Lying comes frighteningly easy to me
‘Hi, I’m interested in buying the house backing onto Highgate Woods on your website,’ I announced into the phone, projecting all the confidence I could muster.
‘Wonderful, shall we book in an appointment for a viewing?’ said the innocent estate agent.
‘Marvellous’ I enthused.
But I had no intention whatsoever of buying the house. I was in the middle of writing a novel set in a house that backed onto Highgate Woods and had just seen one come up on a local Estate Agent’s site. The photos, description and floor plan were useful, but I wanted to get in there and walk around in it, to breathe in the atmosphere and see just how close these houses really were to the woods.
So I lied blatantly and set up my fake viewing.
Then I panicked and messaged my friends.
‘I’m getting shown round a big house for book research. How do people who have a couple of million quid to spend on a house dress?’ The consensus of opinion was that well off people dress poorly because they’re not showing off. Which suited my dress sense perfectly.
Then I worried that I wouldn’t be able to inhabit the persona of a believable buyer and would subsequently be embarrassed and ashamed after being exposed. But there was no time left to worry. It was D-Day.
I smiled warmly as I shook hands with the lovely unsuspecting estate agent.
I explained I was ‘chain free and buying a second home to rent out because in this financial market investment returns were so low’.
What the what? I’d half-listened to some money advice programme for five minutes and was regurgitating the patter with aplomb.
I explained that I ‘didn’t mind that the house was in poor condition, as I loved all the old features: the scuffed floorboards, the chipped tiles beneath the mantlepiece and the peeling coving. I wanted to restore everything slowly to its former glory’.
Oh my god, I am so awful at home renovation: I’ve cracked a wall trying to put up a picture, I’ve pulled chunks of plaster off walls trying to strip them and I’ve stabbed through cardboard packaging with scissors to deface new furniture before it’s even out of the box.
I said I ‘loved the idea of owning a house right next to woods and couldn’t wait to one day live in it, to be so close to this magical wild forest’.
Living next to a creepy wood is my idea of a nightmare! I would never consider living slap bang next to a scary dark wood full of marauding animals, with creaking groaning trees reaching out their malevolent tendrils towards me!
It was breath-taking what a consummate liar I was. That morning, I morphed into a woman with money to burn, entranced by original features, inspired by nature. But it was really useful for my writing to experience that easy lying. In my novel, many people are lying to my heroine Hannah. Yet no one is a monster – they are all normal people who have lied to make life easier, to protect others, to protect themselves.
Some tiny part of my blackened duplicitous soul did feel bad about my lying. And I really hope that that lovely estate agent did eventually sell that house for a huge profit and she got some kind of positive karmic reward from the universe to balance out my artifice.
But a big part of me didn’t feel that bad about the lying – because the house was so unnervingly perfect for my novel. I’m not a believer in anything that I can’t prove as cold hard fact – but it felt like it was ‘meant’ that I should visit that specific house. It was a three storey Edwardian house with timber features and a raised porch, backing onto Highgate Woods – just like in my book. It had clearly been owned for a long time by someone who had grown old in it and not carried out any renovations – just like in my book. And the chipped French doors of the lounge led straight onto the small garden which abutted the tall woods so closely that the sinister trees almost touched the house – just like in my book.
As I wandered round that wonderful dusty old house, I felt like I was Hannah coming home and I returned from my trip enthused to finish my novel.