Moving house with the Fortescues

A critical appreciation of the latest property-switch extravaganza from the couple everyone is talking about. 

There’s been an enormous amount of expectation and industry buzz around the new house move of Bob and Sandra Fortescue and it behoves a serious-minded critic to separate out the myth-making histeria from the facts of the case.


Of course, the Fortescues first came to national attention eight years ago after pulling off an audacious move from an inner-city, high-rise, one bed apartment to a fabulously chic Edwardian terrace in the delightful Cotswolds village of Binton Mosley.


Much was made of the impressive inventory skills that Sandra brought to the project and Bob’s resourcefulness in getting all their Ikea furniture down five flights of stairs sustaining only minimal damage to a sideboard and his shins. A reporter from the local newspaper records the word “bollocks” being used at least a dozen times. It is exactly this type of ‘colour’ that made the move so notorious.


Sandra’s sister Bethany served sandwiches and hot drinks throughout the day and Bob’s brother Dave drove the van. Conveyancing by Trevor Denton.


The difficult second move, two years later,  to a near-derelict lighthouse in Dumfries received more mixed reviews. “Bordering on the nonsensical” declared The Scottish Bugle’s ferocious editorial, characterising the move as “a monumental folly by a couple of profound  idiots”.


The Times Educational Supplement, traditionally more open to radical departures, saw it very differently:


“For followers of the form, this latest move from Bob and Sandra Fortescue is tantamount to a kind of free-form jazz. Rather than taking the easy path of repeating an early and much heralded success, they have opted for something altogether off-the-wall, dangerous, and dare I say it, improvisatory. Not one of us saw it coming. Bravo!”


The official records detail physical aspects of the move were managed by Stan Collins and Sons in their customary forthright and unfussy manner. Sandra provided snacks and Bob supervised the demolition of a shed. A piano and a ladies bicycle were lost in transit. Four dinner plates and a gravy boat failed to survive the journey.


Lee Macenzie was the agent (useless) and Margaret Wilkes did the legal work.


Debate has raged ever since about whether the Fortescues are the so-called “real deal” as their supporters maintain or a couple who in the words of The Telegraph’s Senior Lifestyle Critic, Ben Silvers, “got lucky once, hit it out of the park with no idea how they did it or how they might do it again”. Savage stuff.


Much then was riding on this latest move, especially given strong rumours that if all goes well, the Fortescues might be considered for a call-up to the United Kingdom squad for the upcoming European Championships, a meteoric rise for a couple who have only recently turned professional.


This move into the professional ranks coincided with, and indeed was made possible by, an exclusive television rights deal with Sky. The latest switch - to a spacious houseboat moored in the Thames Estuary - was broadcast live to the nation last weekend and received an astonishing four million viewers which suggests the Fortescues have a glittering career ahead of them.


From the offset, it has to be granted that Sandra looked fabulous. Wearing an off-the-shoulder Karl Lagerfield taffeta gown in deep magenta with matching shoes by Marc Jacobs she drew audible gasps from the men unplugging the dishwasher. There could be no mistaking the new artistic direction, especially when compared to the previous house move which Mrs Fortescue conducted in a Diadora tracksuit and wellies. 


Bob was wearing a petrol-blue morning suit by Stella McCartney with brogues from Charles Taylor. Lilac cravat by Paul Smith. Sausage and egg sandwiches by Big Phil (breakfast bar, layby of A455).


The big dramatic moment came at 3.20pm when Sandra confronted Bob about where the cat was. With the action beginning at the top of the lighthouse and then continuing through the rest of the building it was an impressively staged tour de force which was photographed superbly by multiple Bafta winner Roger Deakins. Key grip was Barbara Mendel.


As we’ve come to expect from the Fortescues, the dialogue was snappy and at times profane. Sandra’s exasperation was beautifully played although this reviewer felt Bob’s performance was a little overwrought and possessed of a neurotic intensity that wasn’t justified. According to sources, he didn’t even like the cat.


Additional dialogue by Tom Stoppard. Choreography: Lisa Odell.


The journey of household goods was undertaken by Malcolm Turner Logistics. 


A curtain pole was bent out of shape and a lamp shade was perforated. 


Three hats, all of them Bobs’, went missing. The cat was never found.


On the balance of reviews already in, there seems to be a wide and popular consensus that the houseboat move is a clever and entertaining piece of business. The kitchen located in the bowels of the boat is rather cramped and dark but the main living area more than makes up for it with a surprising airy nonchalance. The plumbing in the bathroom is very romantic and the bedrooms express an endearing wholesomeness bordering on the ironic. Cupboards positioned either side of the engine room offer impressive storage space and unlimited opportunities for criminal activity.


The Swindon Chronicle was ecstatic. “It takes the breath away, this latest jaunt by the Fortescues. There is an undeniable recklessness to their talent which adds a whiff of danger to everything they do”. 


“A triumph!” shouted the Doncaster Examiner, “surely an international call-up is now a formality”.


Even the normally sober and august trade publication What Move Monthly could barely contain itself hailing the duo as “the undisputed new darlings of the house-moving scene”. 


Given the critical hallelujahs it may prove difficult for the Fortescues to keep their feet on the ground and there will surely be added pressure now to perform house moves on a more regular basis. Three a year has been suggested by some agents. For the time being, however, Bob and Sandra maintain that they won’t be moving for the sake of it and that they will be bringing the same intensity and authenticity to all their subsequent outings.


Let’s hope this outstanding couple can resist the obvious commercial temptations put before them and are given time to develop into the property-switching game-changers they are capable of being. They have the potential, and I do not say this lightly, of moving just about anywhere, Hall of Fame included.

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