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Homing in

James Cary


Nothing seems to delight a TV controller more than a lengthy futile quest to arrange people or concepts in some sort of order. One of the better ones was the quest to find the Greatest Briton some years ago. It threw up some pleasing anomalies. One was a curiously high listing for Michael Crawford. Another was a surprisingly superb documentary by Jeremy Clarkson. Say what you like about the man, his politics, his face, his hair, his jeans, his TV friends, and his Chipping Camden neighbours, his documentary on Isambard Kingdom Brunel was stunning.

The documentary catapulted Brunel to a podium position in the Great Briton poll and made an ungrateful nation realize that it had taken him for granted. I would argue that it was Clarkson's documentary and Brunel's high placing in that poll that enabled Danny Boyle to cast Kenneth Branagh to play the high-hatted engineer at the London Olympics Opening Ceremony.

It is a sad irony that a nation that led the world in industrialization and infrastructure should have allowed it to crumble. Our rusty rail network is bursting at the seams as commuters tried to avoid clogging up roads with their cars. Another irony is that highly sophisticated workshops in the south of England design state-of-the-art car parts for supercars, but everyone knows that this car will still only do 15mph crawling up the Fulham Palace Road towards Hammersmith.

Any talk of high-speed connections, super-fast rail links and new motorways seem fantastical, not because of the eye-watering cost, but mainly because of Nimbyism. Bear in mind Britain is a nation which will throw a street party for an embittered old lady who refuses to sell her house and insist that motorway lanes go either side of her cottage and vegetable patch.

And it is the same with building houses. Observant readers with good memories may recall that in my last column, I railed against my now ex-bank and their decision not lend me a meaningful amount of money because I have been attempting to purchase a house.

Until recently, I've been a renting Fulham-dweller, unable to purchase any kind of habitable property in the locality because Russian oligarchs and French bankers keep spending seven-figure sums on houses in the area. There simply aren't enough to go round and the market has decided that it is much more sensible that local houses be sold to those making millions from natural resources in other countries or those seeking to avoid high taxes in France. The market is an ass. An efficient ass, but an ass nonetheless.

For family rather than financial reasons, I decided to leave London and now live in the lush meadows and verdant pastures of Somerset. Or at least, I am renting a house on a large housing estate near some lush meadows while someone else turns a verdant pasture a few miles away into seven houses, of which I am buying one. It commands spectacular views of fields, meadows, pastures and paddocks. For now.

Soon after the sale was agreed, offers accepted, mortgages offered and properties surveyed, the local newspaper informed us that a local developer was exploring an 800 home development on the fields, meadows, pastures and paddocks near my new house.

My frustration with this situation is borne from the fact that my opposition to this is entirely selfish and personal. One can raise objections easily enough. These fields are a flood plain but they must know that. The traffic is already congested but is nothing like as bad as the aforementioned Fulham Palace Road. And I'm not sure where all these residents of these new homes are going to work.

But, ultimately, my only real problem with these proposed houses is that they won't look very nice from my patio. I'm not a NIMBY. I'm a DRAVOLIDO - Don't Ruin the Amazing View Of Land I Don't Own. That's the only real basis for my complaint.

The whole issue has, however, made me glad I'm a Christian. I have no real control over who builds what where. And the so-called democratic processes in this seem rather opaque. This could be crushing. After all, if this life is the only one we get, we'll furiously defend our domestic idyll with a pitchfork. This building I'm buying may be my house for 40 years or more, but it won't be my true home. That's to come.

James Cary