The Lady Doth Protest Too Much


It was one of the biggest properties we were likely to sell that year and we all wanted to be the one to claim that it was they who secured the deal.

Home Farm was located in the county’s most sought after village, an elegant Georgian Farmhouse which had been extended over the years to become a very impressive Grade II listed 12,000 square foot home with a prestigious address. The present owners had gone to great lengths to create a fabulous and enviable family home but sadly, as is often the way in such matters, the vendor’s marriage had hit the rocks.

I had been flirting with the applicants, Mr & Mrs Chumley-Pilchard, for some months, they were keen to buy but hadn’t been able to find anything for a considerable time. I was desperate to sell them something and finally I was able to persuade them that Home Farm was worth a look.

Mrs Chumley-Pilchard was apparently quite well known for having done something many years ago. That something involved her wearing crushed velvet and protesting about a war and acting in the best interests of trees.  A conscientious objector from a wealthy and political background.  He, a bumbling port drinker who only cared about sailing and Land Rovers.  He wasn’t worried about the house – he planned on spending as little time in it, and indeed with her, as he possibly could.

Initially things were going reasonably well, we pulled up in the car at Home Farm and the right noises were being made about how impressive it looked, how convenient its location was in the centre of this desirable village and how the property was still very private.

When walking around the property it seemed to fit in with the Chumley-Pilchards’ lifestyle, it backed on to several uninterrupted acres of farmland which still belonged to the house and seemed to “tick a lot of boxes”:  the swimming pool, games room, gymnasium, a flat for the nanny, an annex for her elderly mother and a cottage for their eldest daughter.

“Is the property totally private?” Mrs Chumley-Pilchard asked.

“There are rights of way to the neighbouring fields which have been retained by the local farmer and one bridle path but otherwise totally private, yes.”

“So, we won’t be disturbed then, that’s nice,” she sighed.  “There’s something missing, I don’t know what it is but it just doesn’t feel terribly exciting.”

She turned to Mr Chumley-Pilchard looking for sympathy, but received none.

Two of my favourite movies in my “youth” were “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and “Hound of the Baskervilles”.  It suddenly sounded like both movies were being played full blast at the same time in the Cinema Room.

Mrs Chumley-Pilchard knew what the awful din was instantly.  Her face switched, she looked terrifying, and she suddenly shot over to the nearest window.  I turned to look at Mr Chumley-Pilchard in time to see his shoulders drop and his whole demeanour developed an air of defeatism that can only come from years of knowing when to keep quiet.

By the time we made it downstairs, the Hounds had made it into the Courtyard with the Riders in hot pursuit.  Mrs Chumley-Pilchard’s patchwork coat and scarf waving wildly around making her looked like a possessed 1980’s, female Doctor Who.  The language coming out of this woman’s mouth was staggering, the change in her personality mind-blowing.

“Murderers” “Killers” she shrieked, holding the huge gate shut to stop the hounds in their tracks.

The Master was yelling at her to move, the horses were flaring and the hounds baying.  Mr Chumley-Pilchard was nowhere to be seen.

This was not going to end well.

She knew she could never win, but an old flame had been lit inside this old girl and she was loving every moment, her passion was protesting, not the cause.  Eventually the inevitable happened, the gate was pushed back and the hunt continued on their journey having learnt a few new swear words and having experienced an old-fashioned protest first hand.

She turned towards me, dishevelled and flustered, pushed her greying wiry hair back and marched over.

I’m not going to lie, I was worried. Exhausted. She had just taken on an entire hunt and hadn’t backed down without a fight. And it looked like I was just about to become her next victim.

As she drew near, the fire in her eyes died down a bit and she started grinning from ear to ear.  She looked like she had just finished judging a gin competition.  Mr Pilchard appeared at the door.

“How quickly can they move out?” she blurted, seemingly incapable of hiding excitement.

Rupert Devonshire is “A Country Agent”.  A married father of two in his mid-fifties, Rupert has worked in the rural property market, selling some of the North of England’s finest country properties, for the past 30 years.  Writing as “A Country Agent”, Rupert shares with us some of the amusing highs, and indeed lows, of his career to date.  Whether he being is attacked by a swan, propositioned by a cougar or watching an ostrich chase a surveyor, there is usually a hysterical undertone. If you have read any of his tales, you will appreciate that Rupert Devonshire is probably not his real name.

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