Thursday, 18 June 2020

It's life - but not as we know it ...

It’s 3 months since France went into Lockdown and we are now in the early stages of ‘Deconfinement’.  I feel like a prisoner who, because of good behaviour, has been let out of solitary confinement and is now on ‘Day-Release’.  And I have been ‘Good’ and followed all the advice and government guidelines because (to quote a well-known song) ‘At first I was afraid, I was petrified’.  The idea that we were in danger of catching a lethal virus with no known cure and it wasn’t just a scary film scenario very much focuses the mind! 

The fact that I took it all so seriously at the beginning means that for me, not a lot has changed - except I no longer feel the urge to bake bread or tidy cupboards!   I’m still being very careful - wearing my mask any time I go into an enclosed space, not going to the shops unless I have to and just spending time with friends outside rather than in their houses.   Even though the restaurants are now open I have yet to visit (somehow the idea of being served by people in masks doesn’t appeal), I didn’t rush to the beach (because actually it rained for 3 days!), and I am resisting the urge to go to a big shopping centre.  I don’t even know what the exact rules and regulations are at the moment but it just seems to be a matter of continuing to be careful and basically just using your common sense. It doesn’t surprise me that it was a Frenchman (Voltaire) who said ‘Common sense is not so common’ as there didn’t seem to much of it in evidence in London on Monday when hordes of people were queuing outside Primark and the Nike Store.  Is a pair of £5 Lycra leggings (or a £400 pair of designer trainers) really worth risking your health for?  

My only ‘unnecessary’ outing was last Saturday when I decided that I very much needed to buy Geraniums for my terrace planters, so off I went to the local market.   And it was wonderful!  Not a lot different to the way it always is except they had created a sort of Entrance in one corner with a bottle of hand sanitiser on a table and most stall-holders were wearing masks (but kept taking them off to talk to the customers!).  On the way back to my car I spotted a friend sitting at a café table in the square, so I joined her for a coffee, and we sat in the sunshine, and watched the world go by, while we listened to the accordionist …. and I realised it wasn’t Geraniums that I had been missing - I just needed a ‘fix’ of ‘french-life’…

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Call the Manager

I don’t think anybody, whether owners or renters, realise quite how much hard work running rental properties can be.  So I will tell you!

Most of the properties I manage are ‘second-homes’ belonging to people who want to earn a bit of money from them while they are not using them.  They hand me the keys, tell me which months/weeks are available, and I sort everything out for them.  If the properties are empty (ie often over the winter) it is simply a question of making regular visits to check that all is well and to sort out any maintenance issues, summer is a different matter!

As this is such a lovely region, holiday villas are usually pretty well-booked from June to September so I try to prepare as well in advance as possible.  In Spring I take the cleaners to each property to give them a thorough pre-season blitz (the villas, not the ladies!) and to show the new ones what standards we are aiming for (some of the ‘5 star villa’ owners expect their towels to be folded in a certain way!).  The gardeners garden, the pool-men work their magic, the outdoor furniture is jet-washed (or teak-oiled) and everything is perfect for the guests, who will have a wonderful stay, except for ….

  • The lady who sent a long email complaining that there was no upright reclining garden chair for her elderly father, and that there were no UK tv channels (despite the fact this had been highlighted on the booking form).  Within hours I turned up with one of my own chairs, and a gadget to connect an iPad to the TV and left him happily watching the news.  The next day she sent another long email to thank me and apologise for the complaints - she was stressed after a long journey and her mother had died recently so this was her father’s first holiday without her.
  • The client (renting an apartment in Perpignan centre) who complained about the colour of the dust that blew in- it was grey but apparently in Texas it is white ….
  • The clients who asked if it was OK to bring two small dogs, which turned out to be Dobermans, and left the garden in a bad state.  They lost their deposit because of their dogs’ deposits!
  • The family who telephoned me to say they had arrived at the villa but the key-safe wasn’t working.  (Some villas don’t require a ‘Meet and Greet’ service but they keys are left in a key-safe on the wall outside, they dial in the code I have sent them, retrieve the keys and let themselves in).  I went straight over and found absolutely no problem - except that they didn’t realise they had to actually open the box and take keys out rather than just tapping in the code and expecting the gate to automatically open!
  • The group renting a 7-bed villa who pretended not to know that check-out time was 10am -and were splashing around in the pool and in no way ready to leave when I turned up with the cleaners.  Finally managed to evict them at noon, having started to ‘clean’ around them.
  • And last but not least, this one is mainly my fault as I didn’t take proper references - I just believed the story of the  young couple, expecting a baby, who needed to rent the town apartment for one month as they had given notice on their current rental and their ‘new-build’ house was delayed.  2 weeks into the rental one of the neighbours in the building contacted me to let me know that there was much ‘activity’ going on in the apartment and that men were ringing the door buzzers at all times of the day and night, asking for ‘les filles’.  They had been running the place as a brothel ….!  (NB.  This is apparently quite common now, even with bookings taken via sites such as AirBNB - so owners beware - you never know where that money comes from!)