I look at the selection of tabloids she’s indicating on a table, to one side of the brightly lit breakfast room.
‘Only there are one or two pieces about the property market.’ My gaze rises involuntarily to the ceiling where a smoke detector seemingly winks at me. My wife kicks me under the table and urges me, with her eyes, not to make a sarcastic comment. It’s not easy, but I refrain and order a cooked breakfast I don’t really want and certainly don’t need on a cholesterol level, before accepting a right-of-centre publication I wouldn’t normally buy.
‘Why do they always think I want to talk about pigging property?’ I mutter tetchily.
‘How would she like it if she came in the office wanting a four bedroom detached for three-bed semi money, and all I asked her about was the difference between free-range eggs and factory, and how to get difficult stains out of undersheets?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ Chides my wife picking up the paper. Momentarily I’m tempted to make some ribald comment about a chance to soil the bedding – and not in an incontinent way- would be a fine thing, but the B&B owner is back with a pot of tea.
‘They can’t seem to make their mind up.’ Chunters the woman as I peer into the teapot to see a solitary tea bag that will take ten minutes stewing to even colour the water. I look across at the elderly couple seated across the room from us and think perhaps they’ve been dithering over poached or scrambled, but the landlady is on a different tack.
‘One report will say the market is going up again and there’s a shortage of properties and the next will say repossessions are on the rise and nobody can get a mortgage.’ My wife is nodding sympathetically as the woman adds. ‘I don’t know if I’m coming or going.’
I’m definitely going, I think, before absently pouring a cup of piss-coloured brew and groaning out loud.
‘Why do you always have to be so rude?’ Snaps my wife as we reach the sanctuary of our room, and I eye the en-suite covetously just as the black pudding starts to move.
‘Maybe it’s because I spend my working life having to be polite to every nut-job, dirt-bag, time-waster and dreamer in the world.’ I spit back with an anger that surprises even me.
Some time later, as I advise my wife to give it another ten before she tries to clean her teeth, I find she’s channel hopped to a re-run of that Pile In The Sun, Home or Away nonsense.
‘Aw come on.’ I plead. ‘You know it’s a set-up and hardly any of these numpties ever actually buy anything.’
‘You still love talking about property if you’re honest.’ Responds my wife with laser-guided accuracy.
It’s a paradox. My love-hate relationship with bricks and mortar has me despising the industry one moment, then aching to ring the office the next. For the moment, I’m hating the slightly camp male presenter trying to flog an over-priced farm worker’s cottage on some windswept moor - and loving the woman with the eye-catching double-frontage, offering sunshine, a villa with a pool and change from three hundred grand. But it’s an illusion.
Two hours later we’re walking around another unfamiliar town and I’m tugged towards an estate agency frontage. Just window-shopping.
‘That looks good value.’ Suggests my wife pointing at a well-photographed elevation. And I’m mentally calculating the catch. Crap area? Industrial unit just out of shot? Structural problems? The choices are endless
‘Only,’ continues my wife. ‘There are such conflicting signals you never know when’s a good time to buy. Is the market really recovering, or do you think there’ll be a double-dip?’
I’m not sure. It depends what sort of a week they’re having back at base. Does macroeconomics actually mean jack-all in my own little patch? Where a net three sales a week affect me more than a multi billion pound bailout from the IMF.
Let me know.