Sniping can be a useful safety valve – and fun, too

Coco Khan
Photograph: Getty Images

Recently, I tagged along to a property viewing where the estate agent announced that despite the listed price, the owners were looking for £600,000.

Six. Hundred. Thousand. Pounds.

“Shall we leave?” I whispered to my friend.

“No,” she replied. “Let’s snoop.”

Usually, I love looking at houses. My faves are the ones with character, chock-full of knick-knacks that tell a story. This house was different – immaculately designed in hues of walnut. Everything was curated just so: reclaimed floorboards, period doors, a butler sink and antique furniture that looked inherited. I figured the owners were wealthy.

I was strangely rattled. “They had a whole shelf dedicated to grains in kilner jars,” I ranted later, “all smugly labelled – spelt, barley – and they grew grapes in their conservatory.”

“Thought you liked grapes?” said my rational friend, Steve.

“Not the point, it’s... oh, shut up, Steve!”

Related: I’ve decided life is too short for food guilt

It’s true: I love grapes. I also think organising your grains is sensible. But I interpreted these details as assertions of power. I pictured the owners writing letters to MPs at their Edwardian bureau, eating foie gras naked but for one of those colonial-era leopard rugs. The next day I took to Google. “Why am I such a bitch?” The answer? Unresolved stress. It makes sense: a few weeks earlier, my own attempt to move fell through, thwarted by ruthless landlords, in a city run by landlords, in a country of haves and have-nots.

The reason we snipe is that we’re frustrated. I’m glad to have learned this. But I also learned that sniping is letting off steam; it helps you to cope and it is harmless if fleeting. Hey, maybe it can even be fun. I certainly laughed, picturing it: “Dear right honorable sir, please forgive my naked ambition…”