Breaking The Bank

I was reading a local discussion group on an interwebs platform recently. I live in a little village at the base of the North Downs, it’s even in an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Having said that the village has an history of being for the working classes. There used to be a brickworks at the river and this village housed the labour for that business. As far as I know the bricks for Buckingham Palace, or some of it, came from the Burham Brickworks. The brickmakers have gone. All that remains is the wharf and a few foundations, there’s an old railway route that went to the quarry, other than that the villages here are the legacy.

The discussion group had an image of a four bedroomed detached house for sale in the village. It was on the market for slightly over £400,000. This already seemed over the top to me but the very next comment was:

Shame you couldn’t get more for it.

This made the left-wing me want to spout. This country has a problem with social engineering over the last forty years which insists that owning a house is good and everyone’s aim. The population has also been conned by the media into thinking that rising house prices mean wealth and that any increase is a good increase.

[I am writing this before Brexit. I suspect the whole shebang is going to hell in a hand cart post-Brexit. This country is on the verge of collapse at the moment. Financially. Socially. Politically. Environmentally. I honestly fear what next year will bring. We already know mental health issues are on the rise because of the Brexit concerns in this country. What hope?]

Let me write that number again. £400,000. For a house with no large garden. A house with four bedrooms. In a less than desirable village underneath the flightpath for a small airfield. I was and am still shocked. To afford this house you probably need to be earning more than £80,000. Maybe I’m in the wrong employment sector. I’m not sure how I personally judge what is over-priced. I don’t want a four bedroomed house. I can’t afford to move. Perhaps this is personally motivated reasoning that just because I am unable to move I feel annoyed. Maybe I’m biased? I’m not sure where this communication is going.

What’s surprising to me right now is I’m looking at the £400,000 and thinking maybe that’s not so bad. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe houses are worth that? Maybe my own prejudices are affecting my thinking. Maybe only people earning loads of fucking money should be able to buy a medium sized house? This is what the media and society have done over the years. They have normalised extreme house prices. They have affected how the population think. They have made all manner of societal expectations normal.

Here’s the thing. If children grow up in an area and then go to get jobs that are available locally shouldn’t they be able to afford a house in that area? Is this privileged thinking? I don’t know. Two bedroom terraced houses in the village are “worth” around £230,000. Nearly a quarter of a million pounds for a little house. With just two bedrooms. What? At a time when wages aren’t rising [many having gone down in real terms over the last ten years] this seems ridiculous. You need to earn £40,000 to afford even a two up two down house in this village. If you work in retail you aren’t going to be earning that. This market system is bollocks.

Now, if you consider the sell-off of council stock to private organisations this means there are very few affordable places for people to live if they are on a lower wage. They are then at the mercy of the buy-to-let market where landlords have all the protections because this country is full of Tory assholes. This country has been brainwashed over the years and we’ve all been turned into selfish empathy-lacking wankers.

Smoke Signals

Driving home from a reasonably unsuccessful shopping session yesterday I saw smoke. While the shopping did not result in me buying anything I did gather information on what particular design of product I would like so more successful than unsuccessful but not a success. I chose to take the “country” route home which means coming off the motorway a junction early and using the new bridge. This is not a shorter route and nor is it quicker. When I was young we would have called this “one of mum’s shortcuts” which obviously weren’t. But, there is a wonderful corner. It’s a blind, off camber, over the crest corner. If you don’t know it’s there you won’t make it. It feels great to drive it although I would prefer a car with a more positive accelerator feedback system. In the diagram below you can see the bridge under construction [A], the corner [B] and the best direction of travel [C].

The Corner
The Corner

There have been accidents here. The press have come out to take photos. But there are signs and you should drive sensibly. If you don’t know the road it will probably surprise you. If you know the road and come off then tough shit I guess, I just hope you don’t hurt anyone.

Before we had taken the corner I noticed smoke above the village and I tried to use some parallax measures to work out if it was from houses or the quarry just before the conurbation. It was definitely in the area of the houses. My next thought was I hope it’s not in Belgrave St because they won’t get a fire engine down there. It’s a Victorian street with just enough room for parking on both sides and a car’s worth of gap down the middle. Anything larger than a car won’t fit. I’d hate to live down there, emergency access would constantly bother me. I’d also have way more fire alarms than I currently do.

I think I’m probably a little paranoid about fire and escaping the house. I never lock the locks in windows. I keep keys on hangers by the door and even brief visitors about where these things are kept. I have plenty of fire alarms. Whenever I am in a new building I scan for emergency routes out. I honestly do count the rows to emergency exits on planes, forwards and backwards. I want to know how to get out.

Driving down the straight towards my village and it becomes apparent that the smoke is coming from roughly near my house. Given my predisposition to worry about fire I worried about the fire. I have an in-my-head scenario of driving home one day and seeing my house burning or just gone. As I turned down my street I could see people out wandering around trying to see what was happening and then a fire engine turned in behind me. I could see smoke rising from behind the terrace and realised it was a garden fire. I just hoped it didn’t spread to the houses. I sped up down the street so the fire engine could get in position.

The fire turned out to be a shed and some fencing that was burning furiously. The smoke was drifting past the back of my house. After parking I went in and looked out of the window at the back of the house. I could see firemen fighting the fire. I wandered down the street to look at the fire engine and see if more man-power was needed. A brief chat with the man operating the pump and then back to my house.

This morning there is ash in the garden slowly being washed away by the rain.

The best thing about this is that no-one was hurt.

This was the second fire in the gardens along this street. It was the first I hadn’t helped fight. It was the first during the day time. I’ll maybe write about the very first another time.

Places I have lived

And why not have a list of places I have lived? This whole site is about me keeping moans and groans and the highs of my life in a “secure” place for the world (and eventually my sons) to see. So much for diaries being locked and kept under the bed. Nowadays we like to let the world know what we are thinking and what we know.

I consider that I have lived somewhere if I have unpacked the stereo and wired it up.

Rosedene Flats, Leaden Roding, Essex (no longer exist) (too young for stereo)
Wagon Mead, Hatfield Heath, Essex (too young for stereo)
Broomfields, Hatfield Heath, Essex
Falmouth Keogh Hall, Southside, Imperial College, London (no longer exists)
20 Winchenden Road, Fulham, London
Ongar Road, West Brompton, London
Falmouth Keogh Hall, Southside, Imperial College, London (no longer exists)
Daver Court, Mount Avenue, Ealing, London
Chicago Avenue, Gillingham, Kent
Leonard Way, Brentwood, Essex
Wakeley Road, Rainham, Kent
Edna Road, Ringlestone, Kent
Eccles, Kent

There we are. Not bad going I reckon. I also think that there will only be two more places on this list.