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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #133

Ben on a chair[Ben Reeve Lewis is losing the plot...]

Frazzles and I are getting set for a pre-Xmas week’s break in Lanzarote, or ‘Lanz – a- grotty’ as everyone seems intent on calling it.

Her accountant is letting us have his cottage with a swimming pool for 5 bob and a fart, so why not? [I think I need to have a word with MY accountant - Ed]

To be honest Lanzarote is not a place on top of my to-do-list but the chance to eat fruit in honeyed yoghurt for breakfast in December before a dip in the pool while the rest of the UK freezes is very appealing, given I haven’t had a holiday for three years.

Ben loses the plot

I am losing the plot a bit. People ask me for legal advice and I forget what they want.

Their individual issues mutate into one gigantic, amorphous, generic problem……Last week I spent 2 hours interviewing a woman losing her home to a mortgage company. She sat in tears and I held her hand and promised her that she would be OK. Two hours later I bumped into her in Tesco and couldnt remember where I knew her from.

God, I need a break.

Even letting agents  …

So much of my day is spent dealing with dodgy and even fraudulent letting agents that I was heartened to read this piece in the Telegraph, a collection of humorous stories of day to day life in the lettings industry that provided a much needed counterpoint to the human misery that I have to deal with and reminds me that behind the fraudsters and criminals that are my daily lot even letting agents…….YES EVEN LETTING AGENTS are, by and large just normal decent human beings.

James Dean of Knight Frank told us:

“On one house inspection, rather than give the clients advice on their property, I ended up leaving with their dear, recently departed, Labrador and took her to be cremated at the local hunt kennels.”

While Johnathon Penn of Jackson-Stops and Staff fessed up:

“I was doing a valuation on a particularly special property which had just had a brand new white carpet fitted. All was going swimmingly until the fateful moment when my fountain pen slipped out of my hand: horrified, I looked on as it hit the white carpet, broke and splattered dark blue ink everywhere. I had to confess and it became a free valuation.”

Another day another dollar.

Career down the pan

I’m no stranger myself to the embarrassing encounter. In the past 2 years I have been filmed for 6 or 7 different TV documentaries on landlord tenant issues, so it’s all becoming a tad passé for me and a pain in the arse to be honest.

Endlessly having to walk out of the interview room so they can film from different angles, not to mention forgetting to turn off your radio mic when going to the toilet.

Earlier this year two different production companies filmed taster tapes for a BBC documentary (That I never ended up in anyway) The losing company emailed me wishing me luck and asking me to stay on board for future projects because they thought I was ‘Good for TV’.

I picked the message up on my phone and forwarded it to Frazzy saying “Here, look at this typical arse-licking TV bollocks”, except I didn’t press ‘Forward’, I accidentally hit ‘Reply’…………one TV career over, literally at the press of a button ha-ha.

Well. Who needs to be the Jamie Oliver of Housing?

Unique properties

Planet Property pointed me in a new direction this week. The website “Unique property”, a fantastic new find x and one I shall mine for future Newsrounds.

A former nuclear bunker on sale in Wadhurst Sussex for a little under £15,000.

Astonishingly the advert says it is a prime opportunity for “Nuclear bunker aficionados”. Excuse me? Is there such an animal?

You never can tell.

SS Uniforms

ThunderstickBack in the early to mid 1980s I was a professional musician (Bass Guitar) in a band called Thunderstick. (that’s me in the middle of the pic) I had the terrific wheeze of wearing an SS uniform on stage for a tour we did, sometimes doubling up with Motorhead.

I went to a now defunct shop in Marylebone High Street called ‘Blunderbuss Antiques’ around the corner from the legendary ‘Queen’s’ management company, who also had us and Chris Rea in their stable. Queen’s manager Jim Beach gave me an open cheque on this one, and I asked when the next assignment was coming in.

“Next Friday”, they said, “But get in quick because they go sharpish”. I laughed and asked “Who the hell buys SS uniforms with such urgency?”, only to be met with a “Wicker man” style awkward silence from the collected staff and the conversation ended suddenly with eyes firmly fixed on the floor.

There are some weirdoes out there for sure.

Keeping it local

SS uniforms aside I confess I am a big fan of local economics. As I wrote in recent issues ‘One The Elephant’ is a tower block development at the Elephant and Castle which was marketed solely to investors in Singapore.

So any money recouped from house sales, running into the multi-millions will simply leak out of the community and into the bank accounts of a bunch of rich people who have never had the good fortune to travel up and down one of the local area tower block lifts with their distinctive South East London urine fragrance.

Eddie Todmorden is leading the way in local food production, keeping money where it needs to be, among the people who put the money in.

Call me old fashioned….call me a Trotskyite if you want but I like local, people driven initiatives. They make sense to me. Better than trusting your money to a crack head Methodist minister/banker or a domestic goddess who confuses her 00 grade pasta flour with Columbia’s finest marching powder.

Edible bus stop – what next?

In Lambeth there is even an edible bus stop.  A small allotment plot where artichokes and beans grow while you are waiting for the 127. How cool is that?

Eddie said:

“Why would a TV crew from Brazil turn up at the far end of Calderdale to look at turnips? It’s because what’s happening in Todmorden provides clues about how to rethink places and communities in a harsh economic age.”

To me initiatives like Eddie’s and housing issues as a whole aren’t separate interests. Housing is part of the community. Conventional thinking would have us believe that it’s just about home-ownership v. social renting v. private renting but the way people live still by-passes these rigid, stale unimaginative parameters.

If I seem to have slightly lost the plot towards the end of this admittedly uncoordinated rambling piece bear in mind that I am at the tail end of a 3 year drought on a break, unless you count a day in Hastings, May bank Holiday 2012.

I’m dealing with multiple landlord fraud cases across 5 boroughs, three glasses of red wine down and inexplicably wearing a 25 year old SS uniform.

You try and stay sane and coherent with the pressures I am under!

About the author

Ben Reeve-Lewis Ben is a TRO for a London Local Authority, a housing law trainer, an author on housing law who writes regularly for the Guardian & occasionally pops up wittering away on TV. He also runs Easy Law Training with Tessa & Graeme. Occasionally he sleeps. Find him on Google, and Journalisted.

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2 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #133

  1. Jamie says:

    If you released the album “Don’t Touch, I’ll Scream” it might change your fortunes, meaning you don’t have to go to lanzagrotty.

  2. Ben Reeve-Lewis says:

    Jeez Jamie, how do you know about that? It wasnt released was it? Trouble is, in true rock n’ roll style I dont remember much of it. I vaguely recall the chorus. That was from out own Nigella Lawson period I think.



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