Idle Eye 178 : The Star Chamber

I live in a capital city – just. Every day, millions of us come into it and then go back out. It is monstrously expensive to do so, but we shell out accordingly because we don’t have any choice. And now that the oligarchs and speculative investors have snaffled every last inner city refuge and priced us out of the neighbourhoods we once made cool, we have to work longer hours and travel in from further afield. Gruelling stuff, which is why the bars and pubs are filled to bursting pretty much every evening. For one obliterating swill before the brutal commute home. I’d like you to think about that last sentence for a bit.

Ever found yourselves caught short on a station platform? Come on, be honest, we’ve all been there. Usually synonymous with the discovery that not only is the small room closed, but also impenetrably locked (with no available personnel to aid you in your moment of distress) by a star key. Quite why this is the case is anyone’s guess: perhaps they presume all pissed-up wage slaves carry a plethora of skeleton masters, specifically designed to outwit the Yale/Chubb defaults. Or that in the hub of desperation, we might consider a mad dash to the streets above, locate the nearest shoe repair-cum-locksmith and have one forged in situ. Ergo, we must be punished; for we are all essentially untrustworthy.

Let us rewind a tad: imagine, for one second, that by an astonishing feat of Houdini-esque proportion, we managed to gain access to one of these mythical star chambers. Tall order, I know. But what’s in there that they feel the need to protect so robustly? Last time I looked (back in the days when Percy policing was just a glint in the network eye), there were two or three encrusted urinals from the 1980s, an amplified bomb bay with the latch hanging off, and one cracked sink with a push-down tap set to riot control. Not exactly Hatton Garden, is it? And why do the lightweight morning crowd get a free run? A few skinny lattes before work has never once broken the seal of even the weakest bladder, and yet these bastards can stroll on in without so much as a by your leave. Sadly, necessity is not the mother of invention when it comes to a sprinkle: we’ll do or pay whatever it takes to get it out into the open. And if that means coughing up 60p at the turnstiles instead of doing a Fosbury Flop over the top of them, then so be it; needs must.

Southern/South-Eastern Trains etc, you’re missing a trick here. Fling the chamber doors wide open to all, but charge us through the nose like you usually do. We don’t care, really we don’t. And if you drop the price of your shitty coffees, you’ll really clean up. Unlike your bloody janitors…

Idle Eye 150 : The Lure of the Land

Buying the freehold of a property is usually one of those below the waterline affairs, a bit like getting the drains done or lancing the cat’s boils: You sort of know it’s the right thing to do, but there’s scant instant gratification and invariably you come away wondering why you bothered. It does seem frightfully grown-up, and when you mention it to grown-ups who’ve already done it, they all go to that grown-up place where grown-ups go when they’ve grown up and start throwing stuff at you about longevity of leases and the like. Which only serves to confuse you further and makes you wish you’d blown it all on wine gums.

Pretty much anything to do with real estate is breathtakingly dull. From the fatuous language employed by conveyancing lawyers to justify their staggering fees, to the endless bureaucratic leeches waiting in line for their share of the silver, everything is precision-tailored to bore the crap out of you and grind you into acquiescence. Even the figures bandied about at point of sale are so completely beyond your frame of reference, you find yourself internally knocking off a few noughts in order to make sense of them:

Lawyer:   Thanks for coming in. Just to clarify – We have prepared and lodged a memorandum of transfer, checked for easements against existing title certificate, conducted relevant authority and chancel repair searches, discussed buildings insurance liabilities with current landlord, checked official copies and covenants relating to ongoing maintenance of common parts, and some other shit you wouldn’t understand. If all the above is in order, we suggest a sum in advance of £500,000 would be appropriate for services rendered to date. Help yourself to a Freddo Frog on the way out.

See? I mean, how do you respond? By the time you’ve worked out what the first half means to you the layman, the suggested sum will have effectively doubled. Bizarrely, by taking the initial hit you’re quids in. Which is why these SOBs remain gainfully employed and are always on holiday in the week of completion, whilst you are frantically checking the Land Registry for any long-forgotten relatives who may or may not own bits of Norfolk currently in tender to developers.

With the above in mind, I’ve been doing a bit of developing as well, and I don’t mean pictures. What if, in the vein of that bloke Dave who set up his own bank, Idle Eye breaks the mould with a no-nonsense, one-stop shop for people who want to buy stuff without all that suffocating obfuscation? Hear me out:

You:  I’d like to buy this, please.

Me:  Of course! It costs £x

You:  You have been most helpful. Here’s a cheque.

Me:  Thank you. I shall bank it forthwith. Enjoy your purchase.

It’s not hard. Really, it isn’t. And who knows, it might even catch on. After all, there’s an election coming up.