Friday, March 20, 2015

McDonalds - home of the desperate for internet

Thursday 19 March 2015

Cloudy at first with sunny spells later 17 degrees

Technology is a wonderful thing when it works.  The main computer has gotten itself into a real mess and is operating at teenager with chores speed.  On looking at programmed tasks, I discover that the weekly defragmentation is set for 1 am rather than 1 pm and consequently it hasn't been defragged in about six years.  Oops.  On setting it to analyse, it takes about an hour to do 10% so OH goes down to the rental units and I try and load some new properties.  My laptop is also very slow and a speed test shows we are down to .4 of a giga.  Ring up the provider and wail.  She says she will do a manipulation and the speed goes up to 1.4 for about 20 minutes.

OH comes come for lunch and I wail at him and he says go to McDonald's, home of the desperate for Internet.  Bugger, that means getting changed and dragging a comb through my hair.  My face is still very swollen.  The dentist's assistant has rung me twice to ask if I am alright and not in pain.  You wouldn't get that on the National Health.  The stitches are in silken thread, rather than the cat gut to which I am violently reactive, and being sewn up made me laugh.  My reaction certainly surprised my charming dentist.  I bet the number of people who spontaneously exhibit mirth whilst in his surgery, can fit on the head of one of his drills.  Closer inspection reveals that a tiny flake of ceramic has detached itself from the face of the new tooth.  Will have to ring up tomorrow and tell them.  The new tooth is very firmly affixed with glue and laser.  Really don't want them to heave it out but don't want a tooth which is going to disintegrate.

Ring up central admin and tell them about the accepted offer and get the reaction of joy that I had hoped to receive from the vendors.  They log offer for me and I get a number of texts saying well done and a call from the business manager who was really supportive with a nightmare case from last year.   Take dog for quick walk.   Someone has drawn what looks like a star burst in yellow spray next to the telephone pole which carries our Internet.  If they come along with diggers, I may have to chain myself to the pole until they promise to restore Internet within the day.   Last year, I lost Internet for a whole month.  I work from home so I spent a heck of a lot of time in McDonald's or parked outside the Tourist Office.  The staff know I live here so won't let me come in and use the desk space because I am not a tourist. The desks are free for about 98% of the time and it wouldn't kill them to let me use them but they are jobsworth bastards and I hate them intensely.  I deliberately park where they can see me, just outside the window, and get out the laptop in as much of an ostentatious manner as is possible in the driving seat of a hybrid.  When they go home for lunch or at night time, they turn the wifi off.  I did complain to the Mayor's Office and pointed out that my taxes were paying for those people.  Unfortunately, my taxes seem to pay for people in public service whose primary aim is not to serve the public but to obfuscate and preserve their own little domains.

Working at McDo's must be like real estate - either you are overrun with clients or you are mopping the floors and trying to look busy.  There was just one table full of teenagers, eating one bag of chips between them and drinking a selection of soft drinks.  McDo's has recently been updated and redecorated.  Interestingly, the renovation included taking out two of the three ladies cubicles so now there is only one wc for a restaurant which must serve hundreds of people a day.  I got a cappuccino and circled the restaurant, looking for somewhere to plug in the laptop.  The only plug was next to the table of teenagers.  I set up on a nearby table and found that the Internet kept on going off.  I gazed intently at the teenagers who kept ringing people up, putting them on broadcast, and telling the callee they were at McDonald's.  Much shrieking and laughing.  They left just as my laptop was about to crash.

People started coming in again about 5.30 and by the time I left at towards 7, there were quite a number of clients.  I never realised people eat their evening meal here - families were arranged around the long banks of tables and quite a few parents were drinking beer.

I managed to get the rest of the properties loaded, ring and make some appointments and send many emails.  Back home and wrangle the bins down to the corner of the road (150 metres) and find OH has made the fire,fed the dog and washed up.  Tittivate some pizzas with some tomatoes soaked in garlic and olive oil which I find in a bottle in the fridge.  Surprisingly, the main PC has finished defragging and is working at a speed something approaching normal.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bin talk

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Sunny with cloudy periods 18 degrees

The phones were quieter today.  I get a call from the owner saying that she will not attend the signature at the other agent's office today and they will see what happens.  What happens is that the other couple, following their avocat's advice, turn up and sign and the agent rings the sellers to say that they have 14 days to present themselves or they will receive a bailiff's letter which is a legal ultimatum to show up or pay a heavy fine.  The sellers have instructed an avocat too.

I speak to my buyers and update them.  The seller's notaire has told them not to use the very long explanation of the situation, prepared by my buyers to send to the other buyers via the sellers.  She has said not to put anything in writing.  Excellent advice.  It looks like it will proceed to Tribunal now and there is no guarantee that either one side or the other will win. My buyers starting to sound deflated.

On a happier note, the lovely Russian clients sign the offer on the large house in the mountains and the sellers co sign.  Things are en route.  Strangely, I get a message to contact someone who came to see this house months ago and has been dithering.  I hope he doesn't now want to buy it as it is too late.  When I take a sales contract on a house, if I produce a buyer who offers the price, the house IS sold as I have fulfilled my part of the contract.  And the owners, if they refuse to sell, owe me my fees.

People think that the fees are elevated because they are in the region of 6%.  Estate agency here is not a question of putting out some adverts and letting the owners do the visits and then five million phone calls (there are always five million phone calls).  It is accompanied visits (I have nearly 300 000 kms on the car after just six years), negotiation of price, expert reports, gathering of information, millions of emails, negotiation of reservation contract and annexes and keeping the notaires' nose to the grind stone.  After sale, it is organising insurance, bank accounts, schools, artisans, permits, licenses and a myriad of other stuff. It is often the case that the most fraught dossiers are the ones that I get paid least on.  I deserve a break and hopefully this dossier will be it.   I don't get paid until the keys are handed over with the passing of title.  

Over the last few years, the period between the reservation contract and the passing of title has been getting longer and longer.  My bank account has been very sad and thirsty because we do not seem to manage to spend less than 2k a month.  And that is not because we spent on pink gin, cigars and wild nights out.  It is really dull stuff like health insurance, car insurance, insurance for the house and the unloved rental units, social charges (I can tell you right now that social charges really put a damper on any form of social activities), monthly bank charges even though you stay in credit, land line, electricity, water, two mobiles, Internet, diesel and food.  I refused to let the rates people sign us up to MDD as they charge you extra for the privilege and I am still battling to get back the amount they erroneously and shockingly seized from our bank account at the back end of last year. Their accounting system is completely shite.

Speaking of things coming out of the rear end, here is something I wrote a while ago

Over here, we have been watching with interest the problems that people in the UK are having with their local Councils and their bin collections.    If it is any comfort to you, things are not any better over here.

We live in the countryside, about 4 kilometers from our nearest town.  Until a few months ago, we shared a large communal dustbin with our six nearest neighbours.  This bin was for non recyclables and was emptied on a Thursday.  Each household had a yellow milk crate into which went the recyclables.  Anything large, we could take to the local rubbish collection area and the rather eccentric opening hours of this establishment were handily marked on the communal dustbin.  In the town centre, there were also communal dustbins and the recyclables milk crates.  It was a system which seemed to work very well.

The powers that be decided things needed to change.  The first we knew about it was when the communal dustbin disappeared.  It was, to be fair, on its last legs, having been driven into a number of times by people who hadn't braked in time to take the corner.  We waited two weeks.  Still no dustbin.  So I went into the local town office and asked what we were supposed to do with our rubbish.  I was informed that, henceforth, each household would have an individual bin and that there was an information notice on the front door of the building.  I went to have a look - there was indeed a very small notice.  I pointed out that I dont live in the town centre so how was I supposed to know?  The secretary replied that they couldn't waste money sending out notices to everyone.   I requested a dustbin and was told I would be getting TWO dustbins - one with a black lid and one with a yellow lid for recyclables.  We could not, however, we were told put in any glass or bottles.  The bins duly turned up two weeks later, during which time we did what every other person in the alentours had also done.  We brought our rubbish into town and put it into the communal dustbins.  These were soon overflowing.  All of the bottle banks were similarly full and no new extra ones were provided.  It became quickly evident that we all get through a lot of wine in a week.

The people in the town centre were very unhappy.  Many of them are 17th and 18th century town houses with no outside space, so the dustbins had to go in the house.  What would happen in Summer when it is very hot, they wailed?  Many of them left the bins outside and happy adolescents and various animals took the opportunity to knock them over and spread the rubbish about.  People signed a petition and demanded the reinstatement of the communal bins.  The shopkeepers were also unhappy because, although the communal bins were meant to be for them only, they were full to overflowing almost all of the time.

The powers that be had another think about it.  They decided to put locks on the communal dustbins and issue keys to the shopkeepers.  The people in the town centre then started to put their bin bags containing food and smelly stuff on top and beside the communal dustbins.  The local wildlife was thrilled.  The street cleaners were very busy.

The people in the countryside waited with baited breath to see what would happen next.  This was the best entertainment we had had in a long time.  The Town then decided to reinstate the communal dustbins and has taken away all of the individual bins.  They have also issued keys for the communal bins to ALL of the people living in the town centre. 

The individual bins are piled up in a car park and look 

As of today, the bins are still festooned with rubbish bags, the tops are wonky where people have prised them up to slip in unwanted items and there are still not enough bottle banks. 

Heaven only knows how much this has cost the Commune.  I can't wait to get the statement of expenditure which they issue once a year.   Is this madness going on elsewhere?  I would love to know.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Should men in hard hats be saying Oh La La?

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Lovely and warm - got up to 20 degrees in afternoon

I love my dentist but I am happy when I don't have to see him too often.  Our local village road is being chopped up by three huge machines and there are giant spools of cable lying around at the edges of the muddy fields.  'Youre going to have fun today', I say to the foreman as I waited in line to squeeze past in the narrow space between the engine wheels and the deep ditch.  'Oh la la' he replied.  Do you know, that just doesn't seem quite right coming from the lips of a hairy, middle aged guy wearing overalls and a bright orange hard hat.

The dentist's waiting room is empty.  Last time I was here, there was a lady of 'a certain age' as they say over here, wearing more jewellery than you would have thought (a) possible (b) appropriate for an such an occasion.  I try and look broke in the hope they will charge me less.  (It doesn't work but I do get them not to cash my cheque until the insurance pays out).

I am called and climb onto the reclining chair which then tips back at an angle which makes my head spin.  There is a screen on the ceiling which runs a series of images.  Presumably they are meant to be a distraction or even a comfort.  Some of the pictures are 90 degrees sideways.  One of the images is of an ocean with what looks like a distant shark fin.  There is then a closer view.  It is a shark fin.  I am not comforted.  An assistant hovers nearby and covers me in paper.  I think she is there to stop me running away.  Dentists and their aides must be able to smell fear.  My lovely dentist appears and pumps in enough anaesthetic to numb a rhino to the gum where he will be doing the 'little surgery'.  I ask him if this is absolutely necessary.  I think we both know what he said.

To start with, he hooks out my temporary crown and fits the new one.  It feels very tight and takes a lot of trimming to fit with the lower jaw.  He takes a bit of a lower incisor to get it just right.  He then gets out the scalpel and I close my eyes and the sickly taste of blood fills my mouth and the assistant does a lot of aspiration with a violently sucky tube.  Oh la la said the dentist.  Instead of being able to clean up the area where the abscess was, he has found that the root has split in two so that needs to come out and so does the tooth.  Fortunately the root comes out in three pieces.  The assistant shows it to me.  It is surprisingly long.  He sews up my gum and rasps away at the dead matter and cauterises with a laser.  I have to put up with a missing tooth for six weeks and then have a bridge.  The quote is for over 1500 euros.  I pay a nominal amount right away and go and see the insurance agency who cover me for medical expenses.  The lady promises to send the invoices and quote off immediately.

I pop in and see a lady and get a new sales contract on her house.  She gives me some fizzy water and shows me her quote for dental work.  Even bigger than mine.  She needs two bridges.  We are getting old, she says, laughing.  Speak for yourself Mrs.  I am still in there and pitching.

I ring the agency head and update her on the goings on of yesterday.  She says we must take a back seat and let the lawyers sort it out.  Go and suck down some McDonald's wedge potatoes with mayonnaise and have a coffee.  My nose and part of my eyelid are also partially numb.  Must come over as less of a wuss next time I go and see dentist.  Actually, who am I kidding.  I am mega wuss.

Back home and am just about to take out the dog when the seller of the house in town rings to say that the other buyers have taken the advice of an avocat and will be attending the signing at the agent's office but they themselves won't be either attending or signing.  They also are instructing an avocat.  She sounded surprisingly chipper.  I send my would be buyers an email and hope they won't ring me.  Feel like I have gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson.

Prepare the offer document and buyers and sellers details paperwork and send everything off to everyone.  Make chili rabbit and chorizo casserole and have sleep on sofa.  OH out fishing for afternoon.

It should have been dead but it won't lie down.... with throwing of proverbial hats in the air much later on.

Monday 16 March 2015

Sunny and 17 degrees! Yay Spring at last

I spent most of the morning on the phone with a sale that should have been dead but is refusing to lie down and keep quiet.  

First thing, I ring the head of the agency and she says that because the other agency has signed their buyers and the sellers have co-signed, that any tribunal would go in their favour and my people are too late.  I put the phone down and it rings.  

It is the seller.  She has been talking to the notary I recommended, rather than the one she habitually uses, who only answers his phone for two hours a day.  He is really not that busy and needs to look through the window and notice it is the 21st century.  The notary has said that my buyers may also have a claim because they made a written offer on the 4th March (wtf?  this is the first I have heard of this) and also have had reports done on the roof and the termites (more wtf?).  The notary says the situation is grey rather than black and white. I am sure there is a part of the notary's training on being non committal.  It is probably part of the 'Pass the buck' module.  Both my buyers and the other buyers can state that they have right to purchase and it could go to the Tribunal to decide.  The Tribunal means months of delay.  The seller is manic.  The notary had also told her that if she had gone via me rather than trying to negotiate it herself, then things would have been done correctly. Allowed myself wry smile.

I point out that my buyer has shown himself to be extremely tenacious and she says that he and his wife have been ringing and emailing her for days.  I also point out that he has the time and the money to pursue things to the bitter end.  Would the other couple, who are young and hopefully less bloody minded, also want the time. anguish and not inconsiderable expense of taking on an avocat.  She said she would talk to her partner and they would make a decision.   I put the phone down and it rings.

It is the notary.  Happily, we have just bought a phone which is cordless so I am able to make coffee, do violent gesticulations at the dog who is trying to head off down the lane, and settle myself down with notepad and pen whilst she is talking.  It transpires that the acceptance of the offer of the 4th March was done orally and there is no trace by voicemail, text or email of its existence.  She wants to know if I have any emails or anything else confirming that the sellers agreed.  I say I only have one email and it says that they do not accept the offer and that I was late on the scene.  She says they will have to make a decision and it could end up in court.   I put the phone down and it rings.

It is the would be buyer's wife so I update her with this morning's conversations.  Other phone calls include a very insistent company trying to sell me frozen food because I am such a busy working woman.  Someone else who wanted to tell me about how I could better use the pension I am receiving was surprised to learn that I am still working.  At your age? She said.  Yes bitch.  You bet I am.

The seller rings back and says they have just emailed the other agency to withdraw.  He rang them immediately and was very annoyed.  They had words.  He said he would talk to his notary (good luck with that one - it is the one who doesn't answer his phone) and get back to them.  He rang them back later and said that they should get an avocat.

Discover the dog has taken the opportunity to run off and have to get in the car and find him. He is a total moron.  For the first 11 years of his life, he didn't run off.  Now he does it at all possible opportunities.

I unplug the phone and we watch Bargain Hunt and have corned beef sandwiches with brown sauce and rocket salad. It is a moment of sanity in an otherwise insane day.  

Early afternoon I go to see the English couple who found me in the phone directory (we thought you might speak English).  Their phone call was a real surprise as I am just listed under my name with 'estate agent' as a label.  The first time in 11 years anyone has rung me from this source.   The property is in a neighbouring departement and is typical of the regional style with long sloping roofs and a large central hallway with rooms off.  It has a holiday home feel.  In a full time home, the furniture, fittings, pictures and paraphernalia accrete over a period of time.  Holiday homes, everything is bought together and then spread over the rooms.  There were pictures that you really wouldn't want to look at on a regular basis.

It was basic but the rooms were flooded with light and there was a barn which was large enough to convert but not so huge that it is a money pit.  Would it do for the clients of last week, now in a state of 'complete indecision' because they loved the house but not the road. Stood outside and listened.  Road about the same distance away as the other house but shouldn't carry as much traffic.   Discussed the price and they said they would talk to the children and get back to me.

Go for a swim and not very many people in the pool.  Bliss.  Do my regulation 20 lengths and sit in the bubbles and bob.

Back home and OH has fishing stuff everywhere.  My hoard is nothing on his.

There are many messages on the phone but it is time to Skype my Russian clients.  They appear on the screen, with angelic golden haired children who say hello and eat large, juicy looking apples.  They want to buy the house they drove 3500 kms to see.  They want to buy it cash with no messing around.  We are all very, very happy.  Behind them, through their kitchen window, the light fades and night falls.  They say it is below zero.  I say it is still light for at least a couple of hours and it is 15 degrees.  Mica says not to worry, he has not got cash from criminal activities.  This is what you must call Russian humour.

I ring the owners who have been on pins.  I tell them the good news and expect to hear sounds of joy.   They are shell shocked.  They have to move country with a large herd of animals.  They are thinking 'oh crap.  This has suddenly got real'.  I am deflated at their reaction so OH gives me alcohol, the universal cheerer upper.

He rustles up spicy stir fry chicken and disappears to watch football.  It is now late and I feel on my last legs but have to do VAT return.  Collapse to bed.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mothers Day and Floralie

Sunday 15 March 2015

Cloudy with sun later
14 degrees

Mothering Sunday

No contact at all from eldest.  He will have been very busy making lovely lunches for other people's mothers so can't claim he didn't know it was Mothering Sunday.  WF sent card but didn't bother ringing and he only sent card because OH reminded him.  Feel seriously unappreciated.  I should have had girls.

Woke up excited about going to the Floralie with a good friend.  The phone rang at 9 am and my friend is in tears because her former husband has just died unexpectedly.  She is in a terrible state and is going back to the UK immediately.  Give her a big virtual hug.  He is the father of her boys and although a lot of thrashing water has gone under their bridge, she is still very upset and is going back to support her boys during the weeks to come.

Have tea in bed and decide to go anyhow.  I do enjoy going places on my own - it gives me the opportunity to take my own route, stop to take photos or coffee, and spend as much or as little time at the venue as desired.  The motorways are empty, especially the one going to the vast city to the north which opened three years ago, and is so expensive that no one goes on it.  I do 20 kms and am charged 3 euros for the privilege.  If I tell you the full length is 200 kms, you will have an idea.  

Leaving the motorway, the landscape becomes flattened out and the architectural style evolves into beautiful river stone and slate rooves.  The road rises and the village is perched on the top, its tall church looking out over the resting fields and the distant haze of the mountains. 

For a small village, it is crammed with cars and I have to bump up on a pavement.  I ring OH to tell him I have arrived and he says he can't talk long as he has accidentally super glued his fingers together.  That will keep him busy.  Remind him that he promised to cook dinner tonight.

The flower show is spread out in front of the Mayor's office.  The central courtyard is full of plants and shrubs, with a particularly fine display of roses.  Mustn't buy anything big.  I am tempted and plump for some salvia argentii, some medium height echiums and an interestingly ribbed and rampant prostrate euphorbia.  Hats off to anyone who wants to hold the National Collection of that family.  With 7500 species in 275 genera, the spurge family is huge.  If you want to pop along to Oxford Botanic Garden, you can see a mere 2000 of them

a euphorbia sort of like the one I bought

Salvia argentea “Silver Sage”
  Oh no said OH, it reminds me of death.

I also succumbed to some beautiful resin jewellery and treated myself to some wild carrot earrings and a leaf ring.

For good measure, the show also included some small farmyard animals including chickens, cockerels, a pig with a long shoelace tail, some vocal goats and their sooty black kids.

By roads (almost) unadopted and woodlanded ways, I drove back home through the early Spring haze.  Email from my Russian clients saying their want to speak tomorrow on Skype and that they had really enjoyed their day with us, that it was like a breath of fresh air and that the lady and I were soul mates.  After all the (word that sounds like twits) of last year, they are a joy.

After dinner (OH had unstuck his fingers), the seller of the house in town rings me and is at her wits end.  She said her would be buyer (wbb) would not stop ringing and emailing and what was I going to do about it.  Her other phone then rang and she said, Merde its them again and hung up.   Her phone was then engaged for quite some time and she finally rang me back and said that they were insisting on buying because they had made the first offer and they were threatening to take her to Tribunal to force her to sell.  I calmed her down and said I would ring wbb but before I could dial his number, the phone rang again.  I told wbb that he could not threaten the seller, that it was very bad form and that he had no legal grounds to do so as she had not co signed his offer.  I also told him that he needed to up his offer significantly, which he did.  I then rang back the seller, who still sounded fraught, poor woman, and told her the new offer. This cheered her up no end until she spoke to the other agent who told her that, because she had co signed the offer made by his buyers, that they could actually take her to the Tribunal and force her to sell.  I rang various people and no one answered so I googled it and it appears the other agent is correct.  In the eleven years I have worked in real estate, a number of buyers have backed out but I have never encountered a seller who has wished to do so.  I need legal backup from the head office.

Watched the rest of Metropolis and actually managed to keep awake.  It grew on me but the acting is seriously, and I mean seriously, OTT.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cleaning woes and surprise contrition

Saturday 14 March 2015

Sunny with light breeze
16 degrees

Crawled out of bed early to clean.  Why do stupid houses get so sodding dirty so quickly. Thought I was making progress until I glanced up from my toilet cleaning and noticed that the ceiling of the loo was covered in black mould.  Attached a cloth to the mop and whacked it all off.  It left a stain on the plaster so hid it by artfully placing a large scented candle at the back of the unit and lighting it so that the unsuspecting client wouldn't put on the ceiling light and notice the mess.   The problem with the septic tank is still ongoing so there is a nasty niff on the upstairs landing.  Opened all the windows, put just a little bleach down the offending sink (apparently it doesn't kill the septic tank if you only do it occasionally) and topped it off with some bio drain cleaner.  Another scented candle.  A real dogs dinner of perfumes was now emanating from the landing but at least it no longer resembled eau de merde.

The main water pump isn't pumping and the Karscher is on its last legs so the patio looks dreadful.  I wished I had left the dead leaves where they were, as the muddy residue underneath them looks even worse.

The people were on time and were driving a natty Mini Cooper, accompanied by the agent. I like to watch other agents to see if I can pick anything up from them - Kirsty Allsopp is one of my favourites, as is Phil Spencer.  I have a notebook to hand to write down good phrases that they use.  This agent seemed very deferential.  I am not convinced this works with the French.  I think they need directing or they run all over the place.  It is like herding geese and they also have a tendency to bite you when you are not expecting it.  The trick is to expect it.

They went around for an hour and the lady said that she was worried that (a) people would not be able to find the house.  It is only 6 kms out of town for heavens sake - has she never heard of signage? (b) what if she met another car coming the other way.  In the 11 years we have lived here, I have never met someone coming the other way.  I said one of you would have to reverse.  Oh, she replies, I am not sure that the renovations we want to do will be affordable at the price you are asking.  So, that old cherry comes out of the syrup again and shows its wrinkly face.  They leave and I tell the agent that we are going to have to put the price up as the Euro has now sunk to 1:42 against the Pound.  At this rate, we would be lucky to afford a chicken hut to live in.  He says how would I feel if he asked me to do that.  I say that's economics for you.  He left, looking sad rather than deferential.

OH comes back from flat painting and says that French people are never going to buy our house so he doesn't know why I bothered cleaning up.  We have words.

The skies go black and the dog needs walking so we go into the nearby large town and do some shopping and go for a very quick walk between the violent showers.  Dog very happy. Why do dogs not mind getting absolutely soaked on a walk but you can't get them through the door to do a pee when there is light drizzle?   It is the first day of the fishing season so OH drags a very reluctant me to the fishing shop where I get fawned over by the creepy guy who runs it. OH takes me because it means he gets served immediately.  I don't want a strange man holding my hand, kissing it, and then not letting it go whilst enquiring about the health of the local property market.  You know when people invade your personal space and you can smell their body odour mixed with garlic and cigs?  That one.

The phone is ringing when we get back and, to my amazement, it is the suddenly contrite would be buyer (wbb) of the house in town.  He is now prepared to pay reasonable agency fees and suggests a small increase in price.  I ring the sellers who are at their wits' end because, it transpires, the wbb is ringing them and emailing them non stop. They turn down the slightly increased offer and so I transmit this info by email to wbb's.

OH is in charge of the remote control and he flicks briefly onto Ant and Dec's Saturday Night In.  Flavia Focaccia and partner Vincent are doing a spirited and passionate Argentine Tango.  Vincent spins Flavia in 180 degree circle and the audience burst into applause. Wow, I say, that was good!  What says OH?  That move they just made.  OH - I didn't see it. I was looking at the door.  

He then put on another dreadful German film - Metropolis by Fritz Lang.  This put me into a deep sleep, from which I periodically surfaced to ask what was happening.  OH gets annoyed and says how can he concentrate if I keep on talking.  It is a silent film.  It is four hours long.  And subtitled.  You could prescribe it on the National Health  for insomniacs with an urge to learn German and how to act in an excessive manner.  I can certainly recommend it, although it is the keeping awake thing that is more of a problem for me.

Spring flowers and notes

Friday 13 March 2015

Didnt get through the door much today
14 degrees and mizzling

Spent most of the day ringing people up, loading properties and cleaning.  Here are some photos of the gorgeous outbreak of Spring in my round and abouts


Old man's beard

Pulmonaria 'lung wort'

Wood anemones

Furry trunk with ivy

Moss highway

Green hellebore

Gorgeous cowslips

More cowslip loveliness

Snakes head fritillary

Old man of the woods

Eastern charm and llamas

Thursday 12 March 2015

Cloudy with slight drizzle warming to sunny periods later
14 degrees

Wake at six to write as I am getting behind on my vow to write every day.  The discipline of waking, making tea, sniffing the morning with the dog through the back door and then heading back to bed with the laptop is a daily rigour to which I have well adapted and look forward to.

Awaken OH at seven thirty and we are away and heading off into the new day by eight, with the suns rays glancing off the windscreen and the heat of our bodies misting up the glass. The motorway is clear until we approach the capital city.  The GPS recommends coming off at that point but OH wisely decides to carry onto the next exit.  Looking over at the A roads, they are crammed.  We finally come off and have to look for a bar.  Travelling with a man of a certain age is reminiscent of journeys with the boys when they were little.  When they had to go, they had to go.   I text the clients and say very sorry, we are running a little late and have a coffee whilst OH is otherwise engaged.

20 minutes later we arrive in the town and wait in front of the nattily appointed Tivoli Hotel. Built in the early 20th century it is a solid, rectangular building with a matt pink facade.  The bedroom balconies have beautiful metal basket guard rails and the roof is angular and decorated with intricate metalwork. 

'What is the guy's name'? asks OH 
'Mica' comes the reply, over my shoulder.  

We turn and see a man as tall and pale as a silver birch, with fine blond hair and baby blue eyes.  He is smiling nervously and is casually dressed.  Mica (name changed) wife emerged from their Russian car.  She was also slight and pale with shoulder length wavy chestnut hair but more eye level for me and shook hands shyly. She was wearing a floaty Indian top with shiny inserts and open toed sandals and many crystal bangles.

I like to dress according to the client and it also gives me confidence.  However, I don't always get it right.  When getting dressed this morning, I had channeled my inner Russian and was wearing black and grey striped trousers, subtly shiny Per Una Blouse, bright yellow belt sporting one or two metal west highland terriers, shrimp pink scarf and sage green woollen jacket.  I was somewhat off the mark.  

We were stunned that they were in their own car and asked how long they had taken to get here 'three days' was the response.  They had left home where it was -5 and had driven through Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Germany and France.  'it was an adventurous' they smiled. We all then got back into our respective cars and went to see the property.

Typical of the region, the buildings are laid out around a large central courtyard which has been planted with herbs and roses and is where the owners do breakfast and afternoon teas.  The house is rectangular and has a low pitched orange tiled roof.  The facade is faced with river stone pebbles taken from the large rivers which run through the department. Behind the courtyard, the land extends for acres towards the far trees and is dotted with the beautiful cream and fluffy creatures that give the house its name.  They come over to see us and their nostrils flare and suck in the air that carries our scent.

OH stays in the kitchen and talks to the owners and I commence the visit.  This is a property which is a delight to visit but even so, I have never had such appreciative clients.  As each door opened and the room was revealed, they emitted gasps of wonderment.  'it is so beautiful' 'it is much better than even photos'.  The lady owner then comes to show us the bed and breakfast part and then her workshop.  She spins and dies the wool from her animals and is also a knitwear designer.  

For a passionate crafter like myself, going to this property is not work.  The wool is ranged over a long series of shelves and is of many hues.  The dies are taken from materials that are foraged over the local area and over the seasons.  There are creams, pale sage greens, berry red and purple, fern and cinnamon tones.  I stroke them and think, if I sell the property, would she be prepared to give me a good price.  This type of wool is astonishingly expensive to buy normally and to have enough to make a shawl, would be quite an investment.

We then go to see the livestock and the animal housing.  The boys come up to see us and submit to stroking.  Their wool is dense and soft as a shag pile carpet.  They are tall, close up, and they look down at me, their faces surprisingly small compared to the thickness of their necks.  I spot OH in the courtyard, watching with interest as two cats sort out their differences in a particularly violent fashion.

 At one point I am surrounded and the owners says 'dont get behind them - just push your way through'.

Two hours later and we are back at the Tivoli and have a long talk.  I ask them what their plans are, now that they have arrived, and they say that they just came to see this house and are now heading back home to speak to their children.  At the car, they give us presents - a bottle of spiced rum and a pretty dish bearing the name of their town.  At the last minute, the lady (who is a reiki teacher) presses a rose quartz crystal into my hand.  We go and have a McDonald's and reflect that there are good and lovely people out there and we have just been fortunate enough to spend a morning in their company.

Tonight is the GBSB Final and it is the rank outsider who wins, largely because the other two contenders, who have been stronger all the way through, had a rush of blood to the head and made utterly bizarre garments which were ugly and unstylish.

Lorna made what was a beautiful dress with long overskirt but then put on enough purple tulle to satisfy a Transylvanian transvestite.  Neil presented a never before seen garment to the world for the alteration challenge - it is not wearable said the judge, sniffily.  He then made a dogs dinner of a dress which didnt fit well and was of a number of materials which didnt sew together well.  It was as if they had thrown away the chance to win.

Matt's winning dress was truly avant guard - so much in fact that his very petite wife had trouble walking over to the judging.  It was however beautifully executed and stylish.