Sunday, January 06, 2008

Nige - Not a Horse - Peers into the Future

Laptopless it was - and a very strange feeling (I can only return to blogworld today because I am back at NIgeCorp HQ). I do not, by the way, live in a stable - in my book (Every Boy's Bumper Book of Doors), a stable door is a wooden door that opens in two halves, one above the other. I often stand there with my head poking out of the top half, hoping some passerby will give me a sugar lump, but it never happens. I am not a horse and no it's not a stable. The door actually opens into the breakfast room of my achingly beautiful tile-hung cottage, built in 1895 in the 'Surrey style'.
Which talk of houses brings me round to the one prediction that can safely be made about the UK in 2008 - and it's joyous news. Estate agents will be closing down, the length and breadth of the land. My devout hope is that none of them will ever reopen - after the last extinction phase in the early 90s, the bastards were all back within a few years, reinfesting every high street. This time, as well as falling house prices, two new, longer-term factors are at work against the estate agent menace: the ludicrous compulsory Home Information Pack, which was bound to depress the market even at the best of times, and the direct sale possibilities opened up by the web. There cannot be a future in estate agency - can there? Certainly, I expect 2008 to be a good year for charity shops - a useful and happy feature of the retail scene - as they step in to fill the high street gaps left by all those folded, unmourned estate agents.


  1. Estate agents: Closing down is too good for 'em, guv! Put them in the stocks for a few days outside their shuttered offices, I say.

    What's the point of a breakfast room? I mean, aside from having breakfast in it ... does this mean it is left bare and unloved for the other 23 hours a day? Or is there, say, some subtle semiology behind the breakfast room and, perhaps, even receiving guests (quaint words!) in it? These days, the whole ground floor of many houses seems to be one big room, kitchen and all.

  2. Leave the thinking to horses, Nige, the’ve got larger heads!

    Estate agents are but a symptom of the malaise - the messengers who tell us that we will all be suffocating.

    The only people who really understand the issue — the privileged, fox-hunting, English-country-house Etonians — have long since headed for the hills, ever enjoying a traditional, unruffled existence, as if there were no estate agents to invade the lovely countryside. And you, too, Nige, may well wish to secrete behind the privet hedges of rural Surrey, but the facts are going to catch up with you, sooner or later and I am not just talking about 6,5 billion people putting out 7 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, nor that the world’s population is expected to increase by 2.5 billion to 9.2 billion by 2050.

    What I am saying is - and do not shoot the messenger - that the face of England’s green and pleasant land is changing as immigration fuels population growth out of synch with the capacity of the British isles to absorb the overflow from the undeveloped world. The countryside is nature’s scrap yard. It is 50 years since the green belt was formed, and it was always inevitable that it should be overrun one day, while more and more humans claim land for more and more development. The same goes for farmland, wildlife sanctuaries and forests. The reality is not just that greedy local developers exploit the rules wherever they can, but that Britain remains firmly committed to economic (speak: demographic) growth. And that is just one indication of how little the problem of overcrowding concerns the local (and governmental) authorities who have neither the sense nor the spirit which the demographic emergency calls for.

    As Nick Allen of the Daily Telegraph informed us last week, >There were 390 people for every square kilometre in England in 2006, up from 387 the previous year, the figures from the Office for National Statistics showed. That number is predicted to reach 464 people per square kilometre by 2031 if trends continue.<

    It is a horrific situation and I am sorry for bringing it to your attention on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, Nige. But there is only one thing that will fundamentally alter the existing equation!

    Think about it!


  3. Ah Selena - my inclination is indeed to leave the thinking to horses, who, as well as having impressively large heads, seem to have the right attitude (cf Gulliver's Travels).
    The demographic reality is indeed a horror, and I feel in no way isolated from it, living as I do perilously close to the Wen itself and on the very edge of the green belt. The figures you quote are of course official - heaven knows what the reality on the ground is. How many people are actually present in London on a working day? If the figure could ever be established (and published), it would cause many official jaws to drop, I think. The parts of London that I've been passing through regularly for decades now seem at least twice as populous, in terms of sheer human crush, as they were as recently as1990. The official figures how nothing like such an increase. The infrastructure (useful jargon) seems - and no doubt is - perpetually at breaking point, and one wonders just how little it would take to close London down... I heard recently that one major supermarket chain works on the assumption that the real UK population is some 20 million more than the official figure - which is terrifying, but not surprising.
    And yet, and yet... I am always pleasantly surprised (and relieved) by how easy it is to get away from one's fellow humans, even as close to London as I am (and with no car). On the essentially suburban walks about which I blog from time to time, I seldom see more than a handful of other people, sometimes none at all. Most people so seldom leave their cars that we pedestrians can easily have great tracts of land to ourselves. When I am farther afield, walking in real countryside, the effect is of course much more marked, the solitude is usually total, and it feels indeed like another country. In a sense it is, and always has been - one of which townies are quite unaware, except as a kind of theme park worth the occasional car-bound visit. I suspect it has great powers of endurance and self-preservation, and, with luck, the demographic horror will never spread beyond the ever-growing conurbations.
    And of course, there are always the vast expanses of underpopulated, xenophobic France just the other side of the channel. It's nice to feel there's an escape route so close at hand (even if that feeling is delusory)...

  4. i would say the solution is either a universal, final death, putting a just end to the human menace; or vote in a political party who will stop immigration.

    Or possibly invade France. We've done it before and by God we'll do it again.

  5. Charity shops? Ebay did for them.

  6. Yes eBay and the fact that they now employ proper valuers, so bargains are v hard to find. However, there seems no end to them in my neck of the woods, and they're pleasanter places to browse than most shops...