Country houses for sale

Rosie and Jim — Fake landlords, bribing estate agents, and 31 renters for every flat: Welcome to the 2021 London letting market

This week, Jim ticks off one of his life goals (way to go, Jim!) while Rosie continues to lament the fact that she decided to move back to the capital at the exact same time as literally everyone else.

Our writers Rosie Paterson and James Fisher blogged for Country Life throughout the lockdowns of last year, when (one way or another) they ended up alone for the duration. Both used to the time wisely: they revealed the rules of cycling, ranked musical instruments (and not in a good way)shared tales of curious robins, video chat and little old ladies winching shopping through windows. You can catch up on all their columns here.

Now, though, our intrepid pair have moved on — one to become a home owner, the other, er, not. And now, they’re facing the perils of living with parents as an adult, and the coming of winter. They have our sympathy.


My London flat search has gone from bad to comically bad.

Last week, I arranged to view a flat through an online platform that puts you in direct contact with the landlord… only to be informed a day later via email that the landlord and the listing was likely fraudulent and that I should not, under any circumstances, hand over any money.

I don’t know how this fraudulent landlord (probably not a real landlord, but a 13-year-old boy using some images of a random flat from Google to scam desperate millennials out of enough money to buy a Playstation 5) thought this would pan out. They’d agreed to a viewing. What was going to happen when I turned up and, like a bad date, realised that the pictures didn’t quite match the reality?

According to a recent story in the Financial Times there are around 31 tenants for every flat on the rental market, so I can at least take comfort in the fact that there’s probably 30 pissed off people out there with the same email who share my pain. Or 29 pissed off people and one really pissed off person who paid the deposit without a viewing. You’ve got to laugh (she says through gritted teeth, typing with increasing ferocity).

In the same story, someone claimed that parents were bribing agents — in the hope they’d get access to a flat before it hit the open market — on behalf of their children. By the way, this isn’t the kind, helpful and generous gesture it might look like at first. This is simply how desperate some parents are to get rid of their offspring — the same offspring that they thought they’d got rid of years ago, before the pandemic hit.

As far as I’m aware, my parents haven’t stooped to such a low. Yet.

Last week, I finally achieved a dream that, realistically, was neither difficult nor particularly exciting. But, we need the easy dreams as well as the difficult ones, so as to feel a sense of routine accomplishment. Therefore, while I have dreams such as ‘one day get published in the New Yorker’ and ‘maybe visit space’, I also have dreams such as ‘dye my hair blonde for a bit’.

You shall receive no prizes for guessing which one I managed last week.

As a process, I had always assumed the act of turning brown hair blonde to be quite a difficult one. I have had girlfriends in the past who would spend hours in the salon, wrapped up in tinfoil like an alien in a primary school play, and pay hundreds of pounds, just to go a shade or two blonder. And yet, it took a mere hour and some £20 to turn my dark brown mop into a white beacon of nonsense.

The past week, therefore, has seen a barrage of questions mostly centred around the concept of ‘why’. For some reason, the answer ‘I just kinda felt like doing it and have wanted to try it for a while’ never quite seems to cut the mustard. More interestingly, I have not dyed my beard (‘why’, ‘because imagine roots showing up in a beard’).

I am warned at every possible turn to avoid swimming pools, because naturally you can barely take a step in central London without falling into someone’s chlorine pond. ‘Be careful,’ they say. ‘It’ll turn it green’. Well if I stick my head in a microwave it’ll turn it red, but the chances of either happening to me in the months of November and December are slim.

What I didn’t anticipate was the aftercare. I was advised to purchase an item called ‘purple shampoo’ in order to keep my bleached barnet looking as fresh as possible. What I didn’t realise is that purple shampoo is indeed extremely purple, and now my white-tiled bathroom looks like Barney the dinosaur has suffered some kind of slashing attack.

Regardless, this is all about ‘The Joy of Small Things’ (also a book by Hannah Jane Parkinson, that you should read). Every day, I catch a sight of my stupid blonde hair in the mirror and have a little laugh, because it is silly. It is silly much like my tattoos, which I also forget about and am then pleasantly surprised by.

We are often told to seek joy in mindfulness, exercise and a healthy diet. Sometimes, however, you can find it by dunking half your head in a bowl of bleach.

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