Wednesday 9 March 2005

Going through the motions

Moving is becoming a theme of Journal columns, when we should be really be striving to make it your verdict on their contents.

My neighbour Willy Poole is looking at properties in France, where he can pursue la chasse beyond the reach of Blairite political correctness. I meanwhile have been looking at houses in Lincolnshire, for the more prosaic reason that I thought it might be quite nice to live with my fiancée after we were married.

Funny place, Lincs. It seems to be generally accepted that centuries of determined in-breeding have made a major contribution to its genetic make-up. Though the village full of whey-faced loons who spend all their time howling at the moon is always said to be about ten miles up the road, rather than where one happens to be at the time.

As a PR man of sorts, I was fascinated by the varying approaches vendors adopted in trying to sell me their properties. At one end of the scale, there were eager young couples who had spent years transforming listed wrecks into genuine dream homes, and were now looking to cash in their chips and move on to the next project. As a man with a lifelong aversion to DIY, I could not stop myself asking the question: why?

At the opposite extreme, there were the frankly resentful elderly types hoping to downsize to somewhere more suited to Zimmer frames and less so to hordes of visiting grandchildren. They had typically put their properties on the market months ago and had long since lost interest in showing them off.

Then there were those who had simply upped sticks and gone – usually in a hearse – leaving the disposal of their homes to estate agents who couldn’t answer the simplest questions even when the answers were printed in their own particulars.

Several would-be vendors were looking to move overseas – which probably tells you something. My personal favourite was a man whose longing for Spain was so great that he had transformed his hideous, rambling 1930s house into a sort of hacienda. His only hope of ever selling it is that a Spaniard will wake up one day feeling that he can’t stand any more of the sunshine and simply must relocate to the Lincolnshire Wolds.

After much shilly-shallying, I had to decide between a lovely Georgian house completely hemmed in by a characterless modern development, and a 1970s detached with open country views, at least until John Prescott’s surveyors arrive. I went for the latter.

Then I came home, looked at my view of the Cheviots, and thought ‘Nah. I can’t do it.’

Whether the love of your life is a beautiful woman or chasing foxes on a quad bike, Northumberland is a mistress that’s going to prove very difficult to give up. So now there’s me and a disillusioned lady wondering whether I’m really ever going to move, or am simply going through the motions.

Keith Hann is a PR consultant and writer who likes a drink.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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