Property: One-bed stable, manger included

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Tomorrow is the first day of December. That means there are only around 48 shopping days left to Christmas and the January Sales are about to start. For that we must thank the consumer society which stands ready to let us shop around the clock. And while we are in the shops, or more accurately a queue of traffic, our computers can shop electronically on our behalf.

For my part I will settle for peace and solitude over the next few weeks and head for that ocean of tranquillity also known as my local estate agent. I know I will not be disturbed by hordes of rampaging consumers. More importantly, it is the only shop on the high street untainted by rabid commercialism. While other retailers cram their shelves with festive temptations to ensure we part company with our hard-earned loot, my estate agency retains a detached aloofness and steadfastly refuses to offer anything for sale.

I admire this resilient resistance to the devaluation of Christmas, although I do wonder whether the manager has gone a little over the top. He has refused to bow to the commercial pressures of Christmas all year long and not made a single property available to me.

Yesterday, as I sought refuge in his agency - or empty office, as it perhaps should be known - he hailed me with his traditional Christmas greeting.

"Bah, Humbug," he intoned.

I chuckled and warned that if he became any more Scrooge-like then the ghost of Chancellors past would catch up with him.

"No, buy Hamburg, you idiot. You are not going to find anything around here at this time of year. But I do have an interesting little development which has come on the market in Germany."

I thanked him for his interest and made a mental note to leave his Christmas present on the shelves of my local supermarket. Then I noticed that his office looked unseasonably bare. There was something missing.

It was not the particulars - they had disappeared many months ago. Then it dawned on me - his Christmas Crib, the Nativity scene, had gone.

"Where's your Crib?" I asked.

"Sorry, it's under offer."

"I don't understand."

"A chap came in on Friday and bought the stable, but only on the condition I took it off the market."

Either the world had gone made or he had gone mad.

"Isn't that a bit strange?" I asked.

"I suppose it is, really. You'd think he might have waited until he'd had the survey done."

I could bear this no longer. Instead I decided to engage him in a conversation about the state of the property sector. I had been encouraged by reports that the recent spate of interest-rate rises had taken some of the froth out of the market.

"Slowing down?" I asked.

"It's my age."

"I meant the market."

"Good gracious, no.You just wait until the Sales start. Once all those double duvets have been snapped up, there will be a lot of people looking for beds to put them on. When they run out of beds they go after the bedrooms. It will be like Christmas come early."

"How early?" I asked.

"About February."

"You know the chap who bought the stable? Did that include the manger?"

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