Tag Archives: Bridgfords

Les mauvaises herbes

A month in and no buyers. Can it get more nerve-wracking than this?? I really, really need a buyer, now!!

The sale is all going through in France. We’re waiting on one document for the Acte de Vente, and then that’s it. The deed is done. March is the deadline. Nine months from decision to doorkeys. Wow. It’s been a whirlwind!

But we have all the practical things to attend to. I’ve been busily learning French by watching various BBC clips, working through ancient textbooks in the library, translating documents from Le Monde and Paris Match, translating everything I can lay my hand on (and spending endless hours playing sudoku on Le Monde which, strangely, isn’t helping my french at all, but is definitely passing the time) and translating various crime-thriller books from french into English. If only I’d studied so hard for my A level!

Whilst working at clearing out cupboards, I came across my French A level paper. It’s no wonder I got an E. I wrote a poem. In English. Not a very good poem, either. Still, it reassured me that I’m not crap at French, just that I’d had enough of it at A level. We’d had this fabulous French teacher, Miss Mullineaux, for A level, who was like a cross old lady until you knew her, and then she was like your favourite old auntie. She was wonderful. She retired in the second year of my A levels, to be replaced by some randomer who was never there and I managed to get through my A levels having never really read any of the texts. I can’t remember the other french teacher much. I remember my GCSE french teacher had a penchant for wearing her clothes back to front, had a very neat chignon and always reminded me of the nowty french teacher in Malory Towers, the school which I always wished I’d attended. She can’t have been half bad, as I did very well, with little love of her. I think hers was the only subject in which I got an A without a huge girlie pupil-teacher crush on the teacher, or an absolute love of the subject. So all praise goes to her. My first french teacher had been Mrs Short, a welsh lady (who I recall wearing rather raunchy underwear) who seemed ancient, but was probably in her forties. She had a very flimsy blouse collection and was rather buxom. Lucky Mr Short. My first encounters with the language were therefore welsh-pronounced French. Better, then, than my Todmorden-pronounced Latin. I can ‘sall-way-tay poo-elle-eye’ in the best Toddy accent. I’m sure it’s not what Caesar envisaged, but ‘sall-way mag-eest-rah’ should always be said with a Toddy accent, I feel. My only memory of Latin was locking Emma Taylor and Sue Littlewood in the cupboard, where they hid and played recorders, whispering “I am the ghost of Lucius Marcius Memor” (I think!) which we thought was rather amusing, being twelve and realising we could get away with virtually anything. I got 3% in my second-year latin exam. Good stuff! I was surprisingly third from the bottom. I even remember who did worse than me. I think the worst thing was that I wasn’t actually trying to get 3%, unlike my french A level where it seemed like a really good idea to fail miserably, rather than pass miserably.

Hence, my language love has had to be re-seeded. And I’m enjoying it. I picked up South American Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese… so French had kind of got left behind. I know enough to eat out, buy stuff, read stuff… I got by in French life passing fair when I went over to visit my dad or stay in Paris. I even managed a whole four days in a windy, rainy, autumnal Dinard without speaking a word of English (including getting dragged to the casino at 10:30, half drunk, by two lorry drivers who were in town. They weren’t our type of lorry drivers. We discussed why there is no french word for heaven, only ‘paradise’ and ‘sky’ which don’t quite cut the mustard. And we discussed the difference between corsairs and pirates, piracy along the Breton coast, and the nature of romantic fiction – and the drunker I got, the better my french)

So learning it again definitely has its delights. It makes more sense why there’d be ‘le’ or ‘la’ – and it’s mostly predictable; it makes sense to conjugate verbs. But, more than anything, I’m loving the idioms. I like that weeds are known as ‘bad grass’, and that ‘a pot calling a kettle black ‘ is the equivalent of ‘the hospital f&cking the charity’. I like the strange weather idioms, as you can probably tell.

But I’m also loving my own Lancy-shire-ness. I think, in the spirit of our Todmorden latin teacher, I should celebrate the butchering of the English language with accent and dialect. I like that Middleton people say ‘Miggleton’ and ‘kecckle’ for ‘kettle’, and ‘frikened’ for ‘frightened’. I like words like ‘nowty’ and ‘mard’. I like that old story of my mum (from Gloucestershire) coming up North for the first time and being bemused by ‘side the table’.  I’m sad that we don’t have regional languages like the French, with six ‘official’ other languages, like Corsican and Breton. I think we should bring back Cornish, but celebrate dialect. I love being from the north, when I’m down in London. One guy I used to work with used to phone me up just to hear me say the word ‘stuff’, because I say the glottal ‘U’ as it’s meant to be said, like you’ve been punched in the gUts, not ‘a’, making ‘stUff’ into ‘staaff’, which is a very different thing altogether. I like being able to get my tongue around vowels and not marmalise them into other vowels. I like that my ‘bath’ is a ‘bath’ and not a ‘barth’ or even ‘barf’. I like the germanic gruntings of these harsh, basic, ancient words. And I think I shall do my best to celebrate it, though I know deep inside that I shall be softening my accent if I’m teaching English to non-natives, or to non-Northerners. I’m sad about that.

Language has always been interesting to me, not the least as an English teacher. I like that ‘arigato’ has Portuguese origins (which was one of those coincidences to me, that ‘obrigado’ should sound so like ‘arigato’ from two apparently unconnected countries, linguistically) and I like these connections and similarities, as well as the peculiarities. I shall enjoy it very much.

As for Steve, he’ll forget English and not bother with French. He just isn’t filled with Babel passion like I am. I’d definitely be a chatty monkey, whilst he’d be a silent gorilla. Or a lesser-spotted panda, perhaps.

How to make a grown woman cry

So it’s started… solicitors, estate agents, HIPS, conveyancing…. nightmare!

The whole process has been a bit chaotic. From the over-priced storage, which was a saga in itself, to the estate agent who made me cry… it’s not all been good.

I’d packed everything into the wine boxes and it was good to go. I had my storage sorted with a lovely man who’d arranged some kind of special deal and I was good to go. Seemed a good day when Steve took the day off and we could do the moving. We managed all the boxes (an ideal shape for 4 deep 3 wide, which I think impressed Steve no end. He likes orderly things!). We got down to the storage facilities, which cannot do other than remind me of Silence of the Lambs, and started unloading. Then it got to paying. £17.85 a month for insurance. I coughed. I believed it was to be £2.00. £17.85 is more than my contents and building insurance combined. For a half-sized garage. I put my foot down. We negotiated it back down to the starting point.

Then I looked at the direct debit mandate. £141.00 a month. Not the previously agreed £80.00. A bit of a difference. This is more than my mortgage. Don’t weep if you have a big mortgage, you’ll soon realise my house is worthless. I took a deep breath and started arguing it back down. The mealy-mouthed scouser woman was unhappy. We haggled. Steve came in looking ‘Steveish’ and I knew then that this silly price was more than his Steptoe-frugality would cope with, even at £80.00. As they say in the News of the World, I made my excuses and left.

We’ve managed to get some of it into the bedroom at his house. It’s not good. It was bad enough already and now it’s even more cluttered. No Feng Shui or minimalism here. Plus, there’s still a lot here that needs doing.

Next, it was the garden. I could have paid an extortionate amount to get it done, or even got the lovely Charlie Brown from over the road to do it, but it’d still cost, so I called on The Mother and The Step-father. The Mother is a formidable woman, unable to say exactly what she thinks, but able to wither you with one sentence. She’s also a champion pruner/hacker/chopper/savage and she’s cheap. Come Sunday, she came round to chop back all my overgrown shrubs and mow my lawn, which still gains comments from small children about not having been mowed (In my defence, as much to do with the British weather and the broken lawn mower as it is to do with laziness…) With one phrase, she put me right in my place.

“Oh my goodness!”

It was enough. I just said: “Why don’t you say ‘Emma, your garden is a shit-tip. Sort it out!’ instead of anything more subtle?”

She laughed. Luckily. She’s used to my brutal approach with language and/or truth.

So, it was pretty much ready for the estate agents. I’d called on three. I’ve got it on good authority (Sarah Beaney) that three is a good number. The first was lovely. Looked a bit of an estate agent, to be fair, what with his slip-on shoes and streaked hair, but he saw exactly what I did in the property originally. It might be in the middle of Daubhill in Bolton, but it might as well be in a 1950s time zone. I’ve got the most amazing neighbours. I’m truly blessed. It doesn’t get luckier. Pete, Joanne, the Musas, Nancy – we’ve all been here for ages. Even Claire and Ian over the road, whilst they are very private, are totally lovely. It’s a good little house, close to town, but in a little oasis of calm. And he saw all of this.

Not so Mr. Bigshot ‘Company Director’. I’d only asked them because they share a surname with a friend of mine, which is serendipity. I believe in Kismet and serendipity, so I go with it. However, in this case, I was proved wrong. He was some old estate-agent type, with his big Rover and his grey suit. As soon as he was in, he was critical. He didn’t measure up. He didn’t seem bothered with anything I had to say. He told me I’d be lucky to get £85,000 for it, and they’d got one in Farnworth that was going for that, except it wasn’t selling…. blah blah blah. Basically, he seemed to be implying that if I put it on for £60,000 or so, I might get lucky and get a sale. Bad markets, etc. Everything he said rubbished my little castle. He said it was in a bad area, that there were untidy houses on the street detracting from the value (not counting the 20 or 30 or so at the bottom where it’s lovely…) that the markets were bad, that even on a good day, it’s not a good property. There are loads of others on for cheaper and better and bigger. It needed work (it’s 13 years old!) It needed a new kitchen (?!) The double glazing. soffits etc don’t count. My newly pruned garden was a ‘wilderness’, despite the fact there’s an awful lot of fantastic plants in there.

I cried after he went, and went to bed. I didn’t even wake up feeling better.

However, rightmove put me on the right track. They have fewer houses for sale, and none in this area. They do sell cheap, but don’t seem to be getting the sales. The ‘big three’ seem to have more houses in the area and from the guy who came to see me, I’d guess they’re a whole lot more pleasant and less pushy. If they can’t see the positives, how would they ever sell the property??

So… it’s with trepidation that I go with the highest sum on offer. I’m quietly confident that someone will see the good in it. And if not…. we’ve got a long wait.