The theme for this year’s #worldpoetryday was to write in tribute to Charles Baudelaire, who said: ‘Always be a poet, even in prose.’

I call this one: If Baudelaire were an Estate Agent…

A Three Bedroom Semi Det…. No wait a sec…. A stunning – no, wait;

for even the word ‘stunning’ does little to capture

the almost otherworldly grandeur

of this three bedroom – wait, not ‘three bedroom’….

does little to capture

the almost otherworldy grandeur

of this thrice dormitoired semi-detached –

no… hang on… thrice dormitoired 1930’s home –

no, Arts and Crafts era residence –

sitting in a state of permanent reciprocal neighbourly caress – love it….

Here on the edge of town… no no no…. poised like an angel traversing two worlds in this place,

where town meets country…

Right let’s go again…

Even the word ‘stunning’ does little to capture the almost otherworldly grandeur of this thrice dormitoired Arts and Crafts era residence, sitting in a state of permanent reciprocal neighbourly caress, poised like an angel traversing two worlds in this place where town meets country.

The entrance portal, as if a passage from one to another plane of being, opens into a welcoming expanse, the rising treads of its balustraded stairway ascending heroically to the plateau of the first floor.

There is a cupboard beneath.

To the right of the sanctuary of welcome is a capacious auditorium, almost belligerently boasting a spectacular focal point, alcoves respectfully a step behind to either side, and shelved, and there a fireplace, resplendent, perfect, a feature to transport that primordial part of our human minds back to the comfort and security of the firesides of our distant past. TV point.

As we pass to the rear of this domus we encounter the modern spectacle of the Kitchen/Diner, replete with gracefully edged counters, a playful iridescence atop their Formica surfaces, and the utilities of modern life integrated in symbiosis within the Kitchen units; the family oriented dining area is framed by double doors in a style reminiscent of our continental near-neighbours, presenting to the casual observer a glimpse into the ordered majesty of the gardens, bringing to mind Ancient Babylon, or at least Notcutts spring-time display. Outside tap.

Back within the domain, as we land on the uppermost storey we are presented a lottery choice of four bevel-panelled doors, three of which lead to the comfort of nocturnal refuge, the fourth to a white panelled and freshly enamelled bathing place available for the whole family and any visiting guests. The largest habitation is located to the front of the edifice, an array of built in cabinetry offering an abundant sanctuary for clothes and other chattels. TV point.

There are two further night time preserves, the one a near imitation of its front facing cousin; the other perhaps deceptive in its initial appearance, with room to berth as well as, one trusts, an ideal space for one’s offspring to study with great diligence for those all important SATS. Loft hatch.

EPC Rating: C

Council Tax: D

Tenure: if a tenure were a hold, it would in this case be free.

Viewing recommended.

It’s been a great end to the week here at Wallers… or, more to the point, a great start to February!

We have just taken our third new sales listing – two of which went live already, one of which gets photographed next week; we have two new lettings listings; five new lets agreed and into referencing since Feb 1st, three of which are fully managed; another two sales listings hopefully dropping over the next week – we will see… and then, to pop a cherry on top, as I sat here typing, a call from our Swindon team to say that we have agreed an asking price sale on a property there, too!

I don’t say any of this to brag, I really don’t – there are many, many agents doing waaaay more numbers than these. The point I am making is that the property market is genuinely buzzing right now – I don’t care what anyone says.

Yes there are challenges, I don’t deny it, and yes I know prices are sliding… but I have been banging on about that coming for a year. But that was hardly Nostradamus level forecasting, it was just seeing a bizarre growth line in property prices that was never going to sustain itself. I also recognise that some people are going to feel a punch in the mouth if they are coming out of very low fixed rate mortgages onto now weighted SVRs, or remortgaging onto relatively higher rates.

But look – things can be done to manage all this, with a little thought; mortgage terms could be extended this time round, to soften the blow…. and then reduce the term again next time if rates have dropped; use the massively increased equity to get proportionately better mortgage rates than last time; or, cancel the membership of the gym you never go to and stop having avocado on toast for a couple of years… oh, sorry… went a bit Kirstie Allsop there for a moment, must behave myself… but in realistic terms, there are things that most mortgaged households are actually able to do to smooth out their increased outgoings… I know, because we have done it ourselves (although, seemed to replace things with more after school clubs and activities, somehow…).

The headlines yesterday about the BoE increasing its base rate are true, but there is extra context that paints a very different story.

Base Rate is up, but mortgage rates are coming down.
Inflation is high, but expected to tank over the course of this year.
The threat of recession is ever-present, but now they are predicting shorter and shallower… and they were already predicting shallow.
Economists now hedging their bets on any more base rate rises at all (although I would suggest probably to expect another quarter percent – maybe not next time, but the meeting after… and then, I think, that might be it).
Stats show property market activity to be in line – or perhaps, dare we believe, even more buoyant – than in the same period in other years within the last ten, since we escaped the depths of the last financial crisis.

And remember, getting syntactical and semantical about the whole affair, that this is a crisis, perhaps (although, I’d say even that term is questionable, from a property market point of view, outside of the cost of living crisis), but it is not a crash. I know some commentators are talking about 30% drops in property values… I cannot see the evidence for it, and to be honest, if prices do fall 10% over the next 12 to 24 months, the market can withstand it… but if I had to stick my neck out, I would look at 5% to 7% drop – perhaps overall – and prices picking up again before the end of this year, as we come out of a naturally quiet summer. In fact, I would say that if the base rate does go up to 4.25%, it might well be nudged down again during the last quarter, to stimulate the economy as it grows itself out of the barely-recession it finds itself in.

In the meantime, mortgage lenders will continue to provide solutions (as I said about this time last year, look out for the return of the Tracker Mortgage!), and based on our current enquiries, the property market will continue apace, alive and very much kicking.

It is Boxing Day! But why do we call it that? And since when?

What does it have to do with fisticuffs? Or is it something to do with boxing up unwanted gifts the day after Christmas?

At least someone on a pub quiz team will boldly claim it is definitely a Victorian creation – and a quizmaster would normally give that as a correct answer…

But the origins are a little more murky than that.

Actually, ‘boxing’ was a term given to the charitable act of giving… and ‘Boxing Day’ did, it is true, become an official bank holiday in 1871, which is when Queen Victoria sat the throne. Being not just Queen but actually Empress Victoria, is why it is celebrated today, still, in so many countries around the world, as it became an Empire-wide holiday, not just a British one.

In saying the above, it became an ‘official’ Bank Holiday because it had for some time been an unofficial one…

There was already a tradition that household servants, having sacrificed their own family time to serve the lords and ladies and the families of their households on Christmas Day, would be given the next day off to spend with their families. They would be given boxes of leftovers, gifts or tips, and the lords and ladies of the manor would, in the absence of their servants, enjoy a feast of cold cuts and leftovers themselves that day. Well, you wouldn’t expect them to cook for themselves, would you?

So it was the aristocracy and the gentry, then, that came up with this idea of giving to their servants on the 26th December? And coined that act ‘boxing’?

No, it wasn’t. Much earlier than the Victorian period, working class folk and labourers would spend the 26th December roving about to get ‘boxes’ – which really was a linguistic term that had come to mean ‘tips’ – from those whom they had served throughout the year. Essayist Jonathan Swift, in 1710, wrote: “I shall be undone here by Christmas boxes. The rogues at the coffeehouse have raised their tax, every one giving a crown, and I gave mine for shame…”. Some people think the same, in the 21st century, about the way 12.5% gets automatically added to their bills at restaurants. Funny how things change, yet somehow stay the same…

1710 is not the earliest mention of this phenomenon though. Samuel Pepys, the diarist famous amongst other things for documenting the Great Fire of London, hinted at the idea in 1663: “Thence by coach to my shoemaker’s and paid all there, and gave something to the boys’ box…”.

So why December 26th? Why not December 25th? That’s the day for the giving and receiving of gifts, surely?

Well… no, not necessarily. You all know something of the truth of it, or at least you do if you know the old carol about Good King Wenceslas – although how many of us ever paid attention to the words? It tells the story of King Wenceslas – who was actually a Duke in 10th century Bohemia – who, on the Feast of Stephen (St Stephen’s Day, being December 26th), spotted a poor peasant in the snow trying to gather fuel. He asked his page who the man was and where he lived. The Page replied that he lived some distance away in a cave underneath the mountain at the edge of the forest, to which Wenceslas then replied, so the carol goes:

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine,

Bring me pine logs hither,

Thou and I will see him dine,

When we bear them thither”

And the carol later ends:

“Therefore, Christian men be sure,

Wealth or rank possessing,

Ye who now will bless the poor,

Shall yourselves find blessing.”

So this carol about King Wenceslas’s good doings on December 26th was written in Britain 1853, about a Duke who had died in Bohemia in 935 AD – but it didn’t take 900 years to remember him this way. Certainly by as early as the 1100’s, Saint Wenceslas – canonized almost immediately after his death by murder at the hands of his brother, and in the act becoming seen as a martyr – was being venerated by Christian preachers for his habit of delivering alms and charity and doing good deeds.

But why the mention of St. Stephen’s Day, on December 26th? Well, since as early as the third century AD, ‘boxes’ had been installed in churches for Advent, and then on St Stephen’s Day these boxes were opened and the alms and money collected was distributed to the poor – and hence where the term Boxing came from.

But who was St. Stephen? In fact, he was the first Arch Deacon, and the first Martyr – the proto-martyr – stoned to death in 36 AD, just a couple of years after Jesus Christ himself was crucified. But in life, his job – as appointed by the apostles – was to distribute food and charitable aid to the needy….

And this is all why and how the act of giving became associated with his Saint’s Day, on December 26th; why alms boxes in churches became a tradition to fill during advent for distribution to the poor on his feast day; why Duke Wenceslas went about on that day giving gifts to his poorer folk; why over the following centuries, poorer folk became used to the idea that on that day they would receive boxes – a term meaning ‘tips’ – from those they served; why later on than that, Victorian servants were presented with boxes of gifts, leftovers and money on the 26th December, harking back to the alms boxes of the third century churches, and were given the day off as holiday; why by 1871 the Crown formalised this holiday and named it for the act of ‘boxing’ it was originally associated with; and why, being an official public holiday named in an act of parliament during Queen Victoria’s reign, we and other commonwealth nations still celebrate it as ‘Boxing Day’ today.

How it has somehow (I feel) lost its charitable flavour and become – instead of a day of giving – more of a day for shopping; and how it has become such a big day for hunting, rugby and football… well, that’s another story! But, a day for cold cuts and leftovers – at least for these Wallers – it most definitely remains, to this day.