Saturday 7 March 2015
Huge blue skies - ground frost warming to 13 degrees
The morning's entertainment consisted of wire brushing about a hundred years of petrified soot from the chimney breast in the new rental unit. Previously concealed under a Barry Bucknell type plasterboard facing, from which OH had been trying to prise out a nail, and instead the whole wall came away to reveal a whole hidden part of the room. After I had taken off the loose material, and was standing back and thinking I had finished, OH handed me a long file to rasp down the lumps. Rasping takes a very long time. I don't know how people ever manage to conceal rasps in cakes and it is not surprising that prisoners took so long to file their way out of their shackles. Random, yes, I know. Count of Monte Cristo was on the radio not long ago.
Soot has a very individual odour and is produced by incomplete combustion of the articles burned. Its particles are really, really teeny and it gets everywhere. OH, not the most observant of men, suggested I might want to go and wash my face before going to buy some bread. I looked like a bad study in charcoal.
Back home and go for a walk to get the soot out of my lungs. This is the first day in weeks when there is some warmth in the sun. The trees are full of birds and immense skeins of cranes are heading back north and the air is full of their loud 'crew crew' calls.
|Out for a walk|
|Mistletoe didn't get where it is today by being easily accessible|
Later on in the day, and despite my best zen intentions, I am still brooding on the would be buyer who has tried to cut me out and purchase directly with the seller.
I think of all the points I would make, and exactly how the conversation would go. I chop onions in a vigorous manner whilst I ruminate. The phone rings and who should it be but the would be buyer so I channel my French estate agent and he gets the full contents. What particularly stupefies me (but not for very long) is that in his opening sentence, he says he is ringing me out of honesty. He says he has negotiated the sale himself so therefore he doesn't really owe the agency anything but he is prepared, out of generosity, to offer an amount as damages. Would he treat another professional in this way? I put the phone down and feel rather satisfied that I had actually expressed myself clearly and fully. And right between his eyes.
I have been fortunate to encounter his type of honesty only twice whilst working in real estate. In my experience as an agent in a national French estate agency chain, you are more likely to be shafted by your colleagues than by the clients. This is where I learned to stand up and defend myself as it is a case of she who shouts loudest, doesn't get her commission split with people who are trying it on.
Over the eight years, there were a lot of people who came and went. Estate agency is one of the few jobs in France for which you need no formal qualification. We had air hostesses and engineers, artists and hygienists, lorry drivers, taxi drivers, hairdressers and drain cleaning specialists. Some lasted a year or two, some a couple of weeks. If you are thinking of trying the job and you haven't the tenacity of a terrier with a rat and the hide of a rhino, I have a word of advice - actually two - don't. One guy cracked relatively quickly and confided to me that he would really like to sell up and leave the area and forget all about real estate. I went to see his house to give him an estimation. He said he liked to paint and showed me his latest tableaux. They were tonal oeuvres - mostly in grey but some of them were very dark and had deep lateral slashes. I thought of the Fast Show. I thought, I really really mustn't laugh. I was actually scared - and tend to burst out laughing at completely inopportune moments. He sold his house privately to a couple who were driven mad by the bells of the local church. I had a second bite at the cherry when they came back to the agency in order to sell and I found a lovely English couple who are still living there.
The phone then rings again and it is the guy I have been trying to track down to show the big rental unit. I blabber on about going to the Chinese restaurant to try and find him and he says he is from Vietnam and I think I had better stop jabbering before I create a cultural incident. We arrange to meet tomorrow morning.
OH discovers something has been eating his ground bait and so heaves out everything from the laundry room, spreading much ground bait all over the kitchen and bathroom. I am required to examine the droppings and say what it is. It is obviously something big. An hour later and the laundry room is looking more tidy than it has in months. Just as well, as I get an email saying we have a visit on Saturday.