Saturday, June 27, 2015

Curiouser and curiouser and is that dry rot in the wainscoting?

Friday 26 June 2015

33 degrees - uncomfortably hot

Up early and run around making sure I have everything I need and all phone numbers.  I now automatically enter all buyer and seller details into my phone ahead of the visits and then if anything goes pear shaped or we are running late, I don't have to start fishing through my case for numbers.

When I take a client on a visit, I get them to sign a document called a Bon de Visite wherein they state that they have been introduced to the property and the owner by the agency and will not later on buy that property directly with the owner (until a period of one year after the expiration of the mandate - mandates last two years).  The bon de visite also shows the price and details relating to the property.  It is rare that people do try and go behind the back of the agency but it does happen and the BDV is our insurance policy.  

Get an email from the agency telling me the latest ramifications of the Loi Alur.  Laws here are named after the people who bring forward the bill and pass it into Law.  The latest thing relates to who officially pays agency fees.  It used to be that the agency fees were marked at the charge of the seller but that then meant that the buyer was paying notaries fees (average 8%) on the sale price including agency fees.  The notaries allowed in the compromis de vente to put the agency fees at the charge of the seller which meant the seller paid notaries fees on the sale price only.  The Loi Alur states that this change can no longer be made and that the agency fees, if marked at the charge of the buyer, must be clearly marked on the advert.  As you can imagine, the agency is not keen on doing this.  Fees over here run at about 6% compared to UK fees of 1.5%.

Someone said to me a couple of weeks ago 'you people charge far too much'.  I wonder if he says that to his doctor or dentist or car mechanic?  Say the fees are 10000 euros on a sale, this is often how it breaks down for me

Fees                            10000
Introducer 10%              1000 
net                                  9000
deduct VAT 20%            1800
net                                  7200
agency 50%                   3600
net                                  3600
RSI 45%                         1620

Just under 2000 euros for up to six months anguish and gnashing of teeth, keeping everyone happy, sorting out all problems, translations, hundreds of emails and phone calls. I am not making the fortune people think I am.  Being an introducer is the best.  You send over the details by email, often not having even bothered to contact them by phone.  You send in your bill at the end.  Simples.

The first visit is for 11 am and the couple are young and enthusiastic.  They jump in with me and I ask them to tell me about their project and the guy decides to tell me in such a quiet voice that I cant hear him over the road bumps and potholes and we arrive with me not a lot the wiser.  The road up to the chateau is very badly rutted and they grip the handles on the doors and smile wildly.  For once, the son is there and he greets us and we go into the house.  The couple start off smiling but as I take them into room after room after room and then into the outbuildings, they start looking scared.  I leave them to talk and go and sit on a bench with the son, in the shade and scent of the great lime trees.  The air is heady with their perfume and a million bees are zapping industriously between the nectar rich blossoms.

I have not met the son before.  He is tremendously negative about the house.  I say his mother says that the roof is in good condition and the insurance is sorting out the water damage.  He says the roof is in bad condition, the tiles all need replacing, the insurance has refused to touch the damage with a barge pole because it was done deliberately by his mother.  He adds that she has emptied the pool, which is very large, and the pressure of the earth has cracked the concrete.  For good measure, he takes me into the ballroom and pulls back some boxes.  I am horrified to see enormous mushrooms on the beautiful wainscoting.  Merule or dry rot.  As well as destroying the house, this is extremely dangerous for the health of the one inhabitant, his 87 year old mother.  I say he must get it treated immediately and he admits he has known about it for some time and has done nothing.  I write to the elder son, who is much more sensible.

The visit finishes and I go for a coke with the couple who say they cannot take on a project of that size and I show them a couple of other properties on my site and they say they will think about seeing them at the start of next week.  I hope it is not Tuesday because the forecast is 41 degrees and I will expire.

Order a sandwich and it is the size of a barrage balloon.  Roast pork and crudités.  If you ask for salade in France, you just get lettuce.  If you want mixed salad, crudités are what you want.  Drink lots of water.  The Place shimmers in the heat and small birds discuss the matters of the day from the Mairie rooftop.

1.30 arrives all too quickly and the next client for the chateau.  He is on time and he follows me up the rutted pathway.  This time the son has really got his act into gear and comes around with us, pointing out every bad thing in every room.  Despite his best attentions, the client (who bears an amazing resemblance to Roger Federer, including boxers nose) really likes the house.  He likes it at 195000 euros under the asking price and says he will send around his roofing guy to look at it.  He leaves and I tell the son that his 'help' will probably result in a very low offer.  He really doesn't care.  He just wants his mother to sell.  His mother, on a day which is very very hot, is on the terrace eating a pot of steaming beef stew and potatoes and reading a massive novel with, I suspect, a strong romantic theme if the cover is anything to go by. I leave and need to rehydrate.  Go to a little tea shoppe and have the most delicious ginger ice cream and a lot of water.

I have a client arriving Monday and she wants to see the house of a local lady.  I bumped into the lady a couple of weeks ago and she said she wanted to sell.  Now she is not answering either her phone or emails and doesn't respond to me banging on her door.  She has changed her mind and is too bloody chicken to tell me.  I shall have to find something else for the woman to see as she is coming over specially on the train from over in Sète on the Etang de Thau, a massive inland lake on the Med side

L'étang de Thau vu depuis Sète
« Barrou Neighbourhood, Étang de Thau, Sète 01 » par Christian Ferrer. Sous licence CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

I get back in the car and the thermometer is registering 32 and I feel appallingly hot.  Go to my next appointment and park in the shade but it is still very uncomfortable so have to sit with engine on and air con blasting.  The couple arrive early and we zip off up the hill to the farmhouse with the huge black dogs.  The dogs are zipping around outside and are thrilled to see me.  I tell them to be sage and not to eat my clients and they go back under the shade of the BBQ area and I show the house.  A breeze starts to blow and the Pyrenees are a delicate shimmering lilac on the horizon.  A skylark hovers and sings in the high heavens. The house, a solid stone construction, welcomes us into its cool and shady interior and the couple seem quite taken and say they will get back to me next week after having seen some other propositions.

I, at last, can go home and drink tea and cool off.  Step out of the car and the temperature has dropped to 25 and I shiver.  This is ridiculous.

Watch a recorded episode of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.  I wonder what substance the author was on when he wrote this book?  It gets curiouser and curiouser

Being a real estate agent is like going down the rabbit hole.  Something very curious is that only the place where I am seems like reality.  When I am back in the UK, it is as if my life in France is just a dream and that it doesnt exist at all.  

The benefits of being a nuisance

Thursday 25 June 2015

Hot 30 degrees

Had a bit of a late start with the result that by the time I had done the necessaire, didn't have time to go around the market.  Popped into the Water Authority office and used loads of charm to get someone to come out and connect the big rental unit for next Wednesday ahead of the, finally!, signature of compromis next Friday.  The people want to revisit before signing and OH has been painting over the slight yellow stains.  I never realised before that not all white paint is 'created equal'.  There are many different shades of white and different states of glossiness or opacity.  Also went to the Tresor Public and still no joy.  Rang RSI, the people who extract social charges of 45% from people like me who are trying to earn a living.  They had promised a refund of 645 euros and it has still not arrived.  They said they have until Sunday to pay it, according to the Law.  I said I would ring them on Monday.  The technique in France is to be a nuisance.  It is the only way to achieve your desired result.

Met the Aussie couple in front of their town property and the electrician came and we sorted out what work he was going to do and then I introduced them to the brocante lady who is interested in renting their place from October.  She is a delightful lady with the most beautiful shiny white teeth and coral pink gums and her whole face lights up when she smiles.  I regretfully decline coffee with the Aussie lady and dash off along the hot pavements to meet an English couple.  They are just a little bit late and we go into the cool lobby of the big Hotel and have a quick chat and then find a shady spot on the terrasse overlooking the formal gardens.

They are from the Midlands and are appropriately stunned by the art deco interior and the exotic gardens with their palms and banana trees.  They want to buy later on in the year but I give them lots of information about the local area and buying in general and it is all very pleasant.

Back home and do some cleaning and look at emails and sort out tomorrows paperwork for the visits - three different clients in one day - they are stacking up like buses.

Forecast is ghastly for next week - most of the days above 33 degrees and two in excess of 40.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Resin, resin, resin!

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Hot but with breeze so felt agreeable for a while
28 degrees

Decided if I was going to get any resin pouring done, then it would have to be early morning so got up at 6.45 and did a mix.  It was absolutely full of bubbles.  Made some more seed buttons and a pendant using a dried tiny flower head and stalk and a base of grass seed. The flower head kept on trying to bob out of the mix.  Smaller individual seeds sink well and integrate.  From 30ml made all of the buttons and the pendant.  That is a tenth of the amount bought which cost me 22 euros.  Send some examples of buttons to friend in the Tarn who uses a lot of them in order to see what she thinks.  The ones I sent have a crackle glazed effect as I was fiddling around with the seeds placement once the resin had started to set.  Due to electrostatic effect, seeds can float to the sides of the button and look too 'placed' so I had been poking them around with a cocktail stick.

There are two main problems with resin casting for jewellery.  One is that bubbles form and spoil the look of the piece and the other is that it doesn't set.  I use a special technique for pouring the buttons and another technique for the pendants.  Sometimes the pendants don't set and I have just realised why - I pour direct from the mixing cup and obviously the resin is picking up some of the less well mixed parts from the side of the cup and that is why I am having these fails.....  I need to pour into another recepticle and then remix or use special technique for larger items too.  On Resin Obsession blog she advises keeping a record of what worked and what didn't.  What I have learned from extensive reading and watching of YouTube videos is:

1.  Resin hates water
2.  Mix thoroughly but gently and for at least a couple of minutes, scraping down the sides of the mixing pot.  Mixing pot must be of inert substance.
3.  Inclusions must be fully dried or will rot in the resin.
4.  Whites and yellows and blues cope well with the process.  Reds need to be sealed first - can use pva.
5.  Keep the environment as clean and dust free as possible or resin will pick this up too.
6.  Careful when you de-mould as if it is still slightly tacky, it will pick up your fingerprints. So use gloves to demould and then press flat larger items which will bend slightly.

Went down the rental units and I cleaned the small flat ahead of the renters who are arriving for a week from this Saturday.  The last lot, a solicitor with gout and a wife who didnt like stairs (they knew there were stairs) had taken the opportunity of bleeding all over the pillow cases and the sheet.  How can people bleed so much?  Come to think of it, didnt see his wife on the day they left....  Stripped everything and removed many spiders and their webs and scrubbed.  OH swept the hall, stairs and landing and sneezed a lot and then insisted I went for cake.  I had chocolate drop which is a brioche swirled into the shape of a pair of owls eyes with chocolate chips and OH had a croissant aux amandes.  Back home and it was then too hot to go out so had lunch and caught up with emails.

Looked for cellophane sleeves in which to put my fabby new cards and discovered that the dimensions of 3 x 8 inches were extremely unusual and that sleeves just dont exist - well at least in Europe.  Need to think of an alternative.  I am going to sell them in batches of five so can have a larger bag.

OH suggested I go and see WF and I thought that was excellent idea.  Just need to contact WF now and see if his housemates have left a room open....  He needs this time, to wash the sheets and clean up the room.  When I went over to his graduation last year, that was the first thing I had to do.  He is in another house but nearby the former one.  OH said it was grim.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hotting up......

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Felt less hot because of breeze 26 degrees

There are some phenomenal temperatures being forecast for the upcoming week - up to 35 degrees.  This means of days hiding in the house with the shutters closed, the veg garden absolutely frying and not being able to sleep at night.  My ideal is about 25 degrees. Give me Winter anytime and cosied up in front of a lovely log fire.

It is peculiar how we left damp and wet England.  I wanted to move South and so we did. We got to the South coast and then just kept on going.  I still want to move to the South coast and look longingly at the gentle Summer temperatures and think of the gardening I could do and how I could stay outside all of the day.   This country is either too hot or uncomfortably cold.  I have also looked at Madeira and thought it would be wonderful - more moderate temperatures, English and French spoken, wonderful flora and fauna and, of course, beaches and sea everywhere.

As I write, the sky is already yellow.  Really, really hot days, the sky never gets to being blue.  All of the colour washes out.  How often do you see programmes set in Africa where the skies are a brilliant blue?  In 2003, the last great heatwave and fortunately the year before we moved out, thousands of people died in France.  14802 to be precise - much more than any other European country.  I think it got to the dizzy heights of 27 degrees where we lived in the UK - easily 10 degrees up on normal Summer levels.  How does it kill? Your body temperature only has to rise from 37 to above 40 and if you cant be cooled, you die.  More died in France during the heatwave than during the SARS epidemic.  I remember in my early days as an estate agent, I would be in an old, stuffy house and I would be shown a dark, stuffy room and the people would say this is the room where Granny died.  Many people since have installed air conditioning.  We have a house with thick walls, shutters and a fan which circulates the hot air.  When it gets really bad, we sleep downstairs.  Think about that when you are thinking about moving South.....

Go to the hairdressers for 8.30 because she told me that is the only appointment she has. She keeps on breaking off from doing my barnet in order to take phone calls and make appointments for later in the week at much more reasonable hours.  I feel very tired.  The dye makes my head itch.  Emerge rajeunie (made young again) at 10.30 and go to see the Tresor Public to ask why they still haven't reimbursed me.

The woman with the beetling brows is there, wearing a brightly patterned dress, and her hair looks weird.  She is trying to deal with the American lady I know who has not yet paid her local taxes for 2014.  She asks why I am there and I tell her and she says they would have a hard job taking cash out of her bank account as there is nothing in it.  (The Tresor Public helped itself to cash from my bank account for money which I didnt owe).  One of her new teeth has dropped out and she produces it out of her pocket and says she must get around to having it stuck back in.  This is not a conversation I have ever had with anyone before.

My turn next.  The woman's hair looks strange because she has taken out the rollers but has not combed out the curls.  Her coiffure resembles frozen black waves rolling back from the medievally short fringe.  She says she has just got back from holiday and doesn't know what is happening with my dossier.  I should ring back in the afternoon and speak to the lady who is dealing with it.  I promise that I will come in each and every week and she says I can do that.  This is as near to customer service as I think she is capable.

Back home and OH is about to go through the door for his Tuesday morning shopping jaunt to the local town and his weekly McDonalds lunch.  He takes the dog and I ring people and email people and speak to the American lady on Skype.  It appears that the house she is interested in buying has been sold.  She doesnt seem too down about it.  We discuss other houses and she makes a 'sort of' offer on another house.  I am not discussing any other offers with anyone until she has liberated herself from her current engagements and her future ex husband has paid up in full.

I ring a new client with a very posh French name and it transpires that he is English.  He has asked about a small hotel which I have on the books.  I ask him what he is looking for and he says Oh hotel, gites, brothel - anything which will bring in money.  I say we dont have any brothels on the books - he would have to go to northern Spain for that and he replies Oh dont tell me that, I am a very naughty man.  I recount this tale to OH when he returns and he takes an instant and violent dislike to this client.  The client says he will be over very soon.  I can picture him in a convertible sports car and looking like James Braxton off Bargain Hunt. Watch this space.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Am I the only one who finds Mary Berry creepy?

Monday 22 June 2015

Hot 26 degrees

OH still asleep after ten hour return drive yesterday so got up and got on with the things on the list.  Dog had scrabbled off lots of the plaster from the wall under the table so swept up the shavings and debris and hid them in the bin.  Dogs of his race are obsessive and highly strung and once they get it into their heads that they are going to do something, all the encouragement, followed by shouting and threatened beatings, will not change their mind. Dog has taken into his head to destroy the plaster walls, just occasionally, and usually before a visit by clients, relatives or friends.  OH is just about as good as plastering as I am at icing.

Nibble at a bit of yesterday's less than successful lemon meringue pie.  Mary Berry, someone with the smile of Snow White's mother, and a cook since the dawn of time was on the telly, intimidating her adorable grandchildren and wearing her customary storm trooper hairdo.  Nothing can persuade me that she is a nice, kind granny.  She showed how to make a lemon meringue pie using a biscuit crust base and topped with a filling made with condensed milk.  See Saturday last's post for the fun I had finding that in the supermarket. She combined the condensed milk with three egg yolks and the juice and zest of two lemons and then whisked lightly and it all combined into a relatively glutinous mass which then set in the fridge and was topped by delightfully thick and glossy meringue.  How difficult can that be?

First off, the French condensed milk was very runny.  I had the three egg yolks and then put in the juice of one lemon.  I couldn't find the zester, mysteriously disappeared from the cutlery drawers, so didn't bother with that.  The mix did magically thicken but then it didn't taste very lemony so I put in the juice of half a grapefruit and then the mix was nowhere near as thick and, despite being in the fridge many hours, was not going to support the weight of the meringue.  I decided to bake it, hoping the eggs would set the mix, and served it with an apricot compote.  OH didn't realise that he was eating LMP gone wrong and was very happy with the result.

Went down town and hung around in a dentist's office and got her to sign the paperwork to drop the price of her house and then went to see another client to get the energy report on his property.  Without this report (like the sticker you get when you buy a fridge, showing energy rating from A - E) I am now allowed to put the house on market.  There is a shop on the ground floor and I didn't realise the person behind the till was the owner and he didn't know who I was either and the upshot was that he had no idea where the paperwork was so I have to come back tomorrow.

Back home and ran through the various buyers.  One Frenchman who needs to buy in the next two months but is very fussy.  One guy from Stockport who seems a brilliant runner. One man who is not answering the phone.  One lady on Friday who is looking for a chateau but doesn't really have enough cash.  Must find something for the Frenchman - he thought I was my colleague which means he is in contact with her too.  Sent over some offers and he rejected all of them.

Speak to our buyers and they say they are coming down to sign on the flat on the 3 July and can we do it at my notaries.  Well, at least it will be done.  OH is not happy and says he will have to go and paint over the brown stains on the balcony.  I will have to clean up the pigeon crap and I am not thrilled at the thought of that.  Last time I was there, the pigeons had laid some tiny eggs in a nest at the far end of the balcony and tiny 'cheeps' were coming out of the delicate structure.

OH makes me ring up clients from 7 onwards.  I hate ringing people at night when I am tired.  One of them is a real weirdo.  I have spent an age ringing and emailing him and finally get through tonight and he says he was out last week with one of my colleagues (nothing registered on the system) and has found a lovely house but doesn't know whether he is going to buy it.  Well, at least he has been wasting someone else's time and not mine. Registered him for currency.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A day amongst the flowers...

Sunday 21 June 2015

Hot 30 degrees

Plant show and manor house visit


Acanthus Mollis

Banana leaves

Foxglove tree flower

Close up foxglove tree

Six months already

20 June 2015

Six months ago I was mad, bad and desperate.  I was losing days and weeks and obsessed by work.  I started this blog to track time and to appreciate the minutiae of each day and think of beauty and laughing.  At the end of six months, I am in a better place in my head. The work demon is back in its box.  I am still in the same place physically and itch to move on.  I am in the same place as me, still doing what is not me, which I have spent all of my adult life doing.

This is what I wrote on the 20 December 2014

There is a picture doing the rounds of FB with the words 'if you aren't happy with what you have got, how can you be happy with more ?'  True, I am not happy with what I have got - with the shite work, money worries, the bastard clients, the crap that circles around my head.  I need a change of reality.  I need to leave normal.  2015 is looming and I must do something different if I want this year not to be a repeat of the last eight years.

OK what do I want - lets focus on the positive

1.  Spend six months over winter in Paris in somewhere good with views of the Eiffel Tower and paint.

2.  Spend six months over summer in Provence and paint in all the places that the romantic painters painted.

3.  Do Strictly Come Dancing

4.  Make Angels and become well known for Angel making like Little A Designs and Mr Finch.

5.  Sell all properties in bastard, bastard town where I live (I have probably sold one of them)

6.  Build grand designs property overlooking the South Coast of England.

7.  WF gets job which makes him happy and they both get decent caring girlfriends.

8.  End the year knowing I am on the right road.

Positive things about this year

1.  Have done level 2 reiki

2.  Link up with other agency means I wont be alone

3.  FB group going great guns - could it be Andorran version of the WI

4.  Have actually lost over a stone by giving up dairy and bread

5.  Apparently have had a lot of weeks away and have forgotten virtually all of them because have spent so much time stressing about work.  I take pictures on iPhone which faithfully records where I have been and when.  Completely forgot about Cordoba and Seville.   Heat was murderous and choosing to go to a spa (hot salt pool) and drink Turkish tea was unfortunate.  Combination of excessive wine, snoring disturbed sleep and over tapa-ing usually leaves me longing to get into my own cool bed and sleep twelve hours.

6.  I have got to the end of this year in one piece and avoided nervous breakdown.

Football blasting through the floor of my bedroom which is also ceiling of the front room.  Battery on laptop about to run out.  Not feeling inspired.  Here endeth Day 1 of 365 days which will be different.  Normal will be eradicated.  Leaving launched.

No we definitely dont sell those! (Actually you do...)

Saturday 20 June 2015

Hot 26 degrees
National Fête de la Musique day

All over France, today is the day when each commune hosts live music.  Brilliant idea.  We only tend to go when we have visitors.  I am so short sighted that I hate driving at night now. I have real trouble seeing where I am going and need full beam.

Woke up so early that I had time to load a very large property, write, answer emails and do and lose a to do list before going out to find jewellery findings, parcel tags and walk the dog. The crystal shop sold me some bails to glue to the resin pendants but I came up with a blank at the Post Office.  I asked for the parcel tags as etiquettes and as tags.  Finally I drew the shape on a piece of paper.  'What do you want those for' barked the man behind the counter 'for putting on parcels' I said.  I didn't mention craft because he would have just shown me the door.  'We aren't transporters' 'Why would we have items like parcel tags?'. Because you are the sodding Post Office?  Walked dog along the railway track and there were many dogs and joggers and dog had a lovely time sniffing and peeing on things.  

Back in the car, I attempted to find the items for a lovely lemon meringue pie which I had seen Mary Berry constructing on telly last night.  The base is biscuit and butter pressed into the base of a pie dish and the top is condensed milk with lemon and egg yolks.  Top with meringue et voilà!  Texted a cooking friend to ask what condensed milk was in French 'lait condensé was the quick response.  Less rapid was the attempt to find it in the supermarket. The staff flatly denied the existence of condensed milk.  Never heard of it.  Never used it. Definitely dint stock it.  I finally found it next to the UHT milk.  French don't drink a lot of fresh milk - they have the UHT which is rich and creamy.  I stopped drinking cow's milk some time ago now.  Cows milk is for cows.  I love rice milk but recently it is becoming more and more difficult to find.  Almond milk is thick and separates in tea.  Soya is bad for my thyroid.  The other milks are cereal based.

Next challenge was to find the equivalent of digestive biscuits.  There were biscottes and galettes and petit sablés.  A myriad of biscuits - breakfast ones and midday ones and savoury ones and teatime ones and aperitif ones.  We don't eat biscuits.  I started feeling manic and texted my friend again.  She said to use galettes or biscottes.  Thank God the staff were ready to admit the existence of lemons and I found them immediately.  They are called citrons.  Limes are called citrons verts.....

Dropped dog off, quick lunch and then to get a mandate signed by a couple who live in a lovely contemporary home with pool.  The lady was ironing and stopped to make me a coffee.  She says she is starting to feel desperate.  Their home has been on the market for over two and a half years now.  It is a lovely house but not in my town, which is very popular, and unusually has no views.  Left with the mandate.  I don't think any Brit would buy their house because Brits have a dream of a french house and this isn't it.

Went to neighbouring town on advice of texting cooking friend who said I needed to check out Actuel Bureau.  I have driven past this place, a prefab cube on the outskirts of town, for the past eight years.  Actuel Bureau says to me, boring office stuff, desks and printers, and shredding machines.  It is a haven of crafting - not as big as Cultura but definitely bigger than Truffaut.  I said to the woman why on earth doesn't she indicate on the signage that she sells craft stuff - like the neighbouring cube which is garishly decorated with dancing crafting people.  I said I am a passionate crafter whose custom she has missed out on for eight years.  How many other people have no idea what she sells.  'Oh I know, she signed 'I must change the signage'.  I bet you a penny to a pound she doesn't.  I enquired if she does courses - once a year and I have missed it.  Do these people have no idea how to run a business????  Found the parcel tags and a lovely heart shaped punch.

Came back and turned out the resin pieces and all but one had formed perfectly.  They are little pieces of still life encased in shining medium.  Delighted with them.  Still slightly sticky. Wonder if this is correct.  Seed buttons are gorgeous.

Knitted a clanger.  Eyes crossing with effort of doing mattress stitch which is like weaving together the end seams.