The Polo Minted Chinese

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The Chinese are back in town. I promised myself I’d have nothing to do with them after the last debacle but heyho, I’m an ex-Estate Agent and pound signs make me come over all giddy.

This time they want a large property in large grounds, a place they can bring important Chinese people to. Government officials are mentioned by name, I do a good impression of having a clue. It needs to be quintessentially English I am told – but in a Chinese way, obviously. That apparently means it has to have a polo pitch. This is key. Mrs Chang is very keen on polo. ‘Does, she play?’ I ask. Apparently she will once she’s learned to ride.

I get the usual ’gotta be the best of the best, money no object’ jargon and additionally they must have at least ten bedroom suites, games room and swimming pool etc… A Playboy mansion in the Shires it seems. Images of portly Chinese dignitaries wandering around in satin dressing gowns frightening the polo ponies fill my head.

I pick them up at the apartment I bought for them and am left waiting for an hour as Mrs Chang had been for a jog (impossible in Beijing because of the smog so I am expected to be understanding) and she was now eating noodles. I have a meticulously timed itinerary of exceptional off-market properties that I’ve begged and borrowed to get access to and which is fast getting screwed. My fixed smile is really struggling.

Out of the blue I am informed that they will follow me in their brand new car. The biggest flashiest 5 litre SUV I have ever seen. Mrs Chang and Aunty haven’t driven in the UK before. The banker will drive there, Aunty will drive back, it will be her first driving lesson. Marvellous.

First property is in Surrey, I am met in a field by two country house estate agents and my colleague who have been waiting an hour and a half and are looking chilled – not in a good way. Mr Smooth and Mr Country. Mr Smooth is buttoned up in City chic. Navy cashmere coat, polished Loakes and a silk tie. The ruddy Mr Country has covered his Fair Isle jumper in a battered old Barbour and wears country brogues that haven’t seen polish since a young farmers dance in 1987. He sports brown cords of a similar era.

As what they are looking for almost certainly doesn’t exist with all the necessary Feng Shui criteria, we are looking at a plot with planning for a suitably tasteless faux Georgian 30,000 square foot pile and Mr Country suggests that most of the party jump into his 4×4 to have an off-road tour of the many acred estate. The look on his face makes me feel that he is more excited at showing off his off roading skills than closing a deal. I manage to look magnanimous as I usher the party and my colleague into his car, whilst Mr Smooth and I will follow in my 4×4. Wheels spinning mud, he heads off across the fields and onto woodland tracks. I follow in his wake, see the mud, remember how much the valeting cost and think sod it. I swerve back to the nice piece of tarmac with a shed and a bloke called Clive who makes tea. Mr Smooth seems pretty relieved that his Loakes won’t have to touch anything brown or green.

It takes a good twenty minutes before the mud caked party are back. Apparently Mrs Chang had been leaping out of the car taking pictures of trees and planning which ones can be cut down to make way for the polo pitch. There was also a lot of iPhone compass shaking so she could build this nouveau palace facing the right way for Feng Shui.

Having delayed the start of the tour by hours Mrs Chang now says she would like to cut short the day and go to Claridges for afternoon tea. My face was stoic. but I did something I rarely do, insisted they see the next one. Won’t take long I lied, we will whizz up the motorway to Berkshire in no time. Whizzing was the last thing that happened. I hadn’t quite realised how inept Aunty was behind the wheel. We started out of the field in a convoy. The bankers husband decided to jump into my car with wide eyes. I lead, followed by Aunty, followed by Mr Smooth in his BMW and Mr Country in his mud splattered 4×4. It is a narrow lane. As I accelerate to about 15 mph I can see Aunty in my rear view mirror receding into the distance. I slow to allow her to catch up. We watch as she clips the verge, once, twice, three times and decimates a good percentage of England’s hedgerows in her wake. My passenger’s phone rings, it’s his wife the banker. ‘Tell Tracy to slow down, Aunty’s panicking’. I slow to 12 mph. She adds that Miss Chang didn’t like the site.. ‘too much mud’.

We hit a problem, there are now cars coming the other way. Aunty stops. There are now at least eight cars behind her, all honking at her. My phone rings, it’s Mr Smooth three cars back, through hysterical laughter he tries to ask what they thought but never manages.

Slowly, very slowly we make it through Guildford to the M25. Who knew Guildford had so many flaming roundabouts. Roundabouts and Aunty don’t mix and with a cacophony of horns still ringing we slowly get onto the motorway. And slowly it remained. 5 litres of super charged German engineering half on the inside lane, half on the hard shoulder at 28mph. At one point we are overtaken by a tractor on a low loader. I tell my passenger to call them and see if they can speed up. He rings his wife but all I can hear are shrill Mandarin voices shrieking at each other as I watch their Teutonic behemoth gently swerve from lane to lane in the rear mirror.

I’ve had enough and to give Aunty fair warning I start indicating a mile before the next services. Safely parked up, the ashen faced entourage disembark, inspect the scraped car and remove bits of hedge from the front grill and wheel arches. An argument breaks out between the sisters.

I turn to Miss Chang and the banker translates. ‘You know what, go to Claridges, this next one is a Feng Shui disaster. It faces the wrong way, has loads of cracked mirrors and the nearest water is the sewage filtration plant next door. And..’ in my very best Taggart voice I add…. ‘There’s been a murder’.

As my foot hits the pedal and I speed unceremoniously fast out of Heston services, I am resolute that from now on the only Chinese in my life comes battered, fried and MSG’d. It’s better for my health.

Buying Agent, the Royal Wedding and a London flat…

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‘We’ve got a new flat coming on, only allowing Buying Agents in for the first week, do you want to come to special viewing?’ said the uber smooth Chelsea Estate Agent.  Seems another London Vendor wants to try and avoid hoards of the un-washed rampaging through their pad. No doubt they also think they can create a fierce bidding war amongst the gaggle of Buying Agents, ironic and wrong when you consider that our clients measure us on getting the best price. However, there remains there an impression amongst sellers that Buying Agent’s clients have more money than sense. Still, can’t hurt I think, will pop along and see just how over-primped and over-priced it is.

It’s a hot day and my standard black suit uniform was not a good choice. Parking down a Belgravia back Street I took a leisurely stroll to the red brick flat tucked behind the Alice band mecca of Peter Jones. The Sloane Square shops and street cafes are palpably excited by the imminent nuptials of Prince William, regarded by many of the hair-tossing blondes quaffing espresso’s as ‘the one that got away’.

Outside the flat, the literally less cooler side-kick of Mr Uber-Smooth is waiting on the pavement, suited, booted and sweaty, rather like me. He is there to usher ‘us’ in.

I can spot an Estate Agent in a sea of suits, likewise, your standard London buying agent sticks out like a ham sandwich at a Barmitzvah. There he is, helping his client out of the Addison Lee mini-van. Eww. Tall, slim, foppish blonde hair and an air of superiority not picked up at a free school. As my Mother might have said, this chap really fancies himself. He catches my gaze and promptly dismisses me. Middle aged women aren’t on his radar of who to suck up to, unless they are Hermes toting clients. The suited client is a banker, tanned and glued to his mobile. ‘Should have come to me love’, I think, I don’t do mini-vans.

I get a special welcome at the door, a reward reserved for someone who is currently buying something from them. Talk turns to that purchase.’We need to exchange soon on that’ he says. I point out the obvious, ‘Your client shouldn’t have such a crap solicitor then’. He agrees and shuts up.

Entering the hallway, like most of these red brick mansion blocks it is dark. Really dark. The common area’s have been nicely done and the velvety carpet with brass stair rods feels inches deep. ‘Take the lift’ he says. Nope, I always take the stairs to check it doesn’t turn to glossy woodchip paper on the first landing. At the flat’s front door I am greeted with piles of Church’s brogues and the alternative choice of blue plastic bag covers for my shoes. Don’t really like the mortuary technician look so I opt for bare feet but amuse myself with the thought that as my new shoes have leeched dye onto my feet, the shoes are probably cleaner.

Peering into the hallway, I have to smile and find myself uttering to the buying agent un-doing his laces ‘Elephant Breath’. He blanks me.(Never trust a buying agent who doesn’t know his Farrow and Ball’s).

With trusty camera phone at the ready, I launch forth to take discreet piccies for this blog. Bugger, the bloody Vendor is seated at a desk. Blonde and scary looking, we nod acknowledgement and she get’s back to her lap top, surfing net-a-porter as I suspected. She is seated under the one thing I wanted a snap of, a great big Banksy style painting with the inspirational words “SHIT HAPPENS’. Graffiti is now clearly middle class.

The flat is carpeted in grey corded wool, the sort of grey that we used to only use for undercoat on drainpipes or battleships. Walls are predictably from the Farrow & Ball palette. The grey palette. Walls not painted are clothed in modern dark wood panels, with the odd Plasma TV inset. To use a technical term, this flat is done up like a kipper. It feels like an army of stylists, designers and purveyors of ‘objets chers’ to gullible buyers have spent a month titivating with their Chelsea price tagged magic wands. Nursery in Designers Guild? Tick. Orchids in pots? Tick. Alessi in the kitchen? Tick. Blanket in accent colour draped across bottom of bed? Tick. All very expensive, all very ‘yawn’.

The art work was vibrant and copied by the two accent colours scattered around the place. A shocking pink and purple theme was carried through the flat with cushions, vases, throws creating a zingy design equivalent of ice lollies against a thundery grey canvas. I am seeing purple used a lot recently, especially with hot pink. Reminded me of my favourite two felt tips when growing up in the seventies.. and my leg warmers.

Frankly, it is all far too obviously styled for my liking, the family and baby photo’s look incongruous in the very un-homely setting. For a family home it’s a  bit sad looking really. The sofa’s never been sat on and the beds have never been romped in.

Wandering down to the pavement, as usual I throw an ‘it’s a bit over-priced’ at my friendly Estate Agent as we eye incredulously the latest in customised Mini’s. Zebra skins are on so many London floors these days, now they are being parked outside. Daktari meets Chelsea.

‘No love’, he says, ‘one next door went for £250 sq ft more than this last month… And it’s not as good’. Bloody Hell, I think, thats 500 quid a square foot more than this time last year.  ‘Oversea’s dosh’, he says.

This sort of over-primping tends to put off us ordinary Brits (even one’s with £3m to spend). My Brit client’s would look at it and think, how much of this am I paying through the nose for? And frankly I come from the same ‘hackles up’ school of thought. However, the oversea’s client who thinks London is the safest place to buy, thinks prices will continue to rise and can also buy the furniture, (designed especially for the flat), thinks differently. He gets an off the shelf, no hassle, fancy pants ‘lock up and leave’. Sod the premium.

The Vendor may have got the Zeitgeist spot on by surfing Net-a-porter. For an oversea’s buyer, this flat is exactly what they want – Pret-a-Porter.

Buying Agent visits The Lancasters. Do they bomb?

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The Lancasters and their cute pencil hoardings have been looming over Bayswater Road for what seems like ‘donkey’s years’. A huge project, hewn from a massive, down-market hotel, with only the facade retained. I have been offered them on and off for the past few years.

To be honest, I haven’t taken much notice of them for clients as I had an in-built assumption, (prejudice), that they were just another over-priced, over-hyped development for those with more money than sense. Worse still, they were dumped in the slightly dodgy no-mans-land of Bayswater/Queensway. However, times change and with the much hyped launch of One Hyde Park there seems to be a a sea-change in attitudes to luxury London property. A change fuelled by oversea’s buyers who are less interested in doing deals and more interested in owning the right sort of place with the right sort of people. The ‘right sort of price’ is no longer the over-riding driver, for many it seems it just has to be the right address and that address now more than ever is in London.

This being Spring and my Arab clients about to board their jets to London, the timing was perfect to check them out. With potentially about £15m of clients money in my back pocket, the launch was an opportunity to gen up on availability, price per square foot and as much information as I could glean in order to pass on to my clients. I surprised myself by thinking I might actually be in the market for one but I would be fibbing if I didn’t admit I would be directly comparing it to One Hyde Park, like everyone else.

With inverted snobbery firmly in place I headed down the Bayswater Road. The whiteness of the stucco, gleams in comparison to the tired and in some cases decaying neighbourhood of cheapish hotels and kebab houses.

Meeting up with my colleague ‘the tall blonde’, who I oft introduce with the line ‘if you think I’m tough’ we head to the queue for security. Hmm, I don’t like queues, hackles start to rise but men in top hats lurch forward and usher us through. Good start. Lots of smiles and nods from top hatted concierge’s is a welcome contrast to the hard-faced greeting I had from One Hyde Park’s PR Annabel’s.

The frontage and gardens are very pretty, but I keep in mind that no residents will see it as they waft from underground car park to apartment.

Into the inviting reception area, we are again greeted warmly and with dark colours, slate flooring inlaid with wood the overall feel is sumptuous but not intimidating. Gentlemens clubby feel but with Ladies welcome.

I have been told that the guests will include industry peeps, agents, private bankers and journalists so I am looking forward to a bit of networking but above all I want information. The launch party spans two apartments. We start in the first smaller apartment. A large model of the development and an interactive screen, (can anyone work these out?) are displayed but I can’t see any ‘sales people’. Then on through to the show flat. Clearly the poshest of the lot. This does not have a lounge, nor a reception room, this one without doubt has a ‘state room’. Very, very high ceilings, very, very big windows overlooking Hyde Park, very, very full of suits. Well, not just suits, there are girls in the Lady Rupert uniform du jour. Black opaque tights, leopard print shoes, itsy bitsy Chanel handbags and whichever generation, size six. Age group only differentiated by Botox usage. We decide to investigate and inspect before subjecting ourselves to the sales pitch.

A nice Lalique-esque plaster feature wall in the kitchen/diner pleases the middle-aged inner me.

Boffi dark wood units, matt white surfaces, Gaggenau appliances, glass splash backs and big wine fridge – all as expected including the zinc topped table and the square stubby glass vases of truncated roses beloved of all show house stagers. And my, has this been staged.

The central lobby has an enormous gilded cage suspended from the ceiling thirty feet above, with three T K Maxx-ish golden parrots perched. I muse on whether the stagers were amusing themselves with a not so subtle socio-economic gilded cage statement.

The master bedroom is rather nice, in shades of what I call blue but which the tall blonde insists is ‘eau de nil’. The fur throw at a jaunty angle the only predictable staging cliche. It certainly scored points against One Hyde Park, where the master I saw was quite small and under-whelming.

The en-suite, although a little too open plan for anyone with a whiff of cellulite, was pretty sexy. Again, marble takes centre stage but here, more subtly than the red Tuscan slabs of One Hyde Park.

I am starting to get a slight liking for these stagers as we investigate the other bedrooms. They have created boudoirs with character and blimey, a little humour. Corsets in frames just one quirky addition.

This is how to do a boudoir, although I will be pleased when the fashion for mirrored furniture finally  shatters.

and another off-piste choice in the study. Old Arabian carpets patch-worked together rustically, giving a cosy worn in feel. Very rare in new developments but rather appealing.

We go in search of a selling agent to drill down into the nitty gritty. Weaving through swathes of middle aged portly white men, packs of 25 year old guffawing Ruperts knocking back fizz and giggles of leopard print shod girls. We circuit the big apartment and the smaller apartment again and again, eventually cornering a canape toting Henrietta to request help. ‘They will be around’ is the vacant response. But they aren’t. We can spot Agents everywhere but are they the selling agents? Quite a contrast to One Hyde Park where Lucien trailed like a helpful puppy.

In this sea of two hundred of the ‘very well-connected’ we eventually find one name badge talking in a corner. Tall blonde interrupts her, seems she is ‘only talking to a colleague’ yet he wears no name badge. Why? Bluntly we explain we want a low down. She points to the model and the interactive screen.

Do you have price lists ‘No’.

Do you have a brochure? ‘You will get one when you leave’

Square footage price? ‘Err, that depends’.

Perfectly polite, but information was something we were clearly not going to get but was the reason we were here.

So how does it compare to One Hyde Park? and for those who think it doesn’t matter, it does.

On a frivolous level, a high five for not having to wear CSI over-shoes or hotel slippers.

The finish, well, truth be told you can tell the difference but mainly down to the quality of decoration which is easily remedied. The kitchens and bathrooms were comparable.

Location, let’s face it is not currently great. It may overlook Hyde Park from one side but you are in the heart of Queensway and will need to avert your eyes from the plethora of kebab shops around the back. Having said that, the front of One Hyde Park is blighted by the honking of bendy buses and midnight hoardes decamping noisily from the local Lebanese.

Ambiance is where it really shone through. From the friendliness of the concierge staff to the careful replication of the original cornicing and the innovative warmth of the styling, it felt like it could be home.

And best of all? Whilst still blowing most of prime London comparables, they come in at about half the price of One Hyde Park.

It’s not often I believe the hype that one development can upgrade a slightly down at heel area, but I did get that feel here.

On departure we receive the goodie bag. Overlooking the bon-bons, pad and pencils (a sweetly branded theme), I inspect the promised brochure for detailed information. It amounts to one paragraph on concierge services and two floor-plans. Great.

On balance, no I don’t think these Lancasters are going to bomb, the developers Northacre are to be congratulated on producing a classy, desirable place to live and not just an icy trophy pad.

To be perfectly honest, I think my clients and I would be quite happy nesting in this gilded cage.

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Another day, another thirty million quid apartment.

A cocktail party for the launch of a London apartment. A golden ticket that I am thrilled to get my hands on. At £6000 per square foot, these apartments are going for at least three times the amount of their close neighbours and the hype and paranoid secrecy surrounding them is intoxicating. I’m on a mission. How is a flat in what looks like an office block  worth thirty million quid? I shall be mentally cost calculating all the extra special bits trying to work this out.

But first, what to wear? It’s got to be fab. I will be mixing with the exotica of Europe. Out comes the little black dress, a tad too much decolletage but nothing ventured. Bugger, every pair of tights has holes in the toes. Pashmina, black and beaded.

Then the shoes, Oh yes, this is definitely best shoe time. Stratospheric Mui Mui’s with a splash of gold.

I’m early, so make myself comfy at the Wild Bean cafe in Shepherds Bush to avoid paying Boris his eight quid. A quick tuna sandwich and a lucozade to keep me sprightly, then off to stand on a street corner to await my Inviter.

Down an alley to the back entrance where there are lots of very serious PR blondes with clip-boards checking names. The most officious Annabel leads us through a makeshift builders tunnel to the lift.  We are joined by a couple of Eastern Europeans and ascend. We have to wait in the common area before being ushered down very wide corridors to the apartment. More Annabels and horror of horrors lines of white towelling hotel slippers. Oh God. Cocktail dress, decolletage and slippers. I am not the only one looking horrified, a crowd of the richest people in Europe being removed of their Loubotins and Gucci’s are singularly unamused. However, they have the benefit of a few more inches than me. I have shrunk to midget proportions. All thoughts of networking with the great and rich disappear with my heels.

So we are ushered inside where it’s dark and glittery. Champagne is handed out by a pretty French boy. They are non-crystal flutes and frankly the canapes are rubbish. Hmm, very non-£30m.

Oh God, here comes the sales guy. ‘Hello, I’m Lucien from Frank Savills,  (or something like that).

Lucien whisks us down the wide hallway to the reception room, definitely not a lounge. He is keen to get us to the wow factor fast. A wall of glass overlooking a park, very nice, worth a few quid that view. Seen the furnishings before, a lot. It’s all dark taupes and gunmetals.. velvets and satins. Looks like some Chelsea housewife walked into Peter Jones and asked for anything expensive.

The usual Tom Ford coffee table book and fine art catalogues, yawn. Silk rugs on dark oak stained flooring. Fabric walls and hammered nickel panels.

We are led back down the hall, nickel door furniture is pointed out several times. What does that cost? Hundred quid a pop? Fabric on the walls with large panels of beaten bronze with lovely patina. Very Jason King of  Department ‘S’..

Onto the master suite, well not really a suite. Just a bedroom really, not much bigger than mine and yours. Usual satin and fur bed but at least we’ve been spared the artfully placed silk undies.. Usual telly set into the wall. Silk carpeting, almost black. I can tell it’s silk through the toe holes in my tights.

Lucien points to the ceiling. It’s chilled he says, I maintain a straight face. ‘Cold air circulates above providing sound-proofing and a cooling environment’. I’m on it like a whippet…. ‘So,  is sound-proofing a problem?’ A ten minute rebuttal ensues.

The en-suite is arrived at through a bank of wardrobes. Leather clad and padded like Wimpy banquettes. The bathroom is red Tuscan marble, loads of it. The sink is carved from a whole chunk. The shower has a rain shower thingy.

Molton Brown – that’s a surprise, how very John Lewis. I was expecting extract of some rare rainforest orchid at the very least.

Walls again – polished plaster, I’m told. That’s polished cement to you and me. Lots of hammered nickel panels set onto fabric backdrops, yadda,yadda.

Second bedroom, same size as the master- what’s that about? The ‘Master’ pays £30m and his eldest son gets a bedroom the same  size to play his gold-plated X-box in.

The third bedroom, narrow, God it’s narrow, is dressed as a study- put a bed in it and you’d  really have to suck in that stomach to squeeze past the foot of the bed. A cheap trick more akin to Ann Maurice or a Barratt starter home.

4th bedroom Narrow again- this time dressed as a cinema room.. black velvet sofas against the wall facing the predictable telly. Backgammon & Mahjong sets on the crocodile skin coffee table gives that Las Vegas feel, or so someone thinks.

Still struggling to find bits to add up to £30m. The Picasso in the loo would have helped but I suspect they won’t forget to take it. Let’s try the kitchen.

Oh… The off-white glossy Bulthaup kitchen, Gaggenau appliances and chandelier are wholly typical, I mention that I was expecting a bit more.. ‘But’ says ‘Lucien, ‘If you have a dinner party Heston’s team will come and cook for you’… ‘What, for free?’ I ask.  Silly question.

I go for the hard questions… ‘How many have you sold?’ ‘50%’ he says.  ‘What? Even at the front where the bendy bus drivers wave back and Eastenders is drowned out by the honking?  ‘Yes’ he says, colouring slightly.

What’s the service charge? .. ‘Umm, that is to be decided’.

‘So, come on Lucien, you’re not really getting six grand a foot are you? – you can tell me’. There is squirming. Perhaps it wasn’t ‘Frank’  Savills.

So, let’s go back a couple of weeks to an apartment I saw in the next door block. Same sort of bling,  same view, Elton Johns piano. £1800 per square foot. Bottom line, a third of the price. Quite clearly, for some reason that defeats me, it wasn’t as sweet as Candy.

…. all fur coat and no knickers. A Penthouse fit for who?

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I often have to try and wheedle out off-market properties for my clients looking for something a bit special.These properties are not be in found in the usual places. Tesco’s/Haarts, in these cases, don’t deliver. The people in the know for these properties rarely have any property background, they tend to fall into the ‘I know a bloke’ category. As such, the leads can sometimes lean towards spurious.

A current client is looking for a classy central London pad, he has quite a bit of cash to splash, well, to be honest, a heck of a lot. I want the right address and I want it downright classy.

I received a well timed call from a contact whose profession is best described as ‘let me know if you want something.. anything’.

” ‘Ere Trace” is the opener .. ”got anyone who wants a stunning penthouse in that posh new place, Building X?” .. ”bloke needs to sell, so it’s a steal at £22m”

If there are two things assured to get my attention, they are ‘bloke needs to sell’  and anything in Building X. They just do not come up and certainly not at ‘deal’ pricing. The use of ‘stunning’ for the thousandth time this week, I ignore.

The viewing takes a bit of organising. Apparently there will be a few ‘representatives’ looking on behalf of VIP bosses and I can tag along.  I am told I have to pretend I am a secretary-my contact feels this brings me respectability.

I meet my client in building X.  ‘Swish’, doesn’t do it justice. The concierges are Armani clad,  the water feature atrium won a prize at Chelsea and a Man United footballer wandered past and smiled.  The building is all I expected and if the price is what they say, I am convinced my client will jump at it. The day is going well.

We sit and wait for the contact .. and wait. Calls are made, seems we are awaiting third contact flying in with the keys. Eventually two blacked-out Mercs.  glide to a stop outside. Four burly men in shades pour themselves out. One at least has a suspicious bulge under his armpit. Their rubber-soled shoes more for quick getaways than fashion I suspect.

Introductions made, only first names of course, then ‘Follow me’, says the lead ‘heavy’ and we leave Building X and cross the road. We head towards a manky Mansion block. A steel gate covers the entrance courtyard and after a bit of railing rattling and bell ringing, we gain access to the central courtyard. We brush past the skips, and up the steps into the chip papered ‘common areas’. In relation to expectations, never has that description been more apt.

The three man lift was not designed for me and two hairy mammoths but we ascend directly into the penthouse.

Much kerfuffle as we are made to remove shoes and place blue plastic bags on our feet. Those rubber soles not much use now I think as the heavies grunt & winge. At least one has odd socks.

I am struck by how tall the windows are and how high the ceilings are. Hang on, something’s not right. The ceiling is glossy black lacquered panels – the windows are reflected to double size. The ceilings are low- creative interior design, hmm.

Colour scheme discussions will be short, the floor is black. The curtains are black. The dining table is black. The soft furnishings, umm, black. Accents of ‘colour’ are restricted to silver curtains and Swarovski knobs.

This is a big, big place. The dining table will seat 30. The bar area with Swarovski inset into the granite has a dozen ostrich skin bar stools. The cinema room is, how can I put it, a cinema.

We all know about dressing homes for sale but this one takes it to the next level. Aside from the Tom Ford coffee table book (black), the Christies Impressionist Auction catalogue and the biggest piece of Lalique I have ever seen, pride of place is given over to a Grand Piano. Slightly worn around the edges it sits a little incongruously in this shiny, sparkling, perfect environment.Then I spot the provenance discreetly engraved on a brass plate ..’owned by Elton John’

God, I’m looking forward to the Master bedroom. It delivers. An oasis of white and the carpet as tested by toes through my plastic bags, is silk. The bedspread is white.. mink.  Now, I am used to seeing tea trays on beds with cup, saucer and plastic flower, this had something a little different. Laid out across the bed, La Perla bra, G string and white stockings. Size zero by rough estimate. I have to confess, a titter did come out and it was audible. I was shot a glance my lead Heavy, which put me firmly back into my secretarial box.

I rattle through the rest of the place including the six bedrooms. SIX bedrooms? ‘Who wants six bedrooms and one reception room?’. I whisper to my contact. A man of the world, he looks at me knowingly and just shakes his head.

We all gather back at the bar and the inevitable ‘Whatcha think?’ question is asked by the key holder. A shiny-suited chap for whom ‘Man at C & A’ would be a sartorial compliment.

‘Bloody fantastic’ says one of the Heavies.

‘Lovely’ I say.

It’s not.  It’s vile. Completely vile.  I cannot imagine who would want it. Well, maybe I can.

The chap with the odd socks is in the corner on his mobile, it sparkles. Clearly a Selfridges Wonder Room purchase.

‘Hey, John’,  he says. ‘How long will it take you to get ‘ere from Cobham?’

Authors disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any real person, any real property, or any real taste is wholly coincidental.