Blitz and mortar.
It’s a sort of cross between praying and illustrating how far you’ve had it up to.
The ‘time-out’ signal.
I’ve been upwardly jabbing my fingertips into a downward palm mutely for some weeks now. And no amount of stoic cups of tea could have floated me through the blitz of it: moving house.
I have yet to move house still, you understand. The actual trauma of piling all our worldly crap into a wheelbarrow and wobbling it around the block is still ahead of us and I really couldn’t care less.
Drop my vintage china. Cartwheel my fridge down the stairs. Saw my sofa in half to get it through the door. Don’t care.
And inevitable weeks without internet access at home, while people on the sub continent show me super-human levels of patience on the phone while simply repeating that the engineer in my area is still booked up until Christmas? Pah. No kind of trauma to me now.
Do your worst, forces of removals chaos – because the relief of finally getting solicitors to let us move our ruddy lives ON at long long last has made me so giddy I have been walking the grid of streets nearby hugging random English people to within an inch of their social conventions, tears streaming down my blood-pressure-blotched face, holding them until they too are sobbing, out of the incomparable shame of sheer cultural awkwardness.
The truth of English people as a society is, of course, not only do they feel uncomfortable showing un-earned emotion, they also can’t abide bureaucracy. Plus they have a perverse sense of humour, delighting in things backwards.
Which is presumably why they have a housing system designed to be as bureaucratic and likely to induce significant outbursts of decidedly uncomfortable emotion in front of strangers as humanly possible.
And why they have built their entire modern economy upon this process.
One estate agent, a friendly client, unconnected with our sale and purchase, responded simply to my property market indigestion: “Politicians are all frustrated lawyers. Country’s run by ’em.”
And I heard a little penny drop.
Now, it’s worth saying up front that I shall be reclining in a hot tub with a solicitor, a former solicitor and a barrister at the weekend. Each of them happens to be remarkably thoughtful and, well, human. This is in large part why they are not just friends of mine, but friends I am prepared to strip to my shorts in front of and percolate warm fluids around myself with.
But evidence like this not withstanding, the job of a solicitor is really that of a sort of vaguely ennobled engineer.
As I have said before, we really do rather sort of completely need engineers. I walk over bridges and under glass roofs and through under-sea tunnels because of them. If foppish daydreamers like me were professionally responsible for turning their hands to such things I tell you I would never leave the house. I would never get IN the house in the first place.
Thus we need engineers to be utterly nutterly anal about nuts, bolts, ones, twos, cantilevers, plumb lines and flat-out level-headed detail. Or just about everything will fall down.
But as I have also said before, engineers really do rather sort of completely need other people around them to point out the obvious needs of, ah, actual humans. Because squishy soft pheromone-crazed, half-baked-inspiration-prone animals do not behave like helpfully well- programmed robots.
Which is a fact that precisely incurs the need for the law. And precisely annoys the tits off your average lawyer.
To get its own back, the legal profession in Britain helpfully assumes the reigns of authority in all significant transactions of life, to ensure an objective engineering of all parties’ responsibilities and rights and so secure fairness and equity and, effectively, harmony in society – and then sods off on holiday without telling anyone.
Now now. Everyone needs a holiday; I know all too well how much my three legal examples have earned their place in that hot tub and how much, frankly, we probably just need to hold each other and rock together gently there for a while. So I dehumanise only for a pithy moment to exact a knowing smirk from you. There it is.
If I have a point – or the strength to make one after trying to buy a house as an Englishman in his own country – it is simply that what I have learned is missing from the house buying process in the jolly ol’ Green And Pleasant, is someone who actually knows what the Elgar’s arse is going on.
Forgive my Anglo Saxon. But tedious frustrations from my own unremarkable little life aside, it is the thing that seems needed for my countrymen as they seek for some reason to rebuild their nation’s economy on the same property market foundations it failed on last time: a role somewhere in the chain that can pull together… well, everything.
Estate agents can START everything.
Solicitors can STOP everything.
No-one seems empowered to DRIVE anything.
Which is perhaps why I should have stopped feebly making pathetic time out signs all summer and put my hands on the bloody wheel. Even if my metaphorical motor is on the back of a tow-truck.
Still. Perhaps the most remarkable thing to bear in mind when observing all this from a comfortable cultural distance is that mostly, eventually, we seem to get there. And perhaps most perversely, thanks to a lot of people trying to help each other out when things appear to turn grim. Like humans.
Like Brits in the blitz.
Jeepers we just love all this, don’t we?
See you round the corner. I’ll have the kettle on.