I do apologise. Being British, and a Lady, I don’t normally do sensational headlines. I can’t say I think much of the rubber shark. He looks like Miss Boakes, my school music teacher, but probably sings better.
So, sharks have not really come crashing through my roof or ploughed their way through the wall – it just felt like that when on a whole lot of buy-to-let investors arrived on my doorstep yesterday lunchtime. Normally my doorstep remains unsullied from one day to the next. Only the Post Lady and the Tesco Man venture down the driveway, and they have to do so carefully because at this time of year it is an inch thick in mud. Further up the hill is some sort of stream, or spring. Water runs down the hill and over the concreted driveways of house after house, then runs down my driveway, depositing silt. Grass grows in the silt. Grass grows in the one and only surface drain. Once a year I have to go out with a bucket and rubber gloves and pull out all the grass so that the annual torrents of rainwater can drain away, down a covert pipe, behind the garden shed and into the garden of the next unfortunate person down. The mud is only one of the reasons I want to move. Maybe the sharks didn’t notice it, in their frenzy.
They were nearly all men, and they liked the garage. It’s true what they say about men, you know – they just love a garage, especially one that has – wait for it – a work-bench and a huge rusty vice in it. Is it possible that someone will buy the whole house, complete with mud-pudding driveway and resident grass, just for the rusty vice?
The cats only poo’d once, which I thought was pretty good going. Violet, the weekend estate agent lady (75 if she was a day) kept them talking in the living room about the extremely low Council Tax rates hereabouts (it’s true – because the roads are kind of unofficial and full of potholes) whilst I slipped out and effected some damage limitation with the pooper-scooper.
I have to hand it to the ancient Violet – as I would to anyone who could keep their calm in a stressful situation – something I have never been able to do – she rose to the occasion. Arriving ten minutes behind schedule, at a house she had never seen before, she found the living room full already of rabid buy-to-let landlords and People Come Down Specially From Norfolk, plus thirteen terrified cats and a gibbering, panic-stricken Seller, and hit the ground running.
Tossing her black leather gloves and fancy document wallet onto the shelf next to the fridge she began to sell my house sight unseen. And this is… as you can see… the living room. Oh, and a… cupboard under the stairs? (I nodded, imperceptibly). And this must be the kitchen. Oh, what a lot of storage units. Well, sir, you could get all your saucepans in and room to spare and oh… what a lovely view down the garden. I do believe… that is honeysuckle, in the summer? (I nodded. Conveying No, actually it’s a passion flower but just as good as honeysuckle if not better was beyond me.) And that tree at the bottom of the garden – behind the fence – that is part of the property… I believe (?)
She was magnificent. She even coped with the People In The Office not having printed her off any sealed bids forms. You can download them on the internet, gentlemen. You haven’t got the internet in Norfolk, madam? Write down your address and I will post you a form and the requisite envelope. It’s all very simple…
But towards the end of our several-hour session she was beginning to drown under the weight of crowds of men in puffy anoraks with cheesy grins and far too many teeth. I knew I had to help her so I grabbed a handful of my pre-printed Annual Service Bills and Council Tax table, and started to take groups of them out to the garage while she did the upstairs. You’re supposed to keep an eye on them, you see, in case they pinch anything. Nerves forgotten, I got almost cheerful in the end, chatting away to the invaders and making up stuff about boundaries and Wonderful Community Spirit.
You were really getting into the swing of it! Said Violet, when they had all gone. No, I won’t have a coffee. Not that I don’t like coffee but it’s not fair to… use other people’s toilets, know what I mean? She works a whole day, does three or four Open Houses one after another, and never has a cup of coffee or a tiddle? The woman’s a hero.
I can see I shall have to watch out for my job! she quipped as, black leather gloves and fancy document wallet clasped to her, she negotiated the over-high muddy doorstep and sidestepped a clump of thistles and a pothole. Must dash, now.
It took another hour and an open tin of tuna wafted from room to room, to retrieve a trembling Little Arf from down the side of the spare-room bed.