A few months ago, I was scared and nervous about the Big Move(tm). After all, it meant a change of job, a change of country, a complete lifestyle overhaul - and all of this is not good. But it brought with it opportunity, excitement, and an escape from the increasingly toxic environment where I had found myself working. As ever, the reality proved smooth and straightforward, and I am now four weeks in to regular commuting between here and there with no ill effects except two days a week of feeling dislocated and jet lagged.
One of the features of Big Move(tm) has been living with my parents again. This is how living with my parents goes.
- I get up in the morning, shower and shave, leave the house, check my e-mail, get dressed, go downstairs, brush my teeth, have breakfast. Not in that order. Sometimes I'll see my mum, sometimes I won't. This morning, she worried that I would be late for work. I wasn't.
- I take a bus in to work. It takes about 20 minutes, and I've got enough in the way of podcasts and audio books to keep me going and keep me awake so I don't fall asleep and end up in Glasgow. Then I do a full day's work.
- I call up a solicitor and arrange a viewing for a property or two. I trudge around the properties and get another bus home.
- I have dinner with my parents, and we then do whatever it is we're doing that evening. Often it's simply watching television. Last night we played cards. Wine was involved. I call Mr Twinky to hear him purr and thereby assuage any feelings of homesickness.
- I go to bed, fall asleep, check my e-mail and brush my teeth. Again, not in that order.
This is all very pleasant, actually. So, obviously it has to change.
I have stopped traipsing around other people's houses, and in about six weeks I will move in to one of them.
Once upon a time, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a simple story of a boy, a girl, some swords, some explicit passages and a bit with a dog.
I had lunch today with an old friend. I can't help thinking of Jane Horrocks as I write that. An old friend, implying that it's the friend that's old rather than the friendship. The friendship is over twenty years old. We had an hour together, and we chatted away as though no time had passed since our last meeting. We parted committed to seeing each other again soon - and regularly if I have my way.
We talked mainly - as we always have done - about swords and stories. This was, naturally, interspersed with catching up with news about each others families and so on, but mainly it was swords and stories. He's got a wonderfully infectious way about him - his enthusiasm for writing is as great as it was when we were in our teens, but he's got the advantage of having written two novels, and had one of them published. We talked about my last semi-aborted effort, and thrashed out some of my issues about how to take the plot forward. He's bursting with ideas, and frankly I think that's great.
I talked about my plans - my great scheme for writing more, the scheme that part of me doesn't see happening. I came away filled with thoughts and directions to go in, and I guess that's what I need sometimes. I need to be prodded with swords and stories.
There is a secret war going on in the streets of Scotland.
This isn't the obvious war, the one between the evil forces of roadworks and the evil forces of trying to get from a to b in a bus. This is a war for the hearts and minds of the Scottish people. A war that, perhaps can never be won. This is the secret war between estate agents and their mortal enemies - solicitors.
On the one hand, estate agents will sell your property for you. They'll do you a glossy brochure, and they will hire an attractive young philosophy post-grad to go and stand in it for a couple of hours on demand, louching against the split level grill and twiddling the knobs on the combi until the numbering wears off. You can have an interesting conversation with these people, like "the carpets aren't really my taste", or "how much do you think it's going to sell for" or "it's a bit handy for the knocking shop, isn't it?". On the other hand, they don't know who cleans the communal stairs or when the recycling day is or how long ago the roof was replaced. Estate agents are great if you're trying to sell a property that you don't live in, particularly if you live a long way away from it.
In the other corner, however, are the cut price cousins. Solicitors. Solicitors will tell you that you don't need an estate agent, because they are the spawn of the devil. They'll undercut their costs, and they won't send out a hot rugby player to stand in the property and do things with knobs like an estate agent will - you're expected to provide that service yourself. It changes the conversations you have. "Have you enjoyed living here?" or "What are the neighbours like" or "Is the knocking shop any good?". In general, they don't have anything like the numbers of staff behind them that the estate agents do, and they handle fewer properties.
However, solicitors have struck upon a genius plan, and seem to be winning the war at the moment. By joining forces, they present a united front - in Edinburgh this is called "ESPC", which stands for something. Like a cat, ESPC lets solicitors get their hackles up and look really big. They've got a shop and a website and a magazine and to be honest you could be forgiven for thinking that they're the only place to buy property from in Edinburgh.
But they're not.
And bizarrely, this makes estate agents the bloated underdogs, waddling slowly, lumbered with high costs and fees, and a lower visibility, fading into the shadow of solicitors with their fancy wigs and quills and stuff. I almost feel sorry for them.