So Harry and Meghan have forked out for their own home for the first time in either of their lives.
It’s a major event, knowing that the place in Montecito, California – unlike poor neglected Frogmore – actually belongs to you and you can do with it exactly what you want. You don’t have to feel responsible to anyone else.
I doubt anybody forgets the excitement of that first night in a home they own. Mine was spent weeping till daylight. The bedroom window was on the ground floor looking on to a major West London road, with the No 52 bus stop 10ft from my bed.
So excited was I by the possibility of owning this one-bedroom flat with a pocket kitchen and sliver of a bathroom that I hadn’t thought about what the traffic was going to sound like, surging throughout the night.
I didn’t sleep a wink, convinced that my entire future, with its 95 per cent mortgage, was condemned to sleeplessness. Of course, within days I was completely deaf to the noise and was able instead to focus my angst on the fact that the plywood kitchen floor was already showing damp patches.
Still, despite all its flaws, the place was mine and I’m sure the Sussexes are just as excited about theirs, even if it does have 16 bathrooms.
My Montecito source, aka my cousin James, who works as a realtor on that precise patch, says that on the scale of top-tier properties, their spend is relatively modest due to the £15 million discount they got on the £26 million being asked three years ago.
So Harry and Meghan have forked out for their own home for the first time in either of their lives
At £11 million, it’s small beer compared to the most expensive house sale in the area – £57.5 million – while even the average house price is still a pretty staggering £2.45 million. Montecito realtors are used to checking out flight paths and private jet landing availability in the same way our estate agents inform tell us about off-street parking.
It’s the details that make a home a home. Theirs is up a gated private road but no doubt they’ll be considering what colour they want the front door once it’s eventually in sight. Is black chic or too threatening? Will they go for the area’s rusty Spanish vibe?
Given that Meghan is meant to be a keen cook, she may well be as obsessed as I was about kitting out the kitchen. I knew I was a property owner when I was suddenly more interested in buying a saucepan set from John Lewis than a new dress.
Buying a home means that this much travelled family are finally putting down roots. They’ll be able to work on the garden (though they didn’t spend much time with the thicket of new trees they installed at Frogmore), and soon Archie will benefit from Montecito’s famously good schools, paid for out of the area’s hefty property taxes.
A word of warning for Boris and Carrie heading north for their staycation. It’s a bad year for wasps. Make sure you stock up on the Jungle Formula
With the Sussexes’ determination to be seen as inclusive, it’ll be fascinating to see if they are first Royals to send their child to a non-fee-paying school to hang out with the locals.
Most of the celebrity and very wealthy inhabitants regard the Santa Barbara area as a wonderful place for a holiday home but just the tiniest bit too dull to live your whole life there.
Will Harry yearn for a bit more action? And will the Sussexes’ first-ever home turn out to be a second home in the end?
A walk on the wild side is lost on me
The past week we have been in Scotland, indulging in country pursuits. Sandwich picnics in the glen, swims in an icy burn.
There’s little in the world to rival the Scottish countryside in terms of sheer beauty – the drifts of purple heather, the vast forests of Scots pine, and shimmering lochs. That’s until you get lost in it.
‘Just follow the river,’ said our host, directing us on what was intended to be a short amble after one picnic lunch.
Slightly concerned that we couldn’t actually see the river, we did what all right-thinking people would and headed downhill and were soon rewarded by the sound of rushing water. The only problem was that there was no way of walking alongside it.
No path of any kind, only a steep, nettle and thistle-clad slope, its precipitous side alternating between mud, brambles and barbed wire. The river below was no longer an appealing proposal but darkly treacherous.
There was no phone signal either to alert anyone to our dilemma.
Hours later we finally emerged, blinking and battered into the daylight, our phones filled with missed calls from an increasingly concerned host. Walks… I’ll take London’s Hyde Park any day.
Office life? It’s never been such a delight
One of the reasons for being in Scotland was to have a meeting. Yup. A proper meeting with a team I had joined during lockdown.
This was the first time I’d met any of them in the flesh rather than in the table-top world of Zoom and I was rather hoping for surprises. Would one of them, for example, turn out to be a giant?
But, sadly, they all looked exactly as I had guessed from their screen personas. Even so, what joy to sit at a table and listen to them banter about their boss and the merits of pizza over salad, and to swap information about kids before getting on to the business in hand.
While so many offices are still keeping their staff at home, this glimpse back into what office life used to be confirmed to me that you can’t beat physically working together.
Take the sting out of your hols, Boris
A word of warning for Boris and Carrie heading north for their staycation. It’s a bad year for wasps. Make sure you stock up on the Jungle Formula.
Alexandra Shulman published Clothes… And Other Things That Matter shortly after lockdown began
My book disaster had a happy ending
When I published my book Clothes… And Other Things That Matter, shortly after we locked down, I thought the end of the world had come.
All that work and suddenly no bookshops, no festivals, no places to spread the word.
Now I learn that so many other books were held back, that in the first week of September 600 are going to be published.
Talk about competition! I clearly had a very lucky escape.