“The other lady’s got a flat in Fulham,” says Bella, apologetically. “Apparently foreign buyers are knocking down her door, and they’re paying with cash.”

I take a deep breath and think: ‘sky-like mind’. I’ve been doing Buddhist meditation recently, and it’s really helping with my stress levels. Whenever I start to feel angry, or bitter, or anxious, I simply envisage my mind as a vast blue sky, and my worries as little fluffy clouds.

We are trying to sell the slightly-too-small flat and buy a house in Brighton. It’s a lovely house, with four bedrooms and kitchen with a table in it and sunny back yard. If you stand in the yard and jump as high as you can, you can see the sea over the back wall. It’s the kind of place I always imagined bringing up a family, before I actually had one. When I get carried away, I imagine that I would never feel bitter or stressed-out again if only I had a house like that. Then I have to remind myself that’s total rubbish, and that true happiness lies not in any material possession, but in accepting that things are as they are.

Which is just as well because it turns out that someone else wants to buy the house in Brighton too, and that that person has a flat in Fulham. 

“That’s okay,” I say to Bella. “I completely understand.” 

“I’d love to sell it to you guys, I really would…”

 “Bella,” I say, sternly, “there is no room for sentimentality here. This is the housing market.” 

“I guess.” She sounds genuinely remorseful. Bella, who owns the Brighton house, is a friend. She wants to help us out but she also wants to buy a flat in Clapton, and that is not going to happen unless she sells her house for top dollar. If I were her, I would definitely go with in the Fulham lady. I mean, Curly and I can’t even afford to renew our car insurance.

Nevertheless, Bella agrees to give us another week to try and get the money together before she accepts Fulham lady’s offer.

“So that’s all fine then!” predicts Curly, confidently. “All we need is another twenty grand. And we’ve got a whole week. Not a problem.” 

“Don’t you think?” I say, doubtfully. 

“I don’t think,” says Curly, “I know.” 

We have one thing on our side: other people are even more desperate than we are. More than twenty first-time buyers came to see the slightly-too-small flat last weekend, and three of them put in offers despite the extortionately high price tag. I don’t feel good about it. I had to go out all day, so as not to run the risk of accosting them and saying: “don’t do it! It’s just not worth it!” 

The thing I hate most about the housing crisis – and that is a competitive category – is that it encourages us to pit ourselves against one another, to screw over our neighbours, to profit from misery and suffering. I hate it; I hate myself. 

I accept it; I accept myself. I close my eyes and plunge into that vast blue sky.

AuthorAlice O'Keeffe