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Mother of two Annette Cunningham is a freelance travel writer and columnist, working in media communications. She has two daughters at university and lives in Kidlington.

The After Life

Annette Cunningham




After recently spending almost three entire lunch breaks visiting a pair of shoes in their temporary high street abode, topped up with goodness knows how many visits to admire their virtues online, I did question the disproportionate amount of time invested in my purchasing habits.

Although the shoes were fab, I just wasn’t convinced if I could justify them joining my rapidly growing collection of unworn footwear – hence the repeat visits.

Now let’s compare this pretty familiar shoe shopping experience with the purchase of something a tad more substantial – like a house!

The first viewing, unlike the visit to admire the glass slippers, will be time restricted. You’ll be expected to assess the merits of the entire dwelling, including the suitability of the immediate neighbours, in around 20 minutes flat. Following the visit you’ll also be expected to provide feedback on the experience.

Online visits to view the property will be numerous, however the wide-angled images of the property are likely to lack the "Press Here to Enlarge" images which my shoes online do offer.


A request for a second visit to the residence may involve a slightly more enthusiastic sales assistant but will again involve a time limit – this will be unspecified but you’ll sense an aura of edginess if you overrun, want to look in the loft or ask how old the boiler is.

Compare this to the high street vendor who will unwearyingly allow you to explore the virtues of the shoes and not take issue with frequent repeat visits.

After just the second house viewing it’s not unusual to feel prepared/pressured to make an offer.  If accepted, another viewing is expected but make the most of this as any further requests to see your intended purchase with its multi-thousand price tag is likely to be met with an air of incredulity.

This visit is unlikely to be very lengthy but this is when it becomes acceptable to delve deeper. Now is the time to prise open fitted wardrobes and peer inside kitchen cupboards for a few seconds - but don’t feel at liberty to check the cleanliness of the fitted oven – you have to have moved in before you can enjoy that privilege.

And here’s the real crux – you can put the shoes on, march up and down and get a real feel for them before committing to a purchase. Treat them with care and you can even bring them back for a full refund if not delighted.

But there’s no opportunity, despite the enormous commitment involved, to see how the house fits. We don’t expect to try out the shower for size or to check under the floorboards to see if anything’s lurking. There’s no invitation to spend an evening in to find out if the living room’s draughty or whether the neighbours play thrash metal at full volume until the early hours.

I can’t help thinking we’ve got it all wrong.

And no, I didn’t buy those shoes – another pair caught my eye and I’ve spent the last week deliberating – just because I can...


 - Annette Cunningham