Once-upon-a-time, in the post-beige ages (the late 1970s), at school, in that hour-long cat stretch of boredom that they’d timetabled as RE, we were once given the task of drawing the devil. As a class of thirteen-year-olds the results were predictably monsterific. There were horns, forked tails, occasionally sour scouring breaths of vindaloo fire, and he’d be carefully tending his rotisserie of souls, all that sin dripping and sizzling off them. Hell 101. I believe I drew a genie in an attempt to be clever and because I couldn’t draw a clown or Jimmy Savile.
On of my classmates (possibly the only one who now shows up in Google search without accompanying references to court proceedings) drew a nice besuited gentleman. An estate agent, he explained. We were mostly bemused.
I guessed he’d grown up moving a house a lot.
We’d forgotten them. Or rather pushed them out of mind in the same way as you push a drunken party guest out of the door at 3am. When they’ve already redecorated the bathroom (and cat) in virulent burgundy-red wine sick. And you never invited them in the first place. Seriously, you have no idea who invited them. Or in fact, who they are.
We were, of course, dipping our toes in their ocean. They know. They sense the fresh blood of the buyer in the water. They salivate when they spot you outside the window. You see them, they see you, and there’s a meeting of eyes through the glass. This we know. This necessitates the drive-by window viewings. Except we weren’t in the car, so it was mostly walk-quicky-by like we were the most sedate gang in LA, the one that doesn’t even have a bus pass. We’d sidle up pretending we were just walking by, some other more important place to be. Have things to do, places to be. Slowing slightly, enough to read, but fast enough to keep momentum. It’s important to maintain sufficient escape velocity. Judge it right and you’re all already past with a clutch of information before they even grab the keys to their Mini. Eyes, of course, are snagged by glimpses of palatial properties. Number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and…
Just how fucking much? It’s like a surfboarding hippo has just landed right in the middle of your plans. One dropped out of a C130 high overhead.
You’re stopped on the pavement, mouth hanging open, plan B blown right out of the water, like the time Jaws decided that gas cylinders were just the thing for dessert.
It’s the short of shock that requires a drink or three. Even after that stern medicinal you’re still how much?
But it’s summer, another of those lazy, warm, beer garden evenings where everything eventually seems hazily possible. We’ll recalibrate our expectations, perhaps invent an entirely new scale. Figure out what we can afford. Move up another notch on the scale of grown-upped-ness. It’s a word. We’ll do some financial planning. Say it slow. Financial planning. Like we’re the government of our own little country. We can even do austerity. We can make this work.
Then we laugh until our noses dispense beer like a broken soda stream.
A note on estate agent windows
Yes, it’s an online world. You can type your search into whatever your favourite property engine is, and hundreds of results will be yours. You can’t believe any of the blurb. The stuff in the window is the stuff they’re proud off, their advertising, not the stuff that burned stuck to the bottom of their list. As such, the window is a useful barometer, and worth taking the drive-by risk.