Alan arrives at our flat.
Alan is an estate agent who is here to talk to us about renting our flat when we move.
He steps in wearing the customary estate agent shiny suit, I laugh inwardly. Earlier I had predicted this to Kat, "He'll definitely be wearing a shiny suit” I'd said. This night is going to go exactly as I thought it would I'm pretty sure.
But then something happened that changed everything.
I sit and listen as he shows us pictures and information on properties he has rented for people in the recent past, and then he starts with the jargon and estate agent talk.
Estate agent talk is something that troubles me, where they always try to make something very negative sound like a positive.
When you are searching for flats or houses on Zoopla or Rightmove you really have to read between the lines of the comments they say.
We all for example know when they say "easy to maintain living space" it means "It’s very very small", "The property has excellent transport links” really means "There's a motorway right next to it", and when they say “Within easy reach of local schools” it means "Kids will congregate outside your house at lunchtime and drop litter all over your driveway.”
But something else makes me uneasy about Alan, he is the most Australian man I've ever met. That's not a problem in itself, I've met and been friends with Australians in the past, but he was SO Australian that he was making me also a bit Australian.
If Alf Stewart himself was there with us even he would even say "Geez, that bloke is Australian", and that doesn't go half way to explaining his Australian-ness.
The problem is that his uber-antipodean accent is beginning to affect me, a rising inflection or high rising terminal as it’s known is creeping into my speech pattern as we talk, basically I can hear the end of my sentences going up, like I'm asking a question even when I'm not, more than Alan is doing even. I'm effectively and unintentionally doing a kind of mock Neighbours impression back to him. To make things worse I think he may have noticed, he looks at me in a confused way as he continues talking about
To try to stop this happening I decide now is the time to show him around the flat, this doesn't take long, as it is really only 5 rooms and a front door.
I imagine Alan in his full on estate agent mode selling this as a positive "And of course the benefit of the reduced size of this property means you can hoover the entire flat all from one plug point..." negative into a positive.
Kat starts describing eloquently the parts of the flat she likes the best, and what she will miss when we move.
Alan is looking at me waiting for me to say something, "And what will you miss Chris?"
I rack my brain for something to say, I've literally just been standing there trying not to say anything Australian-y.
"I guess I'd miss the outside space too" This is good I'm thinking to myself, this is selling the whole property, this is a positive thing to do, I'm sure Sarah Beany was saying to do this, sell every area and the lifestyle it provides on that channel 4 programme. I continue "Yes we laid a new patio out there last year, must say it’s a good space now for a barbie"
Did I? Did I really just do what I think I did? A cold sweat envelops me.
Did I just do a full Australian accent then when I said that? To an actual Australian? I look at Kat and seeing her wide eyed stare toward me realise I had indeed done that.
"What was that?" Alan asked
"Good for a bit of a barbie.. Que that is" I try to tone down the accent
Then realise he wasn't asking "what was that?" in an "I didn't hear you please repeat that" way, it was more in a "did you really just do that" kind of way.
And I had.
Twice now in fact.
Kat changes the subject hastily to mention the shed, and I bite my tongue. I swear to myself I will not speak again until he is gone.
He does his pitch to us and I stay silent and nod. Surely I can't do that wrong?
He gets up to leave to go back down the stairs to the cold autumnal night.
He looks at me, "oh I forgot to ask, what is your neighbour like underneath"
"Oh she's great, the lady down under" there is that accent again, and I'm pretty sure I added a head wiggle this time too.
This is getting ridiculous.
I hide in the bathroom until I can hear that he’s gone.
"What was all that about " Kat asks as she closes the door
"I'm so sorry” I say genuinely feeling bad "I just sort of - panicked"
“And turned Australian?”
“It just got out of hand”
On the way to his car I bet Alan thought " Jeez, that bloke was an idiot" or more likely "that bloke really has a very easy to maintain thinking area"
And who could blame him?