A seething, tingling vexation welled in my chest and started to rise to my throat. My eyes were fixed on my perpetrator as he moved round his vehicle and stepped towards me. I was in his way and found myself politely moving aside as he smiled warmly. I averted my suddenly red-sore eyes as a need to shout ballooned in my throat. My mind burnt with raw anger. My body stiffened.
I could see he was puzzled as he opened his front door. After all, people in this small arty town we have known for decades generally smile, they linger, they chat and here I was fuming. Though a fit man in his thirties, he nipped his door shut.
Shivering with emotion, I stood looking at the house which ought to be ours but which he ’stole’ from us by deceit the month after we returned in shock after being evicted from France due to Brexit. It was the only house we could afford in the town we have so loved for so long and it suited all our needs and our offer had been accepted. Then suddenly a few days later we were told the house had been withdrawn from the market. Our hearts sank. We spent months trying to find another property in the charming Georgian-Victorian seaside town, to no avail.
Returning one day to visit the brilliant Saturday market which fills the streets with every type of stall you could imagine, a true French or Portobello affair, we discovered the house was being done up. Through contacts and our own old builder, we learnt that the wealthy young businessman had done something illegal with the agent to get the house from us. He who owns a very expensive sports car now lives where we ought to be; yet he could afford twice, thrice, four times as much.
Today, five years of anger had almost burst from me. Five years of compromise. Five of living in lovely, desirable but staid, traditional, middle-England right wing places when we should have been here in this vibrancy amongst old friends and many a kindred spirit. Five tough years during which all our money has evaporated as we have struggled to rectify well hidden damp and rot, when we could have been in this well constructed terraced house. That the damp as well as the hard, dirty dusty work knocked my already poor health badly, contributed to my anger as I stood before his/our ’stolen’ house.
Shivering, in confusion, surprised at my unpredictable and completely out-of character reaction, I took a few deep breaths to soothe the emotion and instinctual desire to shout, to fight. Camilla, who had dropped me so that I didn’t need top walk far, arrived. I quickly recounted the above. She too felt the same anger, the unfairness of it all. It was why she has wanted, since returning from her recent holiday in sunny France, to return there. We agreed it was stupid to linger in that quiet street and we walked the 100 metres to the main road and the bustling stalls bursting from the pavements.
In a small square, glad the weak sunshine wasn’t ruined by the usual cold breeze of damp clouds, we sipped coffee whilst listening to the dulcet tones of a young band play inspiring folky-rocky numbers and the songs sung by two women with delicate yet deeply satisfying alto voices. We looked at one another. Yup, life has been continually cruel to us for five gruelling years, but the quality of your existence is not defined by what happens to you but by how you react. Smiling, we held one another’s hands and shrugged, “First world problems.”
We are alive! The now is what we have. Living each hour as best we can is what is important. We have more than most people alive could wish for. We bought sandwiches here near the Earl of Sandwich’s ancient manor house, and spent the afternoon on the autumnal beach, enjoying one of the few days of sunshine since the start of June.