Thursday, April 26, 2007

House Bonne Femme

What shall I do with her, this house that people come to view and will not buy? I have prepared her each time so as to draw attention to her best features and though not possessing the propertyspeak “wow factor”, her virtues are plain to see. Her defects also. And the people who come are not, I sense, people without a bob or two to spend on something with fuller dimensions. She will appeal to worthy hippies of modest means. Where the devil are they? According to instructions, I have buried my figure of St. Joseph (and dashed good-looking he is, too) upside down at the front of the house. I have shown due respect and wrapped him in a polythene bag to protect from the damp earth, but have forgotten to mark the exact spot so hope I will be able to dig him up again when the time comes so as not to incur the wrath of the heavenly saints – if I have not already done so.

I have let things slip a little, it has to be admitted. I can’t keep the house as pristine as it should be. It is clean but cluttered – by showroom standards, that is. There are things on surfaces, books everywhere and sheaves of paper for the non-existent “to do” file lying around like indolent teenagers that won’t get their act together. The cat’s latest hobby is eating prickly grass to regurgitate on the carpet. It leaves marks. Because the house is on an unadopted, unmade road it gets easily dusty, which I don’t mind, but you can’t show a house off without washing its face, and I forget to.

It occurs to me, not for the first time, that I didn’t have a proper upbringing. My mother had people to “do” for her – a cleaner that came most weekdays plus a live-in mother's help/au pair. She wasn’t rich, it was just how people like her lived then and, one supposes, labour was cheap. For much of the time she worked and, in between husbands, she was a single parent so it undoubtedly made life a little easier than it might have been. I can’t remember ever seeing her doing the cleaning and she only really cooked for high days and dinner parties – exotic things like salade nicoise and fondue. She shopped at a German delicatessen for things like salami and stollen and went to Selfridges for asparagus and smoked salmon. I’m not complaining. Our dysfunctional relationship had nothing to do with her lack of hands-on housewifery. But I never absorbed the skills. The cooking thing I picked up myself – doing it was fun and at the end of it you had good things to eat. It was the cleaning up after that got me. It took me years to learn that there were other ways of removing burnt sugar from a pan than scraping with a knife or that you could clean windows with vinegar water, that there were better ways of maintaining lavatory hygiene than pouring a bottle of bleach down it once a month, that sweeping a floor worked better if you worked from the outside into the middle. Still, I came of age at a time when women were no longer, in theory at least, expected to take all this on their shoulders and never lived among people who considered a dirty front step the sign of bad character. Or if I did, I didn’t notice or care. Him Outdoors has always done his share, and more in the days with young children and me not strong enough. So it’s fine. But I could do with a bit of help from Stepford Wife right now – just while I’m giving the old house a bit of a push, until a new match is secured for her.

13 comments:

goodthomas said...

This made me smile.

I like this house, this house that lacks the "wow" factor but is one to settle in, get comfortable in, to enjoy the odd angles, the incredible light that comes through on summer evenings.

It'll happen. Old St. Joseph on his head will come through, he will look out for you and secure that proper buyer when the time can be held back no longer. My fingers, my toes, my thumbs, my eyes are all crossed, wishing you good luck, good Signs.

Reading the Signs said...

Hey goodthomas, I appreciate that - (especially the eyes), and so does the house.

cusp said...

Life too short to stuff a mushroom (who's said that ?...I do believe it was another PWME) but when you're selling the old homestead you do need to stuff, stuff, stuff and polish the gills -- well metaphorically.

I think what you need is Mary Poppins --- the bit where she sings whilst the house tidies up itself. I'd come round on my flying umbrella but it's in for an oil change and MOT at the mo.

In the meantime, tidy up as best you may, squirt some Pledge in the air and put the coffee on with the bread warming in the oven.

I'll keep all my body parts crossed too.

Reading the Signs said...

Appreciated, cusp, I'm picturing a very advanced yoga position.

Pledge? Spray polish? My turn to cross myself, they make me feel ill. I burn nag champa incense and patchouli in my burner. Pure essence of hippy. Perhaps that's where I'm going wrong.

That's so pants said...

I hate to say this and am loathe to do it myself but it might come to this - I think the only way to sell (at least in London) is to have an open house and get all the potential buyers there at the same time. It seems the competition triggers a phenomenon similar to a shark feeding frenzy. If people feel someone else might get what they might want, they suddenly want it really badly and can't bear the thought that someone else might get it.

cusp said...

Actually I was gilding the lily when writing my last comment: I cannot tolerate Pledge or anything like it either, It just read better for the 'copy'.

in this position, I couldn't reach the Pledge anyway,

cusp said...

I meant to also say that I agree with TSP. If we ever do a Boot Sale and there are no customers, I take a little walk round the sale and return to our stall in the guise of a terribly interested customer. Almost as soon as I look interested in our 'objects d'art' other people come and check out what could be interesting me so much. We invariably make another sale.

Reading the Signs said...

I think this would be a first round here. Sounds ghastly but I can see why it might work. I can picture myself skulking balefully in a corner.

Ms Melancholy said...

Perhaps if you do the 'open house' thing you could invite all of your blog friends too, and we could all enthusiastically point out what a beautiful and welcoming home it would make, thus inspiring aforementioned feeding frenzy.... or does that feel a bit unethical?!

That's so pants said...

Ms Melancholy - I think that's a wonderful idea. One of us might get caught up in the excitement and actually buy the house.

Reading the Signs said...

Hang the ethics, Ms M,, it's a great idea (and worthy of a short story, I think).

Ms P? - I'm already drawing up contracts in my imagination and consider the house virtually sold. I may be a hippy but I don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Reading the Signs said...

Of course the drawback of having loads of people wandering round the house is that they would definitely feel how small the dimensions are. I would have to really sell Lifestyle: my blog friends would have to sit on the sofa looking decorative and making very intelligent and sparkling conversation.

Dr. L said...

One thought Signs... do you REALLY want it to sell yet? Joseph only works if you're 100% sure...