Date Published 23 April 2014
Stories that can be told from 30 years in Estate Agency include: ‘The chauffeur with an Aston Martin', ‘The Lady who made me an offer', ‘The American Mogul with the Phantom Rolls Royce' and ‘The very dear Lady E', who always stayed at Claridges and knew a former Prime Minister.
The chauffeur with an Aston Martin
This story relates to a chauffeur testing the size of Mews House garages. If the car fitted the garage, the chauffeur added it to his boss's inspection list. As a 20 year old apprentice, the writer was tasked to accompany the chauffeur – a most arduous morning of work! A passion for Aston Martin grew from this moment on.
The Lady who made me an offer
As a very young man, fresh-faced and fairly new to the job, I remember being asked to inspect a house with a view to giving advice on marketing. Due to staff shortages on the day, I was sent on my own – determined to impress.
Upon arrival, I confidently rang the doorbell, business card in hand, and waited for the owner to open the door. Sure enough, a tremendously attractive woman, wearing really not very much at all, opened the door, gave me a once over and said, ‘Ah – I was hoping it would be you – come upstairs'. With that, she turned on her heel, wafted back into the house and went barefoot up the stairs, negligee ballooning behind her.
After one of those magnificent delays which could have lasted for several minutes, for all I knew, I managed to stutter out an excuse, turned away and fled back to the office. It all turned out well in the end – I returned later with a colleague, got the instruction, sold the house and earned my commission. Nothing more was said, but we did shake hands very warmly when she left the keys in the office on the day of completion.
The American Mogul with the Phantom Rolls Royce
On one fine summer's day the shiniest Rolls Royce ever seen, arrived in Sloane Street and parked immediately outside the office. Out jumped the chauffeur from the front of this motoring leviathan. Many minutes were consumed whilst the occupants from the rear alighted. It turned out they had previously booked an appointment to inspect Mews Houses in and round Belgravia. It had escaped their notice the car they had chosen to arrive in, would barely fit through the arch of any mews, never mind negotiate the narrow cobbled mews of Belgravia. A one hour tour of property became a matinee performance and the Mogul retreated to his sumptuous suite at the Ritz to dwell on the experience of looking at London in miniature!
Lady E, who always stayed at Claridges
This final story has both a sad and happy ending.
Lady E. spent her time travelling between a rather fine house in Switzerland, an apartment in Paris and Claridges, London. She tended to travel with a rather able and fine chauffeur, who we will call Kit. There was something of the ‘Downton Abbey' life lived by Lady E. On some occasions her maid from Paris would be summoned to Claridges, so that life could be made both more comfortable and exciting. I say exciting, as Lady E. was probably the active septuagenarian won could met. Her ability to stay busy was commendable for someone half her age.
Her main hobby during these later years, was to have an array of trades-people to call on her. They would all be approached for good reason. They would tend to household issues. The French Polisher, The Art, The furniture Restorer; They would resolve a problem of one kind or another. The fact that the solution could take rather longer to organise than normal, was a delight to Lady E., as she rather enjoyed the challenge of organising the many facets of a rather privileged life. Equally, she wanted to be ready for the next visit from a Prime Minister or indeed other well connected friends. The staff at Claridges were well used to advising Lady E., 'There is a telephone call for you mee Lady'.
In the later years, it was Lady E's greatest wish to buy an apartment in London and be near friends in Grosvenor Square and of course her beloved Claridges. Many outings resulted in a property being selected. Sadly, whilst the process of buying the flat was being considered she became unwell and died. It would be nice to think she found additional happiness in the thought of moving home, despite the process never coming about. She was from an era that has now been lost but she typified it with style, dignity and aplomb.