The Wanderlust Lady and the Door to Door Salesman - 33
February 23, 2013
Having done the house, I spent Thursday and Friday arranging the furniture in the
best way, going out in the garden whenever there was a lull in the rain to tidy up the hedge and flower beds as much as I could. It certainly looked better than it had, but only spring could make it look really nice.
Although I wanted to sell the extra bits of furniture, I didn't want them sitting around
and messing up the nice look of the house for potential buyers. So I hoped nobody would answer the advert for the goods (which should be going into the post office window today) before the various agents had come around. I didn't know how many Mrs. Mills would contact. I called my step-father and he said he would come over on Sunday, with
my mother, and they could see how well I'd done on the house and he would measure up the house and take pictures, just in case his offer was accepted.
The man from the Isle of Man Museum, Mr. Wallace, came at 2 p.m. as scheduled. I took him into the living room, and showed him the pictures, which now graced the beautiful white walls. He asked if he could take them down for a closer inspection.
“I'd like to take them out of their frames too, Mr. Barber, if that's acceptable to
you. Perhaps you could prepare a safe surface on the dining room table for me.”
“Yes, of course.”
I rushed out to the bedroom and brought back a large clean towel, which more or less
covered the centre of the table. He'd brought some small tools with him, which he used deftly to remove the frames.
“Ah, there is no doubt that these are the work of John Millar Nicholson,” he said.
“And very nicely painted they are too. I'll just check the others.”
So he put the first one back together again, and one by one examined the others, giving
exclamations of pleasure as each turned out to be what it was purported to be.
“So I was told that you have authority to accept payment for the pictures,” he said.
“Yes, here's the letter from my employer,” I said, offering to show him Mrs. Mill's
word of approval, but he obviously felt that just having been offered the letter was sufficient.
“My employer, Mr. Weeks, has authorised me to offer you £400 for the four pictures,”
he said, very sure of himself, and very sure of my acceptance.
“I was led to believe that you might offer around £600 – if you found them to
your liking – which you obviously did.”
“There is much need of restoration – lots of foxing.”
“I have inquired of a local art shop and they felt that the foxing could be dealt with
for about £200. And I am quite sure that restored, they could fetch as much as £1000 or more.”
“But I am not interested in them to sell them on. It's for the museum. One of the
rooms is dedicated to the work of Mr. Nicholson whom we believe to be the Isle of Man's foremost artist. “
“That's all very well, but I was advised by my employer, in her letter, which is here
for you to read if you wish, that I should try to get as much as possible for them. I could use the local art shop to restore them, and still make about double what you are offering me.”
“I really do not know what to do.”
“Why don't you ring Mr. Weeks and see what he advises.”
So the man took out his phone, and going into the kitchen and shutting the door behind, he made the call. I could hear his voice in the background but not clearly enough to make out what he was saying.
After a few minutes he returned, and said, “I can offer you £550, take it or leave it.”
“I will take it, with thanks from my employer,” I said. So carefully wrapping the
pictures in padding he had brought with him, he wrote me a cheque and then asked me for a receipt. I had to go and take a page from one of Minnie's old notebooks to write one out.
Our business being done, he shook my hand and left, trying hard to smile. I didn't have
any trouble at all when I called Mrs. Mills to tell her of my success. And my cut was £110.
“Have you sold the silver and gold yet?”
“No, I delayed doing that until I could research to find what similar items were worth, so that I could bargain with knowledge,” I said.
“Sensible boy, Stan,” she said.
“Have you arranged for the estate agents?”
“They should be calling you on Monday,” she said. “There are two of them, the main ones who advertise in that area.”
“I asked my step-father to offer too, and he's coming tomorrow, and will measure up and take pictures, so that if you accept his offer, he will be able to get straight onto it.”
“You said the man across the road was interested too. Do you have any idea what he was thinking it was worth?”
“When I told him my step-father had suggested £175,000 when it was done up, he looked a bit surprised. I don't think he felt it was worth that. He would buy it to do it up probably – so he would want it as cheap as he could get it.”
“Well let's start at the top and then if need be, we can go down to his level later.”
I decided that although I was happy to try to sell the silver to the jewellery dealer – I didn't really fancy selling him the sovereigns back again, considering how I'd made him make such an effort to get the right dates. So I called the Gold for cash company I had dealt with before, and said I had 21 sovereigns and 21 half-sovereigns of
various dates and levels of usage. They agreed to send a bag, and when I said that I felt that they were worth £4000, they said they would consider them when they arrived, and if they were up to that quality, they would send me a cheque. When they asked for my name and address, and I gave it to them, the man who obviously was checking his records said, “I see that we have dealt with you before.”
“Yes,” I replied, “and I was very impressed with the speed of your return of post on that occasion.”
“What a coincidence that it was the same exact coinage that you were selling at that time,” he remarked.
“Not really a coincidence,” I said, “but I assure you, these are different coins.”
“We look forward to doing business with you again, Mr. Barber,” he said, as he rang off.
Now that my Isle of Man pictures were off the walls, I put the ones that had been there
originally back up. What a sad contrast. I really wished I'd been able to keep at least one of those.
Satisfied that the house and garden looked as good as they were going to get, I went to
the pub to celebrate my good fortune.
Sunday, my mother and step-father arrived mid afternoon as they said they would.
“This looks really good Stan,” said Sam. “I must admit I didn't think you were up to doing as good a job as this. It must be about the longest you have ever stuck at anything.”
“Don't criticise him, Sam. He's doing all right now,” put in my mother. I'd made some tea and bought some biscuits, so having had the tour, she was happy to sit in the living room while Sam did his various measurements about the place.
“You seem happy now Stan. I think this is the most content I have seen you since you
were a kid.”
“It's nice to have responsibility and know people think you're capable of doing a good
job. When I was working for Sadie, she kept telling me how I wasn't as good as the others, and how lazy I was.”
“This sort of thing is much more your forte,” she said. “You've made it look really sweet. And you say you think you'll get more of this sort of work now?”
“The man who lives over there,” I said pointing out the window, “has offered me a half week's work as and when I can fit it in over the next week. And I've put an advert in the post office window.”
“Any response from that yet?”
“Not yet, but it only went in yesterday.”
“Can you show me how to get up into the attic space, Stan,” asked Sam, coming back
into the room.
“Sure.” I took the stick and did the business with the ladder.
“I'm afraid there's no electricity up there, so you might want to take a torch. There's a window but not much sunlight today.”
“I've got one,” he answered back.
“I make that about 660 square feet, not including the loft space, but that's quite a
feature up there, and would increase the value a lot, if somebody put in electricity, heating, a ceiling, a proper window and decorated it. But as it is, it's really only a one bedroom bungalow, and I think you'd be lucky to get £160,000 for it.”
“The man across the road reckoned that it could be extended across the whole house so
you'd get two small bedrooms or a bed sit with an en suite.”
“He sounds like a keen business man. What did you say he thought it was worth?”
“He implied that the price you said it would be worth decorated, £175,000, was too
high. But he didn't actually mention what he would be prepared to pay for it. I don't know what he'd be asking for the house he's doing up. Quite a lot I expect – maybe £350,000.”
“But he isn't ready to sell his yet.”
“No, I'm doing some painting work for him next week, but he still has the
conservatory to build. The rest is pretty much done, I think.”
“I don't suppose you know the details about this house, Stan. I expect I'd have to get
those from the owner, what's she called?”
“Mrs. Mills. I know a bit about it. But for exact details you'd have to ask her. She
had all the papers in the filing cabinet, but they took them away.”
“Well, I won't have to have those unless she accepts my offer. Who else did she say
was coming to view?”
“She just said the two most popular agents in this area.”
“I expect that would be Gasgoigne Hallman and Mellors. Are they coming tomorrow?”
“They're going to call tomorrow to make appointments with me. But the sooner the
better, I think. So I hope they'll come early in the week.”
“Will you let me know what they say? Or will they report direct back to her?”
“I imagine I can get a rough idea out of them, but she'll have to make the decision.”
“This is a good area, even though the house isn't much to write home about. I think
it might move pretty quickly. Just the sort of thing that a first time buyer with a bit of imagination might buy and do up.”
“Well, thanks for the tea, Stan,” said my mother. “I suppose we'll be heading home
now. I'd like to get there before dark. I haven't made our meal yet.”
“Thanks for coming over, Mum,” I said. “I'm glad you think I did a good job on it.”
“Yes, you did, Stan. Good on you. And I am so pleased that things are finally
looking up for you.”