And so I’m entering the blogosphere, and though it’s all rather turn of the century, the medium is new to me.
I confess I had never looked at one before and the intricacies surrounding it are alien - links to Facebook and Twitter and how and when one uses those to communicate different feelings/thoughts/display visual images…..
As I write this I have slight concerns of becoming obsessed by social media – will I turn into someone who tweets relentlessly, offering what particular dessert I’ve chosen from the Waitrose freezer counter? Or updating my facebook page while eating dinner as I’ve seen people do? I hope not, and can’t believe I will as I’m too lazy and find technology too baffling. Besides I don’t want to be responsible for a stream of nothingness. The way I will treat the blog is as I treated my column, The Secret Agent, which ran from 2007 to 2012 in the Financial Times. I found it gave me such pleasure to write that when the time to move on came it felt like a relationship had broken up, this weekly outlet that had been part of my life for five years was suddenly no longer there and then I realised that need not be the case.
Property and people and their characteristics remain universal as the themes around them do. My client who I’d like to become a friend is struggling. Not with her life – which is fulfilled – but to find the property she wants in London. She’s in LA for Oscar season – natch – so I have a ten day window to find her a short list on her return. It’s difficult to find family space with a garden on two floors only – in fact, it’s well nigh impossible even with a budget that soars close to double digit millions.
Other clients, the Bonnie and Clyde of real estate who are also friends, swept into the Oxfordshire countryside for a thirty six hour visit. The object of their attention – a converted barn in what has become one of the most fashionable spots in the Cotswolds. The barn is an homage to designer Axel Vervoordt – Flemish chic at its very best with no expense in terms of source material spared. There was nothing vulgar about the place and yet everything had been ‘done’ – this was not shabby chic.
B & C brim with enthusiasm – for property and life. It’s infectious but means that when we’re together I’m pulling the reins in. And for me, who’s all for buying properties across the globe, that’s not the easiest role to play. They offered, the offer was refused, they contemplated going up, then held their guns, and finally decided to withdraw. I withheld the withdrawl from the sales agent as the other side had already refused their offer. A day later the vendors reconsidered and accepted the offer. I came clean and was met with the wrath of an agent who had clearly (in his head) pocketed and spent the commission. ‘Devastating news’ he wrote to me and continued in that vein.
It actually angered me. I refrained from calling up and requesting some perspective and a correct use of the language. Yes, it was frustrating and annoying but there were two other bidders on the Barn, the people were in no hurry and had no necessity to sell and the spring market was just warming up, as he’d been so keen to tell me. Devastating is the situation in Homs, devastating is twenty years of civil war in Somalia, devastating on a stage closer to my life is my dear friend who has just lost her mother. That is devastating.
And when I thought about how we react to events, I realised that we often do so through the prism of our own experience. The tears I shed for my friend were for her, but they were in part for me. For until you’ve lost a parent (or indeed a sibling, dear friend or I imagine worst of all, a child) it’s difficult to understand the depth of that emotion. There is no such thing as universal grieving but there’s an empathy there that comes with the knowledge that visceral pain will change and mutate to something else. The intense and consuming feeling – with hope –will turn to memories of love and thanks for that presence in your life.
So devastating was quite the wrong word and emotion for this agent to invite me to feel. Houses and flats are all very well – they are our homes. Our environment matters enormously and affects us all deeply, both consciously and sub-consciously. But in the end, those that people our environment have the most profound effect.