Apprenticed to my mother: selling the family home

The months roll forward and summer approaches. The builders have nearly finished the now total internal upgrade of my mother’s new bungalow and the prospect of selling the family home looms large.

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My mother is sanguine about the prospect. She has already moved emotionally and enjoys each final season with a slightly melancholic relish, rubbing eucalypt leaves between her fingers and collecting seeds from fritallaria and foxglove for her new beds.

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The contorted willow sheds its deep olive green leaves for her last time and her sighs contain yet another packaged memory – of my father’s rootless anxiety when she announced she was planting this willow next to the illegal overflow from our cesspit.

Dad knew of the overflow though he refused to acknowledge it – in dry summers the verdant green strip across the lawn rather gave it away – like some early punk rocker who experimented with agreen Mohican, the grass nourished by diluted faecal matter that seeped from 70 year old pipes stood loud and proud for all to see.

‘Barbs, the willow finds water. It’ll be in – you know where – like a ferret up the trousers and if the council gets wind…’

‘Don’t be ridiculous darling.’ Mum’s put downs always comprised a mix of infantilising the speaker with a leavening of love.

Dad waited for disaster which came some fifteen years later when a council man, cleaning the ditch alongside the garden hedge after yet another flood ‘got wind’ in a tangible way one steamy summer afternoon. ‘Did you know you had an illegal overflow mate?’ He asked dad.

‘Really? That’s appalling,’ said dad, ‘The previous owners never said.’ He omitted to mention we had lived in the house for 25 years at this point. ‘I’ll get it sorted at once.’

A shame in a way. One feature of our growing up, for the Archaeologist and me, were the occassions when ‘Lavender’ Jim came to empty the cesspit. We’d make ourselves scarce as he pumped and bucketed it empty, making a mental note of another career choice that was closed to us.

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The modern septic tank sits buried next to the greenhouses. They, more than any other feature represent the gradually deterioration of mum and dad’s garden, no longer tthe old man’s refuge from any of his many frustrations.

My children, by contrast, are devastated at the idea of the sale. It’s a tangible part of their upbringing, a place of the happiest of memories. Why I am both asked and ask myself do I not feel the same way? Isn’t it home?

The answer is that it will always be a part of me but home has never been a place but a state of mind.

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It is a Saturday, early July 2006, when I come to mum’s. We have an appointment with reputedly the best estate agents in Lymington. That turns out to be something of a misnomer but we don’t know at the time. More to the point we have no expectations on how attractive the house will be. Mum and dad bought it in 1969 for £6,500. Since then, they have extended it and added to it. It is well proportioned, sits inside the boundary of the New Forest National Park and has a fabulous garden. It is surrounded by farms and another ten houses but otherwise resides in rural isolation. On the other hand there is no public transport nearby, the nearest shop is well over a mile away and it is on a fast road, by a junction where accidents happen with somewhat sickening regularity.

‘Ooo,’ he says, he being the agent we speak to. ‘Where exactly?’ He’s dribbling, metaphorically, as he imagines the fee. ‘Circa £450,000 I’d say.’

Mum nods, I smile.

‘We should put it on at £475. Perfect time too.’

‘Why?’ We both ask together. We are stunned by the price, only capable of querying the timing.

‘Start of the school hols. Loads of people come here for a break, fall in love and decide to buy somewhere. This is ideal.’

Mum and I exchange another smile at our foresight, as if we had deliberately chosen this moment.

The man – Mr Gubbins, perhaps – begins to scribble. It becomes apparent that he wants to launch the property on an unsuspecting but inevitably receptive audience within a week. Ah, problem number one.

‘Next weekend we are going away – a residential course in Marlborough for a week. Maybe we launch when we get back.’

Gubbins is not happy, his dribbling now a pout. ‘If you leave us with keys we can show people round.’

Now Mum isn’t happy but she allows herself to be persuaded – generally she doesn’t fall for the charms of snake oil salespeople but Gubbins must have a secret musk undetectable to 50 something lawyers. Gubbins will produce the draft particulars for our approval and show people round, ‘a pre-look, if the particulars aren’t ready’ he says, staring on Saturday afternoon. We will have left on Saturday morning.

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As you can see the price crawled up to £485,000 by the time these were printed

We are content. Mum and I head off for a well earned lunch with her brother, wife and my cousins and leave Gubbins to swoon in his office. On Monday he will appear to photo the house, take measurements and agree the descriptions with Mum. I, in the meantime will organise a seller’s survey, something I’m aware can save time and argument if any likely defects are noted before offers are made – too many times in my property selling life, both personally and professionally have buyers sought to chisel the agreed offer when they have a survey done. Not this time, I tell myself, smugly.

We are standing by the car while I fiddle with the keys. Mum leans on the roof and looks at me. ‘What do you think of that young man?’ she asks.

‘I guess he’ll do a good job.’

She pulls the door open and begins to lower herself in gently, her new knee not yet fully mobilised. ‘Yes I suppose. It’s just a shame he was such a prick.’

And here are a couple of Dad’s poems to Mum, as originally typed by him

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Next time: Apprenticed to my mother – offer and acceptance

 

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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39 Responses to Apprenticed to my mother: selling the family home

  1. Ritu says:

    I love this series!!!! 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    A wonderful, nostalgic but hopeful post from Geoff Le Pard as his mother looks forward to her move in to a new bungalow and the sale of the family home. The house and gardens hold many memories including quite fragrant ones! A terrific read.. head over and find out for yourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 says:

    I am enjoying this so much!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. God Bless your mom. She’s quite a gal! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. stevetanham says:

    Heartfelt and lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jan says:

    I had to put my mother’s tiny place up for sale last summer – a different story with us – the agent wanted to practically give it away. I prevailed in asking higher and it sold quickly. I’m glad your mom is at least accepting of the change – it isn’t always that way, sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such lovely stories you are sharing with us, Geoff. And that property is just lovely. But, as you say, home is a state of mind. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Allie P. says:

    Such a gorgeous garden!

    Like

  9. noelleg44 says:

    Now this is a love story! I hope wherever you Mum lands, she has a garden and is happy in her new surroundings. I could use her here. My parents moved out of the home I’d grown up in while I was away at grad school so I never got a chance to say good-bye – and I never got to say goodbye to my grandparents home. It was torn down before I went back to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Charli Mills says:

    A beautiful reflection, Geoff and I have such appreciation for you and your family — the warmth, the intelligence, the multiple ways to achieve green, the poetry, the prick-calling and mostly the love. Yes, I can understand how home is a state of mind for you. I’ve been wrestling with that one, and yet for me it was in claiming a place that I could frame that state of mind finally.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. trifflepudling says:

    It’s always a shock when one’s mother emits profanities, isn’t it!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Helen Jones says:

    I’m really enjoying these posts, Geoff, and the poems at the end brought a tear to my eye. What a love story they had.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mick Canning says:

    Your mum – clearly a star, Geoff!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Nostalgic post – I have long felt that home is where I am

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Rowena says:

    I enjoyed reading this Geoff and it’s given me much food for thought. I have been much more attached to my grandparents’ houses than to my parents’ home and I don’t feel very attached to this house. It was meant to be a launching pad and not the full stop it’s become. Depending on what happens, we’re intending to either move or bulldoze the place. I don’t know how my kids feel about that.
    My Dad in his typical style was very pragmatic about selling his parents’ family home. It was the logical thing to do. End of story.
    xx Ro

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I agree; best not to be sentimental about real estate

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        I’m surprised I’m not more sentimental about this place after all the good that has happened here but it’s always been meant to be a stepping stone…I guess in the same sense as meeting that person who’s not quite right along the way but still has many good features. I had a card years ago which had a set of scales on it and on one side was Mr Wrong, the other Mr Right and the arrow had settled on Mr Approximate. It’s also made me laugh and yet there’s a bit of truth in that one too!
        Hope you had a great weekend.
        xx Ro

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        yes v good thanks

        Like

  16. trifflepudling says:

    Luckily neither my sister nor I felt very connected to our family home. Also it was practically falling down and there seemed to be a constant smell of gas coming from somewhere. After my mother died, sis and I were spending nights with my father, sharing our old room, and she said she was worried about the smell in case the house blew up. I looked at the curtains billowing at the closed window and said there wasn’t much chance of that!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Norah says:

    Your Mum – the straight-talking woman. Tell it like it is. Love your Dad’s poems. Both very special people obviously. They had you, didn’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Eileen says:

    Enjoyed all of this immensely. Can relate to the septic overflow and even the willow. Shades of the past. Thanks for the delightful visit.

    Liked by 1 person

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