created by Tom Taylor
Every London house move goes the same way. An estate agent shows you the place. They lie to you. You move in. You find out what's wrong with the place. But could those problems actually be an opportunity to rekindle a lost art form?
I recently moved house in London, I know what you're thinking, but don’t worry, this isn’t a story about rising house prices and oligarchs pricing everyone out, it is far more interesting than that, it is about the evening I just had.
Before I moved, I was given 'the tour' by an estate agent, we all know what that’s like; her saying things like, “It’s not the best value for money”, “it’s unfurnished”, me saying things like “I’ll take it”. I failed to realise, (probably because she used subtle distraction techniques, like waving her arms round the room and fanning air in my face while describing it as ‘airy’), the sheer amount of stuff that doesn’t work in my new abode; just small things, classic teething problems such as the lights not working. Despite the fact my viewing was at 8pm, the estate agent had the nerve to show me the place before daylight saving time properly kicked in. You’ll be relieved to hear I am in advanced talks with the landlord to get some sort of illumination going, but for now, I have to get by.
You’d think my move would be the talk of the office, but it hasn’t quite taken off as I’d planned. I tried things like talking loudly on my work phone about ‘tenancy agreements’ and ‘property viewings’, but no one batted an eyelid. I put it down to me never having anything to say when they ask, “What have you been up to?” and “How was your weekend?” They’ve stopped asking all together to be honest. I’ve never much got on with anyone at work anyway, but for some unbeknown reason, I think they like me. They say sympathetic things like, “Did you get dressed in the dark this morning?” Which is even weirder considering I haven’t uttered a word about my lighting issue during my conspicuous phone calls.
I’m not looking for sympathy, oh no, because this lack of light has led me to partake in what I like to call one of the ‘dying arts’. One thing that has struck me having lived in London for the best part of four years is that 'dying arts' are thriving. It’s got something to do with old-fashioned stuff being cool again, like writing letters (quite cool), or asking people out on dates in person (terrifying).
And so it seems that only the coolest people partake in dying arts. Think of the coolest person you know, I bet they have a hobby that is a dying art. I mean, I once met a man who painted signs by hand – for a living! He was paid money by shops and larger establishments, each sign taking upwards of loads of hours. I never saw him finish one, which if anything backs up my point. The significant part of this tale is that a machine could, say, in an hour rather than loads of them, have created these signs – yet he did it by hand anyway, churning out masterpiece after masterpiece. They were wildly popular, and he was wildly popular (it’s hard to say which was most popular, his work or he). I mean his CV would tell you that part of his job is literally watching paint dry and he still has more friends than I know people – and that’s including celebrities and politicians, you can probably even chuck in pets I’ve owned in my life and you still wouldn’t come close to this guy’s friendship roster.
You can therefore only imagine my elation that tonight I too resurrected a dying art. It began when I was scrabbling around the kitchen cabinets for scraps – an old ginger root, some Lea & Perrins (just a splash), that sort of thing – to stave off my hunger. In my efforts, I discovered a four-wick candle. It was unrecognisable, disgusting, dusty and all uneven as well. The last adjective is key. The problem with an uneven four-wick candle is, after struggling to light them (first one, fine; second one, fine; third one, you’re literally playing with fire; fourth one, not worth it mate, you’re going to get your fingers burnt; again, literally) the wax drips down the uneven surface and extinguishes the flickery little buggers.
So what is this dying art I resurrected, you ask. Well, to put it simply, I evened out a candle. Even better still, I spent an entire evening, evening out a candle. I mean when do you ever get to say ‘evening’ consecutively like that in a sentence? I thought about it for a good minute and couldn’t think of a time it’d been necessary for me to do so and I imagine you will come to a similar conclusion. You too can do this by melting the wax off your offending candle and then moving it around a bit until it looks even, I say looks even because regrettably they don’t make spirit levels small enough to fit into a candle (turns out not everyone has a ‘price’) so you never can be sure.
Up until now, you, like me, probably judged people who do dying arts as hobbies (converting pounds and ounces into stones without showing their working out, another one I’ve seen done) for being old fashioned or hipsters or Amish. Most people in my situation would have thrown that candle out without a second thought and would have, in their words ‘just bought a new one’, but where’s the art in that?
Oh and now of course I have light, for a while at least. (It’s a three-hour one if you were wondering).
Wait till I tell those idiots at the office about this.
Tom Taylor is a very funny chap. He used to work with one of the editors of Smoke and Tales in the most horrible pub-restaurant in London.
Follow him on Twitter: @TomTavery