A guy turns up to view a vacant room. "Is this a council flat?" he asks, suspiciously. I tell him it is indeed ex-local authority, as clearly mentioned in the advertisement.
"Yah, but I don't know vot is ex-local authority," he says with more than a hint of a German accent. "This place looks like a prison camp."
"Like Butlins?" I ask optimistically. He frowns and shakes his head. "No. Like a camp."
"Oh-kaaay," I say, trying to keep my composure, "let's do the tour." My daughter, who I've dragged along to the viewing, gives me a look that says "WTF, are you mad?" Of course I know it will be a waste of time, but what the heck, I've got a couple of minutes until the next appointment and for some reason - pride maybe - I want to make this chap see that the flat isn't as bad as he thinks.
I make a point of showing him the fridge and the freezer, I open the oven and I even show him the shiny, newish boiler. "Yah," he says, unimpressed.
"The kitchen is a kitchen and here's the bedroom," I say with a flourish. "Look out of the window, there are trees and, look, grass. No watchtower.
"He snorts. "OK," he says. "The flat is OK. This bedroom is great. I like it, but this area, it's so veird."
I want to make him eat his words. "Wait, did you hear that?" I ask. He shakes his head. "What? I can't hear anything." Precisely, I tell him. That's because the area is so peaceful, it's so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
He gives me a wry smile and shakes his head. "I don't like this, how you say, ex-low-cal authority."
The next viewer calls to say he can't find the flat. Hanging over the balcony I spot a young man walking along the pavement, holding a mobile to his ear. "I think I see you," I say. "Are you wearing red trousers?" He cranes his neck up at the sky, as if I'm speaking to him from Heaven. "Errrm, I don't think so."
I suggest he takes a look and I see him glance down. "Oh yes," he says, by which time my daughter and I are laughing so much we have to hold on to each other for support.
"They're jogging bottoms," he says when he reaches the door, I suppose by way of an explanation. They are dirty jogging bottoms, his greasy hair is sticking up all over his head; he looks like he's slept in a hedge. He's posh though, like the Harry Enfield character Tim Nice-But-Dim.
He wants to take the room - he doesn't think it's like a prison camp - so we arrange for him to come back the next day with the deposit, in cash. When Posh-But-Dim turns up he's holding a cheque. I don't accept cheques. I tell him it's because they might bounce, but really it's because I'm so pathologically disorganised they end up at the bottom of my bag for months until I accidentally throw them out with all the kids' used tissues.
His cheeks flush the colour of his trackie bottoms (yup, he's still wearing 'em). He ruffles his already-ruffled hair.
Strangely, I feel that I want to give him a big hug, despite the grime. "It's from my mum," he offers. "I don't think she's ever bounced a cheque."I take the proffered slip and clock that it's signed by Lady somebody-or-other.
"OK," I say, "I'll trust you." With the cheque still in my hand, I go straight to the bank.
Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London