SMOKE: House Hunting
Originally published: 2 September 2004
I was out driving yesterday afternoon as one does and passing a roadsign I almost hit the car in front of me.
There on a board on the side of the road - in big white letters on a bright green background - were the words "Chichester Road" and I was instantly transported back to the summer of 2002, to a time when I couldn't find the bastard.
It was during a mad scramble to find a house, as the place we were renting was suddenly up for sale and we had to get out. Neither of us had ever owned a house so we wanted to get the right place and getting the right place - unfortunately - means hell on wheels.
The reason it's hell is because of chicks. An oke can drive past a place, take a fleeting glance in a blur as he does 200km/h down the narrow suburban street, then go home and sign on the dotted line.
But not chicks. Oh no.
See - women have an insane desire to interact with other people. I'm prepared to concede that it could be advisable to go inside a house you're about to fork a few hundred grand on to get a feel for the place, but to actually speak to the inevitable agent is just madness.
You can't even give those okes the faintest of openings before they're on you, pointing out all the "features" of the place.
Here's a thing - a house needs to have a bedroom, a lounge, a kitchen and a bog, and as for the rest - whatever. As long as the four basic cornerstones that hold our lives together - sleeping, chilling, eating and taking a fat one - are taken care of, I rest easy at night.
But not chicks. They want to examine behind the doors, count the cracked tiles, tap the walls, inspect the fittings, investigate the geyser, assess the angles - it never bloody ends.
And by insisting on having the agent part of our conversation all the above is spent with some twattie throwing you a desperate sales pitch couched in the easy, comfortable tones of someone who's just about your best buddy in the whole world. Someone who doesn't see it as selling to you, but more as offering you a sound investment opportunity.
Don't get me wrong - I feel for estate agents, even though most of them are slimy bastards. It has to be a miserable job trying to flog a place that isn't absolutely perfect, or to have the husband making positive rumblings only for the wife to not like the door frames.
As soon as the chick has spotted The Problem that's it - the oke can like it as much as he likes, but he ain't getting it.
So I spent most of that summer reluctantly being dragged from one little hovel to the next and with every place I went in to the first thing I said was: "We'll take it."
Not because of any great affinity to the various places but usually because when we left to go house hunting Gazza was on 78 not out and there was always the faint hope that we'd be able to rush off and buy a house in 20 minutes in order to be back in time for centuries and medals.
You don't want me as your financial advisor - trust me. I have way too many ulterior motives.
It's just that I get irritated spending hours pretending to give a stuff when I don't - not that I don't care about getting the best place, but an uncle of mine once taught me a valuable lesson about being practical: he took me to buy a shirt and walked straight up to the first one he saw - a puke-yellow, snot-green, checked monstrosity - and ripped it off the rail.
He was about to pay for it when he noticed me looking on in horror and impatiently asked whether there was a problem with the shirt. When I hesitated he asked me if I liked the colour yellow, and I replied in the affirmative. He then asked me if I liked the colour green, and again my reply was positive.
Satisfied, he turned around and bought the thing at a bargain price, and many's the years I spent walking around in that shirt. Durable as a morning woody.
I could have got us lots of good deals in perfectly pleasant houses, but invariably there was a small bathroom or a cracked tap or the lounge had a faded carpet or the windows faced the wrong way.
Thank goodness we didn't take any of them. When I walked into the house we eventually bought my first reaction was: "We'll take it", and the significance of that was that Gazz was on 150-odd not out, and I'd watched every bit of it. This one was different - this one was special.
So we bought it. And in two years it has almost doubled in value. Not even the graffiti sprayed by the dog on the back wall has devalued it ("Jou ma se pussssssy cat - hahaha, by dOg").
I reckon everyone has that One Place (you can have it multiple times, of course) - the house you walk into and know you're going to buy. It's usually the closest approximation of all the qualities you have been looking for and it usually comes at the end of a long, hard hunt.
It was weird, because we both knew the house was The One, but when we came to check it out the day before we moved in the entire place had changed.
With all the previous owner's stuff gone it was empty and depressing late on a grey afternoon in June, with the walls bare save for some picture hooks at odd heights and naked lightbulbs hanging down from the ceiling.
We sat in that empty house and smoked a cigarette on the floor and both of us sank into a deep depression. The feel of the place was so different, now that the life was gone out of it.
We went to bed early that night but the next day - when we took all our boxes and furniture over - the place sprang into life and filled up with happy, excited energy, and we've never looked back.
It was The One.
All Smoked Out,