Saturday, 30 August 2008

Mr and Mrs Chancer

I’ve been reading the hilarious and equally frustrating account by Debs Lehner about the trials and tribulations of selling her house in France. It’s no wonder that selling a home is up there as one of the highest stress generators along with bereavement, divorce and changing jobs. Heaven knows how we survive it and go on to do it again and again. The brain is surely the most amazing organ ever – just look at how it wipes out the real pain of events so that we go and repeat the process all over again – how else would women go through the rip-you-apart-don’t-you-fecking-come-near-me-again pain that they do to have more than one child? Now I’m not comparing childbirth and house moving, really I’m not, but dear God there are times when having a 40 hour labour would seem so much better an option. Well that or having electrodes attached to your nuts.

As my mother used to say, ‘the people you meet when you don’t have a gun’. Just stick your house on the market and you’ll get an idea of what she meant but I suspect you probably do already. Where do these people really live? I mean I know they live in society somewhere and that they move about us freely and that some unfortunate bugger has them as a neighbour but how do they actually get by in life without someone ramming a fistful of knuckles down their throat? Let me be clear here, I have never ever in my life been violent or hit anyone, (well except for when I was 11 and the 13 year old boy from around the corner took to bullying me and terrorising my life for a while. I soon sorted that with a swiftly placed and unexpected kick in the nuts whereby he dropped to the ground with his hands cupped around his throbbing tackle and finding it difficult to breathe from shock, finally rolled into the foetal position with his mouth wide open, eyes bulging and groaned out what sounded like a death rattle. I was pretty impressed with how one rapid kick could have such a marvellous outcome and of course he never bullied me again. Thanks for the tip dad).

However, I digress so let me get back to the point. Given that I am not prone to launching physical attacks on people or plotting their death it is with some amazement at the range and depth of emotions that house viewers can elicit from me. Take for example the creature that is more commonly known as the ‘House Tourist’. You know the scenario; the agent calls at 8am on a Sunday morning to ask if it’s okay for :
Mr and Mrs Noseyfeckingtimewasterandnointentionofbuying to come along now to have a look. Of course you don’t know they are called that because they fool you by using a nom de plume like Mr and Mrs Smith to throw you off the scent and let you think they are serious punters. Anyway, they just happen to be in the area so could they just sneak a little peak?; won’t take long, the agent assures you with his chirpy happy godimightfinallygetasaleoutofthiskip tone which is exacerbating your terminal hangover from drinking formaldehyde or something equally organ rotting the night before. You stand there in your grubby dressing gown that you knew you should have tossed on a bonfire let alone washed, take a look around at last night’s dinner party chaos that you were too tired/comatosed to clean up at the time and you know that if you possessed a pistol you would just take the easy way out. You want to tell the agent to go take a bungee jump without the bungee but instead you put on your smiley nice voice, negotiate 30 minutes ‘to let the children finish breakfast’ and dash around like a loony kicking things under beds and couches, ramming stuff into already overstuffed cupboards, break several prized bits of crockery as you attempt to empty and reload the dishwasher at record speed just to get a semblance of a clear worktop here and there. Then if you’re lucky you get to scrape your hair back tightly into some sort of tight sink-estate-face-lift type look which coupled with red-eye and a face gray from blood loss because your body needs it for the major organs to fight off the alcohol onslaught, you look the sight you feel. It is a truism that you get the face you deserve in life.

With only seconds to spare you pull on trackie bottoms and a top and they arrive sans estate agent who incidentally is being paid shed-loads to show these bloody people around, but no, he’s busy destroying someone else’s Sunday arranging for more tourists to tramp about someone else’s house like it was ‘open to the public stately home season’. They ooh and aah all the way around, get disappointed that there isn’t a little old lady sitting by a roped off area in each room to chat to and wonder where the bloody cafe is. In time they take their leave but only after delivering the parting shot that they ‘loved your house, it was just as they always thought it might look and that even though they aren’t in the market to move, (probably because a fecking care home is more in their line), they thought that as the house was up for sale, you wouldn’t mind them having a look because as you’re showing people around anyway, another pair wouldn’t be any more trouble. It’s at that point if you did have a pistol, you would be committing homicide instead of suicide.

Then there is the:
I’lljustknockonthedoorandseeificanwhizroundwithoutanappointmentatsomeungoldlyeffinghourinthemorning waller who’s true agenda is to hopefully negotiate a huge discount because ‘let’s face it, if the agent doesn’t know and we don’t tell him we can pretend that this is a private sale and I’ll get to keep the agents fee and you get a sale – deal?’ Err, no, you cheating git, no sale because you woke me up at 8am on a Saturday morning by kicking on my front door like a police bust was in operation, and because you are too arrogant to make an appointment like most well mannered people, and because my house looks like if a grenade went off it would tidy it up and because you are happy to suggest we cheat the agent out of the fee, you will probably cheat me too.

Well dear people, both these types of people, (and more), came into my life when I was selling a home many years ago. It was a lovely little mews cottage in a row of lovely little mews cottages and a joy to live in. The chancer/opportunist viewer happened upon my place on a Saturday morning at 8am or so. Only the day before my then partner and myself had experienced a protracted journey home from Hong Kong. At this time on the Saturday morning, myself and he were exhausted and in a deep slumber when all hell broke loose. Dear God, we thought a herd of wildebeest were trampling their way through our front door. We ignored it and rolled over but the noise was relentless. Clearly it was an emergency we thought and pulling on dressing gowns, dashed downstairs wondering what the hell was wrong, Cue door opening partially and my partner and me squinting in the bright sunlight at three strangers.

“We hope you don’t mind, but we saw your for sale sign”, the lead chancer barked out rather army like in tone.

“Yes, and.....?”, my ex asked in return with a thunderous look. He was still foggy headed with sleep and jet lag and so being woken up so bloody rudely to be told they had seen our for sale sign wasn’t going down a storm here.

“Well....., we rather thought that as we are in the area you wouldn’t mind showing us around?”.

“What ? Now?”, we both asked incredulously standing there with mangled hair, sleep encrusted eyes and wearing nightwear a tramp would have thrown out. We weren’t exactly prepared for it.

“Well yes, isn’t inconvenient is it?”, chancer number 2 asked quite pompously as she popped her head around from behind chancer number 1. Chancer number 3 just looked on gormlessly.

“Sorry, no, as you can see we aren’t really prepared for an impromptu visit”, my partner said politely as I mentally ransacked our house and saw wanting in every room. No, definitely too messy to let anyone in just yet. Crikey, they were quick, the house had only gone on the market the day before and we’d calculated we’d have a day or so to tidy up before anyone came.

“You see”, I offered in support, “we’ve only just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and not only are we exhausted, but the house could do with a bit of a tidy before anyone has a look. We’d really be much happier and in a much better position to let you have a look round later”.

“Perhaps you can give the agent a call, get a time convenient to both parties and we’ll see you then. Okay?”, my partner insisted, expecting they would see our predicament and like most normal people get their arses out of our faces and let us get some sleep.

“So, can we come in or not?”, a booming voice from chancer number 2 shot back as though the last few sentences from us had never been uttered.

My partner’s mouth dropped open as he realised he must be talking to the human equivalent of a radio – all output, no input and tuned to the one station. “I beg your pardon dear?”, he asked adopting the rather pompous tone that she had just used with him. “Did I not make myself clear that now is simply not convenient so will you please.....”

.......“Oh come on, just a quick once around the block, we’ll not be long, promise, and if we take our time down here, you two can go and get dressed up there before you let us have a scan around that”, said chancer number 1 in a stroppy overbearing tone whilst pointing to the upstairs of the cottage. “C’mon, what’s your problem?”, he continued. “Surely you can manage that? Then we’d be out of your hair in no time and you can pop that little filly of yours right back in the sack”, he snorted a leery little laugh and winked at him as he said it.

Oh mother of God, the cheeky bastards. There was no way I was putting up with this or going to get changed in my home whilst leaving a bunch of strangers to rummage their way through my house unsupervised. I moved my ex rather snappishly out of the way and pulled the door open further so I could get my face into the trio of chancers that were in danger of getting a knuckle sandwich from the exhausted and by now furious man of the house. If anyone was going to hit them, then it was going to be me I decided – less damage that way.

“Look, what part of ‘it’s not convenient’ don’t you understand? You weren’t owed an explanation as you have barged you way in here ,but we were polite and gave you one so now if you would please go and by all means take the agents number, we can arrange something for later. But not until late afternoon please? Okay?” I said firmly, hoping I had made myself clear. Good God almighty, what the hell was I doing discussing this stuff with these people on our doorstep. Clearly they were used to coercing their way around life but I was buggered if they were going to get away with it now.

The thunderous look on the faces of chancers 1 and 2 as we closed the door on them was a sight to behold. Clearly they weren’t used to being refused much in life but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, good things come to those who wait and all that. Chancer 3 had continued to look gormless and reminded me of a still life on a day out. He certainly had a future as a mannequin should whatever he did now not work out.

And so they came, later that day; chancer 1 and 2 with 3 following gormlessly along behind. Chancer 2 was particularly vocal and derogatory about what she found wanting in and out of the house. It was all I could do to stop myself rugby tackling her out the door and fecking her onto the street with her handbag to follow when I saw her kick at the French doors frame to test it for some imagined rot. Meanwhile, Chancer 1 drew filthy looks and shook his head as he tut tutted in ham acting mock disgust at decor and paintwork not being up to his lofty standards. Chancer 3 never said a word, just persisted with the gormless look and a shake of the head here and there. Eventually after much whispering, head locking and furtive looks, they took their leave oblivious to the fact that we were more than aware that clearly their tactics were to undermine the vendors, (us), then negotiate a knock down price for the purchasers, (them, or so they thought). Christ, eejit amateurs!

“Well that‘s the last of them”, we chimed quietly together, as the door closed behind them. But it wasn’t......

“Hello”, I answered, as I picked up the phone some 30 minutes later.

“Hello, Mrs Mob. John from Rip-off & Do’nowt estate agents here.

“Yes John, how are you?”, I asked.

“Good news, we’ve had an offer. Mr and Mrs Chancer would like to offer you xxxxxxx. How do you feel about that then?”

Oh how lovely, 15 k less than the asking price. Bearing in mind this was over 25 years ago, that was quite a drop. They were a pair made in heaven these two.

“No that’s not a problem John”, I responded lightly.

“Really, are you sure?”, he asked, obviously astonished and delighted that he didn’t have a battle on his hands and could avoid the usual rigmarole of rejection, back to the buyer to arrange a new offer and so on until a deal was clinched.

“Really, yes I’m sure”, I responded. “No it’s not a problem at all, because we won’t be selling to Mr and Mrs Chancer; not now, in fact not ever, no matter what the price”.

You could hear a pin drop as John absorbed the news. I almost felt sorry for him as I pictured him, for now, watch his commission disappear

“What?, YOU’ll NEVER SELL TO THEM? NEVER?” Are you absolutely certain about that? Why?”. I could hear the frustration rise in his voice. ”Are you taking the house off the market then?”

“No, it’s still up for sale and I’m happy for you to continue to market the property for us. It just isn’t available to the Chancers”. This wasn’t something he had come across before and I could hear him huffing and puffing away as he wrestled with a situation that he wasn’t sure how to manage.

“Well, what on earth am I supposed to tell them?”, he demanded as an explanation.

“Oh that’s easy”, I replied. “I’m more than happy for you to be very candid on our behalf. Just tell them that we love this house, we love the neighbourhood and more importantly we respect and like our neighbours to the point we wouldn’t inflict what may very well be tantamount to the neighbours from hell moving in”.

I quickly gave him an account about the coercive and very poor behaviour of our would-be purchasers and how under no circumstances would we be responsible for the erosion of such a nice neighbourhood. I tried to make him understand that sometimes in life there were consequences for poor behaviour and this was clearly the time for the Chancers to perhaps reflect on theirs. Being an estate agent and where the sale is king, he thought me mad and that I would change my mind. He was clearly under pressure from the Chancers and called several more times with increased offers. Each time, much to his consternation, he was sent on his way. He even called my partner to offer over the asking price but we were united and John was given short shrift by him for disregarding my instructions and trying to manipulate the situation. The Chancers never got that house and it was sold shortly afterwards to a lovely young couple just starting out in life who needed the carpets and curtains and a hotchpotch of furniture we threw in as part of the deal – it was a second home for us so we could afford to be generous with what we could leave and in truth they were doing us a favour taking it off our hands. Some two children and over two decades later they are still there and have no plans to move.

God knows where the Chancers ended up – six foot under at some point would be my guess. Wonder what happened to the gormless one and if the poor soul ever got a word in.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Thanks buddy!

I’ve never been the ‘other party’ – the one who ‘stole’ a partner from their wife. I’d rather eat my own foot than break up a marriage. My mother had a great saying - ‘never take something that doesn’t belong to you as it will never bring you happiness’. I always apply that to other people’s men and let’s face it, as a rule if a guy or girl strays to be with you, you can be fairly sure that they will probably eventually stray to be with someone else. There are of course exceptions to the rule and if you are in a loveless marriage, you made a mistake, married too young, just fell out of love then why stay? Crikey, on the wedding day of my first marriage I knew I’d made a huge mistake. I sat in the back of the wedding car wondering what the hell I had just done. It was like a bolt through my heart but I stayed with that relationship until he found someone else and we broke up. It was an amicable break up, we remain friends of a sort but the woman that he left me for is one of my best friends almost 30 years later.

You might wonder why I became friends with her when she ‘stole’ my husband. The truth of the matter is that she only took what I didn’t want and what I was prepared to give away. It may have been a very different story had I been in love with him and felt that my life was over had he left me. As I constantly remind her, I got the better end of the deal. I got a tremendously loyal, kind and caring friend out of it and she got my wayward disloyal husband who was quite a pill from time to time. She also got my love, devotion and loyalty for the rest of our lives.

They met when he was on a business trip to the USA. He wasn’t wearing his wedding ring and then when the truth could not be hidden any longer he eventually told her he was married but that his wife didn’t understand him blah blah blah. The trouble was that I understood him only too well and knew that he often played away from home. You see, we worked for the same large blue chip corporation and the world is a small place at times. There were people very loyal to me that let it be known what he was up to but he was a consummate liar and often thought he had convinced me otherwise. I am sure he knew deep down that wasn’t the case for I refused to have intimate relations with him without protection as I was never sure what he might bring home with him. It was certainly a coming home gift I was prepared to forego.

I knew when he returned from this one particular business trip that something was wrong, that he was different. He was subdued, evasive and really rather cruel. He couldn’t meet my gaze and was altogether shifty – not that this was new behaviour – but I just knew some kind of seismic shift had taken place but couldn’t put my finger on what it was. It was a difficult period for although I didn’t love him nor really want him, I was rocked that my world as I knew it was crumbling. I had known deep down that it would have been he who left me for I had been brought up to get on with it and make the best of it. His ego and needs were such that he couldn’t remain in a marriage where intimate relations were a distant memory. No matter that he had brought that part of it on himself, he wouldn’t and couldn’t see that his infidelity had contributed to that. To be fair, he probably knew that I didn’t love him and he went off looking for love elsewhere.

We went through the usual cat and mouse games whilst he refused to admit he had strayed again. I caught him having furtive phone calls to the States late at night where he’d look guilty and say that it was a client. I found myself checking his receipts, the phone bill, our bank account for traces of betrayal to home in on. It wasn’t the fact that he had strayed that was a problem – I found I cared less and less about that as time went on – it was his duplicity that drove me nuts and his belief that I was stupid enough to believe his lies. He found it so easy to convince me that the silent phone calls when I answered the phone were all in my imagination. He had a plausible excuse for every receipt he carelessly left around for me to devour in my quest to be proved right that he was having an affair. I knew this was different, it wasn’t a meaningless indiscretion on a business trip, this was a threat to my world as I knew it. I felt rather sordid sneaking a look through his brief case and wallet and jacket pockets when he was asleep, or mindlessly hitting the redial key on the phone to see if I could catch him out. God, the amount of useless conversations I had with plumbers, takeaway places and such like was becoming embarrassing after a while. When I look back at that young woman of 23 I see an inexperienced and quite quite scared little girl who was terrified of losing him. He was the only family I had in London when I moved south from Glasgow and as a quite domineering character, my only real friend, or so I thought. He had quite cleverly isolated me from my friends and family to the point I was alone. I understand the behaviour well enough now and recognise it for what it is and would never get myself involved with someone so controlling again but at the time, I was confused and alone.

In time, his feelings for his new paramour spilled over into our lives. We sat and had a bottle of wine together and he felt brave enough to show me photo’s of her. She was a stunning red head with flowing long hair which I immediately envied. She was a truly sexy girl and I envied him his new relationship and happiness for it was something we had never had together. But more importantly, I felt relief. Relief that I finally knew the truth and that I wasn’t going mad and that I could stop the furtive amateur detective work that had so engaged my every waking moment. It took us much too long to break up – about eighteen months as far as I remember – but eventually he moved out into rented accommodation and finally she came.

My God, my curiosity was high. My soon to be ex in-laws lived over the road from me and on her first visit to them I got a perfectly good front seat to watch and evaluate this nemesis from. I did a quick overall look, a quick mental check of her bits in comparison to mine and then when I could not find her wanting, sat back deflated. I had so hoped that she would have had warts, an arse the size of Red Rum and a stoop for good measure. There she was, just a perfectly normal and very pretty girl who had made the biggest move of her life to come to live in London to be with her paramour.

It was new territory for me. I wasn’t sure how I’d behave when or if we met. I didn’t know if I’d suddenly want to scratch her eyes out if I came across her unprepared. But I knew we would eventually meet. My ex and I remained on good terms, so good in fact that people at work often remarked about our having lunch together and often in high spirits. It was true that we made better friends than we did husband and wife. I felt happy for him and his eyes would light up whenever we talked about her and I knew that I would like her.

And so it came to pass, the day arrived that we had talked about on the phone and promised to arrange. I dressed to kill for I didn’t want her to think I was a frump and that she had somehow taken my man – I wanted her to know in no uncertain terms that she’d picked up my castoff. No matter how it had ended, for some strange reason I needed to boost my self esteem, to be important and not a diminished washout of an ex for her to pity. And of course, I’d recently been through the divorce diet and lost whatever excess weight that had languished before so now I could wear clothes in a size that I had previously only dreamt about. We met on neutral territory and I was as nervous as hell. I almost didn’t go in and stopped in my tracks just outside to gather myself and wondered if I stayed there too long would I just bolt. I forced the door open with more push than was necessary and walked on in, shoulders back, head held high. I saw her immediately. She was even more beautiful close up. We greeted each other somewhat curiously – her more than me for she hadn’t seen me or indeed a photo – and within minutes we were gassing away like old pals.

I’d spend my days off with her, she’d cut my hair for she was a terrifically talented hairdresser but I insisted that she cut it before we devoured two bottles of wine. By this time I too had met and fallen madly in love with another colleague and as we all got on well, we socialised often together. It was a particularly happy time in my life and I often wished that if I had known how it would all work out then I would have spent so much less time trying to cling to a dead marriage that was no more stable than a ship wreck. I had an illusion of stability that never existed. In time, he relocated to the States and I cried my eyes out for the friend he took away from me. I had grown to love her better than a sister and it damn near broke my heart when she went. As I rose up the corporate ladder I spent more and more time in the States on business so we managed to get time together. I would often drop in to stay with them at the end of a business trip and everything was just so bloody great. Until he went and ruined it again.

My friend confided in me that she thought he was having an affair; that she knew who it was as she’d seen her around the office. I felt so useless as she was heavily pregnant and needed her man but he was busy making plans to move on. There were no ‘I told you so’s’ when he left her for another. I had always told her that she’d freed me from a life of commitment to a man that I didn’t love but didn’t know how to leave. I was grateful to her and thought her a much better match for him so I had high hopes that this would last for them. Towards the end I spent some time staying with them and he was cruel and indifferent to her just as he had been with me at the end of our marriage. On some level he felt guilt and this was his way of dealing with it.

My friend’s predicament broke my heart for she was vulnerable and lost. He went, she carried on with life as a single parent and brought up a son to be proud of. She is a fantastic mother and has devoted her life to her son, never marrying again – yet. She remains my closest friend to this day as I can tell her everything and anything and she treats my confidences with respect and keeps them close to her as I do for her. I love this woman with all my heart and know that she loves me too. The love of a close friend is an incredibly pure one that shifts mountains and stays with you for life if you are incredibly lucky. It sees you through the bad times and is your safety harness when all else seems lost. We pick up conversations where we left off months before and our dialogue is seamless and we never have to say sorry. My only regret is that she lives in the USA and I am here. I continue to hope that she’ll meet another Englishman and come here to live. We don’t get together like we used to and have become lazy at arranging that but one day, it may just be too late. She constantly asks us to come for a break and I constantly say of course then worry about leaving the dogs behind. I constantly suggest she comes here for a break, she says yes then worries about leaving her son and the dog too. But thank God for phones and email. We have the closeness of a dear friendship even if we don’t have the physicality of it. I am enriched by her presence in my life.

And so dear Crisco Kid – happy birthday my darling pal and darned good bezzie mate. Long may you live a happy and prosperous life full of the love you deserve and thank you for being such a great role model for a daft wee lassie from Glasgow.

I love you babes and if you need me just call.

Sorry guys if you want to leave a comment you will need to go through the crud of entering a code. I've had to turn on the moderating feature for I had a particularly vicious and very abusive comment left on my last post which I have deleted altogether for it was horribly sullied by the troll. I did however keep a copy of the post and her comments in Word so no problem producing the evidence when needed for the cops. Oh and the sheer beauty of it all is that I tracked a copy of the unique IP address and I know exactly where it is - so local you wouldn't believe it!

Oh and as a final note dear D - you are very much on track for being the same kind of friend as the Crisco Kid. You are talented, adorable, kind, intelligent and so very nice to know. Great old chat today and thanks you are a great support after the horrid after effects of the troll. She knows that I know who she is and I hope she is deeply ashamed for the very personal vitriolic diatribe that she left on my post. It was truly shocking and deeply disturbing and she needs help. Alcohol eh?