High life in a loft built for two

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The Independent Online
The old adage "two can live as cheaply as one" is not as reliable as some soothsayers would have you believe. Judging from my weekly pilgrimage from the refrigerator to the rubbish bin, a family of seven can live as cheaply as one.

Each week, much to my shame, a veritable trolley load of produce, well beyond its condemn-by date, makes its way towards the refuse dump.

That, however, is another story. My real concern with the soothsayers is that their adage does not equate with the realities of the property market. Where the theory falls down is not so much as the living but more the finding somewhere to live which is an essential pre-requisite of putting the adage to the test. Two may be able to live as cheaply as one but they cannot buy as cheaply as one.

I learn this lesson not from bitter experience but from experiencing bitter in the snug bar of the Fount of All Knowledge with my old friend Pedro. He is house hunting with what on the seamier side of town would be his common-law wife or girlfriend but among the chattering classes of his natural habitat is his partner.

I bumped into Pedro last week as he wept openly into his beer. I said bumped, if the truth be told I was trying to make a hasty exit to avoid his doom- laden company when he spied me.

"It's this house hunting. It's getting me down," he whined.

"I know, I know. More buyers than sellers, nothing on the market, nine purchasers for every property, average sale time three seconds and prices going through the proverbial." I sympathised.

Pedro's problem was not the property market but his partner, Emma, or grumpy Spice as she is known when she is not within hearing distance. There was, it transpires, plenty of properties he wanted to buy and indeed plenty of properties she wanted to buy. Unfortunately there were no properties they both wanted to buy. Pedro would be happy with a two-up one-sideways apartment anywhere in London. Emma , however, wants to live in a warehouse.

"A warehouse!" I exclaimed. "What does she think she is, a sack of soya beans?"

"Not a proper warehouse, a loft," Pedro explained.

"But lofts are for Christmas decorations," I said.

Apparently not. Lofts are lovingly crafted out of derelict warehouses and then sold at great expense to people like Pedro's partner.

"I can't bear it," Pedro complained.

"The loft?"

"No, the arguments." "How about a house with a loft?" I ventured.

Pedro scowled his lack of amusement.

The question now was whether I encouraged his disenchantment or offered him the hope of reconciliation. I opted for the latter.

"Lofts are quite appealing," I said.

"You are joking," Pedro thundered. "It would be like living in a, in a..."

"In a loft?" I asked


"But it would be bright and roomy and airy."

"And extremely expensive," Pedro added.

I remonstrated with him pointing out that for the sake of a couple of bob a week on the mortgage it was hardly worth performing the relational equivalent of annexing the Sudetanland.

"At least you have found somewhere to live even if you don't like it," I grumbled.

Pedro's resistance crumbled.

"If the worst comes to the worst you can always change things around like a sort of, well like a loft conversion," I added.

"And as far as the mortgage repayments are concerned don't forget two can live as cheaply as one."