When I was a kid, I was a voracious reader. Mostly because unlike the majority of my contemporaries, my parents refused to sanction a television in my bedroom.
So instead, I watched the whole of the 1990 World Cup on mute, with my face two inches from the television in my parent’s bedroom. Pulling off this spectacular feat involved getting from viewing position to hiding place quicker than either of them could climb the stairs.
At some point in my early twenties, having spent a lot of time in the University library, I more or less gave up.
Over ten years passed, during which time I probably read no more than five books. And then one day, someone pushed a copy of Steven Covey’s bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People into my hand.
Habit 2 - Begin with the end in mind
Spending time thinking about how I’d like things to turn out, and then going back and doing the work required is something I’ve had to learn how to do. But I’ve written about that before, and today isn’t going to be a re-cap.
Instead, there’s a reason for the unnecessarily long introduction and oversharing of personal information. I knew exactly how I wanted today’s blog to end.
What I was less sure about was how I wanted it to begin, and what would go in the middle.
Would it be a guide to Notting Hill, rich with historical anecdotes? Including how the area went from a place where pigs were farmed and bricks were made, to a fashionable middle class district of London? Before falling out of favour in the postwar years, and then being revived once again?
Or better, maybe be a riff on the late nineties film starring Britain's favourite floppy haired whoopsadaisy? Yes, let’s go with that.
As part of my research, my wife and I sat down to re-watch the movie. And it really didn’t disappoint. Much like the London village that bears the same name, it’s not just one thing, it’s everything.
It’s Julia Roberts' intoxicating mix of fame and power, with just enough vulnerability to make her plausible. It’s the perfect casting of not one, not two, but three bumbling Englishmen. It’s the way that Ryhs Ifans combines the physical and the farcical to such hilarious effect.
And in much the same way that Richard Curtis was able to bring together a combination of factors to create the perfect romantic comedy, Notting Hill itself has evolved into one of London’s most sought after neighbourhoods.
Its stucco-fronted homes are painted a mixture of traditional neutrals, nursery pastels and moody greys. And its residents are just as eclectic. Bohemians next to bankers, tech entrepreneurs alongside politicians.
The Victorian terraces are classically London, but it’s the best-kept-secret communal gardens which really set the area apart. They tilt Notting Hill towards a British history rich in greenness and pleasantry
It’s bordered by Holland Park and Kensington Gardens, and is home to Michelin starred restaurants, organic cafes and numerous high end stores.
And running right through the middle is Portobello Road market. Where incredibly, you can pick up a Hermes scarf at just a fraction of the price that it’s sold for at their Bond Street store. And without the queues either.
No wonder it’s become the post pandemic postcode du jour, but especially amongst Americans. In 2022 our friends from across the pond were responsible for over half of the 52 London-wide sales over £15m.
At the beginning of last year I was introduced to some clients who were planning a move from Los Angeles to London. But they didn’t know where to start, or where they might finish either.
The search for a home took us from Highgate to Weybridge and almost every prime location in between. In total we looked at sixty-one potential properties, before settling on Notting Hill.
It took twelve months, four visits to London and countless calls, emails and WhatsApp messages at all times of the day and night. But despite that, it never felt arduous.
And just as I was thinking about why that was, I got a helping hand from my client. A successful person by any measure, both in life and in business.
“At the end of the day Simon, me, you, in one way or another we’re all in the service industry”
And of course, he’s right. Estate agency is first and foremost about service. And it reminded me of a quote from Charlie.
“It’s such a simple idea. It’s the golden rule so to speak: You want to deliver to the world what you would buy if you were on the other end. There is no ethos, in my opinion, that is better for a person to have”
It’s also the part of my work which I love the most. Aligning people with homes where they’ll spend quality time with their family, making moves across continents slightly easier and giving clients the feeling that they’re being looked after by someone who really cares.
Thankfully for me, the good news didn’t end there. Because through the process of searching for one home, I ended up renting a second house in the neighbourhood, to another US client.
A true Notting Hill love story.
For Sale: A recently refurbished double fronted mews house on Pottery Lane, Notting Hill. Right around the corner from the last remaining nineteenth century pottery kiln on Walmer Road, and also Britain's first floral lawn, at the lovely Avondale Park.
Things I’ve been paying attention to
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. A book about marketing from before the internet was a thing. Which you can’t buy on Kindle, somewhat appropriately.
“Fad is a wave in the ocean, and a trend is the tide. A fad gets a lot of hype, and a trend gets very little. Like a wave, a fad is very visible, but it goes up and down in a big hurry. Like the tide, a trend is almost invisible, but it’s very powerful over the long term"