In which an inspector calls.

Printed 15/07/09

Two words to strike fear in the heart of any tenant: Property Inspection.

You join me two hours before Armageddon, sitting in a heap of used Flashwipes, beer cans and fear. It’s particularly scary because this is the first inspection our oh-so-conscientious estate agents have deigned to give us in the whole two years we’ve lived here – which is practically asking us to cover the kitchen in floral bunting and do interesting decoupage on the furniture. It’s like the rental equivalent of teachers asking you to mark your own work. In fact, before news of the inspection was sprung, I think I might have reached a point of such denial I’d forgotten the house isn’t actually ours.

I’ve remembered now, of course. Suddenly, with one sweaty session of Olympic hovering, it’s all come flooding back. The dim memories of meetings, and viewings, and tearily handing over lots of massive cheques, are all becoming rather a lot clearer. As are the recollections of signing things; things that promised not to ruin the house too much. Including: by means of explosives, wrecking balls, exuberant parties or blu-tack.

Really, it makes you question the whole practice of contract-signing. It’s just so easy, too easy, to lie. If all it takes to get myself comfortably housed for a year is to write my name on a piece of paper underneath the words “I agree to be careful with this house. I will disinfect everything once a day, polish the toilet cistern until it shines, submit full references for any unauthorised house guest, and definitely, never, ever, affix any item to the wall, door or any other surface using a form of adhesive putty”, then I’ll be the first one to grab the pen.

If what they actually want is a genuine guarantee that we’ll perpetually treat the house as though we were staying at an uptight auntie’s, they need more than paper and ink. They need lie detectors, retina-scanners, perhaps a 7ft man in a black suit with a headset and a gun. They could make it Endemol’s latest reality TV project, perhaps – a side project to Big Brother, in which the contestants are put in a grubby magnolia-painted Victorian maisonette with 45 packets of blu-tack and must see who can last longest without putting anything on the wall. Gripping viewing as each one in turn cracks under the pressure, is discovered covertly hanging a Scarface poster at three in the morning and promptly evicted.

Yes, blu-tack, let’s face it, is a student compulsion. Maybe real adults can live in a house with acres of empty walls about them and resist the urge. Well done them. But just as a dog must mark his territory with systematic weeing, so the student must paper their domain in novelty postcards, pictures of Bob Marley and photos from that time they sat in a trolley. To demand otherwise is to ask us to go against nature.

So I emplore you, estate agents, have mercy. It’s either lie to you or lie to ourselves, and I know which one TV says is worse.

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You all deserve an apology. Actually, this extends beyond the Herald readership to the wider world in general, so if you see anyone from beyond the West Sussex coast in the near future, feel free to pass on the sentiment. I’m sorry that last week I wrote about summer. You’d have thought I would have realised the almighty power of my pen, and learned to harness it only for good. But no, I continue to underestimate the correlation between Mr Murphy, Mr Sod, and me.

So I’m sorry I wrote about summer, and it being hot, and everyone doing lovely summery things quickly before the weather ran out. Because then it did run out, didn’t it? I also know, however, that by writing this retraction I am tempting Mr M & Mr S to do an about-turn and bring the sun back. So by Thursday, once again, this will probably be totally irrelevant.

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I’ve recently had notice from a fan/critic of old, my friend Hannah’s hairdresser, who says that I am using too many long words in these articles. I’m sure he realises it’s just the desperate attempts of a wistful graduate to prove to herself that she did her degree for something other than the Topshop discount. But just for him, here is a selection of very short words: if. Tweak. Glob. Clang. Drab. Zoo. Bop. Antidisestablishmentarianism. Pip pip.