Thursday 13 Feb: 12:05pm - Jet back in to London suntanned and in breezy, post-vacation mood. Drop off bags at West Hampstead abode, don my gilet (in desperate belief this makes me look more Home Counties and, as such, will be taken extra seriously by estate agents) and make straight for my target buying area of up-and-coming Kensal Rise, NW10. My plan is to start close by the station and work south along the main artery, Chamberlayne Road, hitting up every agency I pass. I switch iPhone playlist from jolie-laid Morrissey to headier Best Of Springsteen and decide this will be the moment, my breakthrough day, where I find myself a new home.
Thursday 13 Feb: 12:43pm - On arrival at Kensal Green overground my much younger girlfriend (MYG) texts me a weblink to a pseudo-enlightening Telegraph piece. According to the article, Chamberlayne Road is now the "Hippest Street in Europe". Just what is it about this neighbourhood that attracts A-listers such as Jade Jagger and Daniel Craig to live there? demands the cloying headline. Look up, beats me. Read on and step in dog shit outside the Tesco Metro. "ARGH! Hippest fucking street in Europe!" I rage out loud. Two startled schoolchildren dash into supermarket.
Thursday 13 Feb: 12:57pm - Begin registering. Like most sought after areas of London, Kensal Rise has a mix of chained and neighbourhood agencies. I soon spot other snoopy house hunters. Don't these bastards have jobs to go to? I ponder. I suppose they must think exactly the same about me...
Thursday 13 Feb: 1:40pm - Enter my fourth or fifth property place. No one seems to have anything in my price range. (Up to £350k for a one-bedroom flat.) "They're gone as soon as they come on!" shrills one pretty agent with fist-sized eyelashes. I compliment her blingy Rolex. "Ah, Thanks!" she squeals. It is chastening how well these guys are doing in this booming sellers' market.
Thursday 13 Feb: 2:42pm - More agencies. More registering. Zero joy. I'm distracted and earwig on a broad-shouldered 30-something who followed me in to a shabby brown office. I overhear the chap chirpily introduce himself with entreaties:"Hi mate! I'm after a one-bedder off Chamberlayne Road. I've got three-hundred-and-fifty-grand to spend. Ideally not above a shop!" Incredibly, I uttered this exact line - verbatim - no less than a minute before he strolled in. It's clear house hunting is making shit automatons of us all.
Thursday 13 Feb: 3:39pm - The wretched search goes on. I have this growing desire to rush home and shower after each fruitless exchange. (And then power-cry.) Even without any relevant properties on offer each agent encourages me to sign up to their "Internet alerts". I fill in countless photocopied sheets of A4. Title, Name, Current Address, E-mail, Daytime contact number, Evening contact number.... Wonderful; a lifetime of unblockable spam and aggravating texts to look forward to.
Thursday 13 Feb: 4:21pm - Patience now depleted, I decide that this drafty, strobe lit agency will be my final stop-off of the day. I'm flustered and distracted. I glance above the receptionist's desk semi-expecting a sign reading: Abandon hope all ye who enter here. Portly chap with tight shirt and sweat patches - dressed for a footballers' awards dinner like almost every agent I've met today - shows me a photo of a nearby ex-local authority flat. Laminated floors and a paltry living area with the zing and personality of a Scandinavian prison cell; the sort of place that loon Breivik now calls home. (Price: £339,950; bienvenue à Kensal Rise!) "Could you see yourself living here?" football awards attendee gently prods. "No," exasperated, I put my head in my hands. "But I could see myself dying there."
Thursday 13 Feb: 4:36pm - Agent attempts to coax me with another set of photos (of an equally rip off unit) but my truculence persists. The mood changes. "Don't want to be rude, mate," attendee smirks. "But you'll never buy in Kensal with your budget. One bedroom places are selling for half a million now. Take it from me, you ain't got a hope!" I feel crushed and make to leave. But the lousy exchange gives me an idea for a joke for stand-up. I ask to borrow a pen and jot down "OBNOXIOUS ROTUND ESTATE AGENT + RHYMING SLANG BINGO = FLAT HUNT".
Friday 14 Feb, 09:56am - Valentine's Day. As is customary, I rifle through the mailbox first thing to see if anyone has posted desirous confessions to me. Zilch. If my mental arithmetic serves me correctly, this is the 25th straight year without a love letter. A grim, silver anniversary milestone. I go to log on to check if Right Move or Zoopla have been updated their online stock overnight. And here, unnoticed in my junkbox folder, sits this little beauty!
Just for a moment the soppy hearts a gogo and promises (albeit of something as unromantic as guaranteeing a house sale in one week) crack my cynical shell. Flat hunting, I decide, as I screengrab the ad and promptly delete it forever, has got me by the balls.
Friday 14th Feb: 2:50pm - Spend first part of afternoon at close pal's grandmother's funeral. At wake my buddy's dad - the son of the deceased - who I know well politely asks how my search for a place to live is going. "Oh, I'd prefer to be kicked in the gonads!" I hit back, instinctively. But too loud. Elderly, black-clad bystanders stop talking and glower at me. I misguidedly quip to fill the silence: "And...not in a good way."
Friday 14 Feb, 8:50pm - Comedy gig downstairs at grotty north London boozer. Try out Estate Agents Rhyming Slang Bingo joke. This involves me telling the pretty unlolzy crowd a hapless gag about an embellished, overweight and nasty house selling character and getting them to guess the rhyming slang translation when I say: "BLIMEY, WHAT A FLAT HUNT!"
Friday 14 Feb, 8:53pm - Walk off stage (early), semi-ashamed. Joke is both completely the wrong tone and entirely unworkable. Call MYG and tell her how crap it all went. "You should've taken me out instead then," she counters, unsympathetically.
Friday 14 Feb, 11:18pm - Arrive home in black mood. Hear flatmate entertaining in lounge upstairs. I hide in my room and wait for guest(s) to leave. Lie on bed with smartphone, Facebook and existential angst. In truth I am steeling myself; I have four flat viewings arranged for the next day.
Friday 14 Feb, 11:40pm - Hear male and female voices in the corridor outside my bedroom. There are kisses, apologies and farewells as the front door groans shut. Housemate enters my room, she looks displeased: "I need you out," she says, calmly. "I can't have sex with you in this flat. The walls are too thin. You'll hear. It's disgusting." I look at her shocked and she retreats to her room. Further proof, as if proof were needed; my flathunting is crap for everyone's sex life....