Just another Monday


It’s 9.30am and although I should already be at Mrs. Prendergast’s house, I am sat in my car down the road trying to psych myself up to going in. It should be simple, you arrive, you are the professional, you value, you add value and you leave. And yet, it rarely goes that way.

As I trudge up the driveway to the door, a sense of foreboding consumes me as I realise that this must be the sixth time I have valued this house in the past three years. In fact, I think I have been here once every six months.

The old dear seemed ancient the first time I met her, I could see the bony hand of Death on her shoulder even then… And yet here we are three years later.

Usually being invited back again is a valuer’s dream. If they invite you back, there’s a good chance that liked what you had to say the first time round and an even greater chance that you can land the business this time round. After 6 visits, you can be assured that you have either been adopted by them or in the very least that you have built up some sort of familiarity or rapport.

Alas, not with Mrs. Prendergast. The most depressing thing is that every time is just like the first with Mrs. Prendergast, she has no idea who I am when she opens the door.


The door squeaks open as if I’m the first visitor to her mausoleum since they mummified her all those centuries ago.

“Hello Mrs. Prendergast, I’m Roger from Bootfords” I say, as enthusiastically as I can, thrusting my hand into her bony, clammy equivalent.

“Oh I suppose you better come in then and sit down. And don’t touch anything!” She wasn’t about to win any TripAdvisor rave reviews for hospitality.

She sits down opposite me. I marvel at the fact that there she is, still alive. The sitting room is exactly as it was on the previous 6 occasions, save for the fact that the layer of dust was that bit thicker. They say that household dust is mostly made up of human skin cells, in which case it would make sense that more of Mrs Prendergast seems to be covering every surface in this room than is sat upright in the chair before me.

“So Mrs. Prendergast. How have you been? My records say it’s about 6 months since I last provided you with valuation advice.” This was the great lead up to the depressing bit. Total amnesia.

“I’ve never met you before young man. In fact, it’s taken me 6 months just to get over the last valuation I got from that Roger from Bootfords. Disgusting little man he was. A sex pervert!” She gasped.

For a brief moment I was elated as she clearly remembered being visited by a Roger from Bootfords, but the elation was swiftly replaced with despair (and a fair amount of panic) as she:- a) had remembered me as a rapist and b) had totally forgotten me since I introduced myself at the door a mere 90 seconds ago.

This was going to be a long, long day.

I decided to fill the awkward silence with words, as I normally do. Stupid, unthinking words.

“Oh Roger? I heard he was quite a nice chap? I’ve er.. never heard anything like that about him” in the panic, I had decided to play along with forgetting who I was for a moment.

“He marched in here and spent the entire valuation staring at my breasts!” she shrieked back at me.

Until then, I was entirely unaware of Mrs. Prendergast’s breasts. In fact they were the last thing I would even think of looking for on her skeleton like body, but now they were the only thing that I could think of looking at. It was like she’d turned on two very saggy booby magnets.

I looked straight down at my pad and pretended to diligently take note of what she had just said as if it was an important piece of information about a flying freehold, but instead I had merely written the word boobies and underlined it.

I was pretty sure that I wanted to die, I just never envisioned the end being quite as shit as this.

“I’m so sorry to hear that, Mrs. Prendergast.” It was the only thing I could think of. I was truly sorry though. If there’s one thing more depressing than not being remembered, it was being entirely misremembered as some sort of perverted granny shagger, although in her case I was fairly certain that necrophilia might be a more appropriate term.

“Why are you apologising? Are you related to him?” her beady eyes were bulging from their sockets as she spat her words out at me.

“Roger? No! Good God no! He sounds like an..er.. depraved person.” I can’t believe I was actually participating in Roger-bashing myself.

“Yes that’s what he is a depraved little man! Now, enough about that horrible pervert – would you like to look around the house?”

Say no. Say no and run away. In that order.

“Yes!” Shit. My mouth was on panic driven auto-pilot and it was too late.

“Where would you like to start? Shall I take you upstairs?” She was staring at me, waiting for an answer, but every fibre in my body told me that there was no correct answer to this question.

I nodded, thinking this was the only appropriate reply, as we waited for what seemed like an absolute age. Me following her, one painful step at a time, whilst her stairlift whirred her up the stairs at a rate that would make a tortoise seem like Usain Bolt.

It’s 9.37am on a Monday and I feel like I’ve already worked a week.



Ghost Story

ghost builder

The moment that every estate agent dreads more than losing an instruction is losing a sale. There is a sense of loss that is almost impossible for mere mortals to grasp.

Estate agents tend to work entirely at their own risk.

They carry their own costs and work at risk so that if a sale falls through there is no provision to charge abortive fees and they are left entirely out of pocket. Therefore, no sale is a sale until contracts have exchanged, so that if you lose it, you can try and convince yourself that you were never banking on the sale anyway.

The actual truth is that it hurts like fuck and most estate agents would rather endure the loss of a limb or a close family member rather than lose a sale. When that call comes in, there is almost nothing you can do or say to stop it as you feel your guts being ripped out by a buyer who seems to have moved on surprisingly easily.

“Hello Jeff, how are you? How’s the packing going?” I wasn’t expecting a call from Jeff, having only recently updated him on the progress of the sale yesterday.

“Well thats just the thing. I don’t think I am going to be doing any packing.”  Oh fuck. No, please for the love of God no!

“What’s happened?” I actually think he heard my voice break like a Barmitzvah boy growing testicles. Testicles which as it happens have at this moment triggered their in-built flight or fight mechanism, opting for the former and are now located somewhere so far inside of me it will take a surgeon to extract them.

“It’s my father.” Clearly he must have lost his father. The old dead relative thing might derail a sale but at this stage it is salvageable. Give em a couple of weeks to get over it, move is back on.

“Your father? Oh i’m sorry to hear of your loss.”

“Actually he died 6 years ago.”

“Oh! So what’s up?”

“Six years I’ve heard nothing from him and then last night, he appears to me in a dream.”

“In a dream?”

“Yes I could see him stood at the end of my bed as clear as day.” Oh for fucks sakes a ghost story.

“He looked at me and said ‘Jeffrey sonny jim you are not buying that house.’” Well this was a first, I was not expecting the undead to disturb my sale of number 2 Acacia Avenue. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the surveyor missed the Japanese Knot Weed, but I have to say we were genuinely not expecting a visit from Jeffrey Senior to fuck it all up.

“Are you sure? Perhaps he never meant you to take him literally?”

“Am I sure?! I think I would know my own dead father when I see him. No, he was absolutely clear, I am not to buy this house.”

“Did he say why? I mean it’s passed survey. Was your late father a surveyor?”

“I beg your pardon? Was he a surveyor?”

“Yes, was he a surveyor? You’ll forgive the unusual question, it’s just the first time that a ghost has caused a 5 house chain to fall through and I would like to understand his rationale if I could.”

“He was not a surveyor. As it happens, he was a builder.” Ah, there you go. Builders with their uninvited and unwelcome opinions messing with the head of an uneducated buyer.

“A builder?”

“Yes a builder, 60 years man and boy. Very experienced. He says the gable end needs rebuilding and the hip tiles look like they are past their best. All in all, it’s obviously bad news and going to cost me a fortune. I’ve lost a fortune on the survey fees. Waste of time the whole thing. Had I known that Dad was still working I would have asked for his help sooner.”

“So you can summon him any time?”

“The dead are there to help us. Tell me Simon do you pray?”

“No, I’m not religious any more. But if you can have a word with your Dad and ask him for next week’s lottery numbers, that would be great. I’ve just lost a sale and I could do with the money Jeff.”

“It doesn’t work like that I am afraid, you can’t abuse God’s angels for your own financial gain.”

“So you can only use them for general building enquiries then?”

“You are being sarcastic and patronising now aren’t you? I think this conversation is over.”

And so it was over. My sale of Acacia Avenue vanished like a ghost in the night.

Who’s making love?

Who’s making love to your old lady – Blues Brothers

daddy pigBeing an EA does something to you. I am not sure if I was a paranoid mess before I was an EA, but I’m pretty sure that I never used to sleep with one eye open and assume that the worst before I got my NAEA badge.

In this game, it is one continual beauty pageant and you can never afford to have your makeup off. Even when the client had signed their contract with you, the cancellation rights mean that your instruction is just as tenuous as it seems. Anything could happen in that time, 14 whole days. Most of us work at risk pretty much all the time, the truth being that even after the 14 days have passed if the client wants out that much, you can’t hold them. We are the only people in the process who don’t get paid, if the deal does not complete, from mortgage brokers, to surveyors, to the solicitors. As it can take three months (on average, if you are lucky) for the sale to actually complete, it also means that EA’s always have shitty cashflow, unless of course they have managed to get three months ahead at some point. That is why the feature of any KPI discussion central to estate agency will focus heavily on the holy words “pipeline”.

So what was in my personal pipeline of shit? I had decided that things at home were generally speaking not that great. I was working too hard, and I was trying too hard to be all things to all people again. Up at 5am to type details and respond to yesterday’s emails, Peppa Pig and cereal with the kids on the couch, a hurried frenzy of shouting everyone along “shoes on!” and the usual “what the hell have you been doing for the last half hour when child number two comes down stairs wearing nothing but socks when everyone else has coats on and is ready to leave. Straight out into work, and the day begins. Race all the way through until about seven or eight o’clock, powered by nothing but a Tesco’s cheese and onion sandwich, eaten far too quickly at your desk, repeating on you all day until you get home. If you are lucky the kids are asleep or in bed, if you are luckier there is something of their dinner left over for you and the wife to sit down to, so you can regurgitate the main details of who tried to shit on your day and all the near misses. She will nod and ask the occasional question, a skilled interviewing technique that enables her to seem engaged whilst the light in her eyes died 300 of these conversations ago.

So you ask her how her day was and she will tell you that she is “so tired” and that the kids were vile shits after school, and a few other details from her day. Her day is never good, if it is good, it makes the fact that she isn’t currently working and has no childcare responsibilities between 9 and 3.30pm seem like the best gig in the world. So you will hear about all of life’s misfortunes and tragedies whilst simultaneously skirting round the fact that drinking coffee and having chats with equally privileged friends features heavily in the thematic nuances of these stories. Nothing good ever happens.

Telly, alchohol a couch and more telly. Eventually someone goes to bed and we start it all again in the morning.

And so we don’t need to work out the reasons that this next thing happens. Even a blind man would see this coming. A blind man would, but not me, oh no.

It started as a lad’s trip to visit our long lost mate in New York, maybe we would even manage to squeeze in a few days in Miami. I would famously go on social media and speak of the trip in revered terms as if it was a holy pilgrimage to a my spiritual home. I know what I’m doing, I’m priming my colleagues and customers for my not being around and of course Sarah.

Sarah encourages me to take the time out, and makes one of her rare forays into pop psychology and tells me that I never make time for myself and I deserve the break. I should have noticed the warning signs right there. Tenderness, compassion and generosity of spirit should have all fucking rang alarm bells with me, but I was too busy thinking about the partying I was going to be doing in Miami beach.

The whole thing played out live on Facebook. From every shirt I bought for the holiday, to every missed Facetime call with the kids and all the drinking and girls in Miami, in between.

I got back home laden with duty free, presents for Sarah, presents for the kids. I barely made it from the taxi to the front door. It was odd, because Sarah knew what time I was going to be home, but her car was missing and all the lights were off in the house.

I get my keys out and try them in the lock and nothing works. The penny still hasn’t dropped at that point and I try each key again. I go round the back and try the back door key. Same story.

I call Sarah, she knocks off the call and then I receive the text message. A text message which obviously had been well rehearsed and written well before in anticipation of this precise moment.

I’ll keep it brief because the text was a ten minute read, but the highlights are: firstly she’s been very unhappy, I work all the time, I’m never around – that’s the justification. The kids don’t see me enough because I’m working all the time – that’s the custody justification. There’s someone else and it’s not worth working on it because it’s over – that’s the sucker punch.

And well, that’s the reason I’ve been sleeping in my car for the past week.


The return of the Sundance Kid

b and cAfter managing to avoid any further unpleasantness with Mrs. Prendergast, I found myself at that familiar juncture of trying to sell my soul for the percentage that I’m attempting to justify today. I was mired in explaining the very concept of social media to Mrs. Prendergast, I might as well have told her that I would advertise her property on the moon for all the good it was doing. I just wanted it to be over already.

And there it was, a knock at the door, the cavalry had arrived. The most unlikely of cavalries, but as Tom Panos says there is no such thing as bad news. Just badly packaged good news or some bollocks like that.

I looked up and peered through the front window to see who it was, and there he stood, the lanky streak of piss that was my main competitor, Sean Greener of Greener & Co.

This was the twat that no one had heard of three years ago and thanks to some clever advertising and some kamikaze discounting wars, had bought himself the lion’s share of the market. His adverts all peddled the same vision of freshness and uncomplicated slickness, carrying the line that had poached a thousand clients: “Because the grass is always greener with Greener & Co.”

You have to be ready to admit when you have been defeated, outgunned and outclassed. But like the end of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, you have to go out fighting in order to stand a chance of being remembered as being a hero.

In the ten seconds of awkward silence that hung in the air, I leapt forward and took Greener by the hand and said “Roger!” as loud as I could. Even Sean was confused, he was working out why I would introduce myself so enthusiastically to someone who already knows me. The shock and awe tactics had worked because the next sweet words out of his mouth were:

“Er, yes, Roger..”

I cut him off before he was able to elaborate any further and I merely said:

“I’m going to let you take over here. I really hope you get it.”

“Er, thanks.” The poor man didn’t know what was about to befall him.

I turned to Mrs. Prendergast before I left and handed her a folded piece of paper with the words “Read me now” written on the outside.  Without any further ado, I was out the door and down the path before any further explanations were necessary.

The note simply said: “The man sat opposite you is Greener the pervert. Don’t worry I am calling the police for you.”

Apparently the police held Greener for an hour whilst Mrs. Prendergast issued a tearful list of fictitious sexual misdemeanours against Greener.

After much unpleasantness, and as ogling at a pair of breasts, is not strictly speaking a Class A sexual assault, Greener was released. There was little to hold him with as  the confusion grew even further as Mrs. Prendergast forgot everybody’s names and Greener’s case of mistaken identity became lost in Mrs. P’s special brand of dementia.

I sat in the car watching as this all played out in wonderful technicolour with surround sound.

I totally agree with the self help gurus. Success is more about setting more realistic goals and about doing what makes you feel good.

It’s all well and good being self confident when you’ve achieved one of your goals, but you can’t leave anything to chance so I called the local newspaper and gave them an anonymous tip off that was all too rare for them to pass up. Granny shagging is always guaranteed to get you on page one of the newspaper. Greener should be paying me, not even he could afford to buy that much publicity so quickly.

Maybe this week wasn’t going to be too bad, after all.