The line of beauty

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Since moving to Kew Gardens last year, a fair portion of my life has been spent on the rattly, elegant and idiosyncratic District line. Here is my love letter to- in my opinion – the best of all the London Underground railways.

Firstly, the District line is most definitely a railway, rather than a tube. Most of the time it’s actually above the ground, and even when it does as its name commands and goes under, it’s barely below the surface of the Earth.

The trains are tall with high ceilings. In the older trains on the network, the seats are arranged in a baffling orientation. In the centre of the carriage, a cluster of eight are positioned as if passengers were sat around a picnic bench. This leaves space for just one solitary seat before the doors. A seat that is encased in two walls of clear plastic, giving its inhabitant the overall impression of being sat in a fish tank.

The stations along the route vary from the grubby gloom of Mansion House to the graceful arches of Gloucester Road – curiously a station where no-one appears to board and no-one seems to disembark. There’s the futuristic chrome of Westminster and the sense of occasion at South Kensingston (“change here for the Museums and the Royal Albert Hall”). Generally speaking, the stations are quite beautiful, old-fashioned and filled with flowers. Cones of geraniums, little fenced off areas with ramshackle community gardens, in the spring – box after box of daffodils. The signs are hung from ornate metal beams, thick and rounded from years of repainting.

The line’s attitude to timekeeping is reminiscent of an eccentric, stubborn old aunt, arriving when it suits them, in their own time. The trains are every ten minutes at best – they keep you waiting and offer no apology. No other line could get away with a 13 minute wait with no explanation. No passenger alarm has been pulled, the rain is of the right kind, the leaves have been swept from the track. The train is not delayed. It’s just 13 minutes away. Is there a problem?

From Earl’s Court heading West, the signage simply isn’t interested in letting you know how long you will be waiting. Most of the time they tell you what train is on its way, but sometimes they don’t even bother with that. At Earl’s Court, the perplexing board of stations with its pop up arrows, is like something Alice would be confronted with in Wonderland.

Then, just after Gunnersbury, there’s the bit where the train crosses the river. Even to a regular District line commuter, the view is worth lowering one’s book for. Through one window you can see a view of the picturesque strand-on-the-green, through the other Oliver’s Island – a mysterious little wooded patch of land in the middle of the water.

And finally, did I mention that the District line has the best taste in colour? That green!

pantone-356

Pantone 356

District line, I love you.

Lies estate agents tell

Blog, Writes

Staircase

Generosities of the truth, from London estate agents…

“Garden”

A garden in central London is quite frankly irreconcilable with the rest of the country, and indeed PLANET’S, definition of a garden. A garden should be a pretty area filled with flowers and plants, a bird table and a shed, where you can invite friends round and have a barbecue without them laughing at you. Someone needs to share this with the estate agents of London.

Sometimes the “garden” is a miserable enclosure filled with gravel, around five minutes, three gates and an alleyway away from the house. Sometimes it’s a car parking space with a gate on it. Sometimes it’s actually a balcony with enough room to store a bin and a gas meter. Sometimes it’s a slim grass verge outside a block of flats with a bench, shared by all 65 people who live there. Very occasionally it is an area with space for a table and chairs and maybe even a plant or two.

But readers, nine times out of ten if an estate agent tells you that the flat has a garden, it is NOT a garden. It is a place to put a bin. And this is not the same thing.

BIns

“Ground floor”

Ground floor? How lovely. Yes please, I’d love to look round, I’ll meet you there at six.

Arrive. It’s underground. Excuse me but you said it was ground floor….?! Oh right you meant that it was near the ground. Nearer the ground than most flats actually. Very, very, very, very ground. The most ground you can get. IN THE GROUND. Ok good good great.

“Short walk”

If an estate agent tells you that a property is a short walk away from the nearest tube station, instead of using the phrases “adjacent to” or “opposite”, you can almost guarantee it is NOT a short walk away. Unless however you a member of the Yorkshire Rambling Society, in which case the distance, as with all distances under 15 miles, probably WOULD technically be classified as a short walk.

“We have a property that I think you’ll really, really like…”

This property has been sat on Stefan the estate agent’s desk for more than two months and it Just. Will. Not. Shift. Stefan isn’t even getting viewing requests any more let alone any OFFERS. In fact it’s had just one offer so far and that was from a couple who were only prepared to pay half the monthly rent. And that was only because Stefan had tricked them into looking round in the first place by suggesting there would be room for negotiations. There’s a housing shortage Stefan, why are you trying so hard?! Hmmm? WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT STEFAN?!

Stefan

Stefan the Estate Agent played by model.

“This flat is stunning and in your price range”

This is probably not a COMPLETE lie, it might be stunning or it might be in your price range. But unless you have a personal wealth nearing that of Simon Cowell or Jeremy Hunt, it’s unlikely to be both.

“Good value”

It’s 2015 mate and this is Great Britain. Grow up, it’s not good value. Hashtag:housingcrisis.