Real (Estate) Difference

Observations about the practice and processes of selling houses in England, compared with Australia, are worthy a comment, I reckon.   Two things in particular are notably different.

In the UK, if you see a property you want to view, you ring an agent  and they tee up a time for you to rock up at the house on your own, where the owner greets you and provides the grand tour.  Ahem, so what exactly does the agent do for his or her fee you might ask, quite.  But more unnerving (or often quite fascinating, in a voyerstic kind of way) is that the owner, in my experience, tells you FAR to much about the house, their circumstances, their past lives, their hopes and dreams etc.  Invariably I don't need or want to know all this.  TMI.  Divorce, death, disappointment is often the theme.  I just feel sorry for them having to do it, why would you want to show a stranger in to wander around your house, wincing at your wallpaper choices?  Surely it is better to detach the personality from the property, one less subjective element to put the buyer off I say.   In Australia, certainly here in WA, this would NEVER happen.  The vendor spends days cleaning and primping the house ready for a public timed 'home open' hosted by the agent, and gets the hell outa there.  The last thing anyone selling a house here would want to do is actually have to look at people peering in their cutlery drawer or examining the stains on the carpet.   Interesting.

The other curious point of difference is how agents in each land approach the situation of a dead vendor.  'DECEASED ESTATE' Will appear in Oz as a diagonal red banner over the sign out the front.  In other words:  Might be an urgent sale!  Could be a Bargain!  Don't pay for a bad recent extension!  Untouched period features probably abound!    In England, if you enquire why a house has come to market and the reason is due to the owner being brown bread, the agent will make a nervous cough and lower their voice to respectfully tell you that it is in the hands of an  executor.  You have to work it out yourself.

That's why I love the British; on the one hand they will tell a complete stranger all their personal details and proudly showcase their downstairs lavatory, but god forbid that opportunity from misfortune would actually be a USP.   Austalia: 1 England: 1.

Well Harrow

Before my travel blogging comes to an end I just have to get a quickie up to share photos of a really great English pub.  The majority of hostelries in England are pretty horrid, either in a sticky carpet way or a homogenous farrow and ball gastropub way, but there are a few absolute gems out there which have character and personality in spades.  They epitomise the British eccentricity I do love.

The Harrow in Wiltshire is one such place.  A ploughman's lunch includes a whole tomato, slab of butter still in its foil and a doorstop bread slices.  When you walk through the door it could be the 1920s.  We visited just after Christmas.

These are the Christmas window displays, with real spinning ice skater in the winter diorama, and another depicting the owner's summer holiday.  I told you they were a bit bonkers.

Off to the Ladies before we go....

OK then!


Life sized miniature

Sarah Lucas is one of the new breed of hot British artists, of the kind usually admired in edgy East end galleries, dead animals in brine, etc. Not in a field in sleepy Suffolk. But here at Snape is one of my favourite pieces of art, "Perceval", a shire horse pulling a cart. It is made of bronze and apparently weighs about five tonnes.

Perceval is a kind of meta representation, an artistic pastiche,  as it is a life sized model of a something that is a miniature version of something real and big.  Make sense? Try again.  Once upon a time most mantelpieces in England groaned with china figurines: dogs, toby jugs and often shire horses.  Perceval is modelled on a ceramic ornament, except it is to full scale.  So clever.  The finish is applied so it looks just like glazed porcelain.

Lucas likes to comment on British culture, celebrating the everyday and commonplace.  I just wish my Yorkshire Grandad was still alive, I'd love to see what he made of it.  They had a whole room (the front room no one ever used) that was heaving with stuff like this.  The small scale models, not life sized sculptures, naturally.  Now that would have been cluttered.



The Landmark Trust own a stack of ancient buildings in England made available to the public for holiday accommodation.   Staying in one is a bit like sleeping in a museum.  Think blankets and sheets, toast racks, board games, a choice of tea pots.  Dishwasher, microwave, television, shower attachment for the bath, thou shalt not find.  Wifi? You're dreaming.

We booked The New Inn in Peasonhall Suffolk for a weekend to catch up with old friends made when we lived in these parts.  The venue included a medieval hall which, whilst being great for entertaining a crowd, as an unheated high ceilinged room, delivered an experience akin to a January dinner party for 20 in a chest freezer.  Coats were donned and we served lunch, then all scurried into the cosy adjoining sitting room with fire.

Upon waving friends goodbye, with husband fighting bad man-flu, I then spent the next four hours hand washing a mountain of dishes in a kitchen thar resembled a cupboard.   As much as I love a party, every time I have one I'm reminded how much I don't really, truth be told, enjoy having one.  Especially with no dishwasher.

Nevertheless, it was lovely to reconnect with old pals and pretend to be lady of the manor for a weekend.   Next time though I'll pre-order with our booking stack of paper plates and a six month time shift.


Old Dogs

Can you teach them new tricks? I've recently tried to do something really challenging and new for the first time at the age of forty-cough something. Learning to ski is a lot like learning a new language: easier the younger you are.  With gusto and enthusiasm I joined the kids in their ski lessons then off we set down the slopes en masse with extended family.  

Fear is too milder word to encompass my overriding experience of skiing over the next three days.  Such was the terror that every fibre in my body screamed at my brain, I can only liken it to the final stages of childbirth.  I certainly blubbed like I did in labour.   But continue I did, aided by vin chaud (hot red wine) at regular intervals.  Thank god it is now over, until next time (I am told). The kids of course picked it up straight away and left me in a puff of powder after the first day.

The actual going-downhill-on-slippery-sticks bit of skiing aside, it has all been beautiful and we are lucky little vegemites to be here. This old dog might have learnt some new tricks, but she sure needs a lot of treats to do them.

This picture is my overriding impression of skiing.

Maybe one day, like people who like skiing, I will only remember the good bits.


Fashion advice

Under virtually no circumstances would I attempt to give fashion advice. It seems that trends have now doubled back on themselves in ever decreasing circles that they now exist in a confused but liberated fizz. But that's not what I want to write about today.

I've recently indulged in a few days shopping in London's West End sans enfants, or husband. Being able to mooch through a string of shops without having to justify why I want to enter it, what I am planning on buying or how long I will linger is just bliss. I'm really struck by the sheer volume of cheap (so cheap!) clothing on offer.  You can shop yourself stupid for really not a lot of money, and there is something really quite gross about it.   Tempting as it is, more threads to squeeze into the wardrobe is really the last thing I need.  But shop I did, got some great bargains and enjoyed the guilty pleasure of consumption.  But no more!

What is also curious is the shortening lifespan of today's consumer brand.  When a once quite cool brand starts making iPhone covers you know its all over and no self respecting hipster going to want to be seen dead in it.   Who can keep up?

Probably just as well I'm not allowed to go shopping often, fashion is best left in the too hard basket for me these days.