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Spectator competition winners: If Shakespeare had been an estate agent

7 September 2019

8:30 AM

7 September 2019

8:30 AM

The latest competition called for estate agents’ details in the style of a well-known author.

Highlights, in a cracking entry, included Jeremy Carlisle’s Hemingway: ‘Who needs a house? Certainly no real man known to this agency. Cabin by lakeside for sale… A cabin of strong oak-framed construction. The timbers are as honest and straight as the men who worked them…’; Bill Greenwell’s Harold Pinter: ‘I mean, if you want cosy, I can do you cosy. Cosy. Bijou with all the trimmings, no word of a lie…’; Frank McDonald’s Oscar Wilde: ‘Here is security wrapped in splendour, with all the intoxication of alcohol. There is nothing to declare about the architect but his genius.’ And Rachael Churchill’s Ogden Nash: ‘Surrounding the house is a wooden deck,/ Which is ideal for al fresco dining, or hosting an outdoor discotheque…’ And I could happily move in to Tennyson’s Camelot (Max Ross), Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (Hugh King) or Coleridge’s Pleasure-dome (Julie Steiner).

Commendations also go to Hamish Wilson, David Shields and Max Gutmann, but it was the five below who made the final cut and are rewarded with £30 each.

D.A. Prince/Dylan Thomas
A shy, brick, sly slick town mouse of a house, hunched quiet in a neighbour-gossiped, hatchbacked-clustering corner of a close. It is shuttered, sheltered, smiling over its southerly aspect, snugly sought-after, dreaming of its three-bedroomed family, steps loud in the sunlight of its lounge, shouts clean in the proud flush of its bathroom, gleamed white in the morning. Its kitchen whispers, the cooker ready to hiss electric, base units mounted steadied for riding out daily, its window is opening swing-summer to the fenced, tree-fendered, dew-grazed growth of its garden. The glassy green of its greenhouse glimmers. The barbecue beckons, brave on the patter-patterned patio. Space settles on the drive for two cars, whiling the evening into dusk. A house with heart to come home to, held safe in its easy maintenance, immaculate in the wholly-heaven of its present.

Brian Murdoch/a Psalmist
Rejoice! For the Lord hath prepared for thee a
      dwelling
In a place which is much desired,
Yet its price is not set above rubies.
For hath it not warmth which cometh from the
      earth,
And windows of redoubled crystal?
Yea, in its apartments mayst thou feast,
Or bathe, or lay thee down to take thine ease.
And space there is which accommodateth two
      chariots,
And there is a dwelling-house set apart
Meet for the grandmother of thy children.
And lo! It is close to the habitations of merchants,
And to the houses of learning.
Thus saith the Lord: Many shall covet this
      dwelling,
So that it is the counsel of the wise
That thou shouldst seek to gaze upon it
As early as the dew of the morning. Selah.

Adrian Fry/Garrison Keillor
It is with a silent, Lutheran pride indistinguishable, to the bystander, from modesty that the Amalgamated Realtors of Lake Wobegon usher respectfully to market this fine prairie homestead. Older than you’d imagine given its sturdiness and sturdier than age alone would have you credit, what used to be the Rasmussen place — they’re in Minneapolis now, since you ask, and doing pretty good — sits within sight (somehow, never shadow) of a grain elevator, offering wonderous views into the middle distance. People hereabouts, finding precise room measurements excessively revealing, should be reassured all are on the accommodating side of ample, just the way old Pop Rasmussen ordered his pants. You’ll love everything from the kitchen, which smells of lutefisk, though none has been prepared there in decades, to the bathrooms, where faucets still respect firm handling. Viewing is recommended through rose-coloured spectacles from the vantage of wise old age.

Chris O’Carroll/Henry David Thoreau
Simple, sturdy, Spartan-like cabin in a wooded area of historic Concord, Massachusetts. Perfect retreat for the thinker or inward explorer wishing to live deliberately, to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. Amenities include ready access to an adjacent pond whose stony shore invites contemplative walks in all weather, and ample space to plant and tend a bean field or similar subsistence farming enterprise. Situated a mile from the nearest neighbour, this hermitage nourishes an appetite for wholesome solitude, yet permits the cloistered dweller to avail himself of society by means of an invigorating stroll in any direction through countryside of surpassing appeal. He may find himself in communion with fellow inhabitants of the wilder places, or with men and women of a village much praised for education and culture yet located not far from the neighbourhood of lightning storms and animals that hunt by night.

David Silverman/Shakespeare
Oh, what a treasure and a bargain’s here!
A little more than bijou, less than big;
A little more than shabby, less than chic.
The finest architects in all the world,
Whether for modern, rustic, period-rustic,
Edwardian-Mock-Tudor-period-modern;
The décor’s quirky — yet there’s method in it:
Kelly Hoppen never more refined,
Llewellyn-Bowen ne’er more beautified —
(That’s an ill, a vile phrase: ‘beautified’ ) —
Yet now, since brevity’s the soul of wit:
A plague! A plague on all the other houses!
If it were sold when ’t’is sold, then ’t’were well
It were sold quickly: Yea — cash buyers only,
For neither borrowers nor lenders be.
Exchange the contracts and, upon our charge,
Cry ‘God! I’ve bought an overpriced garage!’

Your next challenge is to recast a famous political speech as a sonnet. Please email entries to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 18 September. Last week’s competition was incorrectly numbered, and should have been No. 3116.


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