main computer will not switch on and he has all his music stored on it.  He has an unreasonable hatred of Apple iCloud and is now heartily regretting his luddite tendencies.  He is also still annoyed with WF for being unemployed and the internet and phone still being offline.

We set off in stony silence therefore, to see the large property with rental units, far south into the mountains.  The day is stunningly beautiful with the snow on the mountains and the azure blue of the skies and we stop for coffee in a town just before the property and are given a great cup of cappuccino by a guy who, it transpires, is from Transylvania.  He says the French are xenophobes and never come into his bar.  He gets all other nationalities coming in regularly.  He is a great lover of coffee and shows us the beans which he buys from Italy.  They are rich and brown and emit a heavenly aroma.  He says French burn their beans to a black colour which is why French coffee is always acrid.  He says his wife is a dentist.  Fortunately OH restrains himself from making any comment about fangs or blood.

Suitably fortified, we head to the property and it is in a valley with the most stunning views of the mountains.  There is the main house with a large three bedroomed gite and a separate three bedroomed gite.  Their potager is a thing of beauty and not a weed in sight.  We have lunch in Leclerc cafeteria which has a staffing policy of employing people who major in being surly.  If I had internet, I would be giving them extremely unfavourable feedback.  Crème brulée was excellent.

Back home and then down to the rental units where I attempt to do some more work.  OH comes down after a couple of hours and shouts at WF over Skype and then goes fishing.  I go to drop off keys from yesterday’s abortive visits at my colleague’s house.  She offers me wine and crisps and her little girl is the most ravishing creature – like Leslie Caron.  Her husband comes home and is rather disagreeable because we are drinking wine and eating crisps and no food is ready.  I leave them to it and get home and the house is a pigsty and the dog has not been walked.  I am also now in bad mood.  I am getting a cleaner.

OH in very bad mood

Tuesday 5 May 2015

18 degrees.  Fresh with scudding clouds

Terrifically noisy and disturbed night with a gusting wind trying to wrestle the shutters off their hinges.  Feel ancient as the alarm sounds and, aargh, it is yet another day. 
All the tiles are still on the roof and no trees are down.  Only a few birds are tweeting.
Down town for 10 am and do a visit on the big rental unit.  Had rather heated discussion with OH as I think we should just accept any offer and get rid of it and he is insisting on 115000.  If I am offered 100000 I am shaking hands on it and he can rant all he likes.  The couple are waiting for me at the big hotel car park, and surprisingly for this venue, are on time.  I take them around the side of the building so they can’t see the gypsies who are lounging on the pavement and smoking.  I wish they would get some caravans and sod off.  They are the non-mobile variety of gypsy, endemic to our otherwise lovely town.  Not a one of them works for a living.  I never imagined I would become the sort of person who would think ‘my taxes are paying for people like them to sit around on their backsides and claim benefits’ but there you go, I have and they do.  My phone rings and I let the people into the unit and talk and when I catch up with them, they are enraptured.  The lady says the unit is superb and the man is smiling and says he will make an offer – probably – but they have other properties to see.  I feel quite faint with shock.  They are heading back to Nantes on Friday and say they will contact me before.

WF has driving test today.  Text him but no response.

In afternoon go south to a pretty town on a river and see an absolutely horrible house which is just about fit to knock down and start again.  The owner claims to have spent 182000 euros on it.  I really can’t see where it has been invested and have to inform the owner, regretfully, that it is not the sort of thing my buyers would be interested in.  The windows were hanging off their frames, nasty floating parquet flooring, bare boards on the floors in the bedrooms, wires hanging out of the walls, partially plaster boarded partitions to finish.  It would be a brave person who would take it on.  Back home for quick cup of tea then out with young French couple.  We see three houses and are approximately ten minutes in each and nothing is appropriate.  At least they are decisive.

Finally get hold of WF and he has not passed his test and alas is unemployed again.  He is surprisingly upbeat which is more than can be said for OH who is very annoyed and I get all his frustration because he has no one else to express it to.  I am far too tired for this so we have words.

Watch The High Art of the Low Countries.  There is something about the lovely Graham Andrew-Dixon’s voice which puts me into a coma and I have to go to bed at 10 pm.  I could have done without going on holiday – I seem far more tired now than before I went away.

Hanging about

Monday 4 May 2015

Overcast 25 degrees very sticky and humid

Appointment this morning with a colleague from the Lot et Garonne who has some clients who want to see a chateau I have for sale in a neighbouring department.  The owner is a feisty German lady well advanced in years who has a passion for politics.  She is a proud Prussian as is, apparently, Angela Merkel.  You risk losing easily an hour if you make the mistake of mentioning any form of politics.  Her tenuous grasp of both English and French does not hold her back from expressing her many and varied, and rather alarmingly right wing, opinions.

I get there early and wait in a bar and drink coffee and my colleague has got lost at the infernal intersection in the city an hour to the north which sends people east instead of south but he is en route.  There is wifi in the bar and I get an email from the Russian saying he cannot pay the deposit and is not sure when he will get the money, if at all.  This is as I feared.  I ring my notaire and she is very unhappy.  I text the owners and then email the other buyers who were gutted to have lost out and they are thrilled and say we must talk on Wednesday.  Alas they have come via an introducer who takes 30% which is extraordinary for someone who does nothing more than pass on a telephone number and email address.  I must go into that line of business in my next life. 

It transpires, when my colleague finally arrives, that he does not have a mobile number for the clients and they are very, very late.  He also has no signal at all on his phone.  Finally, the clients ring head office who ring me and give me a different mobile number and we get hold of the clients who are then two hours late.  I decide to show my colleague the property and then leave him to it.

Back home, starving and exhausted.   The internet and phone is still offline.  I really don’t know how I am supposed to work in these conditions.  Go down to the rental units and work there.  At seven, bored out of my skull, walk through town and am tempted to take an apero so have a kir and think how pleasant it must be just to sit with friends and drink in the early evening with the sun shining and some nibbles to nibble on.  Tear myself away after an hour and find OH frying up eggs and bacon and beans when I get back.  We really need to do a big shop.  There is nothing in the cupboard.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A day of solid toil

3 May 2015
Overcast and very hot and sticky 26 degrees

Awake and again feel exhausted.  The air in the bedroom is close and I have been battling with the sheets all night.  I throw open the bedroom window and the air is sticky and damp. Few birds are singing.  We drink tea in bed and the phone rings and the neighbour has started strimming his lawn and it is still only 9.15 am.  People ride by on VTTs.  (vélo tout terrain)  Dont these people do grasse matinées? (lie ins).  The phone call is from the owner of the house which has just received the mean offer.  She says she wants 20k more or she is not selling.

OH parks himself in front of the tv to watch recorded football.  I clean up the kitchen, hoover downstairs, clean downstairs bathroom and make beds and sort and put away laundry. Have lunch and close eyes for fifteen minutes.  Then tackle the ironing mountain.  The dog is monumentally bored and doesn't care that Columbo is closing in on the fiendish young lady who 'accidentally' shot her brother and is now taking over the family firm.  OH is still out battling the greenery on his tractor.  Take the dog up the lane.  The Spring flowers are magnificent.  Solomons seal ramps thickly under the trees and deep purple aquilegias glow on the banks.  Tiny blue faced forget me nots shine out of the dark undergrowth.

My neighbour drives up on his tractor and says hello.  He also says he may be laid off from his job at the gas factory in August.  He is 60 and unlikely to find other work and has three years to go before retirement.  He has already received an estimate and says it will be 1000 euros a month.  He does not think that this will be enough to live on.  He also says that he has thought of a way to fill in the massive hole on our land, made by an idiot landscaper when we were out working.  We had asked him to fill in and smooth an area behind the barn to make a parking area and asked him to take soil from an area by the trees.  Instead of taking soil from a widespread area, he had dug a large hole.  We have spent years throwing in all manner of things which needed to be disposed of, and it has been more convenient than going to the tip but now it is looking like a tip itself.  

I once accidentally made 'fire in the hole' by setting fire to a little bit of the rubbish in the hole.  The fire and heat was considerable and the flames were a good twenty feet high.  I scared myself to death and spent an hour running back and to from the house with buckets of water. OH came home from fishing and found me black faced and manic.

Our neighbour said that the previous owner of our house had made a 'butte' on the land (I always wondered why there was a strange flattened area) in order to put on pig housing but had never gotten around to it.  He could take soil from that area and fill in the hole. Excellent.  I gave up walking the dog in the direction of the woods; the grass was hip height and the path was deeply rutted and muddy.  Ticks and snakes abound.  Went back up the road and met another neighbour.

This neighbour has escaped the farming life and lives in Cap d'Agde.  He showed me his new quad bike and prune faced wife.  She obviously has never experienced the farming life and doesn't like the look of it.  He is strimming the grass around his fathers former house and says he is back to plant maize for the last time as he will be selling up everything.  I remind him that I am an estate agent and we swap details.  He says he wants to sell the little ruined house just up the lane.  All of his properties in the area could be described as ruins as the rooves are all caving in.  The little ruin, in addition to no roof, also has no windows or doors.  I suppose if the price is low enough....

Back home and make roast dinner and weed for two hours.  Fall asleep twice on the sofa before OH insists I go to bed.  Preston North End manage to make a very hard job of beating lowly Colchester and lose 1-0.  In the play offs AGAIN.  They have lost the last nine playoffs.  Not a good prognosis.

Internet off again.  I am never going to get the group newsletter done.

Dreams of another dimension

2 May 2015

Cloudy and sticky warm
22 degrees

Awoke from dreams that I was in another dimension where time didn't exist.  Alas, in this one it was already late and I had to bundle things into my briefcase and go and see a property.  It was rather further than I had anticipated and in a different area.  Built in the 1980's it had everything a French person would like, and nothing a Brit would.  Single level, double glazing, reversible hot/cold heating and not a scrap of personality.  Outside it has a lovely pool and garden and distant views of our main local town.  240k selling price. Unfortunately, views of the autoroute but at the far side of two large fields which will be filled with maize soon.  Some road noise.  I tend to find that the lower the price, the less sensitive clients are to road noise.

Went into town to buy weed killer as the weeds are the only thing that seems to exist in the garden - why are they so sodding vigorous?  I can't even see the strawberries and raspberries any more.  Queued for an age.  Everyone buying veg plants and shrubs. Perhaps that is where I have gone wrong in the garden.  English love of flowering plants. The French buy things they can eat or hack back into submission.  Had a call from a lady for whom I have sold a number of properties.  She has another one for sale and can I come around Pentecost Friday. I met her originally after putting a business card in the claw of the bronze griffin guarding the entrance to her chateau.  One year later, she rang.

Back home and OH is whizzing around the lawns on the tractor mower.  I had always imagined that this was an easier option but actually it is like being on a bronco.  He looks puce and exhausted so we have lunch and close our eyes for ten minutes which turns out to be 40.

The phone rings and it is my partner agent who did the visit for me last weekend.  The client has made an offer but it is 20% below the asking price.  The owners have had the house for sale for many years and it suffers from the double whammy of being in a village with no shops and also on the route of the local quarry lorries.  I ring and email the owners and ring my partner to say I think it is a mean offer and she agrees.  We discuss whether or not it is so mean that we should not transmit it to the owners and decide, bearing in mind that it is the only offer than they have ever received, to put it forward and test the waters.

I go outside and look at the weeds.  They are everywhere.  I can't even see the strawberries or raspberry plants.  A few brave strawberry flowers are blooming amongst the chaos.  I crack open my new special weeding tool and get stuck in.  Four hours later I have cleared around my modest strawberry patch and removed four wheelbarrow loads of weeds.  I feel one hundred years old.  OH informs me that, as I have been sitting down, I can make the evening meal.  We have kippers and mashed potatoes and fried egg and it is surprisingly good.  My fingers are numb and I can see weeds when I close my eyes.

Watch final episode of Poldark.  Everyone is suffering from putrid throat (diptheria) and Julia Poldark expires.  Putrid throat sounds as if it comes from the very amusing radio series Grim Expectations - a Dickens spoof which started as fairly close to the original but then travelled through the realms of highly unlikely until arriving at the shores of insanity.  There are 12 Poldark books and this series has only covered three of them so lots more to look forward to.