Friday, August 7, 2015

Revellers remorse and yet more buyers....

Friday 7 August 2015

Hot and sticky 32 degrees

Woke up at seven and realised that half my brain cells had died.  Tongue stuck to roof of mouth and my pillow looked as if they had gone ten rounds with a prize fighter.  Staggered out of bed to find water and so, to my utter surprise, did OH.  I don't think he has seen 7 am in years.  He was clutching his stomach and claiming he wasn't used to rich food.  He is also not used to a number of pints of Guinness followed by a late meal complete with rich sauces.  Had a shower and down town to give our renters back their deposit money.  They said they had had a lovely time and had left the unit very clean.  Had a stiff coffee to get me going and realised that all of the local shop keepers were doing the same.  Council workers were busy setting up stands for the weekend fête.  Nine o'clock rolled around and I went to the water office and did the change over for last night's clients.  All too soon it was time to go into our nearest big town for the completion on a sale which I had done in collaboration with my colleague.  Still horribly thirsty so had a syrup and more water and started to feel human again.

The completion went smoothly and we had a coffee together and then I went back home. Very tired.  OH very nobly said he would go out and meet Hong Kong man and I could have a rest.  He gave me a list of nine things to do to make sure that my rest wasn't too long. Passed out to the mellow tones of Tim Wannacott and Bargain Hunt.  Dreamed I was in the Arctic but was very hot and a seal was tickling me with its whiskers.  It was dog, his nose an inch from mine, and smiling.  He has appalling halitosis.  Had more water and some toast and worked my way through the list.  Then down town to meet OH and the man and he was very pleasant.  The centre of town was very noisy, with a man on an organ belting out a bizarre medley of tunes.  Man from Hong Kong (originally from US) was having culture shock. There is only so much you can take of Roll out the Barrel and Aye, aye aye aye, si si senora...  so we went to a quieter part of town and ran through the various properties I had selected.  OH had kept him amused for three hours by driving him around the local towns and was looking worse for wear.  We dropped him off at the big hotel where I had reserved him a room and back home where I had to make all of the appointments for tomorrow and then dinner.  

Tomatoes full of blight so had to chop off the leaves and spray with copper fungicide.  Hope this doesn't poison the fruits.  Very very hot and sticky.  OH went to bed at nine and I wasn't long behind him.

Busy day followed by delicious dinner and much hilarity

Thursday 6 August 2015
Pleasantly cool and sunny 26 degrees

Normally I love to go around the market on a Thursday, look at the stalls, grab a coffee and chat to the locals (if you miss a week they think I have given up working as agent) and buy unnecessarily clothing at the fripperie.  OH declared that he needed my weight for something.  We arrived at the rental unit, bristling with tools and equipment, and I was very pleased to see what a neat job he had made of piecing the worktop which he had cut too short.  Unfortunately it needed screwing together underneath to stop it wobbling and it was infernally difficult.  My weight was insufficient and so OH said I would have to get under the unit and screw in the plate.  The lightweight drill weighed a ton.  I kept on dropping screws into inaccessible places and couldn't drill in a straight line.  I apparently am feeble and not helpful.  He managed to get everything in place by which time we were both dripping and so needed some refreshing tea and cake.

My Whatsapp app started binging and it was a friend of the NZ ladies who was just about to get on a plane from Hong Kong and could we fit him in tomorrow.  Felt manic.  Whatever happened to the two week's notice I asked him for?  Back home, quick lunch and I sort out when and where to meet him tomorrow and line up some potential properties.  Back out to our nearest big town and meet some camper van people.  OH said I should wear hippy clothing but drew the line at my digging out my Doctor Who full length denim coat, complete with Save the Whale and Ban Nuclear Weapons badges.  I would have probably melted in it in any event.  Settled for a Boden dress with excessively large red flowers.  On seeing the clients, was relieved to see that they looked pleasant and the lady was also wearing a flowery dress.  We got on very well and set out for the first appointment at the house with the big black dogs.  

French people love plastic uPVC windows.  These people didn't.  We left and went to a house in a neighbouring department and they thought that one was really grim.  Oh dear.  I had a quick rethink and rang a friend who is sufficiently keen to sell that she will drop to their budget.  This was much better and after a first turn around the house and land, we left them to look around on their own and sat in the garden with our friends under the pollarded London Planes and it was lovely.  The couple loved the house and we had to extract them after an hour and a half because we were going out to dinner.  Arranged to meet on Saturday.  Alas they are out with my main competitors tomorrow.

Back home and quick change into paisley pattern long Indian silk dress, lots of big jewelry and decide to hell with fashion and put on comfortable oyster coloured ballerina pumps. The couple who had bought at the start of the week had invited us out to dinner.  We met them in the centre of town and OH took us off to a bar which looked as if it was closed.  We prised open the grill on the door and found the owner who was very happy to serve us.  Every other bar in town was heaving and noisy.  This bar was like the bar that time forgot.  The Jamaican lady had two pints of cider and talked about shopping.  She really likes shopping and talked lots about makes of clothing and furniture that I have never heard of.  I had lager. Time rolled on very pleasantly and then we went to the best restaurant in town.  We had a mixture of foie gras and salmon tartelettes, OH had farmers chicken with sweet potato puree and vegetables and the rest of us had hake in a piquant sauce.  We finished with strawberry and chocolate tarte.  We sat outside and every table was full.  Finally, we went for a digestif and I felt fine until I tried to get off the bar stool and discovered my legs didn't want to work any more.  The lady was absolutely hilarious.  Her OH has taken her all over the world but she doesnt seem to have any idea where anywhere is.   What were those islands we went to? she asked her OH.  The ones by the English Channel with the penguins?  Those were the Falklands dear.  I nearly passed out laughing.

Back home and collapsed to bed, without drinking enough water.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Getting things in order and then go to bed annoyed

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Very hot - didn't go out for most of day
34 degrees

OH went down to battle with the ongoing works at the rental unit and I spent the morning cleaning some rooms downstairs.  Don't think I have done any deep cleaning since the last visit we had on the house, where the woman was revisiting and loved it, and the man was coming for the first time and said house was good but it was down in a dip.  What is it with this obsession with views of the Pyrenees.  Unless you are actually living in the middle of them, you cant see them in Summer when it is hot.  They are spectacular in Winter but then you get the icy wind blowing straight off them plus road noise.  

We are protected, down in our little valley.  All we hear is bird song and it is rare that it is very windy.  The trees in the forest bring us freshness and oxygen and provide a sheltered walk in both Summer and Winter.  They are especially beautiful in winter, the sharp smell of pine, the bare bones of the oaks and rowans exposed to the elements, the crunch of golden leaves underfoot.

The spiders have made merry on the beams and windows and there must be six months meals trapped in the webs.  I apologise but put both spiders and meals outdoors.  Hoover the floors, mats and the dog.  Dog doesn't seem to mind.  Most of the hair on the floor is his. There is less dust at this time of year as we don't have the wood fire.  The paint on the ceilings between the beams is now off white and I wonder what our lungs look like. Probably like someone on 40 Players a day.

I put away the mountain of ironing and non iron clothes and sort out the bills, letters and general paperwork and get everything neat and organised by lunch time.  OH comes back and we eat and then both feel very tired and have siesta and then somehow it is 4 pm.

OH is trying to book an apartment in Galicia for a few days holidays this month and is severely challenged by the Air B n B website.  He spends at least an hour on the phone to an American woman who deserves sainthood, if she has to put up with people like OH on a daily basis. He comes out to find me in the garden and says I need to come and help because the woman wants him to wipe something out from the beginning of time and is talking about biscuits.  I come in from digging potatoes, take the phone off him and quickly establish that the fact that the payment is not going through is because he is trying to pay by Paypal and, unless you actually have funds in your Paypal account, it won't work.  He pays by card.  The confusion has arisen because, using Ebay, Paypal can be used to pay with credit card and it is not necessary to have actual funds in your Paypal account.  Anyhow, we have some days on a beach in Galicia and it will be bliss.  Dog booked into pension.

Go and spend a couple of hours in my craft room, sort everything out and take photos of card stock and put them in shiny cellophane envelopes, where they look very professional. Listen to Eva Cassidy and Kate Bush - the kick inside.  Dont think I have listened to this album in over thirty years.  The opening whale sounds took me straight back to 1979 and to a place and a room and a feeling.

Get an email from one of my new buyers, saying they have decided to take on an English speaking expert from the UK to translate the compromis.  Very frustrated.  I had explained to the bloke that I would read through it fully with them on Sunday.  He doesn't listen at all and just drivels on endlessly.  This is going to put a delay on things and the owners are keen to sell as quickly as possible in order to get on with the renovations.  Oh bloody hell. Go to bed annoyed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Etymology and the Galloping Gourmet

Tuesday 4 August 2015
Cool and showery in night, cloudy in day
24 degrees

OH has been looking very tired and actually passed out on the sofa last night during the denouement of the Agatha Christie we had been watching.  Denouement is a lovely word, a noue is a knot and therefore de-noue-ment is literally unknotting.  Staying in England, and living in an English world, there are some words in English which you can use without ever realising their French bases or meanings.  Take incorrigible, for example.  Corriger is to correct so someone who is in-corrig-ible is someone who is incapable of being corrected. Perhaps someone like Keith Floyd, whom OH loves to watch.  Who left just 7500 in his will, having lost the rest to four wives, disastrous investments, heavy drinking and, according to his last wife, eccentric behaviour.  His cooking was nothing to write home about, being very basic and usually carried out on an outside table somewhere interesting and/or exotic and filmed by a poor unfortunate called Clive.  He had character and charisma in abundance, more than Rick Stein (who I happen to love) will ever have.  But Rick is still going strong and it has only taken him through two wives.  My first memory of a TV cook was Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet.  He used to arrive on stage, glass of wine in hand, and leap over a chair

This is him in action

At the end of each show, he would invite a member of the audience up to taste his dish.... great stuff and he is still going strong too (largely by changing the way he cooks....)

Anyway, how did I get onto the subject of celebrity cooks?  Suffice to say that when ten am came around and OH was still comatose, I dug him out of bed and we went down to the rental unit and I sat on a worktop so he could screw it (and hopefully not my derrière) in place and then I offloaded piles of old books and over large shirts at the fripperie, went to see the plumber to ask why the water was turned off at the big unit, (has he tried opening it at the valve asked the plumber's lady) and buy work inspiring patisserie for OH.

Back home to get paperwork off to notary for new sale and nudge along deal struck just before going away.

In the afternoon go and see a 1970's property.  The person who shows me the house is not the owner, it transpires, and doesn't want to give me the mandate.  It has a flat roof which is not good.  People from the UK assume flat rooves mean trouble and will leak.  Also, you cant stand back in the garden and have a look at them, or go inside and crawl about in the loft and look at them from the underside.  It is light and spacious and because it is hunkered down on the land and single level, you cant actually see the road at all, but just an uninterrupted view of the mountains.  I quite like it.  What I don't like as much is the rank boy smell of the young men staying in it.  They were both asleep when we arrived (3.15 pm) with all the doors and windows bolted shut.  We were all very surprised to see one another when the key holders managed to get in and started opening the shutters.

I took photos and told them I really needed the mandate and that the price was too high.  Left and went to see a lady who had bought with me, decided to resell and after I hadn't done very many visits, given the exclusive contract to my old agency.  Her father opened the door, a wriggling bichon frisé in the crook of his arm.  She had just signed a compromis.  It was the third and he really hoped this one wasn't going to fall through.  Left my card and told him that my clients didn't need loans, in general, and the ones that did need loans, obtained them.

Drove past the house which the NZ ladies are buying in just two weeks and the garden is a terrible mess.  Rang their notary and asked her to tell the other notary that if the owners didn't clean it up, to withhold a retention of 1000 euros.  That should motivate them to get something done.

Organise Thursday's visits.  Speak to two good new clients.  Speak to man of Spanish/English couple who visited with us last week and he was extremely taciturn and said he would contact me by email.  Thanks a bunch, mate.  Great to know you don't want to waste your valuable breath, speaking to me.  OH commented that they hadn't paid for the coffee.  Never a good sign.  People who don't pay for the coffee, don't buy.  Like people in camper vans.  Just based on eleven years experience.

Finish up last night's seafood risotto and it is even more delicious the second day.  Try and walk dog and we are accompanied by next door's dog.  Ours keeps snapping at him to say sod off and stop jumping on me.  I take big stick and show it to him and he gets the hint and just follows us and wags his tail.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

This town is looking like a ghost town and some delightful doggy eyebrows

Monday 3 August 2015

Extremely hot and humid 33 degrees
Wet blanket weather

Even the birds were silent this morning.  Just an occasional caw caw of a crow.  Skies lumpy and yellow.  26 degrees by 9 am.  Caught up on emails - not a lot happening.  August is a time for the curious and the cashless.  Also a terrible time for trying to bring on new stock.  The Summer Sales incentive comes through and I am in joint first place on offers, ninth place on fed back visits and fifth place on new properties on market.  As usual, they haven't said what the prizes are, but I did win an Iphone 5 two years ago.  I would have won the wooden spoon last year...  I need some more offers.  I will never be well placed on visits - the person in first place has already done 31 (and only got one offer out of it) and the first place person for properties brought on is already eight houses ahead of me.  I don't want to bring in dross just to get better placings.

Over to big town to meet the clients who are signing the Acte de Vente today.  Hang around under a tree and the clock on the Mairie tower crawls inexorably around to 11 and they ring about three minutes before to tell me they are sitting in a bar.  Collect them and find that the sellers are even later, having come down from Bx but everything goes smoothly.  We go for a quick panaché and beer and then back home.

Dog seems to have had a wilder time than we realised yesterday and is consequently as stiff as a board.  He sits with his bum on the floor and his front legs splay out on the tiles. He looks absolutely exhausted.  I put him in his basket, where he snores loudly.

No rest for the wicked.  Leave OH wrestling with seafood and go over to Basque town to get a mandate signed.  It must be all day closing because the place is like a ghost town.  The lovely shop I had been looking forward to visiting is firmly barred and grilled.  Bummer. The lady has wonderful and eclectic taste and I wanted to pick up some new ideas.  Spotted afar some interesting ideas for showing earrings.  Drawing of a head on a card with the earring spiked through.  I will have to come back.  I will also have to get my ear reopened.

Manage to find the house without too much difficulty.  I don't know why he couldn't have printed off the mandate and signed the perishing thing like everyone else does instead of making me do 70 km round trip.  Perhaps he wanted a look at me.  Decide if I am trustworthy.  His dog greets me with joy.  It is a labradoodle with very mobile eyebrows and is a deep chocolate colour.  His dog has the manners that he lacks.  He is extremely brusque.  His poor wife, in a side room and doing a cross word on her iPad, has advanced MS.  After some verbal too and froings, they sign the mandate and I try and go for an ice cream and am totally ignored by the bar staff, who are far too interested in talking to one another so leave and stop at another town en route and meet an English family with three boys who have just arrived.  Give them my card just in case they feel the urge to buy something larger than a beer.

Back home and OH is still wrestling with seafood and declares he needs a lie down.  Poor lamb.  How tiring it is making seafood rissotto.  Ring people and mostly they are not at home.  Eat delicious rissotto and wash mountain of rissotto dishes.  Dog is still snoring on floor.  Skies turn black and rumble and it rains, heavily and wonderfully, and the air smells fresh and sweet as I close my windows for sleep.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

L'amour de l'hiver...

Sunday 2 August 2015

Heating up to 33 degrees.

The good thing about August is that you know, all things being normal, that even if you get your head boiled off for the next four weeks, that will be the end of it and then you will be into Autumn which, in these part of the woods, is completely delightful.  Like a good English summer, if such a thing exists any more.  Days with temperatures around mid to high 20's and no more humidity.  Time to get out and enjoy the garden, the turn in the year, the reddening and oranging of nature, winding down towards Winter.  I adore Winter.  I love being wrapped up in warm clothing, snuggled under two duvets, toasting in front of a lively fire.  I am a creature of the north.  I love the purity of winter, the bare arms of the trees, the fields spiked with frost and the remains of the harvested crop, the crisp clear air and the snap of frost.  A rest from work and garden.  A time to hibernate and read and eat stews and chunky bread, thick with butter.  Steaming cups of coffee and tea.

Ah but that is at least four months down the line and I am not being mindful of the present, but walking ahead and looking forward to what it will bring.   Down town early to take fresh bedding and towels to our renters and look at the vide grenier.  Literally meaning loft emptying, people bring to market their bits and pieces.  There are stalls heaped with things you could never imagine wanting in the first place.  Ugly leather bellows, china birds, uncomfortable sparkly shoes, tortured glass lamps, rusty stuff.  As usual, lots of the most terrible old junk which is being sold for surprisingly high prices.  A wooden letter holder, 15 euros.  The owner is showing it to a customer and saying, it is not expensive, and he is agreeing.  It is worth a couple of euros.

I find a lovely art deco style rectangular brooch with white and blue stones.  Obviously paste and metal.  Price 30 euros.  Owner convinced it is silver.  Actually, no.  Silver doesn't have mould marks and it is as light as a feather.  Find another brooch on another stall but stone is cracked.  What a shame - that did actually have 925 stamp.

Here are some more photos from Alton, home of novelist Jane Austen

The gingerbread recipe is interesting - lots of brandy and you don't actually bake it but wait for it to 'go stiff' before cutting into cakes
These were owned by Marianne Knight, a friend of the Austen's, and would have been part of evening wear.  The slippers are approximately a size four and the gloves would fit a modern ten year old

Thought to be a dress originally belonging to Jane Austen.  About a modern size eight (UK)

August 1st traffic jams and thoughts on our future strategy

Saturday 1 August 2015
Cloudy and wet and lovely later 28 degrees

Down town early to drop off some keys at a house then back home, put dog in shed for the day and off to Spain.  We hadn't quite taken into account that it is the first of August and the traffic was truly horrendous and what normally takes an hour and a quarter took two and a half hours and in the end we didn't go to the big town but cut off just before the shopping centre and went for lunch in the port.

There were huge cranes looming over the river and a massive pile of scrap metal.  Tall apartment blocks were stacked up along each bank and the song of a canary floated over the loudspeaker, announcing the arrival of the bike race.  Fishing boats were moored up, their nets and baskets neatly arranged on the decks.  Gulls fought for scraps on the quay.

We went into a bar and had potato tortilla, ham and red pepper sandwiches, seafood frito, coke and finished up with coffee.  OH had given me time to calm down about the backsliding on location of UK purchase.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am having the best year for business since 2007 and he is right that it is stupid to give up when I am on a run. He suggests that we get a property on which we can do work in the dull, cold and business free winter months, keep a room for us and rent out the others.  WF can live there and I can have a place to go and see him when I feel the need.  He says he would need to see where would give the best yield and I said I was OK with this plan provided it was near the boys and we left it at that.  He said that we didnt know where they would be living and working in time to come but I will lay my hat that they wont be in some rural northern farming community.  They will be in the South and that is where I will be too.  In marriage, you have to let your partner think they have earned some ground.

Went to big shop and I found that Zara had a sale and got a lovely thick cable ribbed oyster coloured jumper and zingy red long cardigan for 20 euros.  Did big shop and had coffee and cake and watched TV above the bar, showing American women trying on immensely expensive wedding dresses.  Shop was virtually empty, probably because everyone stuck on the autoroute.  Back home, walked dog and collected first autumn raspberries.  They were beyond delicious.

Ordered some bails, chains and ring blanks.  Need to get going on the jewellery making and cards.  Things have gone very quiet on Etsy - I shouldnt have put everything on at the same time - the trick seems to be to load one thing every couple of days.  Had shark and salad and it was wonderful.