‘Let’s do this systematically,’ I said, playing for time. ‘Lewes has eight estate agents. There’s the grainy-photo one that’s been here since it sold the castle to William de Warenne. There’s the very posh one, and the quite posh one. The overpriced pushy lot, and the slightly-cheaper-though-not-by-much-it’s-all-relative-innit crew. The one where the staff are sitcom-style wide boys, and the one where they’re so low-key they won’t notice you unless you stand on their desks waggling a cash-lined briefcase.’
‘That’s only seven,’ said Uncle Adultery, far more on the ball than someone seeking a retirement pad ought to be.
‘Yes, well there’s the one that set up after I bought my house and I don’t know nuffink about it.’
‘You can stop it with the innits and nuffinks, Niecey. I believe my intention to buy un petit igloo has rattled your cage. No, no,’ and he raised a hand to quell the raggedy flow of my half-hearted denials, ‘I have sprung it upon you. Fret not: I don’t intend to settle here until I am immobile and dotage-ish.’
‘I’ll be delighted whenever you move here, Uncle,’ I lied, feeling expansive now I knew it was un-imminent. ‘So where shall we start?’
He took my arm. ‘The very posh one, of course.’
We strolled along the high street and gazed in at the window. ‘Egad!’ said my Uncle, and staggered slightly. ‘Hasn’t the recession arrived here yet?’
‘You’re looking at beautifully-situateds with wisteria,’ I said. ‘Surely a pied-a-terre is more a cosy flat.’
‘To your undemanding mind, perhaps. Well, maybe I do need to lower my sights. A separate library is a tad provincial, after all.’
With the help of the scarfy lady, who was to an ordinary estate agent as Helen Mirren is to Bob Hoskins, we spent a lovely hour flicking through dream properties. Both Helen and myself tried, with varying degrees of subtlety, to find out just how lucrative the dating-agency-for-married-people business was. Was it four-bed-in-Rotten-Row profitable or one-bed-above-a-kebab-shop struggling?
We seemed to have the answer when Helen went off to answer the gold-plated phone and Uncle A whispered that he’d like a look at the cheaper-innit crew. We slipped out and trotted briskly down the hill.
‘It’s not that I can’t manage some of those, Niecey, but in these uncertain times one had better…’ said my Uncle, but I never found out what one had better because he turned to check that Helen wasn’t chasing us with details of a superb rear-facing view, tripped and went down like a shot deer. I tried to help him up but noticed his right foot was facing a different direction from that which is conventional in the foot-direction world.
‘Oh Ankle, your uncle,’ I gasped in confusion.
‘Take this money , Niecey,’ he wheezed hoarsely as paramedics lifted him into the ambulance. ‘I need Darjeeling – leaf not bags – rye bread and Gentlemen’s relish. See you back at ours when the butchers have released me.’
Beth Miller, October 18th 2011. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Alex Leith