Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Article excerpt

The cottage of my dreams (or possibly worst nightmares) proved rather difficult to purchase, not least because the agent selling it did not want to sell it.

You may remember he showed me round by plodding dolefully between the cramped rooms in his long dark overcoat like an undertaker, shaking his head at the water-damaged walls and lack of central heating.

When I asked about sanitation, he brightened up momentarily: 'It's on a CESS!' Usually these people finesse it with some tasteful euphemism about tanks, but he was determined to make the place sound as hideous as he could.

When I said it was just what I was looking for, he recoiled, as if I had actually opened the 'CESS!' We stood in the garden amid smashed-up polytunnels, dilapidated sheds, and the 'approaching an acre' of scrubland that a small Shetland was nibbling, which I proposed to make a turn-out paddock for Grace and Darcy.

'Sandy soil, you see?' I said, pushing my toe into the bone-dry earth. 'I'd rather have an acre of well draining sandy soil than eight acres on London clay.'

He shrugged his shoulders, gazing enigmatically into the middle distance. 'Well, make them an offer, I suppose,' he said, wearily, to no one in particular.

The next day, I rang him and tried to ask a few supplementary questions about maintenance of the track, rights of way, and what the total square footage was. But he did not seem at all keen for me to see a floor plan.

'We did have a floor plan,' he said, 'but we lost it. On the computer system.'

'Well,' I said, 'can you possibly get it back again because I really do need to see it before I make an offer?'

'Righto,' he said, in a tone of voice signifying that righto was precisely the thing it was not.

I waited a week and when no floor plan came I rang back. Another agent answered this time and told me the same story about the computer losing it.

'Can I assume the square footage is so small you are embarrassed to reveal it, given the asking price?'

'I have no idea how big it is,' he said. 'The file's corrupted.'

Something's corrupted, I thought. And then, perhaps to fill the awkward silence, he said an even stranger thing: 'We've got the floor plan to next door, if that would help. …

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