Sebastian Gibson prides himself on understanding what people want; it's when people don't know what they want that things get difficult
‘The thing is, it’s just not quite right. Do you know what I mean?’
‘Ummm, I see,’ I responded non-committally. The truth is this client — who I like very much — has completely perplexed me.
I thought, given his need for light, his space requirement, wish for a view and something with a bit of pizzazz but not flashy, I’d hit the jackpot with this Chelsea flat. It’s elegant, with three reception rooms facing south over the river and across to Battersea Park. The bedrooms are spacious and comfortable, the master has a dressing room and all are tucked away at the rear of the building away from the roar of the passing Embankment traffic.
I pride myself on understanding what people want. It’s in the finding that the challenge rests. This client has proved my pride wrong — I don’t know what he wants though I’m not sure that he does either. We’ve flirted with mansion blocks in Kensington, houses in the outer reaches of Notting Hill, cottages in Chelsea and grand flats overlooking Regents Park. The budget and requirement list has a habit of fluctuating.
What do you want?
He’s in the fortunate position of currently owning a rather enticing property in London — and it being the fourth in his portfolio of alluring properties scattered around the globe. In short, he’s in no hurry, and may even stay put.
It had me think of my niece, who last summer holidays, when driving through the Umbrian countryside repeated the refrain, ‘I want…’ and then paused.
‘What do you want, darling?’ I asked, as an attentive uncle should.
‘I want… something,’ she said finally. She was days away from three at the time so her lack of clear description can be forgiven but it’s a sentiment we can all (my client particularly) relate to. That craving for the intangible: it may be an ice cream; a night of passion; a schuss down perfect powder snow on a clear bright day; an evening with friends. This list could go on interminably.
Just tell me what you want, what you really, really want
The fact is there’s no word in our extensive language that describes it. The Germans do have one and it is Sehnsucht. CS Lewis defined it as ‘an inconsolable longing for we know not what’. And that’s what this client of mine has in property terms.
In a heightened state of Zen living we’d all be content with our lot but we’re not quite that evolved. And desire and yearning drive us and often inspire us so they’re no bad thing. The key is knowing what you want — and then you can chase after it.