Class conscious

We recently sold our house in Highgate, north London, but were unable (for reasons too abstruse to mention, yet which have been dominating my life for months) to buy another in time.

Therefore, we are now renting a flat in Highgate while we look for something else to buy, and, although it's irksome to be in limbo and neurosis-making to be off the property ladder, our flat must have one of the best views in London.

Or rather, as I irritate the wife by churlishly pointing out, one of the second best views. If you go on to the roof to fiddle with the aerial, as I fruitlessly did the other day, and look to the left, you can see Southend, as well as a milky miasma that could even be the sea. If you look straight ahead from the back rooms of the flat, you can see right over London to the North Downs, which, in an article for the Daily Telegraph, I once mixed up with the South Downs, thereby bringing in the biggest postbag I've ever received.

The clue to the awkwardness lies in that mention of Southend - for Highgate is just in the north-eastern quadrant of London and this, taken together with lopsided tree growth in Highgate Cemetery, means that our view is mainly of east London.

The Dome looms big, like the proverbial carbuncle - if only you could squeeze it and be done with it, like a real spot. When I show people the view from the flat I say, in a commensurately flat voice: "Obviously, you can see the Dome," and they say: "Oh, but it's still a lovely view."

Two architecture connoisseurs invited round for dinner have asked for St Paul's and the Houses of Parliament, and I've had to admit they're just out of sight behind a tree that may or may not be deciduous (we await autumn tensely). In the absence of the Palace of Westminster, I have my telescope trained on the clock of a church tower that stands isolated in a Holloway council estate, and is ten minutes slow.

Am I really aggrieved by this? No. I love this flat. In the end it's egalitarian, too, because after dusk the whole of London shimmers as beautifully and exotically as Hong Kong.

This article first appeared in the 06 August 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The Murdochs: a family saga