Thursday, April 16, 2015

Stressy day

Thursday 16 April 2015

Cloudy with light rain
16 degrees
Delightfully fresh after the storm in the night.

I am downstairs and writing when, to my shock, OH appears.  I cant remember last time I saw him at 7.30 am.  He is agitated about the situation with the aggressive seller and makes many cups of tea and paces about and writes completely illegible notes for me to use when I speak to the agency.  By 9 am he is looking haggard, poor lamb.  At 9.30 I manage to speak to the head of the agency and she says her legal expert is looking through things and not to panic and lets take things step by step. OH heads unhappily down to the rental units and I go and look around the market.  The phone rings and it is the seller of the Villa.  Her mother has died during the night so she is very upset and has a million things on her mind. I give my condolences and say I will ring in a couple of days time.  This is good news in a way as the head of the agency said not to get her to sign the offer letter until we have sorted out the mess with the other house owner.

The market is unusually quiet and I have a chat to the delightful lady who runs the main bar in town. It has recently been renovated and is starkly modern inside.  I am not a fan. People perch uneasily on the slight tabourets, their bottoms sagging over the edges.  At only 10.30 am there are British 'builders' supping their first lagers of the day.  RH is there and I manage to avoid his clammy embrace by claiming to still have bronchitis. He is wearing a large white plastic mac and is shouting in the ear of a wincing Geordie builder, who is nowhere as near as deaf as RH.  

My hair resembles a poodle on a bad day so I go for a cut and colour and, by magic, am transformed into a new woman.  The lady darkens the colour, bleached almost white by the sun, and gives me red highlights. She takes off virtually all the layers and leaves the length just at collar bone level and flicking out in a stylish lick.  I am thrilled and leave a large tip. OH is suitably impressed and offers to show his appreciation but I say we have things to do and the attentions he was proposing are not good for one's coiffure.

In the afternoon I take the car to have a new wing mirror.  I am ignored by many men and have to adopt my normal way of attracting attention in a French garage, which is to get into a showroom car and start pressing the buttons. The men are so involved in looking at diagrams that I actually have to start opening and closing a sun roof before one of them comes over and deigns to take my details and start work on the car.  Another one then comes over and offers to make me coffee and no one seems to be doing any work at all. I ring up the head of the agency and she is out on a visit and cant find the house keys and is very stressed.  I tell her that the aggressive house owner is waiting for her call and she says to get our legal lady to ring him up and say bugger off.  Speak to the legal lady and she says the form I completed is incomplete and cant be used to enforce a compromis.  She attempts to pass the buck back to me and I successfully resist.

The wing mirror is finally fitted and I have drunk so much thick black coffee that I can feel my pupils involuntarily jerking.  Apparently there is an electrical fault and it cannot be adjusted from inside the car so I will have to bring it back when we come back from holiday. Buy some fish flakes from an almost deserted garden centre.  Two very glum looking staff behind the counter.

Back to our town and pick up two sales contracts and arrive back home to find OH has made lovely dinner.  

Make 11 appointments for Sunday.  It is going to be intense. OH watches football.  The dog snores.  At long last, we don't need fires at nighttime.

Out of the blue, complications arise...

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Hot and sunny 23 degrees

Opened emails and was shocked to see the owner who had refused the offer made by the NZ ladies had now accepted it, but with the proviso that our fees were cut by 55%.  I decided to ignore this, and made an appointment to open negotiations with the owners of the beautiful Villa in town, which is in fact the owners preferred property.  The sun was hot and I waited on the steps of the Villa and admired its tower and metal fretwork window frames.  Tiny white clouds drifted past the weather vane and the roof tiles shimmered and shook in the heat haze.  The grass had been freshly cut and the earth heaped up around the rose bushes.  The scent of wisteria was heady.   The owner arrived and she hadn't brought the keys either so we sat on the steps and I made the offer and we discussed it and then came to agreement.  She filled out the owner details form and told me something of the history of the house.

It had been built by an architect for his daughter, and named after her, at the turn of the 20th century.  She had died without issue and the house had passed to a number of relatives until it came into the ownership of a doctor.  What is classed as the winter garden and billiard room on the 1905 plans used to be used as a room where mothers were instructed in the ungentle arts of raising their youngsters, a tough job throughout the ages.  Her parents came to our town in the 1950's and her mother loved the house although, the lady said, her parents had to buy and live above their means in order to have it.  Her mother was now 94 and in a retirement home and her father was dead.  She is divorced (at the mention of her former husband, she shudders and says he was a nightmare), and the only other family member is a nephew.  

Back home and the owner of the first property rings me up.  I tell him that the ladies are no longer interested in buying and he is outraged and says he will speak to his lawyer.  I say there is no point in being upset, he had refused their offer and now they have moved on.  I say that I have some great clients on Sunday and can I bring them around and then he gets abusive and I hang up and don't answer when he rings back.  I then panic and email the head of the agency and beg assistance.  She rings back and says to send over all the emails I have had with him and she will get the legal expert to look at them.  Feel very stressed.  Why can nothing ever be simple.  The offer form says that if the offer is accepted by the seller then the people who make the offer have to proceed to reservation contract. They then have the right to withdraw for any reason (or indeed without having to give a reason) within seven days.  This is just a ludicrous situation and wont get him anywhere.  I dont know how he imagines he can force them to compromis in the first place and I am hoping he will speak to his lawyer who will tell him to get over it.   And then bill him and he won't be accepting 50% negotiation of his fees.

Dreams start to realise themselves...

Tuesday 14 April 2015

27 degrees - scorchio for this time of year

The day of the reservation contract on the big house sale!  Hit the road early and there is already a heat haze over the Pyrenees, although they are still carrying a crisp white snow cover.  Traffic is light and we stop for a coffee in a driving through type town, its shops set out regularly on either side of the narrow ribbon of asphalt.  At 12.15 we arrive and the Russians are there, looking pink and hot and waving their hands.  We go into the cool interior of the hotel and sit by the window and enjoy the air conditioning.  Again, they have driven.  'We are crazy people' smiles the man ''we have five children.  When we drive we find the time to talk'.  The journey is part of the experience.

They are vegetarian and, by some miracle, there is a wonderful buffet as first course.  They have never tasted mussels and are impressed.  They avoid eggy mayonnaise and have a lot of beetroot.  I ask what sort of food they eat at home - they say vegetables and beans. They are the slimmest vegetarians I have ever seen.  Perhaps because a lot of western vegetarians eat bread and pasta.  They don't eat that either.  They give thanks for their food and tell us that they are Lutheran, which is a very simple form of protestantism. They kiss and start to eat, slowly, and discovering the new types of foods.

Our second course is fish for myself and the clients and OH has pork which turns out to be a chop.  We all have ratatouille and the fish comes with saffron rice, which is absolutely delicious and delicately perfumed.  To finish, we have apple pie. OH and I have coffee and the Russians ask for hot chocolate, which request comes as quite a surprise to the server.  I don't think he has ever, in his life, been asked for hot chocolate at the end of a meal.

We emerge into the sunlight and head to pick up the owners of the house and go to the notary office.  The owner has recovered from her nerves and is looking very summery, in a long flowing flowery robe.  She smells of shampoo and citrus shower gel.  The animals, newly shorn, are hiding from the heat.  I didn't realise that newly shorn animals can burn in hot sun.  Not a problem in the north of England where all of our sheep live.  

The notaries office is unmarked, and looks like a bungalow, and is in the middle of a field of maize.  I elect to lurk in the car park and wait for our notary to arrive.  She arrives at some speed, spots me at the last minute, does a handbrake turn and skates into the car park with whizzing of wheels and spurting gravel.  She is persistently late.  A very slender lady, with blue eyes and blond hair, and today she is sporting some violently red ski pants and spotty blouse.  People just don't wear suits here.   A memory which makes me smile is that once, I was standing in a check out queue at a large French supermarket.  A man in the queue ahead of me was wearing a suit and a small girl was watching him closely.  He paid and left and the small girl turned to her mother and asked 'mamma - was that the President?'

The sellers notary, who resembles a snarky school teacher, shoes us into her office, which does not have air conditioning, and starts the read through.  She goes at some speed and only myself and the other notary understand the proceedings and I have to keep on interrupting to make sure everyone is up to speed with what is being said.  After an hour and a half, when we are all dripping, except for the other notary, we are finally released from the claustrophobic room.  Everyone has to receive a copy of the reservation contract so much photocopying is being done.   Many trees are sacrificed in France, says OH happily.  My notary makes a face - she doesn't think much of the other notary 'she's a bit dry' is her comment.  We all go out into the field and enjoy the breeze and my notary chats with the Russians.  She is surprised to learn that you can be married just by going to church and saying your vows.  In France, you are not married until you have been to the Mairie to have it registered.  We tell her we marry before God and not before the State.  'ah bon' she says

We then all go back to the house and the owner shows my notary around the house.  She is very impressed and says it is done with a lot of taste and is 'très class'.  She then leaves in a cloud of dust.  The Russians drift around in a daze and are thrilled.  The owner, from whom you normally don't get more than a cup of tea, produces champagne and we sit in the pergola where the scent of the wisteria mingles with that of the hot earth and we all talk and it is dream like.  The llamas peer out from the shelter and scent the air and buzzards circle on the high thermals.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Excellent news for eldest!

Monday 13 April 2015

Hottest day of the year 27 degrees!

Spend morning catching up with various emails and tasks so when RJ (eldest son) decides to ring on Skype at 11.30, we are still in our PJ's, back door open and delightful breeze blowing through the house.  He has the amazing good news that he has been offered Junior Sous Chef with free live in and quite a hike in salary.  This is so fantastic for him and really will reward the effort he has put in.  He also says that an agency wanted to send him for interview at the Manoir aux Quatre Saisons as a chef de partie but the salary is terrible and there is no live in and he really needs to get some cash behind him.  Still, the opportunity to work with Raymond Blanc and have the MQS on your CV is something to be aimed for in about a year.  He will now stay there for at least another six months, get some good experience at ordering and managing supplies and then have a good spring board to move on.  Discussed cars and coming over to see him in May.

Do the VAT return and look at property online in Devon.  Devon could be the ideal situation for us - West Coast so OH can fish, on the coast for me and within train ride of boys and the house prices are not excessive.  Discover a town called Beer which I vaguely remember going to, looking at lovely art exhibitions and eating ice cream on a café overlooking the sandy cove.  Need to live where I can smell the sea and hear the gulls.  OH has same yearning.

By 1.30 the ladies from NZ still havent rung so I go down town and meet the happy people who will be buying in our town and tell them about the Friday rv and read through the diagnostic reports with them.  The man's head is peeling and the lady is still immaculately dressed.  I then drive at some speed to meet my partner agents and show them a chateau where the chatelaine is 80 years old and everytime I see her, is battling with the leaves. There are a lot of trees around the property and today, she was battling with dry leaves, piling them up into great heaps, where they were smoking and sparking.  The chateau is 15th century and a real rabbit warren.  We wandered around and my colleagues admired the huge stone arches, the original floor tiles and the extensive wainscotting and massive stone fireplaces.  I gave them an update on my various activities of the week and they said they had thought they were about to get an offer but then the clients had decided to 'pop' into the Dordogne on the way back to Germany.  The Dordogne is as cheap as chips and full of beautifully renovated properties.  They were looking depressed and very hot.  

I drove leisurely into our local big town, thinking of ice cream and getting the phone shop to swap over my SIM card.  I had decided to go with SFR and so took in my phone and the new SIM and apparently the phone was locked.  The lady fiddled with it for an hour and a half, trying via Itunes to reset it.  Finally, when they were about to close, she admitted defeat and I had to go home, find a special reference number, and unblock it myself.  For the intervening period, I wandered around town in an abortive hunt for ice cream and ended up having a snickers and a shandy.  I also tried to get another inhaler from the chemist.  Under my health insurance apparently, I am only allowed one inhaler a month.  I said I would buy one then - I cant do without it - and she said she would have to ring up the doctor and get permission.  42 euros!  But at least I wont expire.  Had shock news yesterday about a lady I met last year, who had an epileptic fit when on her own, and died aged just 52.

OH had spoken to NZ ladies who had given authorisation to negotiate up to a certain amount.  It is within spitting distance of what the owners said they would accept for the Villa but I have no time before Wednesday to open negotiations because tomorrow is the initial signing of the llama farm.  He makes delicious black cajun chicken with stir fry potatoes which I wolf down as I am so hungry on these steroids.

Monday, April 13, 2015

To sell or not to sell? That is the question (amongst others)

Sunday 12 April 2015

Cloud cover with sunny spells
21 degrees

Read Frederick Forsyth's 'The Afghan' in bed with many cups of tea.  Gripping story and also helps to understand some of the nightmare that is Islamic extremism.  The extremists latest atrocities extend to cultural cleansing and they have just destroyed the ancient city of Nimrud
A sculpture of a guardian figure in Nimrud.
 A sculpture of a guardian figure in Nimrud. Photograph: Nik Wheeler/Corbis

 Detail of an Assyrian relief from Nimrud showing horses and horsemen of the royal chariot, 725BC. Photograph: Steven Vidler/Eurasia Press/Corbis

Most of the site's relics are safely stored in museums around the world but many of the winged guardian figures had been left in place.  These people are not extremists or fundamentalists.  No religion advocates destruction.  Young girls as running away from the UK to be brides of Islam.  I wonder in what dreadful situations they find themselves.  What torture for their parents.

We take the dog to the river, which is slow flowing and deep agate in colour.  The sky is a deep azure blue and we see salmon and trout idly treading water and then back home and I need another siesta.

I catch up with the NZ ladies finally at the end of the afternoon and tell them the good news about the Villa.  They are cautiously excited and say they are severely jetlagged and we will talk at 1 pm my time tomorrow.  I am concerned that they will not offer enough. Watch Location, Location, Location and pick up a useful phrase used by Phil which will help me to present any offer coming from the ladies, to the owner of the Villa.

I tackle the immense ironing mountain.  The phone rings and it is the Brits who OH told to sod off so I dont answer it.  We have a chat.  Do we really want to sell our house now?  Do we want to sell at all?  I point out that if we were to improve the house - put in central heating and do the bathroom - would we need to move?  There is a fundamental gap of about 200 miles between where I want to live in the UK and where OH wants to live.  He is not yet aware that I have no intention of living anywhere other than the South coast.  What is the point of going back to the UK and being so far from the boys that we never see them?  I also want to live on the coast. He is thinking Lake District or Trough of Bowland or Yorkshire.  OH says our house is a lot of work and he is sick of the rental units.  We decide to withdraw the house from the market and if someone with a lot of money comes along, then we will sell.  He is keen on spending a lot of time in Spain.  I cant say that I am.  Yet another country where he wont be able to get along with the language and it will all be left down to me.

Feel stressed about various sales.  OH makes strange meal of duck breast, cauliflower, roast parsnips and charred onions. To be fair, that was all that was in the fridge.  

Good news about the Villa and we eat pancakes

Saturday 11 April 2015

Hot and sunny
24 degrees

Today was read through day of the contract with the Russian buyers and English sellers.  I usually do this on Skype as, having visual, I can better gauge their level of stress and comprehension.  The Russian guy had everything printed out and it took about 40 minutes.  He said they are setting off by car tomorrow to drive down.  They love the adventure.  He works for an air base - why doesnt he like flying?  In the part of the contract where the parties declare they are legally competent to contract, the Russian said he had regular psychological assessments so could prove he was sane.  Nice...  Some of my other clients could do with furnishing a certificate, in fact so could most of the residents of my local town.

The English sellers were far more stressed.  The lady is pale and drawn.  They have a large stock of animals to move, are going to another European country, and their notary has been asking for paperwork which they haven't got and possibly never had.  They had done extensive work on the barns, with full planning permission, but it may be that they never got the conformity of the works checked out by the relevant authorities, to see that they were in agreement with the planning consent.  Knowing local communes as I do, the main purpose of this assessment is to see if they are paying enough land tax, which is based on rooms and total habitable area.  Their land tax did rise substantially at the completion of the works, so it is likely to have been signed off.  They think that the notary has enquired in the wrong commune office but of course, it is the weekend, everything is closed and the notary is not answering her phone.  We get over this hill and read the rest and say see one another Tuesday next for the signing.

I then go down town and meet the owner of the Villa which interests the ladies from NZ. She  says she is in town for the duration as her 94 year mother is in her 'end of life' period.  We look through the house and I realise that it is not in such a bad state as OH had said - not having been in it for some months.  The boiler was replaced ten years ago, full diagnostics were done just a year ago and showed no termite activity, and another agent has requested a quote for the electricity.  We discuss price and I say the ladies are very interested and the owner says they would come down 8%.  That is not going to be enough. Get back home and have siesta.  Feel exhausted and the bronchitis medications have given me revolting salty and metallic taste in my mouth.

OH goes fishing for a couple of hours and I clean up and email ladies to say I have some good news about the Villa.  Walk dog.  Countryside smells sweet and growing.  There is absolutely nothing in the cupboard so have pancakes with sultanas.  Dog likes pancakes too so we sit on the doorstep and enjoy the sunshine and the food and then he snoozes and I listen to the birds in the tall trees.  The phone rings.  It is the owner of the house that the ladies from NZ offered on.  He says he is waiting for other offers to come in but admits that the 390k offer he told me about yesterday is subject to 100% financing.  i.e.  has 100% chance of being refused.  One of the reasons I left the French agency with which I worked is the fact that the French banks are extremely shy at parting with their funds.  He is still not ready to accept the offer I have and says I need to cut fees by 50% and get the ladies to up their offer by 50K.  Cheers mate.  I bet you love doing your work for half price.   The Villa is a much more interesting house which will, upon renovation, have a far greater capital value. Also, I get to keep my fee percentage.  All to play for in favour of the Villa.

Watch the Curse of the Were Rabbit.  Eeeey lad.   Cheeeese!