So D-Day finally came. Yesterday. I moved home. I left amorphous zone 3 suburbia (where I’d lived for 8 years), swapping it for a residential district of zone 1 – in Westminster, central London. It was quite a busy day.
After having taken Friday off work, to pack, I was mostly ready by the time my removal man came. He’d surveyed what I was moving in advance and we’d agreed a ‘man and van’ option would be fine. And he was very good. The pick up from Sheridan’s was straight forward as we’d taken all the stuff downstairs and it was just a case of it being carried to the removals van outside which the guy did most of.
I bade farewell to Sheridan and hopped into ‘the wagon’ and we drove to Westminster. Was an easy drive, 35 mins or so. We arrived at noon and I called the agent who was over very shortly with the key. We had a look around the flat (immaculate) and went over a few final details. J – the remover, began bringing stuff in. Bear in mind my flat is 3 storeys up and this an old Regency townhouse with very high ceilings, much higher than in contemporary properties – so it’s a fair number of stairs (and no lift!).
As we started bringing the stuff in I met the owner/landlady who had wanted to greet me on my arrival. She is some kind of European (English/French/Italian) dowager-type but very nice. She owns the entire property, several of the apartments are occupied by family (relatives of hers), the rest are let. She said her grandparents had bought the house ‘after the war’ and they’d lived here ever since. She also spends much of the year at her house on the Cote d’Azur in France. Anyway, she is evidently minted (the house can’t be worth less than £3.5 – £4 million) as it is HUGE and rather grand like all of the properties here) but she was very unpretentious and quite down to earth. Asked a lot about me. She stressed often that it is very much a ‘family house’ and not like most rental properties (and you can tell this from how high quality the communal areas are, quite unlike the vast majority of properties I’d seen with their down-at-heel, highly trafficked communal areas). And she seemed quite buzzy, saying if I ever need to borrow more sets of keys (I already have 2 sets) for “friends who might want to stay over” or suchlike, just to ask her. She said there were often drinks parties on the terrace and that I “must come along to those where you can meet everyone else, lots of people your age” (!).
She also struck me as quite uncommercial (i.e. she doesn’t really need the money). I am convinced I am paying less than the market rate for this as the rent includes council tax, heating, hot water and the footprint is a really good size compared with most of what I saw, many of which were box-like. On the council tax issue alone I will save around £800 a year. She also said that if I want to buy anything for the flat (that I would leave behind when I moved on), to just go ahead and buy it – give her the receipts at a later date and she’ll take it off the rent.
I guess it all just seems terribly civilized. So much of the London property scene is dominated by profiteers and racketeers and you really have to watch yourself. This just doesn’t feel like that. I met some of her relatives who have apartments here – who seemed very nice. I also met some others, mostly Italian and French who live in smaller studio flats with shared facilities on the top floor. She lets those privately ‘mostly to the children of European friends’. So the whole place has a very strong continental European feel to it – which I of course quite like. This would be in contrast to, say, the multiple-occupancy-by-Antipodeans model that you’d find in places like Earls Court. It’s just a different model, really. There are also a huge number of MPs living in the area (the Houses of Parliament are about 10-15 mins walk away). So all in all, I experience it as refined but without feeling stuffy, high-end without being pretentious.
Whilst the flat came part-furnished, I’ll need to get more stuff for it. I want to be able to have people round a lot and I’ll need another sofa or 2 small armchairs to sit opposite the existing (only) sofa. The existing sofa is ‘OK’ (it’s a sofabed) but definitely needs a scattering of decent cushions as a minimum.
In the kitchen, whilst there is a kettle, toaster and microwave – there’s not much else. I brought my own pots and pans but I need cutlery and crockery now. There are some odds and sods in the cupboard but certainly not an adequate amount. That said, the kitchen is well specced (especially compared with a lot of places I saw). Full size fridge/freezer, loads of cupboards, new-ish looking oven/hob (albeit ceramic rather than gas).
The bedroom is OK but – though a quite reasonable in size – the storage isn’t out of this world. Smallish chest of drawers (looks fairly low end), 1 built in wardrobe and 1 bedside chest of drawers. The room would really benefit from a big full-size antique chest of drawers like I left behind at my own flat. So we’ll see, I may just have to get something from Ikea. If I leave it behind it will come off the rent, anyway.
Bathroom is OK, not much to speak of. Used the shower today and it’s fine.
The only slight issue I need to get used to is that there is much more noise living in zone 1 compared with zone 3. Actually, that’s a bit misleading. The real issue for the noise is that there is a significantly busy road at the end of the street and you certainly can hear the traffic throughout the day. I’m hoping and assuming it will fade as I get used to it. I’ve just been used to living in very quiet areas. Also, at this time of year with the large sash windows thrown wide open, it’s no wonder you can hear everything outside. But all property is a compromise somewhere. The flat itself is stunning – from the high ceilings to the plantation shutters, to the immaculate stucco exterior and pristine communal areas.
So I had my first visitors last night – close friends from work (a couple). They absolutely loved the flat, especially the female colleague. They pay the same price for a 1 bed in Waterloo (which I’ve been to) and there really is very little to compare the two properties. There’s is much smaller, has been getting extremely hot in this weather, doesn’t have the period features and high ceilings that this one has and it’s basically just a run of the mill conversion flat on a back street behind the station. Very convenient location wise, but not for much else…I’m now trying to persuade them to move nearer to me!
Anyway, we went out for dinner. A convivial local Indian. S doesn’t eat Indian food (which I love) so for me, it’s something of a treat. Inevitably we talk work quite a bit, but even so, it is an enjoyable evening. From the restaurant we went on to a local pub that I guess may be my ‘local’. The rounds seemed on the expensive side (£12-£13 for 3 drinks – 2 pints of Peroni and 1 large white wine) but it was very pleasant, quite quiet – just the type of pub I like. I hate those really busy, West End type places where you have to queue to get a drink and you can’t get a seat. Hate them! So for me, Local London is always a far better choice when it comes to drinking and eating out. Leave the Centre to the tourists and the outer-suburbs people (I’m talking zone 4+) who come in for a ‘night on the town’.
Today was a little bit of a right-off as I felt very rough this morning and of course, no pain killers were to be found. I really didn’t think I’d had that much to drink last night (for me!) but I’d had so little to eat and had been pretty dehydrated all day too – a bad combination when you then start on the booze. And I slept badly, waking at 6am to the sound of cars as I’d left my bedroom window wide open. Am hoping I sleep better tonight.
Tomorrow morning will be my first commute! It’s what, one or two miles? If that. Be interesting to see how long it takes. Planning to go by bus and give up the tube.