I’ve been the owner of a flat in Earl’s Court (or, according to some computer mailings ‘West Brompton’) now for exactly 7 weeks but have yet to spend a night in it. The builders moved in shortly after exchanging and it will surprise no one to learn that they are taking longer than planned to finish the job.
The flat hadn’t been decorated in years and came complete with night storage heaters circa 1981 and a white plastic kitchen that resembled the one I had in my sixth form at school (and, like that one, had handles that fell off when you opened anything). Everything had to come out and we’ve started again pretty much from scratch. And herein lies the source of great anxiety, restless nights, and dreams dominated by pipe work and bathroom tiles, however, at the same time this energy is rewarded with great satisfaction. The most recent source derived by someone from the gas company, on a fourth call out, finally using an ounce of initiative and probably breaking every Heath & Safety law that exists in order to ‘get the job done’, as he put it. The relief that he wasn’t resorting to some bureaucratic (and needlessly expensive) route was tantamount to thrilling.
To have placed my foot on the first rung of the property ladder at a time when every commentator and spectator concurs is a period of rocketing property prices, hitherto unknown in recent times, is a rather daunting process. But short of ‘waiting to see if prices stabilise’ (which is what I had been doing since January 2005) there was little option but to leap on lest the situation progress to the stage where I could no longer afford even the tiniest of boltholes in central London.
And pretty much every day since I picked up the keys to the flat I’ve listened to reports on the radio and read various articles in the newspaper predicting a slowdown in the economy at any moment. ‘China can’t go on growing at this pace. America will stop consuming.’ And this week Mr Brown made his famous last Budget speech and I felt sick to the bones at the thought of him taking up residence in No.10 shortly. Do we know what we are in for? Could he be that tipping point on the economy in the UK that everyone’s been anticipating?