Thursday, 30th Jan: 4.26pm - Punch in rightmove.co.uk after strained chat about grandma's inheritance AKA my possible deposit. The flat hunt has begun after mother assures me I am in line for "a few thousand pounds" once probate is settled and late relative's house is sold. Forcibly suppress any emotional connection to granny's old maisonette and the beautiful times had there. Without death cash, buying impossible. And this is no time for sentimentalism.
Thursday, 30th Jan: 4:31pm - Opt for Prime Location website and scroll through their One Bedroom For Sale list. I sip rank coffee and think back on five torturous years scrimping to raise a deposit. Every month squirreling away cash; sometimes over a grand, more often a token £50. Combined with the sale of two dead grandparents' properties, I've got a near enough 100k deposit to blow. An eye-watering sum to my mind. Plus even better - thanks to my pitbull-esque mortgage advisors - I am assured this in turn affords me a whopping £350,000 purchase price. This has to bag me something sexy, I believe.
Thursday, 30th Jan: 4:33pm - Add two sugars to my brew and continue to click on near endless virtual floorplans and uploaded bathroom snaps. Involuntarily I blanch at my decade of renting, tens of thousands of pounds of hard earned wages pumped into solvent landlords' accounts. But now I'm ready to buy. I'm careering towards middle age and (slowwwly) growing up. Just in time for an explosion in property prices across the capital. Joy.
Thursday, 30th Jan: 4:40pm - Switch to Zoopla. All the latest one-bedders stack neatly in the centre of screen. There are plenty in and around around my west London target area; Kensal Rise, Harlesden, the dodgy end of Queen's Park. Pricey, yes. Exorbitant? No.
Thursday, 30th Jan: 4:45pm - Contact estate agency about lovely looking apartment (sexy-as-hell roof terrace) above converted pub with an ideal NW6 postcode; an up-and-coming tranch of north west London in striking distance to the West End. It is comfortably within budget. We arrange that I'll head over to the open day that weekend. I find myself joshing with my agent and genuinely liking him. I ring off smiling. Friends and colleagues tell me the market is nightmarish and getting on the ladder is next to impossible right now. I can't believe it. By chance Our House by Madness comes on radio. I sing along.
Saturday, 1st Feb: 11:30am - Bound into flat. Chipper mood vaporises. It is crawling with people. Depressed looking 30-somethings cluster together, none of whom have taken off coats or scarves. Everyone whispers conspiratorially. It feels like I'm thrust in to the shittest speed dating event in history. Overwhelmed looking estate agent (creased shirt, bad hair) grins that there are over 70 people on The List; named househunters who have come to eye up the property that day. He looks me up and down and asks my name. He scrolls down A4 sheet; I am not on The List. "This is a record!" he crows. Middle-aged American woman behind me pipes up: "There was more than this at a place I saw last week in Camberwell!" I cringe.
Saturday, 1st Feb: 11:34am - I have no real idea of what I'm supposed to be doing so opt to mirror other people's behaviour. I like the buzzy pictures hung up and a trendy yellow uplight in the corner of the living room. I wonder if I can convince the owners to leave those here. It is pokey but doesn't lack charm. Yes, I'll take it, I think. A fresh body of potential buyers have now entered. They giggle nervously and finger light switches and walls. More people walking up the stairs to inspect as I exit. And a further group outside hissing into mobile phones. It crosses my mind to tell them the flat has now gone but I bottle it. God, I wish they'd all just fuck off.
Saturday, 1st Feb: 12:10pm - Call estate agency. I have no idea what to say or how to play it so tell him what I imagine he'll want to hear. "I'm not in the mood to mess around; I'll take it at asking price." I snort. I can't be sure but I think he suppressed a guffaw. He tells me to come to a second viewing on Wednesday. And I agree.
Monday, 3rd Feb: 11.59am - Pop into estate agency and take my man next door to Costa. Over latte and hot chocolate (£4-something; I pay) I try and sound him out about my chances of landing the flat. He calmly outlines the position to me; there is a shedload of interest in this place and it is likely to go above cost price of £325k. Potentially way above. I'm going to need a miracle to land it, I fear. I detect sympathy in his voice and eyes. This depresses me as we depart shaking hands. I slouch off up West Hampstead High Street wondering if I can invoice him for those drinks if I don't get the flat.
Monday, 3rd Feb: 5.57pm - Arrive early having brought mother for this second viewing. Or as the hordes of grim looking city types call it; a first viewing. Demand is such that one grotesquely busy and deeply unpleasant open day has not been enough. The agent has not arrived so our hapless group loiters outside. Passive aggressive mono-syllables are exchanged within the courtyard. Most people feign politeness. Some look depressed, despondent even. Mother checks e-mails on her iPhone.
Monday, 3rd Feb: 6.09pm - Still no agent. I can feel my rage build. I wonder if this is the perfect 21st-Century microcosm; low-to-medium income earners without a pot to piss in (literally in some of our cases) pitted against the same for an overpriced, boxy unit in Zone 2 we'll spend the rest of our lives paying off. I suppress this rising political diatribe. It really can't help.
Monday, 3rd Feb: 6.17pm - STILL NO AGENT! The crowd continues to swell. Everyone else is far better dressed than me. Management consultant-type twats with outsized cuffs and winkle pickers. I'm sure I spot red braces on another man. They all must earn way more than I do. Any of these chumps could outbid me with ease. This whole experience is a sucker punch to my self-esteem. Though I can't help but think this awfulness is comedy dynamite; I could do whole stand-up sets on this stuff. And it would be hilarious... if it wasn't so fucking depressing.
Monday, 3rd Feb: 6:20pm - Agent finally arrives. (No apologies.) The gaggle stirs and we are led in. Mother and I are first through the doors; a tiny victory. I show the woman who brought me into this world the flat that I would soon like to call home. Several of us jostle for position in the lounge and I shoulder barge a man in pinstripes. My attempts at convincing my mum that this is the property for me are undermined by fellow hunters and huntresses testing water pressure on taps and loudly demanding to know about service charges.
Monday, 3rd Feb: 6:23pm - More lookers arrive! I can feel veins in my temples throb. I panic and wonder if I am about to seizure for the first time. I opt for more unreconstructed tactics and calmly let one off in the kitchen then audibly complain that there "might be a drainage problem in the block". Frustratingly no one seems put off by my flatulence. I find out the couple who own the place are looking for a quick sale as they have broken up. This cheers me up, somewhat. Schadenfreude's a bitch but it's all I've got.
Monday, 3rd Feb: 6:27pm - I feel embarrassed to have bought mother though she seems to be genuinely enjoying herself. She would, she doesn't have to buy anywhere. On exiting I inform her I will be putting a bid in for £20,000 above asking price. Her pupils visibly dilate but instinctively she offers words of support. It will be going to sealed bids, I tell her. And I'm sure she winces...Suggest a correction