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Looking at Gardens on Garden Leave

We began an earnest search for new digs this afternoon. It's no longer about walking around neighborhoods and peering into windows of lettings offices. We've stepped up our game and are now meeting with estate agents (one who looks like an undertaker-in-training) and going on walkthroughs of overpriced, under-refurbished properties.

My spirits remained remarkably (and uncharacteristically) undaunted.

We started small, both in the scope of our search and in size of the properties. We saw three 2-bedroom mews houses all within spitting distance of B2.

I think the cats would be very content in any of them. Of course, they'd have to live there on their own because there's not really room for two humans alongside them. Okay, I exaggerate. There's room for one human. And we really can't afford adjoining mews ... although that does have a certain Tim Burton / Helena Bonham Carter appeal to it.

My initial thought was they'd be great starter flats for single people who had no furniture. None of the bedrooms we saw would accommodate our bed, let alone chests of drawers, side tables, bureaus, etc. I didn't want to sound negative right off the bat, so I bit my tongue. Fortunately, they were too spartan for even my spartan Canadian, who would be happy in a studio with a telly. Me, I prefer something more the size of a television studio.

I admit. We're spoiled in this place. It's much more grand than anything we might have found on our own, but Citi gave us a housing allowance and it was use it or lose it. So we used it, and in the course of two years I've gotten used to living in the equivalent of a medium-sized house right in the smack dab of Central London. I knew at the beginning it wouldn't be forever ... but still.

Change is good. Change is good.

On Monday we're looking at (at least) three new spaces in and around Belsize Park, with our new friend Tom (who does not look like a keeper of caskets). On paper, the properties look quite attractive. I'm especially excited about the 2-bedroom split-level on England's Lane, complete with a kicky wooden staircase that leads up to a private panoramic roof deck. It looks kind of loftish ("semi-open plan", they call it) and the neighborhood seems great. We had an early (and very tasty) dinner at the Washington, which could be one of our new locals, and it had a homey, laid-back feel to it with a friendly staff, including a one-armed barman.

If the split-level doesn't work, there's a nice place down the road from there with a garden (that's a back yard for all you Yanks), a gas-powered fireplace in the living room, and an eat-in kitchen. I would love to have a proper eat-in kitchen, with loads of counter space. I'm all about having "space" these days, and becoming less inclined to go out. See? I am getting old. But not so old that I want to move to the suburbs. We're all for easing out of our comfort zone ... but only one step at a time. So we'll dip our toes into Zone 2 and see how the water is.

I guess we'll probably have to give up the American-sized fridge, and it looks like we're going to be hard-pressed to get a utility room with a washer *and* dryer (everything seems to be a w/d combo (ugh), but one never knows. I suppose an ice-maker is going to be totally out of the question. Oh well, at least we don't have to refrigerate red wine.

I know. I'm spoiled ... but I've had an ice maker for the past nine years, and it's hard to go backwards in one's food preparation conveniences.

But then again, if we have decent water pressure, plumbing that doesn't crap out (pun intended) every two weeks, a dishwasher that works (ours has been on the fritz since Thanksgiving), and hot water that actually comes out of the taps (which has been missing for four of the past six days), we'll be a step ahead of our fashionable Marylebone digs. I can now honestly say I know what it's like to live in a cold-water walk up.

The good news is we don't have to find a place within any given time frame, and we've always been very lucky in finding a place to rest our heads/receive mail/come in from the cold (or whatever it is that makes you call a place "home").

Stay tuned.