Thursday, 20 February 2014

On Location (Location Location)

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life: for there is in London all that life can afford." (Samuel Johnson)

Location Location Location this week was one of their tedious catch-up shows. Each series Phil and Kirstie only make three properly new programmes, and then use up the rest of their six-week slot by basically repeating earlier shows, with a few minutes' update tacked on to the end. In these few minutes, they revisit whichever couple was sniffily rejecting all the amazing properties they were being shown before finally finding, finding and losing the property of their dreams, or admitting they were only pretending to be on a househunt so they could be on telly and nose round some fancy houses.

This week they were back in southwest London with a pair of identical twin (refraining from rhyming slang) bankers, and a lone solicitor from the northeast who had persuaded her daddy to buy her a London flat. The twin bankers were obsessed with buying a tiny Victorian conversion off Clapham High Street even though they were both about seven feet tall and the bedrooms were, as Kirstie said, just about big enough to swing a cat in, provided you didn’t want any piece of furniture other than a bed in them. There's no denying Clapham is a great location (apart from it being full of bankers), but there are much nicer, greener parts than the high street. The twins were shown a much bigger pad in Pimlico, but it did have a rather terrifying view of the railway lines (in literal spitting distance) heading into Victoria. And it was ex-local authority, which clearly did not sit well in our city slickers’ minds. The catch-up segment revealed that they eventually backed out of the flat purchase in Clapham and decided to buy one in Balham instead, one stop down the Northern Line. You got the impression that they saw Balham as slumming it, which means that they definitely do not live on my London planet.
Clapham High Street

The northeast solicitor eventually gave up hope of a home in millionaire’s playground Wimbledon Village for her tiny budget (funny that) and also ended up slumming it, this time in Tooting. Tooting is even more of a comedown from Clapham, since it’s an extra stop down the Northern Line from Balham. And I also lived there for a year, moving from Clapham and missing Balham out entirely. The scene of the deal negotiation (where Kirstie and Phil get their client drunk enough to agree to pay the necessary odds) was the Leather Bottle pub in Earlsfield, where I had many a pint on my way to the Wimbledon Dogs, and where, after three bottles of white rioja shared with a friend, it earned itself a blue plaque on the wall for being the only place in the world I have ever thrown up as a result of too much alcohol.

When Location Location Location  features property hunting in London (which it does a lot, since that’s presumably the easiest journey to work for Phil and Kirstie), it always makes us so glad we don’t live there any more. Finding a room to rent in a London flatshare was stressful enough, but buying a flat was even worse, when you couldn’t believe quite what estate agents were having the nerve to show you for your scarily limited but still extortionate budget. A flat above a takeaway, upwind from its ventilation hoods. A flat with boarded-up windows (“ever since the fire”). A flat whose ground floor was entirely derelict from a long-abandoned building project. A skull hanging in a stairwell. A conversion where the only place to fit a kitchen was inside a cupboard. A flat in a purpose-built block which seemed within budget until the estate agent mentioned the £4,000 a year service charge. A flat with sitting tenants so cross about having the roof sold above their heads that they would leave their filthy underwear all over the floor during viewings. Oh no, wait a minute. That was us.

It seems that these days, despite the rest of the country still being in a property nosedive and recession, flats in London are once again flying off the market at ridiculous prices. So the bankers with rhyming slang in full may have bankrupted us, but they can still live where they like, while the rest of us are pushed ever further away from the city. Johnson may have a point, but if life cannot afford anywhere to hang its hat, you have to go elsewhere.

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