Sunshine And Fine Meat

Issue 59

The past few months have been about trying to find little rays of sunshine amid the doom and chaos. Captain (now Sir) Tom Moore raising £32m by walking his garden. More time with the family. My brother Zeno and his astonishing artisan bread making skills. The fact that I am of Italian heritage.

Yes, I have been known to bore people silly about the wonders of Italian descent. Producers of the world’s finest food. Inventors of the Ferrari. Effortlessly stylish. Unless you ask my wife. To this list I can now add saving our landlords and tenants more heartache during lockdown.

Italy was the first European epicentre of Covid-19 and while the news reports were dreadful, they did not convey the full horror of what was happening in Northern Italy. Conversations with family and friends did. I realised very early on that this nightmare was heading our way and took action accordingly.

Our small team immediately started upgrading our tenancies to include a rent guarantee. This task involved many hundreds of properties and it saw us working long into the night. Within days of completing the final transaction the products began to be withdrawn as underwriters realised what was coming. Information from my extended family in Northern Italy had allowed our team to take swift action, protecting both tenants and landlords well into next year. Then, far from resting on their laurels, our team quickly adapted to working from home, calling both tenants and landlords with advice and reassurance while developing ‘virtual viewings’ enabling us to provide much needed homes for our tenants.

Hopefully now we are looking to the end of this nightmare, so what does the future hold? Again, some sunshine amid the gloom. As a small, reactive agency we have fared far better than the big corporate outfits, many of whom simply furloughed all their staff and took the phone off the hook. Some even took down their online property listings leaving landlords and tenants anxious and in the dark.

Some of the innovations forced upon us by lockdown are set to become permanent features of our offering. For example, we have invested in a 360-degree camera which allows us to create high definition ‘virtual viewings’. My final ray of sunshine comes back to my Italian heritage. Fine food and beer. We have new neighbours who have been quietly working away on their new shop. The Block and Bottle is a free-range butcher, charcuterie and craft beer shop that has made a big impact since launching in 2017. One year in and they won runner-up in the Observer Food Monthly awards against stiff competition from firms with decades of experience.

Block and Bottle represent everything that makes Heaton such a great place to live and work. Passion, commitment and service to our community. Between them and my brother’s artisan bread I intend to emerge from this dreadful time a contented fat man. Because to quote the writer Walt Whitman, “I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.”.

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