Tag Archives: estate agents

Off to find a farmhouse…

Stevie. Uncle 'Money' you have a lot to answer for.

Stevie. Uncle ‘M’ –  you have a lot to answer for.

February at last!  I thought January and its dreary dank days would never disappear.  Evicted from the cottage on a blissfully sunny but cold day, Jerry, Primrose, Poppy and I decided to start the search for our new home at long last.  Having spent all week tidying and laying fires for estate agents to value our little house, we then had to decamp as viewings were organised within a few hours of instructing the agent.  I filled the cottage with flowers, baked some croissants, lit a fire and hoovered and dusted furniture within an inch of its life.  I have to admit that the dear old bricks and mortar looked rather wonderful and Jerry and I were almost ready to call the whole selling thing off.  Sensing our indecision, Primrose promptly reminded us of the garden she is looking forward to having and the fact that we had promised her a bike and a puppy.  It is amazing how one can be persuaded into giving a child anything in return for stopping what they are doing/listening to what one is saying/doing as they are told.  Primrose has already talked me into parting with all my jewellery in some Faustian-style pact to stop her from singing (more like shouting) into the microphone on her electric keyboard (named Stevie, after Mr Wonder himself) as the demo track struts its jazzy/bluesy/pop/latino stuff in the background.  No doubt, her lawyer-like negotiating skills will also see Jerry promising her a pony before long!

Setting off in the car, Jerry and I were excited at the prospect of discovering our dream house in the countryside.  Nancy (sat nav) switched on and armed with particulars and addresses, we left the Big Smoke in our wellies and wax jackets.  Dreams of Cranford, village pub lock-ins and helping out with the church flower arranging filled my head as we hurtled down the M3.  Jerry contemplated his necessary commuter car purchase.  To Land Rover Defender or not?  That was the question.  Nearing our destination yet miles from the nearest station, we soon realised that we were going to be visiting properties in completely the wrong place.  Jerry’s daily commute would be ridiculously long and there was not a decent village in sight.  At the brow of the hill, there it was.  The farmhouse from the glossy brochure.  Only one problem, it looked more akin to Cold Comfort Farm than delightful family home.  Amazing what a wide-angled lens and some estate agent speak can do for a property.  I imagined that at any point, a smouldering Seth Starkadder would walk out of the outbuildings, shirt half unbuttoned, hair ruffled and chewing a bit of straw.  Second surprise: the land (2.2acres to be exact!) adjacent to the farmhouse seemed to populated with some rather hairy looking creatures which turned out to be llamas.   Llamas…I ask you, dear Reader, who owns llamas and what on earth would one do with them?  I know that their wool has graced many a jumper but honestly, why else would you keep them?  Do they make good pets? They hardly seem the most affectionate of creatures.  Had I missed something I wondered?  Perhaps the secret to eternal youth was not the milk of asses after all as Cleopatra led us to believe.  Perhaps those in the know, have been busy sipping cold glasses of llamas’ milk to keep their wrinkles at bay all this time?  Whatever the answer, Jerry and I quickly dismissed the farmhouse out of hand, not even bothering to get out of the car and ringing the agent with a pathetic excuse.  Our conclusions: too close to the road, an odd walk-through arrangement with bedrooms on the floorplan and in the middle of nowhere.

Our next viewing was a barn.  Jerry and I have never been particularly keen on barn conversions as they tend to be too modern for our tastes and this one was no exception.  I have to confess, dear Reader, that it did feel awfully strange poking around someone else’s home.  I could imagine viewings being the ideal pastime for those with a penchant for nosiness!  The barn reeked and seemed to be inhabited by a collector of old sewing machines, kitchen gadgets and Glade plug-ins.  Oh dear, I thought.  Another disappointment.  At this rate, we would never find a house!  We got back in the car, where Jerry spent the next half an hour testing out mobile phone signals as we drove along, talking of boosters and broadband dead zones.

Spring is coming!

The rest of the day passed with Jerry and I on tenterhooks, waiting for a call to tell us about the buyers who had been snooping around our cottage!  Turned out that the viewings went rather well which left us in a state somewhere between panic and happiness!  We decided on a walk in Morgaston Woods (one of favourite spots) to clear our heads.  It sounds silly but a walk never fails to make us all feel uplifted.  The first sighting of snowdrops filled me with cheer and the chilly air carried the promise of spring on its way.  Everyone we passed smiled and wished us a good afternoon….unheard of in London and reminding us why we are turning our lives upside down to move!  (I did wonder if they had taken one look at the matching Barbours, tweed and country hats and thought to themselves, “Typical blooming Londoners!” and were smiling in amusement rather than country friendliness)!  We did stumble upon a fantastic den in the woods too.  Primrose and Poppy were all set to move in!  You never know dear Reader, we may need to….

Home sweet home?

Home sweet home?

No new dwelling to call home on the horizon, the only thing left was for the four of us to return home.  We found that our dear little cottage was well and truly on the market when we came home – a ‘For Sale’ board had been put up in our absence!  We did manage to lighten the mood though.  What with, dear Reader?……..why a Farmhouse cake of course!

A farmhouse of sorts...well farmhouse cake anyway!

A farmhouse of sorts…!

Should you wish to bake your own farmhouse, here is the recipe!  It was given to me by my dear godmother who is a whizz at all things teatime and makes the most amazing pork pies too!

12oz self raising flour

1 level tsp salt

2 tsp mixed spice

8oz caster sugar

12oz mixed dried fruit (glace cherries are fantastic as part of the mix)

grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

6oz margarine (Flora works best for this as it is easy to mix in: this is an occasion when butter won’t do!)

1/4 pint of milk

3 eggs (I use Burford Browns from Clarence Court as the yolks are very yellow and creamy)

Sieve together the dry ingredients first, except the fruit.  Add all the others and mix together, first with a beater (you could put it all into the food processor) until thoroughly mixed then finish mixing lightly by hand.  Pour into an 8inch cake tin which has been greased and lined. Bake on middle shelf at 150 degrees C for about 2 hours.  Cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack.  Never lasts long in our house!

Out with the old….


Enough books to start our own library!

What a week it has been, dear Reader.  There has been so much to do in the cottage.  Estate agents are descending on us for valuations and Jerry and I have been frantically trying to tidy and declutter so that the agents value the dear old building at more than 5p for lock, stock and barrel.  6 years we have lived here.  Moving from the hustle, bustle and gritty urban life of an SE London post code to the serenity and predictably middle class suburbia on the edge of Richmond Park.  In that time, the cottage has weathered many storms: Jerry’s beginner DIY skills, my obsession with green paint and not least the arrival of our fluffy prince Bertie, followed by our two little darlings, Primrose and Poppy.  Its four walls have been the source of both great joy and terrible woe as one thing after another ceased to function as it was supposed to.  Yet through all of that, it has remained one of my greatest loves.  Indeed, it was love in the first place, Dear Reader, that caused me to purchase the ramshackle bricks and mortar we now call home.  In a fit of impetuousness, I decided on first viewing to buy it.  Jerry was on a stag weekend at the time and was ‘delighted’ when he received a phonecall from his wife saying that she had purchased a house!  I saw the cottage, fell in love and made a foolish decision that left Jerry and I to pay the asking price even though the house was in need of considerable modernisation.  When asked by the estate agent (and the vendor) whether I wanted to wait until my husband returned to make a formal offer, I glibly said “No, Jerry won’t mind!”  Jerry has never let me forget that moment of rashness in the entire 6 years we have lived here!  I have lived and breathed the house ever since from sourcing Victorian wallpapers to underpinning chimneys, converting the attic into a third bedroom, ripping out the 70s decor, installing a new kitchen (with a newborn Primrose in tow) and weeping every time the roof leaked and water poured through the ceiling and down the walls in the middle of the night.  One can only say that the cottage has been a true labour of love.  Jerry has, on numerous occasions, told me (through gritted teeth) that I would not be allowed to look at or buy houses alone in the future and that the only house he would consider living in now, would be a modern box.  Interesting…as only a few days ago, I caught him trawling through properties on Rightmove which boasted period features and oak beams.  However, I do feel an immense responsibility to prove to Jerry that all the time and effort spent on the cottage has been worth it and that someone as mad as Margot will fall in love with it, want to move straight in and make us a ludicrous offer!

Wondering if I could ever be parted from my beloved cottage, Jerry rather glibly imparted, “Buyers might not love your wallpaper as much as you do.”  What a simply ridiculous notion!  Well if they don’t love the wonders of Lewis&Wood wallpaper then they clearly do not have an eye for vintage beauty and I won’t be selling the house to them!  Hmm.  With all the tidying I missed the whooping excitement of a crisp clean blanket of snow.  I felt a perfect winter Grinch as I watched others sledging down hills in the park, whilst I gave myself white blindness of a slightly different sort, painting the bay window.  DIY capers continued into the weekend when Jerry and I used some tester pots to retouch areas in the kitchen and bathroom.  Sadly for us (we saw the funny side only much later on) it turned out that the Farrow and Ball paint we thought we had used in the first place, did not match the little pots.  Too late to do anything about it when one has painted a great big patch and could only tell the difference in pantones when newly painted area is bone dry…..  Jerry and I spent a few hours mixing different F&B pots together until we finally reached the desired shade and then had to repaint the section all over again!  More grumbling ensued.

Margot's Lewis&Wood joy!

Margot’s Lewis&Wood joy!

Onwards to the decluttering…… I have to confess to liking a little clutter so I knew that this part of the operation was going to be a challenge.  Clean lines have never appealed and I hoard books as if I shall never see another again.  Advice from the lovely Kirstie Allsop’s friend, Phil, on selling a property says that the key to a sale is to ‘declutter’ and ‘de-personalise’.  Buyers want to imagine themselves in your house.  Oh dear, I thought.  Might have to box up most of our things in that case!  “Don’t you like any of your things anymore, Mummy?”, asked a rather outraged Primrose, our resident magpie and lover of shiny pretty things, as she watched me taking things out of cupboards and ramming once loved items into black bin bags ready for the charity shop.  Halfway through, even Jerry was concerned that I seemed to have cleared out half of my wardrobe and had decimated my herculean handbag collection.  (I have always maintained that one needs a good handbag for every possible occasion!  At last count, I had managed to collect in the region of fifty something…).  Nevertheless, I was an unstoppable machine and in one weekend, 6 years of cottage life was streamlined and decluttered.  Poppy did her very best to prevent the proceedings by throwing Primrose’s Mister Maker box onto the floor.  Sequins, googly eyes and heaps of glitter spilled out onto the floor just as the vacuum cleaner had been returned to the under-stairs dungeon.  I can’t repeat the language used but I am sure you can imagine, dear Reader!

For sale: One cottage covered in sequins and googly eyes.  Toddler thrown in with purhcase.

For sale: One cottage covered in sequins and googly eyes. Toddler to be thrown in with purchase.

Hours of cleaning duty later and Jerry and I were more than ready for Gin o’clock!  The realisation that we are selling up has set in.  Surveying our handiwork, Jerry and I felt like our dear little cottage had been stripped bare.   I wondered how on earth I was going to be able to keep the clutter at bay.  Not least because in a fit of impatience, Jerry stuffed the last of the unhomed items (precariously balanced no doubt) behind a few cupboard doors!  Let’s hope any potential buyers don’t feel the need to check out the storage…..

Snow now melted away, a new week dawns and for now, dear Reader, the sun is shining.  The cottage is looking pristine.  You will be pleased to hear that amidst all the clearing out, I did manage to find room for ONE new little purchase.  A country hat.  Well…..it was winking at me from its lonely spot in a shop window and I couldn’t possibly leave it behind.  It was clearly a sign.  Out with the old, in with the new as they say!


No19 on the list : Procure a stylish country hat. DONE!