Late afternoon on a Friday — time to kick back, relax. Bees buzz lazily over the roses as a gentle breeze rustles through the leaves. But something is not quite right.
Why are the children sitting grinning at the kitchen table while I hastily polish the sink with one hand and Hoover up dog hair with the other? As it turns out, it is because we have yet another viewing.
It is a terrible time to be selling a house.
Vanessa’s beautiful family home in beautiful Devon is up for sale but buyers are twitchy, unwilling to commit to anything but perfection
The market is choking while politicians play with our futures. The dithering is catching: buyers are twitchy, unwilling to commit to anything but perfection.
We have been in this limbo for almost three years now, neatly paralleled with the 2016 referendum. We need to move due to changes in both of our jobs, otherwise we’d give up.
We have dropped the price to £595,000 (seddons.com) and are working our way through every agent in the county. Viewings remain plentiful; offers do not.
Despite it all — Brexit, climate change, Monday’s inevitable feedback from the agents — we are determined to remain optimistic.
So, first, we ensure that we are ready 30 minutes early, because some viewers like to keep us on our toes.
If they’re 15 minutes late, however, we are resigned to the bad news that the narrow lane was the dealbreaker — a lane that we like, as it prevents our area becoming a rat run and is brilliant for tobogganing in the snow.
The house is full of happy memories for Vanessa and her family and despite spectacular views of the Sidmouth Gap and Blackdown Hills some complain that the vista is not broad enough
Next, we take bets on whether they will stall on the drive (too steep) or even turn up (bad traffic — they did call, but the office was closed).
The car parks up, which takes a while if towing a speedboat, and I greet them, hoping that they won’t let their dogs out immediately to do their business all over the children’s dens.
Quickly, I point out the spectacular views: Sidmouth Gap, the Blackdown Hills, our verdant valley. We have been burnt before by complaints that the vista is not broad enough.
I hear my neighbour’s tractor rattle into life. I glance at my prospective buyers: more than one has been put off by being next to a farm. I am tempted to explain that, if you want to live in the rural bliss of the West Country, near Tiverton in Devon, then a farm is an inevitability.
Next, we move into the house and I brace myself for the comment that this layout won’t work, which they might have realised before if they had looked at the floorplan in the brochure. The same goes for outside: we own 3.29 acres, and it doesn’t grow or shrink in the rain.
We climb the stairs. I wonder if their children will accompany us or carry on pulling our children’s toys off the shelves in the playroom. The water pressure is good, and I smile confidently as they turn the taps on and off and flush the loos.
I am not so confident when they start opening the cupboards — our lives had to be hidden somewhere.
Out to the garden, where some see too many trees, others too few, and where I see children’s birthday parties, rounders, paddling pools and where we have laughed and danced and eaten with friends late into the night.
Finally, the stables. The pony we rode to primary school is no longer there, but times move on, and now it’s a cider barn, a woodshed, a swallow nursery and a teenage hangout.
Yet, on Monday, I won’t be surprised to hear that it is too big, too wooden — or the wrong size for the carp pond.
We await the verdict. Is the bathroom too small? Is the house too old? How do you put a price on a thriving community — on apple day, the WI, the church, the outstanding secondary school, the pub, and the neighbours who look after your chickens, or babysit, or just wave at you in the mornings?
For now, the children breathe a sigh of relief and go back to throwing darts at each other or looking for slow worms.
This has been our family home for ten years and, despite what anyone else may think, it has been pretty perfect for us.