Monday, 29 November 2010

Cold comfort

I've just remembered why people like modern houses.

It's a revelation that usually occurs in mid January, but this year the reality of living in a house with the insulating properties of a paper bag has come early. And, although you can't actually see your breath in the morning (the norm during the winter months of my childhood), shuffling around on chilblained feet, wrapped in blankets like Apache Indians, to the constant refrain of 'shut that door!' is becoming tiresome.

Incredibly, we have actually carried out tons of work to raise the temperature of our house to slightly above freezing. I have the regulation depth of rockwool in the loft, polystyrene stuff between the roof joists, a load of double glazing, and I've even just paid for someone to line the sloping attic ceiling with insulated plaster board. Despite all this I think I've just spotted a polar bear on the landing muttering about the draught.

It is, of course, possible to bring a period property up to modern insulation standards. There is a wonderful end terrace Victorian home nearby which has had its emissions reduced by around 80%
(http://home2.btconnect.com/eco-refurbishment/) but it doesn't come cheap. Not as cheap as jumpers, hot water bottles and sausage-dog draught excluders anyway.

But, though my fingers are stiff with cold typing this, would I really like to live in a modern house? No, well, not one that I could afford anyway. The lunch-box quality of the air in the average new build has never appealed, but a Huf Haus would do nicely. Though even Hufs have their drawbacks.

When I interviewed the lovely couple who built their Huff on Grand Designs the only complaint the lady had was that, as there are no draughts, the mobile which her artist husband had made for her didn't move. So, I suppose the polar bears and I should consider ourselves lucky. And, in the spirit of the saying, 'if life gives you lemons', I am off to buy a mobile. Let's hope the shop is nice and warm.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Poetic licence

Poets can sleep at night since news leaked that Bonnett's Estate Agent in Brighton is writing its property details in the form of a haiku. This isn't, apparently, something the agents are doing to keep themselves busy until the next boom. The company have employed a real live poet to encapsulate their properties in three lines.

So, the description of a 3 bed newbuild in a development near the station is given as:

"Views! 'Up on the roof...'
With the City all around,
Walk to the station"

And how's this for a one-bed flat on the city's hilly Elm Grove?

"Autumn golden grove
Shading tidy City pad
Walk into Brighton"

All good fun, and it keeps poets off the streets. But I'm not sure they've taken it far enough. I'd like to challenge one of their rivals to start advertising their properties in the style of, say, Wordsworth, or John Hegley. Or, what about in the form of a limerick?

I'll get them started:

A beautiful flat in Hackney
This is one you really must see
Two beds, separate loo
And an obscure park view
Don't delay, view ASAP.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Are you lonesome tonight?

I'd love to say that Presley is alive and has been spotted just outside Tunbridge Wells, but, since her recent decampment to the Kent countryside Lisa Marie and family have, apparently, been immune to the delights of the local facilities.

Not for her a movie and popcorn at the TW Odeon, a bit of culture at the Assembly Halls Theatre, or even last weekend's fireworks extravaganza at Dunorian Park.

Since, allegedly, trying to make her staff sign a confidentiality agreement that makes the highest teachings of Scientology look like a press release, word is that she has not been seen out and about once. Her 11 bed, £8 million home is a bit like Willy Wonka's Chocolate factor: No one goes in, and no one comes out.

If we rule out the use of oompa loompas for entertainment, we must deduce that Ms Presley, who has twin toddlers, is going stir crazy. And she has, apparently, decided that the fault lies with Tunbridge Wells, if not Kent and the UK too, and she's heading back to LA.

Relocating is hard. Expat websites suggest that as many as 50% of people may give up and go home within the first five years, when the novelty wears off and they realise that their friends, and decent coffee, are a long way away. But Lisa Marie has hardly given it a chance.

Maybe, if she would just go out for a nice pub lunch, have a game of Pooh Sticks in nearby Ashdown Forest, or even introduce herself to the neighbours, she may just find that there's more to this country than just the lovely rain (yes, she apparently moved here for the rain.)

Meanwhile, there is no house big or beautiful enough that it won't feel like a prison if you are stuck in it 24/7 with young kids. As her dear old dad would have said:

Is your heart filled with pain? Shall I come back again? Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?