It's time to zeenk or zwim

Forgive me if this missive is a little confused, but it comes to you from the heart of the Normandy property market and carries with it the impediments associated with that region.

Most of these impediments come in either bottles or glasses and are proffered by my friendly French estate agent, Monsieur Grand Ville. He has his office in that most unique of locations where the sun has permanently slipped just below the yard arm. Every morning we indulge in a ritual involving a bundle of particulars, a bottle of Calvados, an old map of the area and the constitution of an ox. I dare not question M Grand Ville's commitment to the produce of the region lest he is offended and relegates me to the rubbled ruin tour.

The rubbled ruin tour involves visiting collections of bricks and stones which masquerade as properties of character. It is offered only to those who are not prepared to savour the delights of a large Calvados at 9.30 in the morning.

Here I have perhaps been a little too enthusiastic in my appreciation of the fruits of the land. It has almost reached the point where M Grand Ville believes I have no interest in property and merely want to sit around getting sloshed on cheap brandy.

"Today we zeenk," he proudly announced one day last week, decanting a half-litre of the wretched stuff into a coffee mug. I did not particularly want to sink. I wanted to find a deux up, deux down cottage.

"No, we don' zeenk ze dreenk, we zeenk about where you really wanna leef," he explained. Relieved, I grabbed another gallon of four-star and pretended to find inspiration in the brown liquid.

"I would like to live near a beach," I said. M Grand Ville tapped his nose and grinned conspiratorially. "I always zay eet eez butter to leef near one than wiz one. Eh?"

"May we?" I asked a little embarrassed and pointing to the door.

"Ah so, yew agree wiz me," he replied.

"I don't think so."

"But you zey mais oui," M Grand Ville protested.

"Not mais oui, may we."

This was too much for the diminutive Frenchman, who reached in desperation for another tincture.

"Perhaps we should go, " I suggested.

"One mer fer ze rerd," he slurred.

"One more and we will not be able to see the road," I admonished.

"You Eengleesh you are ow you zay so... so..."

"English," I helped.


Now that we had an accord we positively bounded outside and leapt into the 2CV.

"Let me pray," M Grand Ville said.

I know it is a Catholic country, but I had not realised that my guide was either quite so sozzled or quite so trusting in the power of the Almighty.

I decided it would be polite to join him in this moment of sanctity.

"What eez eet you er doing?" M Grand Ville asked.

"You said you were going to pray."

"I am. I wernt to pray into yer feenances. Ow murch you haf de spernd on zee owse," he explained.

"Oh, you mean pry," I said.

"Zat is wert I zed," came the rather tetchy response.

"What is about you people? Is there some international estate agency college you all go to learn the seven key questions to annoy a prospective buyer? `How much have you got to spend?' in 47 different languages? You sound just like the estate agents back home," I wailed.

"Zey zound like me?" M Grand Ville asked somewhat impressed. "I cerm to leef wiz you, eh?" There was only one thing for it. I reached for the bottle of Calvados.