Tuesday 10 March 2014
With Easter coming up fast on the rails and the Euro now just brushing 1.40 against the Pound Sterling, I am on the hunt for fresh stock to fill my pages.
The first property is at the lower end of the price spectrum and is in a very pretty market town. The owner is lurking in the ground floor shop when I arrive and flicking dust off the faux Tiffany lamps. We go via a side passage and into the tiny courtyard. The walls of the surrounding houses rise high above us and I ask when, during the day, the sunlight arrives. Between midday and 2 is good apparently. It feels dank and cold and the owner says it is easier to appreciate in the heat of Summer. Sad plants etiolate towards the light.
Into the house and there is a small kitchen, leading into a large living area with beautiful exposed stone walls, oak floors and full height patio windows leading out onto the balcony. Two excitable small dogs bounce out to meet us – a King Charles cocker spaniel and a Chihuahua. They are evidently the source of the terrible odour in the building. I don’t have much of a sense of smell but it is making my eyes water. I throw open the patio doors to ‘enjoy’ the view and get a couple of lungfuls of fresh air. The chihuahua tries to throw himself off the balcony so, alas, the doors are closed. I get the chance to see the new roof that was put on my rental units building, opposite and normally too steep to see from the street, and realise that the roofer has not put on traditional tiles on the facade side, but has covered the entire roof in new ones. What has he done with the thousands of old and valuable tiles which he took off? Fortunately the local technical services have not said anything but normally new is not allowed right down in the centre.
There are two more floors and more bedrooms though only one bathroom. In the corner of the bathroom is a toilet, with no visible means of flushing it. In response to my question of how do you flush it, the owner lifts the lid and presses a button. To my absolute horror, there is a deposit in the bowl and a lot of filthy paper. We both watch, me in ghastly fascination, as the contents circulate and are then sucked out. Voila! says the owner happily.
I escape as soon as possible. Perhaps the smell is in the furnishings? Perhaps one of the dogs had just had an accident. Everywhere.
I get back in the car and drive to the next appointment, windows wide open and gasping in lungfuls of non malodorous air. The road rises above the town and the panorama of rolling hills and valleys opens up, the grass sparkling and fresh in the afternoon sun. A buzzard circles high overhead and tiny fluffy clouds mackerel the upper skies.
The next house is 18th century and a thing of beauty. I recognise it as one I had on sale many years ago in a previous terrible existence as an agent in a national French chain. The interior arrangement of rooms have been completely reworked into a more logical sequence. Everything is in nickel order and smells absolutely wonderful – pine and vanilla and cinnamon. It is typical of the area with its hewn stone window encadrements, orange tiled roof and great arched entrance.
A satisfactory end to the afternoon and I go home and still have no news from the would be buyers. I wonder what they are trying on now?