Monday 01/02/2016 Rain 11 degrees It so happens in February that you get bored with doing the same things every day. Getting up. Doing the dishes. Sweeping the floor. Kicking the dog out the back door to do his business - dog is in his basket with one paw over his eyes and is pretending that the day has not yet started. Cleaning the ashes out of the wood burning stove. Sweeping up the floor where the ashes decided to burst out of the grate. Plumping the cushions. Picking up socks. And you think to yourself, this is like Ground Hog Day and when you look; it is. My aim of sweeping aside the competition for entering the most mandates in January and February has faltered, largely due to obdurate sellers who say they have enough agencies. I have never had so many people say no. Do they not know I have a challenge en cours? I finally manage to get one person to say yes and drive out today to have a look at it. The address is Place du Fronton which sounds like it would be in the middle of the village. It is a very, very long village and it turns out that the Place is right on the very end of it, and next to a busy road, which probably accounts for its not having sold in two years. It is a solid looking house which has grown over a period of time. It is painted a very solid colour which is somewhere between Suffolk Pink and Blood Orange. Two dogs the size of small ponies erupt from a side barn and invite me to come in and be eaten. The owner comes out and assures me that they are gentil and have yet to breakfast on estate agent.
Yet another divorce and it looks like the lady took all the nice furniture. We sit down in the kitchen at what looks like a former painting table. The dogs smile at me and take up most of the floor space. He gives me black coffee and the dogs insist on having half my sugar. Their breath is atrocious. We then do the tour and it is a substantial property and will do for a client I have at the start of next week. He signs the paperwork and I go into town to have a look around. It is the Annual Rusty Tractor Fair. For those not interested in rusty tractors, there are many other rusty items to admire. A loudspeaker voice informs the confused people, milling in the town centre, that there is a vide grenier and exposition extending over five hectares. He doesn't enlighten us as to where exactly that might be... I finally find it at the very far end of town and it is starting to rain; the light and persistent kind which makes you extremely wet almost without you noticing it. There is a stall selling strange jewellery and, oh joy, very reasonably priced jewellery findings. I pocket 10 sachets of various items for just a fiver and head home.
31 December 2015 Grey and warm 11 degrees Well, this is it. The end of 2015 and I am very confused. RJ takes down the bins to the end of the lane two nights ago because I am convinced it is Thursday evening (it isn't), today is Thursday evening but of course tomorrow is not a normal Friday so he has to go and get them again. How I feel about Christmas 1-24 December Feeling Festive 24-31 December Feeling confused 1 January Feeling fat I look like I have given a festive home to a sizable sloth and it is sitting on my lovely warm and erstwhile flat stomach. OK, perhaps I was harbouring the equivalent of a small kitten before.... nothing fits. I put on a tunic purchased on a whim from a FB ad. Sammy Dress took two months to arrive and looked much better on the girl on the ad, but at least it covers up sloth stomach. On it goes,together with my roomiest tweed trousers. Top it off with jacket with sparkly buttons. My neck seems to have grown and my chins too. How can all of this have happened in just two months? Must give up bread again. Evil, evil crusty wholemeal and cereal festooned with nuts. Have Homer Simpson drool but alas, it is time to don the motley and go down town. The market is swollen with people visiting over the holidays and my clients are no where to be seen. Lurking outside the mosaic walled bar, the owner runs over to tell me who has died recently. My mother in law used to love to hear who had died and I must admit, I am getting more interested....
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Year End I declared, on what I thought was the 28 December 2014 but have just discovered was the 20th, that I would write for a year. I was miserable and lost. I was facing a Christmas without my dear children. I had just spent a working year where I had not completed on a single property and therefore not deposited a penny into the communal funds. I had forgotten about the fun things of the year. This is what I wrote 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 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. The most progress has been made on number 8 - I feel much more centred and now see my direction clearly. I have sold one of the properties, two flats remain to be sold plus the main house. We have the project to buy the investment property in the Lake District and I have a brilliant new project on which to focus. The group has continued to grow and new people have come to the fore. I have an outlet for my creativity - resin - which I can continue to develop. This year coming will definitely be the last one in full time estate agency in France. As for the rest of my wish list, they are still definitely on my bucket list. What is the brilliant new project you may be asking? It arose through a conversation with JJ. She talked about an instagram business which is called Lucky Dip Club where people subscribe, or bid, to receive boxes of handmade items. Each month has a theme and people do not know what is in the boxes but they pay 18 pounds sterling a month. Typically, the boxes will contain a LDC charm, a piece of jewellery and paper goods such as cards or book marks or note books. My idea is the Handmade Button club. Bimonthly and containing a limited edition of handmade buttons and themed. Have contacted LDC to ask to be a participant and am waiting to see what their response will be. They currently are selling 1100 boxes a month. The potential is huge, with vintage and handmade being so popular. I will post world wide, LDC just does the UK. The only limit will be how many buttons I can produce. This will be the last post in Leaving Normal. I will continue to blog on a new page called Normal Reloaded. I will not write every day but will write when something worth writing about occurs. Quality over quantity? The exercise has been wonderful, as has the discipline, but I would love the opportunity of having some lie ins during the week instead of waking and thinking, I must catch up. Thank you for following me and reading my blog, all and every one of you. http://normalreloaded.blogspot.fr/ And happy New Year wherever you are
Sunday 27 December 2015 Drizzle 11 degrees Had another short night's sleep on the short sofa and woke to a grey and drizzly dawn with the spectres of the furniture dark against the plate glass windows and the beady eye of a grecian head vase watching me from a side table. Bliss and silence. Found a notebook and wrote for an hour, drank tea and absorbed the peace and a number of cups of tea and a mince pie found in a formica wrapped tin. The central heating hummed and water swished up from the wheels of passing cars. Day dawned proper and I lifted my stuff and went to find OH on another sofa and we snuggled up for tea and a snooze and people started to wake and move about and the floors creaked and the kettle whistled and it was time for breakfast. Had a walk in the fine rain. No one around. BIL and SIL went out early evening to see friends and DL and I made some salad and cut meats and we had a jolly Last Supper together before some intensive partner whist and another episode of And Then There Were none and to bed and the leap til morning.
Friday 26 December 2015 Boxing Day Sudden showers 11 degrees Hurray, we are not in France and all of the shops are OPEN! Had some cereal and fruit and loads of tea and coffee and SIL looked rather tired and WF said he had done enough shopping the other day so OH and I went into BSE and looked at Debenhams and some men's outfitters and had lovely pumpkin soup and read the papers and watched people and listened to their conversations. Didnt manage to find anything we really wanted - I am still keen on finding a Dremel drill with some fine bits, in order to drill out resin pieces. Also need to find some two part epoxy mould making silicone. OH said he knew of a craft shop, which got me really excited, but it was shut. Drove around the lovely villages, including Lavenham, which is full of gorgeous thatched cottages with wooden columbages and painted in shades of red, rose, yellow and blue. So beautiful and so English.
Got back rather late and found that GJ and JJ had gone and OH's brother and family had arrived - CL, wife DL, daughter HL and son TL. We had grabbed the comfy bed and left them the sofas and the double sofa bed but OH had not changed the sheets on the sofa bed before leaving this morning and apparently DL had kicked off about this. SIL cornered OH and I could hear hissed words. I kept well out of it. DL is always kicking off about things. I thought she had had her hair coloured, which would have been a real surprise as she is the meanest woman on the Planet when it comes to spending cash. No, she has gone a yellowy kind of grey and, despite being nearly 60, still has the same mid shoulder length hair with chewed off fringe; the speciality of the now ageing mobile hairdresser who comes to her house twice a year. They are busy installing themselves. BIL is looking stressed at the amount of clobber they have spread everywhere and WF seems to have gone for a sleep.
I make a better effort on the starter and produce goats cheese with caramelised onions, creamy salad dressing on rocket and spinach and Bayonne ham and cherry tomatoes with ricotta. Everyone but DL eats and enjoys it. DL gives most of it to WF as she 'cant' eat ricotta or goats cheese or Bayonne ham. She has no problem eating cake, I notice.
The last time I saw her, she took me 'shopping' in Meadow Hall in Sheffield. I wanted a hat for MIL's funeral and found some wonderful ones and DL wouldn't let me buy them and kept on dragging me into more shops until we rang out of time. She wouldn't go for a coffee or lunch but sat on a bench with a discount sandwich and a small bottle of water. I left her to it and had at least two cups of coffee and a delicious bacon, lettuce and tomato on cereal. She is totally exhausting and can only talk about shopping and telly. OH brother doesn't seem to like her either. It is beyond me how they had three children together. I ended up hiring a hat. A massive, sparkly, black hat. I feel funerals are for celebrating a life, not being miserable. I suspect it did badly block the view of the people sitting behind me though...
She is a denizen of the charity shops, where she doesn't hesitate to use her negotiating skills. Everything then amasses in their home and garage, which after 24 years of occupation, are bulging in a Cyril Fletcher suit fashion. The garage is the home of items which are designated 'garage sale'. The paraphernalia of the growing up of three children who fell in and out of love with bikes, skateboards, scooters, dolls, computers, printers, pool table, table tennis tables, car bits and broken furniture. Nothing leaves. It is the Sheffield version of Hotel California. Amusingly, the electric doors malfunction and periodically, they open and close on their own, giving the neighbours a view of the installation inside. I really must dig out and retell the story of one of the boy's birthday parties; now part of the family history and pulled out and re examined in exquisite detail by all who were there. Still hilarious after 14 years.
Watched the start of a three part version of Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie, a title which has morphed, through the application of Political Correctness, via Ten Little Indians and arrived today at And Then There Were None.
Thursday 25 December 2015 Christmas Day Sunny and showers 11 degrees Woke up at 6 am. It's Christmas!!! No one, not even the four year old, was awake. Staggered around in the dark and found my laptop and managed to write two day's worth of blog before the battery crashed. People emerged, gradually, and I took OH a cup of tea in order to avoid early morning reading of the 'Frozen' story. OH had Christmas hangover induced by intensive partner whist and too much red wine and arguing, following by port and heated political discussions. WF and I had watched Casino Royale with Reverend J (BIL father) and JG who was sporting Christmas PJs and talking about all the clients who are looked after by the theatrical agency where she part times. Joanne Froggatt is one of them, apparently (plays Anna in Downton Abbey). Intense pressure on the bathrooms and we all had to be ready for 9.45. SIL appeared, looking slightly the worse for wear and hoarse voiced; largely from shouting 'stop cheating' the previous evening Both she and OH are unabashed cheats which is why I refuse to play. She crammed the turkey into the oven and we got into the cars. It was a good thing that WF spotted (1) which direction BIL had torn off in and (2) that the GPS was saying Church Lane or we would never have found the carefully hidden church. The service was already underway and WF and I squeezed onto the end of a pew, its finial guarded by a worm wooded Griffin. The church is Norman high plastered walls, Gothic dark wooden vaulted ceilings and arches. Knapped flint facade. Sunlight speared through the many paned windows, simply decorated in pale blues and yellows. Hand blown glass. One window remade using pieces of a number of other windows. Pieces of a former knight jumbled together in the central panel. We sat and rose and sang and recited the familiar texts and it felt like Christmas. I went up for a blessing but was given wine which was deep and rich and delicious. I wondered what the wine drunk by the disciples tasted like: the original blood of Christ? Wine and bread. Staples for so many millenia. Mulled wine and mince pies and chatting to the organ player then out into the sun dappled lane and home to present opening and champagne. It took at least an hour. I received a microwave flower press, Tiffany coffee bean silver necklace, 2 tops, two 2016 diaries, hand cream, books and a handbag mini mirror. SIL gave me something which looked like a crocheted rats tail decorated with buttons. I had to ask her what it was and she said a necklace. It was about three feet long and angora, which made me itch but I showed willing and put it on and I could see OH looking at it through the corner of his eye. I pretended that I liked it. SIL didn't return the compliment and, after having briefly examined her glitter ball necklace and earrings, stuffed them back into the packet. I felt annoyed and took off the rats tail. Happily, JG loved her wire wrap earrings and put them on immediately where they looked really good. EV adored the sparkly red dress and also wore it for the rest of the day. It was then time for some serious kitchen activity. I had said I would do starts and had chosen a Jamie Oliver dish of roasted pear with walnut and ginger stuffing. It had looked delicious on the web page but came out looking like gruel although it tasted OK. Not one of my most successful efforts!! Following by immense lunch and I think most of us then went to sleep in front of the telly and Brave and Stick Man. Opened my Secret Santa present and found a huge tote back in toile de jouy plus covered diary, notebook and larger notebook. Best ever SS! Later, played cards and had Christmas pudding (Tesco special and utterly delicious) and watched final Downton Abbey. At last Edith was happy. And so was everyone else. Merry Christmas everyone!