“A man can die but once”. – (King Henry IV, Part II – Act III, Scene II).
With that Shakespeare aphorism in mind, I decided to leave Battersea-on-Thames last Saturday to set up a new ‘Forward Operating Base’ (FOB) for my Van Rouge Tour which will be starting in a couple of weeks: Details.
I have moved to an island (Google pics) on The Medway near Chatham – near the old naval docks. HMS Victory was built but a few hundred yards away. Rochester and Upnor are close at hand, as is Chatham itself. It is a marvellous place to set up a FOB – steeped in history and Dickens of Bleak House et al fame lived in Rochester just across the river.
Serendipitously, I now live in a place called Mallard House – a modest dwelling, small but perfect for my needs.
The actual move to Chatham Maritime was surreal – worthy of Brian Rix farce status. I shall give you a taste of the nonsense I endured below.
An elite squadron (SDS) of particularly subversive ducks accompanied me to Chatham to train Medway ducks in the subtle arts of subversion. I felt, the last time I lived on the island, that the ducks were far too flabby, ate far too many burgers and had a far too compliant attitude to life and our government. The Medway ducks have been through a five day ‘Bootcamp’. The elite squadron have extradited themselves without the aid of lawyers milking the system back to Battersea-on-Thames (No Falcon 900 jet a la Abu Hamza for them, of course) – MISSION COMPLETED. So it is Time To Say Goodbye to them.
And so to the….
CLOWNS OF THE B*STARDVILLES
Dr Watson was kind enough to keep a note of the bizarre proceedings which surrounded me during this past week as I attempted to move from Battersea to Medway.
So far I have been able to quote from the reports which I have forwarded during these early days to Charon. Now, however, I have arrived at a point in my narrative where I am compelled to abandon this method and to trust once more to my recollections, aided by the diary which I kept at the time. A few extracts from the latter will carry me on to those scenes which are indelibly fixed in every detail upon my memory. I proceed, then, from the morning which followed our abortive chase of the elusive estate agents and our other strange experiences upon the island……
Rather than allow Dr Watson to run riot on my blog, I have binned his compendious, prolix, verbose and ultimately sleep inducing account and shall use his recollection as a structure. I describe the events in a form more recognisable to lawyers. I shall use numbered paragraphs:
1. On or about Saturday 29th September I left Battersea Square in a mini-cab driven by a remarkably knowledgeable Pakistan born driver – who entertained me through the one hour drive to The Ship & Trades pub where I would stay over the weekend prior to moving into my new Staterooms on the Monday morning. My furniture was in the very capable hands – or storage to be more accurate – of the truly excellent Gentleman & Van
2. Saturday and Sunday were spent re-exploring St Mary’s Island and taking the air in the marina and dockyards. It was at the Ship & Trades that I re-discovered my passion for gammon and pineapple with chips – a dish I have now eaten for lunch six days in a row.
3. D-DAY: The plan agreed with the Clowns of The B*stardvilles, masquerading as estate agents, was to move into my new rooms on Monday morning. The Gentleman & a Van were ready to roll. I was informed at 10.00 by one of the leading clowns that I would not be able to move because their ‘computer systems’ were down and they could not process the six month short term tenancy agreement nor, more importantly for them, I suspect, process the rent and deposit. (I agreed to pay the full six months in advance to speed things up a bit).
4. Incredulous, I offered to draft a tenancy agreement myself or, better, see if @NearlyLegal would kindly offer assistance to an irritated law blogger by providing same pro bono or otherwise. I also offered to nip down to the bank, draw out the loot, and give it to them, cash, in a sack. This offer of resolution was rejected on two grounds: (a) They had their own ‘special real legal ones’ and (b) They could not take cash. Payment had to be done on their office ‘machine’. I was told that I could move on Wednesday, possibly. I booked another two days at the pub hotel and re-scheduled the move. I incurred an inevitable and perfectly fair and reasonable penalty – in fact, Gentleman & a Van reduced the penalty from 2 hours time to one hour.
5. D-Day II: On the morning of Wednesday 3rd October, confident that the clowns would have sorted out their ‘farkin systems’, I telephoned only to be told that I could not move in because I had not signed the pre-contract forms to allow them to do a credit check. They still needed a credit check, even though I would pay the whole six month rent in advance, and needed to check that I was on the voters roll in London - which would prove beyond peradventure that I was not an axe murderer in training. The solution, which appeared not to have occurred to the clowns, was for me to travel about a mile and a half up the road in a motorised conveyance, sign the bleedin’ form and then that would clear all impediments to my moving in. They appeared to be reluctant to accept this simple idea – but relented. I duly travelled to their offices and signed the document. The clown who I had been negotiating with was not in the office. His female boss seemed altogether more sensible and at least gave the loose impression of competency. She informed me that it was ‘illegal’ for them to do a credit check without my real signature on a piece of paper – despite the fact I had authorised same several times on the pre-contract document emailed back and by separate email to leading negotiating clown on the Friday before – which he accepted as sufficient for his needs.
6. I returned to The Ship & Trades and waited to see what stunt the clowns would pull next. Astonishingly, I received a telephone call at 11.00 that all was in order – the landlord had left work to return to his home so he could authorise the clowns in writing by email to allow me into the flat as my payment had been successful. They are sticklers for paperwork, the clowns.
7. Payment was another stress inducing activity. I am not given to spending £5000+ on a single purchase by debit card. Banks have taken up a practice of security reviewing any strange activity. I telephoned my bank, warned them that I would be paying rental and deposit of £5000+ to a group of clowns managing the property and asked specifically that they did not block that payment. I was assured that they would not do so. I authorised the clowns to take payment. Payment was declined. I telephoned the bank again and, less than enthusiastic about their service, explained that I had telephoned earlier so this problem would not arise. A charming young lady told me that the Fraud Squad don’t seem to read notes on file. She had placed a file note about the large outgoing payment. The block was lifted quickly and the second payment went though. There was now no impediment to my gaining quiet possession of the dwelling.
… or…so I thought.
8. The clown I dealt with from the beginning told me proudly that ‘it was a go’ and I could move in at 2.30. I informed Gentleman & a Van accordingly. My good friend John Bolch (he of FamilyLore), who lives nearby, came down to the pub and we went to the new apartment half a mile away together.
9. Gentleman & a Van – ever efficient – were at the property at 2.15 when we arrived. At 2.30 no sign of the clowns. Telephoning their offices, I was informed that the ‘paperwork was not ready’ and they would be along at 3.00. This incurred me a further half hour removal time charge.
10. Mr Clown arrived – hair gelled into curious and very pointed spikes, as if twiddled, and wearing a slightly shiny suit with a purple tinge to it - in a ‘clownmobile’ complete with their logo plastered all over the back and sides. The farce continued. He had over 100 keys. The key to the main entrance did not work. He looked flustered as I laughed maniacally – incredulous. Mr Clown saved the day by ringing the ‘Trades’ button which he informed me would stop working at 3.30. I pointed out that this would be very handy for me – confined to my flat like Julian Assange in the Ecuador Embassy. “You what?” Clown asked. I had lost the will to explain who Assange is – but pointed out that I would not be able to get back into the building without a main entrance front door key that worked. He hadn’t considered the possibility that I might actually want to leave the flat at some point and, more importantly, get back in. He promised to look into the matter.
11. More astonishing command performances as we went up to the top floor. Mr Clown tried over thirty keys as John Bolch and I watched, desperately trying not to laugh – but, in my case, failing.
12. The last key Mr Clown tried opened door. I resisted the impulse to say ‘Open Sesame”.
13. In the premises, the premises were in a filthy state. The end of tenancy clean when the client vacated two months before had not been done. The kitchen sink was disgusting. There was a smell of rotting vegetation. John Bolch discovered mould having a Bunga Bunga party in the oven. Frankly, by this stage, I was not suprised. A cleaning team was quickly engaged and the problem is solved.
14. Then there was the paperwork saga. I signed about thirty pages of a typed document – a ‘really legal’ tenancy agreement. There was a clause referring to my obligation to pay the rent going forward. I pointed out that I had, in fact, paid the entire six months and deposit in advance – so that clause was incorrect. I am not a landlord & tenant lawyer. The contract lawyer in me didn’t have to produce any miraculous out of the box thinking – I simply endorsed the clause with the rubric ‘Rent & Deposit settled in full’, dated it and signed under the rubric. Mr Clown also signed. I was informed the next day by The Clown in Chief that what I had done by doing this was ‘illegal’ and that I would have to re-sign that page of the agreement without the endorsement – and ‘No it was not possible to include a typed provision that I had in fact paid – I would be given a receipt to prove I had paid.” I just laughed and said… “Hey.. go for it.. I could not care less after all you guys have done this week..and by the way…can I have a front door key that actually works? I am like the Man In An Iron Mask and The Prisoner of Zenda locked up in my own apartment.”
15. A locksmith arrived at 5.00 the next day. John Bolch was kind enough, on the Wednesday evening, to bring ‘essential supplies’ (Fags et al) down to me. I was able to let him in using the intercom device. I was able to escape the next morning and gain re-entry by a cunning ploy. I used the trades button which I knew – because Mr Clown had told me – would work until 3.30. It did. The locksmith came, sucked his teeth, told me I had a badly cut key, sprayed some WD40 into the lock and..hey presto, lock worked. I hope he charged the clowns royally for his technical advice.
16. I add that the estate agents are nice people - they just didn’t hack it with my move – a view I am prepared to take!
And so… I am now fully in, broadbanded up and the planning for Van RougeTour, already under way, can proceed.
Have a good weekend…
Best, as always
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