It’s a well known fact that going shopping for anything with a woman is like slipping through a drain grating into a particularly nasty parallel existence. Men lose the will to live in the queue waiting outside women’s changing rooms. You see them with their thousand yard stairs on a Saturday afternoon, looking for all the world like young men who just nipped out for a game of pool and ended up getting conscripted to fight a pointless adventure in a far flung foreign land.
You see men standing vacantly beside their woman as she stares into a shop window filled with more shoes than there are atoms in the oceans, saying “Ooh… I need some new shoes! You don’t mind if I just nip in here, do you?”
‘So close to the cinema,’ he’s thinking. ‘So close! And to think, we almost made it.’ What a senseless, terrible waste of human life. And that’s just shoe shopping…
How much worse then is it to go house-hunting with a woman?
A million TV shows tell us, ‘property is the new porn’. And the result is that all women want to live in a house with huge tits.
It used to be that you would, in a sense, be pretty much happy to live anywhere because a house is, you know, kind of a house and once you get past the whole four walls and a roof thing, and checking that you’re not buying something that’s sitting on the bed of an ancient river bed, well then you’re pretty much home and dry.
You’d know how many bedrooms you wanted, whether you needed a garden, or not, and which station you wanted to be near. So, you might have seen half a dozen properties, put in an offer and barring a disaster that would be that.
But now I am house hunting with my other half, and so I have been, it feels like, since sometime in the early Seventeenth Century, before the invention of the spinning jenny and when estate agents used to wear frock coats and stockings and white powdered wigs. Or, is that whigs? Anyway, it has been going on for months…
The other day we were shown round my dream house. It was set in gardens approximately the size of a football pitch. On three sides. There were outbuildings. I have always wanted ‘outbuildings’. They’re like garden sheds but made of sterner stuff. They scream ‘office,’ and ‘workshop’ and ‘new hobbies’. There was a cellar and a loft and a kitchen in which all your friends could sit in comfort, the ceilings were so high I thought the living room might develop it’s own weather system. There was even, on a small landing between two of the bedrooms a mini library, a kind of walk in wardrobe for intellectuals. It was also less than a mile from the sea. And it was significantly less than the price of a three bedroom flat in North London.
As the owners showed us round I had to remind myself to not let my real feelings show too much so that when it came to the haggling I’d look like I could take it or leave it, not bothered, seen one manor house, seen ‘em all, guv’nor.
When we were finally left alone we were in the master bedroom, a space so vast with floor to ceiling leaded windows that were I to live there I would have been tempted to immediately rent it out to a struggling artist just to make use of the natural light.
I turned to my other half, my face no doubt like a cartoon dog spotting a juicy bone, “Yeah, yeah, yeah?” But it was too late. I could tell from her look that the hunt was far from over.
“I can see a Barratt home,” she said.
“Where?” I said, incredulously – the house was situated in so much land we could have raised ostriches.
“There,” she said, pointing over my shoulder and through the floor to ceiling leaded windows, across the couple of acres of the back garden, past our own conker tree (our own conker tree!), over the bit of land down the bottom by the fence where I was already mentally laying plans for a summer house and yes, there, through a gap in the foliage you could just make out the mock Tudorbethan half-timbered corner of someone else’s house. The only house in fact, you could see for miles.
Of course I pleaded, I protested, I pointed out that we could plant a new tree to block the offending view of the corner of another person’s tasteless home, but to no avail.
“If we plant new trees it’ll take at least two years before they’re high enough to obscure that view,” she said. ‘And I can’t have two years of looking at that!”
“Not if we plant those really fast growing ones that you see on ‘Neighbours from Hell’,” I said. “You know, leylandii?” But it was a lost cause.
There is no more point in living in a house with a woman who isn’t 100% happy than there is in buying her shoes, she’s ‘not sure about.’ You’ll never hear the end of it. Just like when they go clothes shopping you have to accept that odds are they wont actually buy anything. And worse, they seem to enjoy the window shopping for houses even more than window shopping for pumps.
And then there’s the moving of the goalposts. You will start off looking for a two bed flat in Stoke Newington, by the end of the week you’re looking at a semi-detached house in South Ken. This budgetary and area slippage is compounded by the fact that all women have a dream house somewhere in mind (just as they have a dream wedding, and indeed a dream husband in there as well – which is why they look permanently disappointed). A woman’s perfect home is composed of the dream house they imagined when they were a little girl plus, all the best bits of all the other houses you’ve ever looked at together.
“It’s lovely,” she’ll say, “but I just really liked the larder they had in that house we saw last week.”
The more houses you look at the harder it gets because each one will add another thing to the checklist that must be fulfilled. Our checklist started: ‘Enough rooms so we can both work from home, a big enough kitchen for a massive pine table and sufficient room for a decent-sized garden shed.’ (That last one was mine, obviously.)
Now we are looking for: ‘Enough rooms so we can both work from home, a big enough kitchen for a massive pine table and sufficient room for a decent-sized garden shed (i) situated in a garden big enough to have a hundred people over for a Summer party(i)’ (Her latest stipulation), plus: ‘a larder, an en-suite bathroom, a downstairs toilet, some nice Victorian tiles on the floor of the porch, oh yes, a porch, off road-parking, a terrace at the back overlooking the huge garden, a convertible loft and ideally, a stone staircase with balustrade leading to the garden, down which she can sweep during said Summer party – and all with no possibility of even glimpsing another house unless it is one that comes up to her high standards of what is and isn’t architecturally acceptable.’
When we started the process we were looking on the South Coast, it being one of the few areas within striking distance of London where we could afford to buy a house with, ‘Enough rooms so we can both work from home, a big enough kitchen for a massive pine table and room for a decent-sized garden shed.’
Now that my other half has added the highlights of all the other houses we have seen to our list of ‘essentials,’ I feel that we may have to look slightly further afield, somewhere more affordable. The Democratic Republic of Congo, say.
Anything for an easy life… it’s just the commute I’m worried about.