J’s been managing a villa not far from where we live for a
couple. During the winter, her main responsibility was to arrange maintenance and make sure the house was prepared for the summer letting months, but when those summer letting months arrived and the first guests moved in, J kindly went on holiday leaving me to handle the variety of requests and complaints from the ‘guests’. London
The first set of guests were lovely and quite patient despite the fact that the electric gates to the drive failed intermittently leaving their cars impounded, usually and frustratingly when the guests were dashing off to the airport.
Those guests left after two weeks and despite the gate problem, they left behind very generous and extremely positive comments about both the villa and Bea, the lady who cleans the villa every week.
Then the second set of ‘guests’ arrived and I kid you not, within ten seconds of contact with them, I knew they’d be trouble.
The first contact was a phone call on Sunday afternoon saying they couldn’t find the villa. I explained the general location, the number and a description of the villa stating that they ‘couldn’t possibly miss the bright blue/lilac shutters’. Then the first complaint – the road numbers were not concurrent – how could they ‘possibly find a villa when the street numbers were not concurrent?’
I explained that house numbers in
(certainly down here) are a measurement of how far a house is from the last road junction, e.g. the villa’s street number was 55 and therefore it was 55 metres from the last junction. ‘Don’t tell me that – my husband’s French you know’, screeched this woman, then adding, ‘the numbers are not concurrent, the numbers are not concurrent.’ France
Now far be it from me to lecture someone on English so I refrained from explaining how the definition of ‘concurrent’ couldn’t possibly be applied to house numbers and that she possibly meant ‘consecutive’.
Anyway – I let it drop, told them I’d look up the villa on Google Street View and Google Earth for a better description of how to get to it and they should call me back in a few minutes. They never did – I reckon they finally spotted the bright lilac shutters which can be spotted a mile away.
All was quiet until Monday morning when I got a call from ‘James’, saying the villa was filthy and what was I going to do about it. I stated that the cleaner had been in for seven hours on the Friday after the previous guests had left and it couldn’t possibly be filthy but I would call round to see what his complaint was.
Now this rather quick capitulation on my part must have confused him and it was obvious that he desperately wanted to berate me on the phone for a longer period of time and so he continued despite my repeated statement that I would call round. On and on he went until I told him that I had heard enough and would be putting the phone down. On and on went the diatribe and I put the phone down – mid sentence.
I called round to the villa about an hour later and was ‘greeted’ by James who was quite pleasant. I didn’t want to waste time, after all this was not my job, and I immediately asked him to show me the problems he’d encountered.
The first room on the ‘filthy tour’ was the kitchen.
‘Look at that’, James said as he pointed out the waste paper bin. ‘Yes, what’s wrong with it’, I replied. ‘It’s all dusty’, he whined. Now, the bin was a dark blue colour and the lid had a mottled paint finish so I had to get down on my knees to spot the dust. And yes, there was dust on the lid, but it couldn’t be seen unless you were on your knees.
‘And there’s a mark in the cupboard’, he said, opening the door. I looked in the cupboard and couldn’t see a mark but I nodded and asked him what was next. ‘The cooker hood – it’s disgusting’, he stated. I went over to the cooker hood and I have to say, if my cooker hood had been as immaculately clean as this one was, I’d have been delighted. ‘Exactly where is it dirty’, I asked. He pushed in a button and a fleck of dust fell out of the recess. ‘Aaah – see’, it’s filthy. I can’t stay in a place like this’, he complained.
At this point, I was beginning to think this was a joke J had set up to fill my lonely week with a bit of ‘off-the-wall humour’ but no, he dragged me out onto the terrace and said, ‘look behind the shutters, there are cobwebs’. Now, in the South of France with shutters being closed each evening, and the propensity for spiders to look for a nice sheltered place, you are bound to get cobwebs, indeed, you would think something was wrong if you didn’t, but this hadn’t registered with this guy. ‘I had to brush behind the bedroom shutters last night – I couldn’t go to sleep with that mess outside the bedroom window’, he said.
‘OK – what’s next’, I asked.
‘Well there’s a dustball in the lounge’, and sure enough one of those little balls of fluff was nestling happily in the corner of the lounge. By this stage I was getting a bit fed up and I looked closely at the dustball and queried mockingly whether he thought the hairs were animal or human. ‘They’re definitely human’, he said. ‘Yes – I thought they looked a bit wiry and curly’, I answered. It didn’t register.
‘Next’, I asked.
‘Well, just look at this’, he said, pulling the sofa cushions apart to show me some dust which had gathered in the deepest recess. ‘I can’t possibly sit on that’, he moaned.
I was diligently noting all of these things down as we moved outside to the pool terraces. Pulling back a jasmine bush, he pointed to some leaves on the tiles. ‘Look’, he said. ‘Yes – so what? Bushes do lose leaves’, I said. ‘And the pool, it’s got some leaves in it’, he complained. ‘The pool man calls twice a week, I’m sure he’ll scoop them out for you the next time he calls’, I said, biting my lip and not telling him he was an anal twat.
‘And then there’s this’, he proudly said pointing to the BBQ.
Fearing the worst (we all know what BBQ’s get like), I opened the dome and it was utterly immaculate inside. Clean as the day it had been purchased.
‘What’s the problem’, I asked. ‘It’s filthy’, he said. ‘Look at that grease mark.’ Sure enough, on the panel beside the grill, there was a small grease mark. ‘That’s not a problem’, I stated. ‘A quick wipe with a cloth and it’ll be gone.’
‘OK’ he said. ‘I am not staying in this filthy place. I have paid a lot of money (which he had) to stay here and it’s filthy. What are you going to do about it?’
Now, by this stage I reckoned James’s head was so far up his own backside that when he spoke there was a sound of farting and whilst I had been diligent and reasonably calm, I now felt I had to tell him some home truths. ‘This place is not filthy’, I said. ‘OK, there a few things which need attention and I’ll get Bea to come in this afternoon and fix them, but the place definitely isn’t filthy’, I repeated.
And then the response which proves that you can take the boy out of Glasgow and indeed take Glasgow out of the boy………’well with your accent, you obviously have lower cleanliness standards than I have’, he said. ‘I think the place is filthy’, he continued.
At that point, I put my pen and paper down and was just about to punch his lights out when I thought of Fred and Hilda back in
receiving a lawsuit from some very expensively hired solicitors whilst I languished in a French jail. And so I just laughed. London
‘You’re laughing at me’, he whined. ‘You think this is all a joke don’t you.’
I repeated my mantra that the house was definitely not filthy but I would get Bea round that afternoon, but he wasn’t finished. ‘If you can stop laughing, come with me’, he ordered. I followed him back upstairs.
‘Do you know when I opened the safe, I spotted that the batteries were just about to start leaking and do you know what happens when batteries leak’, he asked. ‘I have no idea’, I lied.
‘Well, they make an awful mess and could actually lock the safe with my things inside. Anyway, I’ve changed them’. ‘Congratulations’, I said. ‘Well done.’ He didn’t even spot the sarcasm !
‘So – come back into the kitchen – there’s another cobweb I want to show you. I forgot it earlier’, he said.
At that point, I’m afraid I lost it and started laughing again which upset him even more. I’d had enough. As I walked out of the front door, he followed me and said,’ I’m important you know. I have serious connections in this part of the world. I can get things to happen.’
I turned to face him. ‘So who are your connections then James. Tell me who your connections are’, I said quite close to his face thinking that whoever his connections were, unlike some of mine they probably didn’t carry baseball bats.
‘Well I know the deputy mayor of
– well he was deputy mayor five years ago’, he said, completely destroying any semblance of credibility he may have had. ‘I can do things here’, he continued. ‘I will get this villa closed down, I’ll call the police and the tax authorities and I’ll even start damaging it. I can damage this villa you know.’ St Paul
By this time, I’d climbed into my car laughing hysterically and was starting the engine. James was standing in front of the car in a vain attempt to stop me leaving.
‘James – I would suggest you move away’, I said. ‘Go and enjoy your holiday and stop being silly.’ ‘Silly? Who’s being silly’, he whined as I drove off just missing him.