As of Monday my quest for life change became assured. I had a (rental) offer accepted on a delightful, large, sunny, bright, airy 1-bedroom flat in a rather grand Grade II listed Thomas Cubitt designed regency garden townhouse in Pimlico, central London. 12 foot high corniced ceilings, wooden shutters on the windows, a large reception room flooded with light and overlooking an exquisite garden square. I loved it from the moment I saw it (Saturday) and strongly felt at the time that I would make an offer. I slept badly on Sunday night, worried it might slip through my fingers. I’d seen 10 or so properties and this one just felt like the one. I called first thing on Monday and had another viewing that lunchtime. I loved it all over again. The immaculate regency building – the kind I’d wanted to live in my whole life. A stunning, colonnaded, cream stucco garden square. Sooooo close to central London (it technically is in central London as it’s in the City of Westminster, Zone 1) and yet it’s a resolutely residential area. It feels incredibly well heeled and cosmopolitan. Hard to describe. These aren’t my photos but many in this guy’s photo set on flickr are of the area and give you a good feel for what the location is like.
The communal areas of the building were really smart. I’d seen quite a few crumby, ‘highly trafficked’ places that I really had not liked. Many had felt studenty – not at all great when you’re talking quite serious sums of money. The rent will be 4x the rent I was paying when I moved to London 11 years ago. The annual rent will actually be more than my entire salary was when I first moved to this city. But I can afford it because, moan as I might about my job, I’ve had at least 5 pay rises in the past 5 years. Professional services may not be the most intensely rewarding industry to work in – but in an extremely expensive city like London, the remuneration is the upshot of the long hours and hard work culture. So it’s quid pro quo and I’m finally in a position to realise the upside of the hard graft. This is a good thing.
And incredibly – when I made the offer on Monday afternoon, I went in at 10% below the asking price (which had meant the lower end of my budget) – and knock me down, it was accepted outright. The landlord owns the entire building and also lives there (these townhouses are huge, costing millions of pounds each). There are 8 or so flats (the buildings are 5-6 storeys). I’d had quite a quizzing by the independent agent (who I liked) about me, what I did, etc, and I guess that was fed back and presumably I was considered a safe bet. Of course, the references are also being taken up, at the moment – but those should be fine.
I’m also pleased that I got to speak to the incumbent. The person is relocating overseas, hence her departure, and it was very reassuring to speak to her. She had no real vested interest to say anything untrue about the place, but she had only good things to say about her year there, how incredibly handy it was to get everywhere, how pleasant the neighbours were, etc. Anyway, I don’t move in until the beginning of July, but that’s not so long. And I’m excited.
So it comes as no surprise that I am filled with anticipation and excitement for this long, long overdue change in my life. This step-change is the sort of thing I should have done years ago, when I could first afford it. Staying in my own ‘first time buyer’ flat for so long, living a rather dull, monotonous (domestic) life, making large, sensible, prudent over-payments on the mortgage, was – in retrospect – a mistake, and I felt very left behind. Now, leaving London’s huge, amorphous, endless and in many cases – forgettable – suburbia fills me with a real sense of excitement and opportunity. And of moving on. Progressing. Catching up.
My social life, which has been on the ‘flat’ side I’m going to at last overhaul. I’m going to entertain again, like I did in my early years here. Dinner parties, soirées, sleep-overs. Jogging along the Thames, breakfasts out, dating again – after so long. Much more theatre, more museums, re-joining a gym, exploring new areas. My commute cut in less than half. Proactively going out and meeting people and living life to the full… I strongly feel I will experience a completely different side to London and it’s a side that is probably ‘much more me’.
It’s the beginning of the paradigm shift I’ve been talking about for so long.