Column about moving house (again)

From the Sun Tel on May 17… and also as mentioned below, Mum is still taking mask orders. Think she’s doled out a couple of hundred in the past week or so but if you want one you’re v welcome to get in touch HERE.

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Call me narcissistic but I’m worried I jinxed it. Look, here’s a sentence I wrote for this column in January: ‘The property market in London is coming out of the doldrums, invigorated by the election, by movement on Brexit, by the fact that so many of us have been sitting, squatting, waiting for the right moment. Two Saturdays ago, Knight Frank reported their ‘busiest ever’ day for viewings.’

What a good job I didn’t go into palm reading given that houses in Fulham are now 50p. Well, not quite, but perhaps soon enough given the middle-class exodus from the city. In the past few weeks, various friends have announced they’re off, planning to hot-tail it out of London and settle in the country as soon as they can. In some cases, they would have done this anyway: better schools in the sticks, bigger gardens and it’s awfully cruel to keep a Labrador in a terraced house with only a square of AstroTurf for him to wee on. But the virus is hurrying this process and the M4 is about to teem with removal lorries as a Sloaney diaspora scatter themselves west earlier than they might have done. There is literally no room in the Cotswolds for anyone else called Giles, so that’s out, but Savills has reported an increase in buyers looking around Hampshire, Berkshire and Dorset as people realise they don’t need to be in the office as much as they thought. Peter Jones could be in trouble, mark my words (or not, because I’m clearly rubbish at predictions. Perhaps we’ll all be back in there at Christmas?).

I’m in a similar quandary since this week I pulled out of the house I was going to buy in Brixton. It seemed mad, all of a sudden, to try and live as close to central London as possible, near a Tube and several bus routes, especially when I have a job which I can do from home with unbrushed hair while wearing loose, unattractive clothing. I emailed Jake the estate agent about this feeling guilty, as if I was breaking up with a lover, and braced for a wheedling phone call to persuade me otherwise. ‘Not to worry,’ replied Jake, ‘best of luck going forward.’ I was momentarily stunned by his breeziness and, as with break-ups, wondered whether I’d just made the wrong decision. Nope, I told myself, this is the right call. But what to do now? I can’t live with my sister and the nieces forever (although I’m keen to stay for a bit since she’s a priority Ocado customer with a guaranteed weekly slot), but leaving the city permanently feels risky. What if I need a takeaway coffee?

The solution, I’ve decided, is to find somewhere in Crystal Palace near my sister’s place. It’s lovely here: there’s no Tube station and it’s a half-hour train ride from Victoria but there are these things called trees and birds and a lunatic park filled with life-sized clay dinosaurs, originally made for the Great Exhibition when it transferred from Hyde Park. Fittingly, it’s also a hilly area where posh Victorians fled in order to escape the smog of the city down below. And if they didn’t mind being so far from Peter Jones’s excellent haberdashery department, I’m sure I’ll manage perfectly well too.

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We gather here today to mourn the hotel breakfast buffet. Apparently leaving piles of bacon to congeal under hot lights while guests breathe over every piece in an effort to pick ‘the crispiest bit’ isn’t very hygienic. Who knew? I’m sad because they were my favourite thing about hotels. Good hotels, anyway. Wear your stretchiest pants, head for the dining room, fill your plate with alarming combinations of food. A yoghurt pot and a slither of smoked salmon? A slice of melon and a spoonful of scrambled egg? A mini muffin and slice of Emmental? Why not. Plus 493 pieces of toast. ‘I won’t eat lunch,’ I’d tell myself (a lie: I have never not eaten lunch). Ah so long my generous friend, it was lovely while it lasted.

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Just before lockdown began, I took a dim view of a Tatler piece entitled ‘How to style an epidemic.’ It was about fashionable protective clothing and cited plastic hazmat suits by John Galliano and face masks by Gareth Pugh. It seemed insensitive to care about fashion masks and yet there I was in Sainsbury’s this week sporting my own, extremely natty version. Much as Rolls Royce have pivoted from cars to ventilators, my mother’s turned from marmalade to gingham face masks and is running up washable cloth versions. My nieces view their blue and yellow masks as a cheerful novelty, instead of being scared of them, and I wore my turquoise number with pride to the supermarket, although there was one bad moment where I had to shout ‘WHERE’S THE CRÈME FRAICHE?’ at an assistant. As the government now advises that we wear masks in enclosed public spaces, I retract my former scoffing.

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