Wednesday, 22 June 2016

In for a penny......

Oh no! It's finally referendum day. Decision time.

Nobody with a brain above their shoulders wants to be even partially controlled by some ageing bureaucrat from Luxembourg sitting, oh so comfortably, in his Brussels lair.

But on the other hand, nobody can deny that we are Europeans, that we have enjoyed the fruits of a common market and that we have far more in common with a hard working German than a bible belt American with an automatic rifle.

Coming to some sort of decision, therefore, is more than a bit testing for the old brain cells, as Wooster would have said to Jeeves.

But, rain notwithstanding, a decision must be made. Votes cast. An X plopped in the appropriate box.

I don't like Brussels anymore than dear old Nige, but I do like Europe.

I feel more at home in France, frankly, than in The Lake District. And far more content in Barcelona than somewhere like Glasgow.

My daughter just spent a year working in Paris, my son worked in Austria for a couple of years; their horizons are way beyond the little channel 'Leavers' seem to set so much store by.

I'm pleased to see that our children simply don't recognise borders in the same way we used to. And nor should they if we ever want the world to be a better, safer place.

So I'm in.

I hope most of you are too.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Letting themselves down.

We are between homes in London.

Truth is we are unsure what to do next. And as the weeks slip relentlessly by and we need to move from the temporary flat borrowed from my stepson, I am beginning to panic.

Although we've had an offer accepted on a new doer-upper (more on this another time), we won't have sealed the deal in time to move directly into it.

We could just move to Somerset for the summer, but for numerous reasons that doesn't quite work. We and my daughter, newly returned from Uni, need a base in town.

A rental is probably the answer.

But should it be an Airbnb for a month or so? Or a proper rental for 6 months or so?

Unlike everyone I've ever met, I absolutely hate the Airbnb website. OK so it's clean and neat and nice....but it seems such a random tool. I don't feel at home with its search system. It's just as likely to send me a one bed new build in Hackney as it is a two bed garden flat in Kensington.

No, sorry Airbnb, you may be cool, but you just don't cut it with me.

So we turned to conventional agents. First I contacted a Chelsea agency who we've worked with before. Their lettings team acted incredibly quickly and, on the face of it, were really, really on the ball.

The trouble was the agent they sent us out on viewings with was so oily in his sycophancy I was worried for the environment.

Where do these people learn this kind of behaviour? Is there a school called The Academy of Grovelling Creepiness?

In the end I just didn't believe anything he said, and the intensity of the pressure he applied on us to take one (very nice) flat was just too much.

It almost put us off the whole idea of renting, frankly.

Next we decided to try Barnes, close to the area we hope to buy in. I contacted one of the larger independents in the village and gave them a specific brief. 2 beds. Outside space. Must accept a dog. Preferably in what agents call 'Little Chelsea' off White Hart Lane.

Within a few hours an email pinged up saying the agent had attached several properties for our consideration. The trouble was there was no attachment.

I emailed back asking for the attachment. No response. Nothing. For 24 hours nothing. So I call and leave a message.

Finally another email pings up, this time with the promised attachments but no apology.

All the properties were 3 instead of 2 beds and significantly over the budget I had given them.

So I email back again. Nothing. 24 hours later and still no response. I give up.

I really like the sales teams at most agents I've worked with, but there seems to be something about the lettings market that attracts a very different breed. If the sales department is Waitrose, lettings is often more like Tesco Local.