Property Secrets: Cllr Chris White, leader of St Albans District Council
Herts Ad Property team
- Credit: Archant
Lib Dem councillor Chris White lived in Brussels and Oxford before setting up home in St Albans. These are his property secrets...
Where are you from originally?
When did you buy your first property?
1983, a very small flat in Maida Vale.
What was it like?
We were burgled three times and there was a riot. A brick was lobbed through the window opposite us. Call us wusses, but it just didn’t seem very comfortable. About three weeks after we moved in, we saw an article in The Guardian about ‘the notorious X estate’ – I’ll not give its name – which we could see from our bedroom window. We thought ‘great. We have chosen well here!’
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How long did you live there?
Why did you decide to move?
We wanted a nicer area. I grew up in Pinner and went to school in Northwood, so Hertfordshire seemed a natural place to move to. St Albans is one of the places you fetch up in, if it’s not that it’s Hertford or Watford.
Has your time here been very different to Maida Vale from a crime perspective?
Where else have you lived?
Hereford, a village near Doncaster, a village near Brussels, and four years in Oxford as a student. I studied Latin and Greek, plus ancient history and ancient and modern philosophy. It was fabulous, but hard work.
What was Oxford like?
The clichés are true! The sound of the bells and the intellectual intensity. The scenery’s fabulous. It was an incredibly intense experience. The first term I was expected to read all of Homer in Greek. 48 books!
I lived in my college, which had been founded in the 16th century and at one point I had a very old room with a cellar, bizarrely. It was really horrible and musty, but hey! We had a cellar. I look back with fondness and I still go back. It’s another Oxford thing, that you never really leave. Technically you’re a senior member of the college and can book a room if you want – which I have tried, but it’s always been booked by somebody else.
What took you to Brussels?
My father was a European civil servant. He worked for the Commission. My parents moved there roughly at the time I was at university, so increasingly I was not based with them. It was surrounded by parks and quite pleasant.
Where do you live now?
Cunningham Avenue, St Albans, with my wife. You can walk to the shops or the station. It’s fairly leafy.
How long have you lived there?
Have you changed much about your house since you’ve lived there?
Quite a bit, but all internal like the front room (now a library) and the kitchen (now just better than before), and the smallest bedroom became an office.
If you carried out any major renovation work, what did you do and was it worth the effort?
The biggest was the kitchen: it took some weeks (including a lot of eating out). And yes, it was worth it.
Is there anything you’d still like to change about your property?
It really still isn't as energy-efficient as I would like.
Where do you shop for interiors items?
Various online sources. But the local reupholsterer probably made the biggest improvement.
What’s the best thing about your home?
Having a library. My taste is quite eclectic. I do read philosophy, but probably more history of all kinds. I try not to be the tedious politician who reads political biographies but I do read those occasionally. I don’t do thrillers. I tend to read a few books simultaneously. I have two novels on the go at the moment – one is Stalingrad, which is really heavy. Another is Utopia Avenue, which is about a rock band that came together in the 60s. That's much lighter.
Is the library all yours or does your wife share it?
It’s mainly hers; she reads much faster than I do. It’s spreading around the house now. Science fiction has been hidden away somewhere and economics has migrated to my office. It’s more her than me! She’s prolific, and also Oxford. We met on the Saturday before the beginning of the very first term. I don’t hang around! I had stuff to tick off: find wife, get degree. We’ve got thousands of books between us.
What's the worst the worst thing about your home?
Botched rear windows installed before we moved in. Might have been nice to take into account the local vernacular rather than install metal windows.
What’s your favourite local pub?
The Great Northern. Lovely staff. And it’s the closest one.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Do you have a dream road locally?
As a local politician I can see with all sincerity that my electoral division contains many dream roads.