How to freak estate agents and lose friends

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The Independent Online
I SHAN'T name the sums involved for several reasons. It would be bad taste, by all accounts, and a bad move, tactically. My lover and I both want to sell our flats in order to buy one together. If we buy and sell everything we own through estate agents they'll make a fortune from us. Which, of course, is very annoying. So I took a 'disused' For Sale sign from a nearby garden and am now attempting to sell my flat on my own.

'Ooo, trouble,' they said when I told them at the estate agent's office. The entire staff shook their money-grubbing heads and whistled through their teeth in unison. So far, I must admit, there has not been a great deal of interest. Another estate agent called and talked for a while about 'making things worth my while'. Horrible. I was polite and disappointed. Got rid of him. And the next-door neighbour came round for a snoop. He sat on the edge of the sofa eating chocolate biscuits and telling us he didn't have any friends. Didn't believe him. But he didn't want the flat anyway. He didn't even want the chocolate biscuit in the end. As soon as I mentioned the price he dropped the remaining half on the table in front of the sofa (where it still lies) and ran away.

I don't think anybody comes out of the next part of the story well. My lover and I were led to a flat which we liked and which turned out to be owned by some old friends of his. We swapped telephone numbers under the eyes of the estate agent. The flat owners invited us round. We shared a friendly bottle of whisky before negotiations began. God, but it was tense. You should try it. I think we were all very drunk by that stage. I know I was. My tongue was thick and I found I couldn't quite balance on my chair. We'd finished their dinner, we'd discussed (in concerned voices) each other's personal crises. And now we were talking about handing over our thousands of pounds.

Nobody laughed for ages. We talked in low whispers. Then, ho ho, we said to each other, when the tension was making the walls bulge, isn't this funny; one of us should definitely write it up as a short story, ha ha.

Mirror mirror on the wall, who was the greediest of us all? Several hours later we reeled home, having failed to settle on any sort of figure. I offended everybody by suggesting that we cut out the estate agent. They all looked more honourable about it than me (and there's nothing more annoying than that). And the next day they accepted a very decent offer from an agent-sent imposter. Damn it. Of course, it serves us right.

WE'VE been told a lot of pointless facts about my sisters this week. Statistics have been flying from the rooftops. One in five women, apparently, drink more than they ought. One in five women would be willing to pay for sex - which, considering how easily available free sex is to most of them, doesn't reflect too well on their non-professional sex partners. And we've learnt that 'some working women' feel guilty if they don't iron their husband's shirts. I don't know what conclusions to draw, except that I hope I never have the misfortune of meeting the mysterious breed of drips called 'some'. Where are they? Does anybody know them? Do they exist? If they do, I wouldn't mind sniffing them out and killing them. 'Men,' a shirt expert tells the Daily Mail, 'are generally incompetent at ironing'. For God's sake. Perhaps we should eliminate them too.

POOR old Nicholas Parsons. He's written an autobiography, which I've no doubt would make an excellent read for anybody willing to part with the requisite pounds 17.99. His cruel publishers sent him to a bookshop in Newcastle, where he sat for over an hour, with his pen, preparing to sign all copies bought by the crowds. There were no crowds. Only two books sold, but be was good natured about it, I'm told. I was given two pieces of advice when I left home for the golden pavements of London. First, don't make friends with anybody because you feel sorry for them. Second, never agree to do a book signing. Humiliation is guaranteed, unless you're very famous - that is even more famous than N. Parsons. I've yet to be asked to do a signing, even though I've had two books published. So I'm still looking forward to calling in that piece of advice. It's only a shame I couldn't get to Nicholas before the publishers did. His blushes might have been saved.

But this is trivial advice. What they should have told me (my country-based advisers) was never to bring out a book at all. Humiliation is guaranteed whether you're famous or not. It probably never hurts a journalist to find themselves at the brunt of someone else's irritable deadline, but it doesn't change a thing. I have developed a small hit-list on which sit the names of all negative reviewers - and a vast hit-list on which sit the names of all the people in the country who still haven't bought the book, called A Small Town in Africa (Heinemann, pounds 14.95).

My maths isn't good but I think that leaves me with something like 55,997,778 enemies to draw even with. And then, of course, there's America. So I must get on.

JEREMY Bates, the Great British Tennis Star, has toppled out of the Stella Artois championships at Queens, much to the nation's sorrow, though not perhaps to its surprise. He's recently developed a certain amount of charm in front of the camera, I notice. It was horribly lacking when he first hit the spotlight at Wimbledon two years ago, but of course he's had a lot of practice since then. The British interview him constantly. There's no one else they can talk to.

And that is because you need to be so very rich in order to play tennis for more than four months of the year in this freezing country. Indoor tennis clubs demand such ludicrous fees that this country's potential champions (and I include myself in that bracket) must make do with bouncing balls against the kitchen wall every winter. And we must all continue to make do with Bates's brave efforts, and his ignominious exits from courts across the world.

Geraldine Bedell is on holiday.

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