So, we're moving house. Which means tarting up our house and looking at other people's. As per usual, Lin has done all the work on the tarting up of our house and she's probably also done most of the work on researching suitable places for us to live.
What did people do before the internet when they wanted to research places to live? I suppose they just stayed in the same area, most of the time?
As is the modern way, we are first finding an area with good schools and then looking for a house in said area. In this respect, the online Ofsted reports have been a real boon. Used in conjunction with www.rightmove.co.uk
to find a suitable house, www.theaa.com
to work out accessibility via road, railway web sites to find out commuting times and www.nethouseprices.com
to get an idea of house prices in that area, a barrel-load of information is at our finger-tips.
Of course, as we have learnt, "good school" does not always equate to "suitable school". The senior school from which number 2 son has been expelled is one of the most prestigious state schools in the area (that will boost the price of our house a bit) but it has been a disaster for all three of our sons - which begs the question, why did we send sons 2 & 3 there if it was such a disaster? (Answer: We thought our more academic number 2 son would do better there than creative number 1 son, but I have no idea what our excuse was for number 3 son - probably just took our eye off the ball a bit whilst dealing with my father's mental health problems).
So, we are doing a lot more due diligence with this purchase. This entails spending rather agreeable days at the week-end in slightly posh towns ten miles north of the northern outskirts of London, checking out the local amenities (i.e. pubs and restaurants). The towns we are looking at are St. Albans, Hertford and Ware - in that order. All demonstrate varying degrees of quaintness. All retain individual identities and have not yet succumbed to "clone town" syndrome, though each has its fair share of high street chain shops. All are within commuting distance of central London, though all are beyond the reach of the London Underground - as a non-driver I am supposed to be terrified of this development (according to Mrs. Fiendish) but I am not that fussed. I guess I will finally have to learn to drive, or learn to look after a push-bike (I normally get about 10 journeys out of a push-bike before it decays into a state of disrepair that is beyond my abilities or inclination to fix; you know, tricky stuff like flat tires or remembering the combination on the padlock).
Even so, appearances can be deceptive. On Saturday, Kevin Warne came to our house in Enfield, prior to us travelling into central London (Borough, to be precise) to watch England's uneventful opening World Cup match). Trains on the Liverpool Street line weren't running, so we had to yomp for 20 minutes to the station on the King's Cross line, and I took him via the scenic route: past the 500 year old school that number 1 and number 3 son attend, through the graveyard, over the cobble-stoned market-place, over the canal - pausing briefly to look at the swans and geese with their new born offspring - past the quaint cottages that line the canal bank and up to the station. "I hadn't realised it was so nice around here," said Kev - or words to that effect. And it is nice. Parts of it are very nice indeed, but we don't live in the really nice bit; we live in the "quite nice" bit.
Furthermore, I'm tipping that when England inevitably get eliminated from the World Cup, there will be more arrests in Enfield town centre than there will be in Trafalgar Square; there certainly were in Euro 96 and I don't think the place has become more gentrified since then. One of the unpredicted side-effects of Ken Livingstone's otherwise admirable policy of allowing free bus journeys for the under-16's is that it is now possible for teenaged idlers to travel into Enfield for free in order to hang around on street corners or practice a bit of petty larceny or robbery, whereas previously they would not have had the wherewithal to travel beyond the local chippy in whichever satellite dormitory town they lived in. I can't say I blame the denizens of Edmonton and Tottenham for escaping to Enfield - the last time I was in Tottenham, a black guy and a white guy were having a heated argument, which the white guy was winning on the grounds that he carried a baseball bat and the black guy didn't - but I don't really want my kids mingling with them and, more to the point, my kids don't want to mingle with them either.
So, it looks like we are moving somewhere posh. The kids are a bit worried that our new neighbours might be too
posh and that they will feel out of place. Good heavens, don't our children know we already shop at Waitrose?
For our part, we just want to move to a place where the neighbours' kids don't think it is acceptable to use a pin and my son's forearm in lieu of pencil and paper when playing noughts and crosses. I'd love to be able to jump in the Tardis and get the opinions of my 18 year-old self on this attitude; the 18 year-old would probably say, "Good God, you'll be voting Tory next" but that shows how much he knows - unbeknownst to me, I voted for the Tory party at the last election, though confusiingly they were calling themselves the Labour party at the time.