So Where Were We?

Goodness, how time passes! The last update I wrote on this blog, we were putting our house on the market and were all set to start a new venture somewhere that we could have a bigger workshop for Mr Litlove and possibly some sort of writing retreat or artists studios for me to run, yes?

Well, none of that happened.

So let’s go back to where we were last summer, with an unnaturally tidy house (‘Did you stash it all in the car?’ the estate agent who came to take photos asked us. ‘That’s where most people put their stuff.’) a grand plan and, in actual fact, a criminal bear in the boot of my car. In retrospect, August probably wasn’t the best time to put the house on the market, and an August in the run up to Brexit was even less promising. We did have some people come and look, but for the most part they were what Mr Litlove termed ‘tyre kickers’. Showing your house to strangers is an awful business, and we also had two new kittens who were brim-full of curiosity and wanted to do the showing for us. This problem was summed up in the moment when I was making small talk with one woman while Dexter edged in and started to lick her toes. How cute, I thought, until I saw the woman’s face and had to drop kick the kitten gently into the garden. I was having a bad day that day in any case. I’d managed to chat gaily about my son having thrown over his chemistry degree in favour of training as a counsellor to licked-toes woman’s husband, who turned out to have been a chemistry professor all his life. But for me the epitome of house viewing awfulness was the elderly Chinese man who came in complaining about the road outside our house. We live opposite the village green, and the main road through the village passes in front of us. We have a queue of cars at the lights at 8 in the morning and 5 in the evening, and the buses to town go through, but it’s just a village, and so mostly it’s quiet enough that children from the school and ducks from the pond wander across it. Anyhow, this man came in saying how busy and loud it was and weren’t we bothered by the noise? As we were standing inside the house in my study, I asked how loud the noise seemed to him. At which point he threw his hands in the air. He was hard of hearing, he told me, how should he know?

So August rolled into September and the estate agents said, ah now the market will pick up again after the summer holidays. But what happened was the complete opposite. We had no viewings whatsoever in September. And it didn’t seem to be just us – the same story was happening across our region. First houses were selling, and houses over the million mark. But all of us four-beds in the middle of the market were stagnating in the economic uncertainty. By now we had had too long to think about the house we’d been wanting to buy. Mr Litlove was very unsure about it, and there was no certainty we’d get planning permission for either his workshop or my retreats. By the middle of October, we’d only had one more viewing, and by a family who thought they ought to downsize but didn’t really want to. We were starting to feel very uncomfortable with the process. Neither of us could get on and do any work because we seemed to be waiting all the time for this miracle to happen, a buyer to arrive, and there was no sign that one would.

One day I said to Mr Litlove, why don’t you have the car port? If we incorporated the car port into the garage, you’d have double the workshop space you have now. So we got an architect in to discuss it, and it seemed viable and the thought of being out of the range of the circling dementors of a stagnant housing market was so tempting. Plus, it was killing Mr Litlove to be that tidy all the time. With many a mixed emotion, we took the house off the market, and the saga of building the workshop extension began.

But you’ll be wanting to know what happened to Big Beery, right? Well to begin with I kept forgetting that he was in the boot of the car, until I popped the trunk to put the supermarket shopping away. Then there he lay in all his disreputableness, as other shoppers wheeling their carts past threw us strange looks. So I moved him into the back seat of the car, which was nicer than the boot, but increasingly cold as winter approached. When Mr Litlove and I got into the car together, we kept having the same old argument. I’d say, couldn’t we move Big Beery back into the house for a bit? It seemed such a shame to leave an old bear out here in the damp and the cold. But Mr Litlove was adamant. ‘We were only supposed to be housing him while he got back on his feet,’ he’d say. ‘If you let him back in we’ll never get rid of him’ I’d protest that it was hard for him, when even the charity shops wouldn’t take him. Then Mr Litlove would complain that he wasn’t even trying and all he did all day was sit drinking cans of Stella from the Co-op in the village. About this point in the conversation Big Beery would often attempt to defend himself with his own brand of lobbying, and Mr Litlove would reply that wherever we were going, we could go past the council tip on the way there. That would shut us all up.

As I write this, Big Beery remains in the back seat of the car. If you listen carefully, you can probably hear him belch.

Also I don’t think I’ve told you about our new kittens, Dexter and Deedee. They came from different litters but they might as well have come from different planets. Dexter is a big, fat, fluffy bundle of schnuggles, a laze in the sun cat, a beautiful tabby with kohl-rimmed eyes but oh so dumb. Deedee is a whippetty black ninja with crazy golden bat eyes and relentless curiosity. They are very bound to one another but in an odd, mismatched sort of way. Now the days are lengthening they love the early evening hours when they head out on cat business in the neighbourhood together. Deedee scampers ahead, gesturing wildly and talking nineteen to the dozen about tactics and strategies, while Dexter plods alongside her, saying every now and then, ‘But Deedee, I don’t want to fight him.’

However, it’s not just Pogo, the big marmalade tom, whose animosity has been aroused. Our next door neighbours, who professed their pleasure that we were staying, are probably changing their minds now, as unfortunately, the cats have taken to using their garden as a toilet. It’s a lovely garden and if I were obliged to go outside, I’d probably choose it too. But our elderly neighbour was incensed when, having risen at five one morning, he looked out of his windows only to see Dexter squatting serenely in the middle of his vegetable patch. Just the other day he came to fetch Mr Litlove to complain to him about an especially awkward discovery. I remember that he’d paid quite a lot to have his driveway gravelled in such a way that the little stones are thinly glued to the surface, providing an easy upkeep version of a raked zen garden. Well, one of the cats had done a poo smack in the middle of the driveway and had evidently been surprised while scratching to find that the gravel did not shift to cover it as they expected. Mr Litlove said that he did feel a bit guilty about that one. We’ve provided earthy areas and shady areas in our own garden for the cats, but if you’ve ever owned one, you’ll know that they do not take instruction well. Personally I think our neighbour has missed a trick by letting the cats know that he is so displeased. Disapproval is, for them, an open invitation to ever more provocative acts of defecation. The only thing he could do is, I think, to beam appreciation on them and tell them they are behaving exactly as he wishes. That can sometimes cause a u-turn in feline policy.

Well, look at me rambling on. This post is already too long and I haven’t told you half the news. And the next one must be a review I have promised.  I will cross my fingers that my eyes hold up well enough for me to post a bit over the summer. In the meantime, if you’re reading something really good (that’s available on audiobook), do let me know.

33 thoughts on “So Where Were We?

  1. Wonderful to have you back, Victoria. Your posts about your day-to-day life are always so engagingly told. And, of course, I am already besotted with the cats!

    I never understand people who complain about cats doing their business. I mean, of course they do – they’re cats. And the owners are hardly likely to be able to deter them.

    • Simon, it’s a treat to have you visit. And my cats send warmest cat greetings to yours (it is Hargreaves, isn’t it?). You do put your finger on the nub of the problem, as it were, in that cats are not in the least open to being deterred. Fortunately Mr Litlove deals with our neighbour because, between you and me, I don’t have a great deal of patience – they used to be cat owners themselves, so they do know the score. With a bit of luck, the cats will find a new garden soon!

  2. They used to be cat owners themselves?! And yet they still complain?! I do understand finding it distasteful to find (someone else’s) cat poo in my vegetable garden, but it’s hardly worth a neighbourhood war – and rather more the fault of the cat than of the cat’s owner.

    Beyond that, I am disheartened at your experience of having your house on the market. We are readying ours now but know it will not be ready for this spring-summer season. I rather think it would be wiser for us to wait until next spring than to list in the fall.

    Oh – and so good to hear from you again! 🙂

    • Debbie, the market here picked up once the Brexit date was passed. What will happen next I have no idea, but I think if you sort of set your mind to be patient, then sellers do come along, and you only need the one person who loves it. We felt we were unlucky – hardly anyone who visited seemed even right for our house. They had too many children, or wanted a big garden, things that might have put our house out of their ideal range in the first place. All that being said, spring does seem to be the best time of the year for selling. Good luck, whatever you decide to do! And thank you for the lovely comment.

  3. Lol, what a wonderful post, Victoria – you had me laughing again!! I can sympathise with the house move issue – we really should downsize, but the through of the clearing out that needs to be done first is frankly terrifying. I hope the car port plan works..

    As for your cats, I love the fact you called them Dexter and Deedee! They’re not a biddable animal, are they? Perhaps threaten to set Big Beery on them…..? I dare say that would terrify any creature into submissions! 🤣🤣🤣

    • Karen, I do love to make you laugh! And whilst I may have some regrets that we couldn’t move, I am grateful every day that i didn’t have to pack this house up! It would have been a LOT of work. You join the special club of people who get our cats’ names, and I love the idea of using Big Beery for discipline -that’s genius!

  4. Yay! So pleased to read you again Victoria! I am staying with a very close friend and her cat near Geneva and this post enlivened my evening. I hope things have settled down enough soon that Mr L can give my little commission some thought (after some baclklog I am sure of more important prior ones) and I also hope we can meet up again and I can tell you of a major change (positive I stress) in my life too. x

    • Ooh DP, how intriguing! DO tell all. We were talking about your commission yesterday at lunch as it happens. Mr L has been without a workshop since last November but is finally getting straight in his new one, so yes, new projects can finally be envisaged! Hope you have a wonderful time in gorgeous Geneva. x

      • I am 🙂 Got up at 5:45 this morning to get down to the lakewith my friend to see the sun rise turning the alps pink. Also went to an interesting seminar at CERN linking astrophysics of the observable universe to the masses of the neutrinos. x

  5. So glad you’re back and I’m in love with your cats, who share temperaments with my two – boy tabby and fiesty tiny tortie girl, although yours seem to get on better with each other! I should think about downsizing soon, but am terrified about it. The housing market at the moment is so cutthroat. I hope the car port plan works!

    • Ha, they sort of get on – on a good day! Deedee is obsessed with Dexter and follows him about, which he tolerates scornfully until she goes off on her own, and then he misses her. I’m sure that must be an allegory of something!! They send warm cat wishes to yours (who I remember gracing the Shiny header many an edition). Moving IS an enormous pain, so I don’t blame you one bit for being uncertain about it, and if you don’t have to do it, then it probably is worth waiting. Thank you for your comment – it’s so lovely to have you visit!

  6. Moving house is stressful at any time but trying to do it in the middle of a slump is doubly painful. Your carport conversion sounds a great solution for Mr LitLove but what about your own project of a writer’s retreat – anyway you can see that happening?

    • Ha good question, Karen. The short answer at the moment is no. But the longer answer involves the nuisance of CFS which has been troublesome since last October, and a collaborative art project I’ve been involved with, which is coming out as a book next year. So in some ways I’m kind of glad not to have any added commitments right now – though we’ll see what happens when the book is done. You are so right about the stress involved – even almost-but-not-quite moving turned out to be a lot more stressful than I imagined!

  7. How lovely to hear from you again! Ah yes, the delights of trying to sell a house… I may have to soon, and everyone is telling me horror stories of having to keep it tidy for endless ‘tyre-kickers’ visits and nothing ever coming out of it, even though they dropped the price by as much as £150-200,000. Your kittens are lovely – and all I can suggest is that your neighbours should get a cat again to mark his/her territory and keep the kittens out, if they feel so strongly about it. While we were living in France and renting the house yet, the neighbours’ cats made a habit of using our garden as a toilet, but it all changed when we moved back with our cat. She showed them who’s the boss (and she uses the litter tray indoors – must be her fastidious French manner).

    • What a good idea about the cat! I will prime Mr Litlove to suggest that to our neighbour should he still be grizzling. And I love your cat’s fastidious Frenchness. That withering scorn will probably be responsible for seeing off the other cats too. Moving is such a strange thing and it seems to me just very chancy. Sometimes you’re lucky and the right person comes along quickly, sometimes you’re not. If you do have to move, I will keep my fingers firmly crossed for you! It’s lovely to have you visit, thank you. x

  8. It will be a year next week since I moved and although I am settled mentally in our new home, physically my body is still letting me know that I must never put it through anything like that ever again. The Bears are very worried about Big Beery. They travelled to our new home in the front seat of the car, sat in feted splendour in the estate agents while we waited for the keys to arrive and then made sure that their sofa was the first piece of furniture to be moved in. We can’t help thinking that your husband has his priorities wrong.

    • Yes, I must say that I am still suffering probably in part from the sheer stress of almost-but-not-quite moving, so sometimes I wonder what might have happened to me if I’d actually gone through the entire process. You are not alone! And Big Beery says that your Bears have it absolutely right and maybe they’d like to form a delegation to tell Mr Litlove so? He does feel this is the sort of treatment an aged bear should be getting, regardless of his, ahem, past misdemeanors.

  9. Your post is a treat, and 2 within a few days! the cat picture is so cute. As for reading, the best book i read in 2019 so far is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I read it in audiobook. Have you read it already?

    • Oh I loved Americanah and thought the audio was brilliant because the narrator did such excellent accents! So you are spot on – I loved that book, good choice. And I’m hoping very much to manage a third post next week sometime – après moi le déluge, non? It is lovely chatting to you again.

  10. You’re back! Hurrah! I love it when you post and have missed you here. I miss bloggers and blogging and the whole community!

    • I miss you too, Courtney! Will you be/are you blogging again? Young children aren’t the best accompaniments to a blog (though they make good stories) so I know you don’t have much time (the idea of ‘free time’ is a bit laughable in motherhood). It’s lovely to be in contact again, though. xx

  11. Lovely description of your life. I had to drop my price loads to move out of the countryside, three bed family house, but it was worth it because I wanted to move and it was the right thing for me. Maybe it will turn out better to stay? Your cats are very pretty. Luckily mine has never done such anti social things as yours, but maybe my neighbours were too polite to tell me. Hope you are well.

    • Hi Denise! The market here is finally moving again, so we are wondering what would have happened if we’d waited and put the house on it now? It was bad timing, or just not meant to be. Mr Litlove has his new workshop now and is really pleased with it, and I didn’t have to pack up the house, which would have been an epic task, so perhaps all in all it worked out for the best. I’m doing sort of okay, though perimenopause continues to be a beast! One of these days I’ll blog about that…

      • Epic would certainly have been the word. It is physically incredibly draining to pack up a house. How is your son by the way? Talking about menopause, many of my evening conversations with friends these days are dominated by worries about either menopause or children :-/ Good luck with your peri, hope it settles down.

      • Oh Denise, we really have hit that time of life, haven’t we?! Thankfully, my son is fine. He finished his chemistry degree but then decided he wanted a completely different career path and is currently training to be a therapist. He’s really enjoying it though he’s got a long way still to go. I’m just relieved he’s found something he likes that will provide him with useful skills. How are your daughters?

      • One is bumping along doing 2nd year maths at Bristol and the other is waiting for her A level results so she can do History at Leeds (needs 3 As, probably safe for 2As and a B). All my friends with sons are having serious wobbles with theirs around anxiety. So it’s great that your son knows what he wants to do and is doing something about it.

    • I will take comfort from your kind remarks! In truth, I’m really glad that I haven’t had to spend the past few months packing up and fretting about contracts. You’re quite right that moving IS terrible, and where we are is lovely. So, gratitude for what we do have is definitely a very good way to go.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s