Keeping up with Camilla - property close to the Royals

Fox by name; fox by nature?

Fox by name; fox by nature? - Credit: Getty Images/Zoonar RF

St Albans may be a dripping with history, but are there any Royals living here?

The Duchess of Cornwall, going about her business (Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire)

The Duchess of Cornwall, going about her business (Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire) - Credit: PA

Chase the Queen

There was a ridiculous article by Eleanor Doughty in the Telegraph this week titled “Want to live near the Royal family? This is how you can...”

What she leaves out is the end of that sentence, which should basically be “This is how you can...if you happen to be in the market to spend £1.15 million on a remote manor house in Scotland or £20 million on a flat next to St James’ Palace”.

Perhaps I’m a little numb to this type of article, given that I grew up in Windsor. Without sounding like an arrogant toff, having a castle round the corner wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I’ve always absolutely loved it though. Never have I been complacent about living in this kind of setting - Windsor Castle and the land around it is extraordinary. But, while Ms Doughty’s piece bangs on about the joys of living in a place where you might catch the Queen bombing past in her Land Rover, it forgets about the fact that integrated celebrities are part of every day living now. You are likely to see the cast of ‘Made In Chelsea’ if you hang around Chelsea long enough; if you loiter at the stage door of the Playhouse Theatre in London at the moment, you’ll catch a glimpse of Matthew Perry leaving his current play; and Twitter in general lets the public interact directly with the famous, who have, as a result, become less shrouded in exclusivity and mystique. Nick Grimshaw literally ‘liked’ one of my Tweets this morning.

So did Eleanor Doughty, for that matter. Okay, she didn’t ‘like’ it as much as she responded to it when I Tweeted asking her why Windsor was brushed over in the piece about royal living. Her response was that she didn’t want to focus purely on the Queen’s residences, despite half of the article being about some couple from Scotland who live 20 miles (!) from Balmoral. They have somehow been pinpointed by the Telegraph and quoted as saying “The kids were cycling one day and Camilla drove past. She put the window down and asked if they were having a nice day.”

That’s kind of creepy.

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Anyone weird enough to move to an expensive area because they want to live near the royal family baffles me. I’ve lived near Windsor my whole life and Camilla has never wound down her window and chatted to me. The regal vicinity does mean my rent is higher, so I guess my landlord reaps the rewards. Every cloud...

The Fantastic Mr Fox(tons)

Estate agency Foxtons have been descended upon by a mob of 55 landlords to lodge a £2.14m claim against them for charging hefty commission payments without their knowledge.

Anyone who read my columns of Jan 21 and March 3 (both available online) will know how I feel about lettings agents’ fees.

Apparently, the complaint began when landlord Chris Townley was landed with a £616 bill to repair a light fitting. Mr Townley contacted the company that had carried out the work to be told the subcontractor had only charged £412.50 for the job, with Foxtons adding on 33 per cent in commission.

I would be having none of that. Foxtons must have literally had to Google “light fitting repairer” and make a phone call. But under the vague headline of “management fees”, they somehow feel it appropriate to essentially shaft the landlord whose “management” they entrust their property with.

Now, there are two sides to every story, and Foxtons disputes the claims. I am neither confirming nor denying that this alleged shafting occurred, as I frankly wouldn’t know. Foxtons’ spokesman has said that their fees “represent good value” and that “this case reflects a small minority of landlords and is entirely without merit.”

That’s not good value. Similarly to how I would like to get a breakdown from my own letting agent as to how the £90 tenancy renewal admin fee is calculated on my contract, I’d be interested to know who plucked the 33 per cent “dial-a-light-fixer” figure out of thin air...

Hot property

The West Sussex County Times reports this week that “with the weather set to get warmer over the coming months Horsham police is launching its annual campaign on outdoor property theft, Operation Tulip”.

That’s rather a pleasant name for a crackdown on external residential criminal activity.

The idea here is that, as the weather gets hotter, people are more likely to leave windows ajar, sheds unlocked, car sunroofs open and so forth, paving the way for opportunistic property theft. And so the police in Sussex are doing the rounds, giving advice to the masses on how not to become targets.

I suppose this all makes sense - if the weather is warmer (and we all know how hot it gets in the UK!), we do become a little more glib day-to-day. I, for example, have been known on very hot evenings to sleep with my Juliet balcony door open in my bedroom. This was mostly because my oscillating fan stopped working one particularly balmy night, and I simply couldn’t take it any longer. Clearly, heightening the possibility of being robbed or murdered in my sleep didn’t matter much to me that particular evening. But the police are right to raise awareness.

I’m not sure crime is as seasonal as this bulletin makes out - one could argue that the winter is a riper time for burglary because its darker. But you’re definitely more likely to leave the treasure trove that is your garden shed unlocked in the summer, that’s for sure.

Some of the advice they are giving is a little weird though. For example - “security mark or paint property such as lawn mowers, furniture and tools with your postcode and house number”.

I see the logic, but if I buy a sparkling new Flymo GardenVac, I’m not going to want to start splashing massive numbers and letters all over it in garish red paint, as if someone’s left me a death threat on it in pig’s blood. This advice is essentially telling people to vandalise their own property before someone else steals it!