Escape to a Fantasy Location

I’ve spent the last few days Googling – as you do. Well, you do if you’re about a quarter of the way through your latest novel, and you need to “get a feel” for the sort of home your characters are living in, and you experience the urge to have a browse through endless photographs of beautiful houses in stunning locations. Look, it was either that or watch hours of Escape to the Country. Although, actually, I did that, too. It is not procrastination. It’s research, I tells ya!

country-house-385372_640I don’t know why I do it to myself. Escape to the Country,  Fantasy Homes by the SeaLocation, Location, Location…all those sort of programmes have me hooked, while at the same time, driving me to distraction. When the couple announce their budget, my jaw inevitably drops and I think, “What? How? What jobs do these people have?”

So, imagine my annoyance when the presenter shakes his head and says solemnly, ‘My couple have a fairly good budget, but there are going to have to be compromises.’ Why? For that amount of money, I wouldn’t just want the house. I’d want the whole village! Don’t dare tell me that for my million quid I can’t have a lake in my garden. And, no, a simple lawn won’t suffice. I need room for my pigs and chickens and all the fabulous organic vegetables I’m going to grow. Dream on.

I often wonder, when these people finally find their dream home in the country, do they really live happily ever after? Do theychicken-69537_640 really grow veggies and keep pigs and chickens? Do they lovingly stroke their range cookers and stare dreamily into the flames of their wood burning stoves, or open fires, in their huge inglenook fireplaces? Or do they, as I often suspect, end up grappling in vain with the range cooker and longing for a ceramic hob, double oven and a microwave? Do they get heartily sick of trying to light a real fire and instal a gas or oil-fired central heating system at the first opportunity? Do they give up on the idea of chickens and pigs when they realise that you actually have to feed and water them, clean up after them, and even – aarrgghh – kill them!

I often imagine that these misty-eyed romantics end up spending most of their time arguing about the length of the commute, the appalling public transport system, and the two-hour round drive just to visit the nearest doctor, before heading to the local pub (which is always high on the wish list – funny that) and drowning their sorrows, while reminiscing about the good old days, when they could order a takeaway every night and there was a Tesco Express on every corner. Funnily enough, this doesn’t cheer me up. In fact, it annoys me even more. Why aren’t there more follow-up programmes? I want to see what happens after they’ve escaped to the country. How many of them want to escape back to the city quicker than you can say “mobile phone signal” ?

country-182734_640My annoyance at the presenter’s certainty that the couple’s enormous budget will necessitate compromises, is only surpassed by the prospective owners’ disgust when they stand in a kitchen the size of a ballroom and mutter, ‘Hmm. Bit small.’ Bit small? My entire house would fit between the Aga and the island. Grr.

Oh, I tell a lie. There’s something else that annoys me, too. I don’t like it when the house hunters pull faces and mutter disparaging remarks about other people’s decor. They’re in someone else’s house, being trailed around by a cameraman and watched by millions of people. Do not be so rude as to pass comment on someone else’s taste in wallpaper, carpets or sofas. These things can be changed in the blink of an eye. The humiliation heaped on the poor people whose home has just been publicly mocked will take an awful lot longer to vanish. In fact, it may never leave them. Have some manners!

And another thing, why, when given strict instructions by the house hunters to find a home within a budget of, say, five hundred thousand, do the presenters then show them round a gorgeous home that they totally fall in love with and then reveal that it’s on the market for six hundred thousand. ‘But if you like it, maybe you could stretch the budget a bit?’ No! That’s why they said their budget was five hundred thousand pounds! What are you, some sort of sadist?

And finally, to finish it all, the couple will announce at the end of the programme that they really liked a couple of the sheep-690198_640properties but they’re not in a position to put in an offer yet as they haven’t sold their current home. Well, why did you just waste all that time trawling round a remote village in Cumbria looking for a house then? That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back.

You are probably under the impression from all this that I hate property programmes. Believe it or not, I love them. There’s something about them that I can’t resist. I suppose there’s an element of “how the other half lives”, plus a genuine curiosity to see round people’s homes. Then there are the locations. I get to see the most gorgeous countryside and can dream that one day, I’ll get to live somewhere like that, too – although I’m stating here and now that I will never grow my own veggies and if I did get some pigs they would be strictly kept as pets. The sad truth is, I love the thought of a life in the country, but I suspect the reality is a great deal harsher than someone like me, a life-long town-dweller, could cope with. Hats off to the people who really do make a go of it, and are genuinely delighted to be part of the countryside scene. I hope they are very happy in their new lives.

But as for the ones who realise pretty quickly that they’ve made a huge mistake – and there must be some, surely?- I think the programme makers are missing a trick. I want to see how it all went horribly wrong and what they did about it, and I can’t be the only one. Anyway, I love Kirstie and Phil, and Jules and Alistair and Denise et al, so in the meantime, I’ll keep watching and I’ll keep grumbling. Most importantly, I’ll keep dreaming.

Have a great week xx

7 thoughts on “Escape to a Fantasy Location

  1. Hi Sharon, loving the new blog wallpaper. Apologies if it’s been like this for a while; think I’ve missed the last couple of blog posts so about to go back over them. As you’d probably expect, because we’ve had this discussion on FB before, I’ve nodded and smiled throughout this post. In fact, I could have written it myself because it’s the same old gripes for me. Hubby and I like to play the “guess their budget” game and find ourselves in despair when £650k or £800k is the answer. As you say, what on earth do these people do for a living? I suppose looking for a £95k 2-bed terrace wouldn’t provide the same escapism, would it?

    I don’t like the revisit programmes and, as I’ve read your post, I’ve realised why. I’d always thought it was because they devoted a good 3/4 of the programme to showing an edited version of the previous house-hunt programme which annoys the heck out of me because I’ve probably seen the original programme in the first place. However, I’ve now realised it’s because it never goes wrong. As you pointed out, life is always perfect and they love their real fire/aga/friendly village etc. I want the reality of it being a wrong move, them discovering dry rot, or them living next-door to a naturist. Because that’s life isn’t it? Or am I just mean to long for that?

    Great post xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, well then, we’re both mean! I simply don’t believe that it works out perfectly for everyone, but the “revisit” programmes only ever show the ones that do. I think the disasters would be a ratings hit! I rxpect anyone reading this in the Home Counties or London would think 850,000 isn’t so unrealistic. Houses in my street go for around 105,000 and they have three bedrooms and a garage. Wonder what you’d get for that price in Chiswick? 🙂

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  2. Fab post! I can answer a couple of your ‘after’ questions. Living in the South, I can honestly say that 650k really doesn’t buy you that much in some areas. We wanted to live in the country – well that should be that *I* did – because I had grown up living half a mile from the nearest neighbour and wanted my kids to grow up with a bit of land in which to have Enid Blyton style adventures! Well that was the theory… We had to buy somewhere that the estate agents euphemistically described as having ‘scope for improvement’. We could never have afforded our house in its done-up state. We’ve got an acre of land and had chickens for a bit, but found it was either famine or feast on the egg front, so we were either giving them to everyone we knew or having to buy eggs from the farm across the road. When we worked out how much the chicken feed was costing us, our chicken husbandry days were soon over. We’ve had two ponies – both of which were a five minute wonder for the kids and haven’t held nearly the allure of the X Box or the iPad. We’ve been offered goats and pigs to rehome, but hubby put his foot down, even when the kids promised they really would do their part this time. We also like our holidays too much to have too many more pets, as we need to get them all looked after, and four dogs is already at least 50% too many!

    Despite it not quite living up to my romantic vision, I wouldn’t trade it. My son and his friends camped out in the garden over the weekend and were able to have a real fire and cook their own dinner on it al fresco. We have a wood burning stove, in front of which (with a good book and a glass of something warming) is probably my favourite place to be, come winter – despite it being less convenient than the central heating. Whilst we don’t grown our own vegetables, we do have an abundance of wild mint for the Pimms in summer and sloe berries for the gin in winter – are you sensing a theme, here!?

    I’d like to move next year to somewhere a bit more rural, but there are some must haves. As far as the kids are concerned, we still need a bus route, so that they can have some independence to meet up with their friends, and to be within the catchment of a Dominos pizza delivery! As for me? I’m not entirely sure I could live without BT Infinity broadband, after our village finally got it last year. So my next Escape to the Country would probably have you and Jessica frowning too! xx

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  3. Jo, your country escape sounds perfect to me! It’s not the idea of moving to the country that I take issue with – God knows, I’d move to the country in a flash if I could – it’s the fact that over half of the people who take part in these shows insist that they need room for pigs and chickens and to grow their own veggies, despite having never owned more than a pampered cat in their lives.
    I’m not saying it won’t work out for some, I’m just saying it would be nice to discover what happens to the ones who wake up one morning in a cold sweat, realising they’d rather have another hour under the duvet than tramp out into a field to feed a couple of starving porkers and a flock of tetchy hens.
    It always sounds so easy, but it isn’t. My son used to keep a lot of hens and grew loads of vegetables. He also kept bees and made the only honey I’ve ever tasted that I liked! It was a lot of hard work and took a great deal of dedication. When he got a different job and the children arrived, he simply didn’t have the time to dedicate to it any longer and had to give up his allotment, sell his hives and hens and turn his garden back into a lawn for his daughters to play on.
    I used to keep bantams myself. They were lovely and friendly but the egg laying was sporadic and they cost a lot to keep healthy, as well as eating every bit of grass and greenery in our garden (we let them have the run of it). They went to my son in the end, but a fox got in and got them and most of his hens. Another harsh lesson to learn!
    I fully understand the pull of the country. It was my dad’s dream to move there when he retired, but, of course, he never got the chance. I grew up in a small town that was surrounded by fields and a river. I watched ponies grazing from my classroom window, went brambling in the fields near my house, or could walk along the foreshore, heading into the woods to watch the squirrels leaping about in the trees, or the toads and newts in the pond. I had a very happy childhood from that perspective, and I suppose I’d love to recreate it. I just don’t think I need to keep pigs and chickens to do it. Can’t understand your daughters, though! How on earth can an X-box or iPad compete with a pony??
    One day, maybe, I’ll get my dream. Who knows? I am constantly amazed by how much you have to pay for property in the south, though. No wonder so many of the people on the programmes sell their London homes and move to the north! 🙂
    PS I used to live in a house with an open fire and it wasn’t worth the trouble. It was cold, took ages to get going, didn’t throw out much heat when it did and took a lot of cleaning up afterwards. On the other hand, two of my friends have wood burning stoves and swear by them, and I have to say, I do love the look of them, so no arguments about that.
    PPS This is all going in a book!

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    • You are dead right, I think the reality – whatever it may be – never quite lives up to the dream and good intentions fall by the wayside. We were going to grow our own veg but, like with the chickens, the practicalities got in the way and a Sainsbury’s delivery is much easier! The ‘Good Life’ self sufficiency idea is flaming hard work, as you say, and, when you have taken out a massive mortgage to afford your country home, sadly earning a living has to come first! Can’t wait to read the book, btw, and I think there must be a ton of hilarious tales out there of when things didn’t quite go to plan…

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  4. Wow, Sharon, I just read this and squealed at my husband that there was a reason I got so obsessed with Escape to the Country a couple of years ago! I have lost interest now though, for all the reasons you stated. I would love to buy a house with land, so I can have my own library, my husband can have a man-cave, and the children can have their own bedrooms. But we are town dwellers, and we like the convenience of shops within walking distance, and decent wifi connections, and being close to our friends… sigh!

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  5. Yep, there are wonderful things about living in the countryside – the views, the peace, the community feel. On the other hand, there are problems with public transport, lack of shops, not having a bank or post office nearby, dodgy mobile and internet connections, commuting to work…I guess you have to figure out what your priorities are and what works for you.

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