Friday, August 28, 2015

Wipe out!

Thursday 27 August 2015
28 degrees at the coast

The day dawned white skied and the birds silent in the trees.  Forerunner of immense amounts of heat.  Went down town early to meet NZ ladies and sort out their water payments.  The car park was empty and the clerk arrived late and scraped open the door shutter.  A digger drove up and parked.  The tarmac shimmered in the heat.  Twenty minutes later the ladies arrived and thought they had the correct paperwork.  It wasn't so we had to log into their bank account and navigate around to find the RIB or relevĂ© d'identitĂ© bancaire (full bank details).  Internet reception was deadly slow but eventually we got there and they left to do some more painting.  One of their tee shirts was carrying a large purple stain - the product of no bottle opener, a tempting bottle of wine, and a screwdriver.  I went back home and we packed up the car and headed to the coast.

The roads were clear and we got there and, with some difficulty, parked in a narrow street full of bars and tiny shops.  One coffee and two tapas later, I was released to go into the Chinese Bazaar.  I do love a Bazaar - full of plastic objects that you had no idea you wanted.  Found some emery boards - ten for a euro and large to boot - and the spiky plastic trays which are normally used for melting beads and which will be ideal for using as doming trays.  When you take resin out of the moulds, it is unattractively flat on one side, so you have to dribble on some more resin to 'dome' the piece.  If it is on a flat surface and some of the resin runs off, then it glues itself to this surface.  On a doming tray, the resin just runs off to the side and can be picked off.

Then down to the beach.  We went to the far west corner where the crowds were thinner and the parking was easier.  Blue and white striped tents jostled for space and small children were tearing about.  We found a spot, OH's head swivelling to see if there were any semi naked young women on the beach, and there weren't, and then entered gingerly into the water.  No matter how warm the sea, the effect of the water hitting one's overheated skin is always a bit of a shock.  The tide was on the turn and the waves were crashing rather violently so we had to go out a bit further than normal.  OH was still standing and we were both having to jump up with the unfurled waves as they came along in huge ridges.  After about an hour, OH went back onto the beach and I was swimming along.  There was a sudden massive drag and I realised to my horror I was being pulled into the base of an immense wave.  It crashed virtually on my head and my back was twisted uncomfortably and my head hit the sand and I felt temporarily dazed.  I span violently and then bobbed back up to the surface.  I wasn't the only one who had been completely wiped out.  Less than five metres from the beach.   I sat on the sand and recovered my nerves and OH came and got me and we walked to a quieter part where the waves weren't catching the sea wall and swam some more.  I calmed down and stopped shaking.

Off to the supermarket to buy wine and fish and vegetables.  Found some wonderful turbot for 9.50 a kilo and some calamaris.  Took forever to drive home as the August rush was now going in the other direction.  Left at five pm and got back at just before eight.  Stowed the food, cooked and ate the turbot and went for a walk with dog under the light of the moon.  Sky deep slate grey with the moon netted in the trees.  Many an owl eeking and too whooing.  Not a good night to be abroad if you were a small rodent.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Visits and offers!

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Hot 35 degrees - managed to stay out of worst of it

Slightly later start.  Today's clients I asked to meet me in the supermarket car park, where the temptation to run off is lesser.  I found a man of about my age with a lively small boy who was just desperate to throw himself into the path of passing traffic.  The boy's mother was sitting in the car.  We said a quick hello and then they followed me down into the mountain village where I had set up two houses to visit.

The first house is one I have have had on the books for about three years and this is only the second visit I have ever done.  The owners bought with my former agency and paid a price which they could now only achieve by employing a time machine.  The house appears small from the outside and is sandwiched in between two minor roads.  Part of the garden is behind the house and part is slightly up the road.  It is very basic inside but has good bones and four/five bedrooms.  I currently have it on the market for 135000 euros which is about 30% down on where it started.  I fully expected, although didn't say to today's people, that if they were to offer around 110000 euros, they would get it.  The small boy was corralled in the garden with his mother and I went around the house with the man.  The lady then came in, when he had run off a bit of his energy and fallen over a few times, and he ran around the house and enjoyed testing out the echo potential of the various rooms.  I had forgotten how wearing are small children.  They remind me of badly behaved dogs.  I was very surprised to find that they absolutely loved the house.  I nearly put my foot in it when I thought that the man was the kid's grandfather; but I think I got away with it.  We then went and saw another house that no one likes and, true to form, they didn't like it either.

The day was heating up so we went down to the river and to SJ's tea room on her lawns where the boy could dig in the sandpit and hopefully not cast himself on the waters, we could all have a drink and I could see if they were in the mind to make an offer.  The lawns were fairly full of people but we found a spot under a tree and the lady and I went to the loo. On coming back, I found the man talking to a couple of women who also lived in this area. Oh yes, said one, it rains a LOT here....  especially in April - it rains all the time.  You don't get green without rain.  I said I had lived here eleven years and rain was all comparative with what you were used to - they sounded like they were from Essex, parts of which are dryer than the Sahara.  Felt like poking them with red hot needles and gave them my Shut the Fxxx up look.  They were very annoying and kept saying negative things so I asked them if they would be interested in selling up because I could come and estimate their houses.  They then said they loved it here so I blocked them out with my back and talked the people through the buying process and got an offer, miserably low, of 95000 euros.  I said I would see what I could do and went away, thinking bugger, that is one hell of a gap to bridge but, happily, another offer on the grid.  It is the Summer Sales Challenge and one guy is running ahead of me.  I need two more offers before the 31st to get joint top place.

Got home and felt seriously boiled.  OH went back down the rental unit.  Got two calls from recruitment consultants.  RJ has sent out his CV without modifying his telephone numbers, prat.  Looked at what he had applied for - random selection absolutely all over the country. If he is serious, I will need to intervene.  Wonder if he has had a falling out with his current employers or is just desperate for a change of scenery.  Shame it is so isolated where he is - the atmosphere in the kitchen is very tranquil and he gets on very well with the Head Chef. This, after his three years in the industry, is the exception rather than the rule.

Rang the buyers of the contemporary house and, progress, they had been promised the report by Monday but there was a problem with the power of attorney.  Rang the anglo french company and actually managed to speak to a partner who said they would be emailing it out at the end of the week.  Said he had been concerned that the power of attorney would be applied to both the compromis and the Acte.  Not, however, concerned enough to contact the notaire, who has yet to hear a dicky bird from them.  Texted and emailed the sellers who are currently out in Cuba to celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary.  Good on them - these days this is a bit of a record.

Spoke to various notaires and got the compromis organised on every dossier and out to the buyers.  Extremely good news  - the lady owner of the fabulous house in our town, whom I have been trying to contact for weeks, finally rang me up.  I have, so far, spoken to her renters and her neighbours, asked about her in boulangeries/chemists/mairie, left a letter in her letterbox and hassled her by Trip Adviser and Booking com.  Persistence pays.  She wasnt answering her phone but I still have a week before the HK guy is back.  

Rang the owners of the little house where I have just got the offer and the owner was thrilled until I told her the price.  She said they had paid a lot of money and it wasnt possible to accept this price and unfortunately, they want near to the current asking price.  Went back to my people and they said they would go up another ten grand but it is not enough so that one is dead in the water.  Oh well.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The difficulty of keeping track of one's clients....

Tuesday 25 August 2015
Cool at first and warming up later
30 degrees

Unusually, my first appointment was at 9.30.  The car park of the big hotel was full and I could only see one Brit car, but there was no one in it.  A small car with a bike rack and crammed full of camping gear.  Energetic people.  They had energetically cleared off somewhere.  Must be more precise in my emails and insist that people stay in the car park when we meet.  Some stay in their cars with the windows open and just wait for me to look at the various hundred and odd cars in the car park.  Some go into the big hotel and are swallowed up.  Some have a little look around town.  Some go to a completely different part of town.  I could do with a tracking device for the little perishers.  After about twenty minutes, when I had accosted about ten different, and all French, people hanging about the car park and had an entertaining conversation with a man from Bordeaux, I finally saw a blond lady lurking at the top of the steps to the pleasure gardens.  She looked relieved when she saw me and waved nervously.  They had been sitting on the terrasse.  No one has done that before.  Must add that to my list of places to look, next time.

I got them into my car and we went to see the first house.  It is a large and ugly house built in the 1950's and the ground floor is full of strangely shaped rooms.  Upstairs is simpler. The wallpaper looks like it was chosen by someone not fully in control of their senses.  It is a mad cacophony of clashing patterns and colours; the only common theme being large flowers.  It is however, on a 1.5 acre plot with lovely views and a huge workshop/garage. It is also now just under 200000 euros, which at today's rate, is the UK equivalent of 138000 pounds sterling ie absolutely peanuts.  We are there about an hour and the man keeps rubbing his hands together in what I find to be a disturbing and creepy way.  We repair to a local bar and they ask me lots of questions but the basic problem is that they have not even one of their UK houses on the market.  He is retired and she is still working (this is very common!!!) and they would be reluctant to take out a mortgage.  I tell them they cannot have a clause in a compromis conditional on the sale of another property.  They ask for the plans and say they could potentially revisit on Friday.  It gets very hot and I go home.

Spend an hour reading through the compromis on Skype with the young couple from China and they are happy and cant wait to send over the money.  Realise after I hang up that the notary hasn't included the list of furniture.

OH has just come back from doing the weekly shop and walking dog around the lake and I have a bite to eat and then we both do siesta.  Out like a light and then it is about 4 pm and we do a catch up on emails and OH goes out to do battle with the lawns which are growing like crazy and I make rabbit and chorizo casserole with a good dash of chilli plus apple and blackberry pie.  It is going to be an amazing blackberry year.  The heavy periodic rainfall has meant that the brambles are just hanging with berries.  We are about to roast this week - high of 38 but then rain again next weekend.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Acte de Vente and my legs prove irresistible

Monday 24 August 2015
Sunny periods 25 degrees

Woke at 3 am and was awake for at least an hour.  Gave up on trying to sleep and read some of Penelope Lively's Heat Wave.  Can't say I was really taken with the story although I did really like the acerbic main character.  Slept again fitfully and alas, 8 am came around all too soon.  Drank lots of tea and had long cool shower in order to wake myself up. Printed off the new less scary painting quotes (11000 euros instead of 25000 euros), our bill and the references for water and electricity then it was time to pick up the ladies and go to the notary's office.  

I drove them around the big town and showed them where they could buy food, furniture, white goods, clothes etc and then we went for coffee and CB mooted an idea of us working together, which was tremendously exciting.  Watch this space.  This really could be a New Normal.  Am wondering whether to have a blog a year.  Change the name for the start of the new 12 months.  Perhaps Normal Reloaded.  Or indeed A New Normal.   Just a thought....

We arrive at the notaries at the same time as the owners - the daughter of the now deceased original owners and a nephew.  They are joined by their notary and we pack into the waiting room and wait to be received.  Their notary is wearing a brown crimplene suit and reminds me of a Co operative shop manager whom I met about 30 years ago in a tiny town in the Lake District.  Back in the bad days of my being an Auditor...  We are finally received and it all goes smoothly and all sign and then I have a quick run through my various open dossiers before joining the ladies and the daughter for a drink.  The nephew has just disappeared.  Charming.  We have kir which is Jurancon white wine and black currant juice and the lady reminisces about growing up in the house and tells us it used to belong to a childless surgeon who used the big back room as a breastfeeding clinic at the start of the 20th century.  He also travelled a lot in China - curious as the buyers also lived in China for many years.

I dive back home and all I can find to eat is jam toast so have that and then back to the house for 2 pm to meet the water engineer and the builders.  The meter and pipework are down in the basement and as he opens the stop cock, the water shoots into the ancient copper piping and can be heard rushing upwards and filling the system.  There are almost immediately shouts from the kitchen, where it appears the charming nephew has taken out the washer without closing off the tap.  Fortunately the builders fix things and then it takes a very long time for them to go around the house with the clients, during which I ring the gas and electric people and make appointments to have the gas turned on.  The electrician then arrives and we go through the house yet again.  Start to feel very tired and very thirsty.  It is now 5 pm.  

The ladies, in a flight of expensive madness, have decided they want to take the roof off the very ugly extension and so we go to see the neighbour who does not like the sound of this at all so I have to do a lot of reassuring but don't see how they are going to get the roof off without quite a lot of crap falling into her immaculate garden.  The neighbour button holes me and says she wants a private word and it turns out that she may be interested in selling as well.  Her home is completely done in white and is absolutely immaculate with azure blue swimming pool.  Two very small dogs fall out on the patio and then come in and fight for the right to lick my legs.  My legs are utterly irresistible to small dogs.  I have never seen a woman with such a large clothing and jewelry collection.  Two bedrooms are just full of it.  I have one small wardrobe and my jewelry collection could fit in a small bonbon tray.  She wants a very high price for her tiny house and I say I will see who I have who may be interested.  I need someone like her to buy this place...

Back home and am absolutely knackered.  OH makes egg and bacon.  Clients tomorrow and Wednesday but think they are more suspects than prospects...

Wildly excited ladies and some resinating....

Sunday 23 August 2015

Showery with sun later
24 degrees 

Woke late after listening to banging and crashing of thunder all night.  Rain slashing at the roof tiles and beating the fandango (basque dance) on the terrasse.  Birds silent and the skies still pale and fatigued.  Had cup of tea in bed with OH and then on with the motley and down town to meet the NZ ladies who are over to buy tomorrow.  In France, the purchase is two stage - first the compromis de vente where all the conditions of sale are set out and then, between two and three months later,  the acte de vente where all the searches and administrative documents are attached to the original compromis text and when Title actually passes.  The full funds are in so we are on the final approaches and the landing gear is down.

The ladies are hovering in the garden and are wildly excited.  They hug me exuberantly and introduce me to another couple who are one set of parents and a girl in her 20's who is one of their daughters and a trainee architect and I run up the steps and throw open the doors and they all pile in.   The sun has come out and we open all the interior shutters and the sun streams in and dust motes dance in the sun stream.   I realise that the owners have not been in since we came the other day so it is a good thing OH and I cleaned up.

We go room by room.  The parents are Dutch but live in NZ and are utterly charmed by the building as well.  CL the daughter is very excited by the project.  We are up on the top floor, where the maid's bedrooms were situated and some of the plaster has dropped off the wall, revealing the narrow wooden laths which are fixed horizontally onto the roof timbers and onto which the plasterboard is fixed.  They don't realise, not having seen this type of roof before, that these laths are an integral part of the structure, and want to take them out.  We shine through a torch where, beyond the laths, are clearly visible the slate roof tiles. Synthetic slate, in the main, fortunately and much cheaper and lighter than the traditional material.  The houses in this street were built by a Breton boat builder.  There is a lot of slate in Brittany, sharing its geological history with the west of England and Wales, but it is decidedly thin on the ground down here.  Interestingly, you only see slate on manor houses where it was a status symbol and also houses nearer the mountains, where it has to be able to withstand snow and regular hailstones.  I remember one village, driving through at the end of a particularly bad winter, virtually every house was in the process of being reroofed in slate.  Farmhouses and those belonging to people of more modest means, are typically tiled in small orange ceramic tiles.  The pre 21st century version of the Range Rover, a slate roof...

After a time, I take them to see a town house with shop, as one of the ladies CB has indicated an interest in having an investment opportunity in town.  The building is well placed, with large shop on the ground floor, and three bedrooms house with courtyard behind.  The terrible unfortunate thing about this house is the overwhelming odour of urine. The incontinent dogs were not there today and the owner had opened all the windows but, even still, the whole place reeked.  The shop was the last thing we looked at and the ladies were shocked at the prices of the faux Tiffany lamps and went back to their house, muttering Jesus.

Everyone was milling about and looking hungry so we closed up and I had a quick shandy with them whilst they ordered and then went back home and had lunch and OH went fishing and I spent the rest of the day very agreeably, fixing bails to my pendant hearts.  Some of them I managed to drill.  Very fiddly with the hand drill and I managed to break two of the smaller bits before going up to a larger one.  The small silver plated bails just fitted without glue but the faceted hearts were too broad so I glued on some leaf shaped silver bails. Need some silver jump rings.   The long rectangular faceted pendants were also too broad so I looked on Youtube and then made a coiled bail out of silver wire.  Felt rather pleased with my efforts.  Need to photograph them now and decide on price.

WF, youngest, rings to say he has been to see a house just a street away from where he is and he will take it, so that is a relief as he has to vacate his current rental by 11 September. He has met one of the other renters, all professionals, and he is a slightly older guy compared to WF and works in recruitment.  Hopefully the household will be full of nice people who dont spend the whole time in their rooms, looking at their computers.  RJ, eldest, has started talking to me again on FB.  He says he would like to move.  I think OH wants to go over and run him around to interviews in October.  I am going to be shackled here - it looks like it will be busy.  If so, I will have enough rolling over into next year to be assured of cash flow well into 2016 as already have three pre compromis.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Of mice and machines

Saturday 22 August 2015

Cool and rainy with lots of thunder and lightening later

Spent morning lugging about immense sheets of plasterboard which didn't want to fit in the car, so had to be sliced up, and then had to be manhandled into the rental unit - a delicate manoeuvre.  Interestingly, manoeuvre is made up of two French words - main (hand) and oeuvre (work).  I think back to the Cointreau advert.  Cue woman with scary amounts of lip gloss 'what is.... (breathy gasp) Cointreau?  Distinguished looking French man picks up the bottle and starts to read 'un inimitable chef d'oeuvre' a masterpiece that cannot be equalled...

Alas I am very far from a glass of cointreau (which I probably haven't tasted since the period when the advert was on the telly) and there isn't a distinguished looking French man in sight. There is Mr Lalune who is simple and works as a street cleaner.  He is coming over to hug me and I don't feel up to being that close to his scary yellow dentures which move independently of his jaw, so I wave and run off to tackle the ironing mountain.

This takes a dreadfully long time and I don't want to rabbit on over the rest of this page about laundry (although followers of this blog will know that I am more than capable of so doing) so here are some photos of shop window mice and some interesting old sewing machines.