For the first time in ages, I have no work on, though last week I wrote a 1000-word article on The Cougar Cult, did my horoscope column and edited eight chapters of somebody's book. How glorious, to be able to relax in this wonderful weather.
On Friday I went into North London and looked at four flats in my ideal area, but they were all ghastly. One was a so-called 'retirement flat' for the over 55's. The moment I entered the door, sniffed the frowsty air, vaguely cabbage scented, noted a pair of crutches propped against a wall and a doddery old soul being shepherded down a corridor, my panic button was pressed. "I know I'm over 55, but please, let's get out of here," I begged the estate agent.
He smirked, being a mere 20-something - though he'd spent the drive there complaining about his knee and skin problems, just like an OAP! (Oops, sorry, it's Senior Citizens or Silver surfers now, not Old Age Pensioners.) Nevertheless, he insisted on shoving me into the lift and taking me up to the flat, which, though large and modern, was extremely gloomy owing to the small windows. (Why do so many local authority blocks and new modern blocks have such small windows? What are they economising on? Window frames? Glass? I think it's a false economy, as it makes the flats so unattractive to live in.) Well, I peeped into the bathroom and remarked on the extra wide doorway and said, "I suppose it's for getting a wheelchair into." And then I started giggling and didn't stop till we were safely outside again, when I remarked to the agent, "I may be old, but I'm certainly not that old!"
Onward to the next, which was a huge ground floor flat next to a park. As we approached the door, I noticed decaying window frames. "I bet that's the flat," I said. We went in the main door and number 3 was on the right. It was the one with the decaying frames. On the carpet right by the door was a nasty stain. The whole hallway smelled of incontinent dog or cat (or maybe even human). I started to giggle again. We got inside and when I saw the broken chairs and cracked double glazing, my laughter almost reached hysteria proportions. Coming out, I saw more nasty stains in the communal hallway. Who would want to live in such a revolting, uncared-for place? With a price tag of £320,000, too! That's North London for you.
Next stop was an ex-rental property. It wasn't revolting, just... depressing, with a garden full of weeds and cupboard doors hanging off. I had done my 'I'm an author, I want somewhere inspiring' bit. The agent hadn't a clue.
Last on the list was my main hope. As I'd waited in the agent's office, a talkative young man had come in and given them his flat to sell. Knowing how anything half decent vanishes immediately, as soon as someone already in the area can get there the moment the property comes onto the market, I announced, "Let me see it." At last, I would be first in the queue.
It was an upstairs flat with two double bedrooms and a study, and stairs from the kitchen to its own garden. The outside of the house looked good. Each of the two flats in it had its own front door. Great! At least my post wouldn't be stolen. I was full of optimism as I climbed the stairs. The study was... a cupboard, not more than four feet across. A small desk and a bookcase were crammed into it. Gulp! The lounge was... blue. Bright, deep turquoise. It was like stepping into a swimming pool. Still, that could be changed. There was a big crack next to the window. My heart began to sink. The first 'double' bedroom had room for a single wardrobe only. The window looked onto a vile, grotty extension next door, set into which were a variety of decaying, unpainted window frames. Inspiring? Not! The next 'double' did have a double bed in it, but you couldn't open the door properly as the bed took up too much room. Kitchen... less said, the better. The owner had lived there for 14 years and had not cleaned the cooker in all that time. The garden was a six foot wide strip of weeds and broken fence panels, the view was over an ugly block of flats. The price? £320,000.
My hopes of moving back to North London, my beloved home from 1967 till when I met Mr Grumpy are fast diminishing. Where is that lottery win when I need it? I'm not asking for a million. A mere £100,000 will do!!!
Yesterday, Mr G drove me to a farmer's market in Iver, where he was soon burdened by his friends' two small children (the ones we catch all our colds and tummy bugs from), which left me to cruise the stalls in peace. In no time, I'd bought some goats' cheese with nettles, a cauliflower, some strawberries, a loaf of soda bread, two cakes and six tomato plants. Result!
Today, Mr G is making a trestle table to put a Gro-bag onto, so I can plant my tomato seedlings well out of the reach of slugs, though I'm going to put some copper strips round the legs, just in case. Copper gives slugs an electric shock when they slime over it, as it reacts with whatever is in their slime. Knowing my luck though, my plants will be eaten by the one kinky slug who gets his kicks out of electric shocks. Vibrators for slugs? Whatever next!