"This house," said the real estate salesman, "has both its good points and its bad points. To show you I'm honest, I'm going to tell you about both. The disadvantages are that there is a chemical plant quarter of a mile to the north and a slaughterhouse quarter of a mile to the south.
"What are the advantages?" inquired the prospective buyer.
"The advantage is that you can always tell which way the wind is blowing." replied the realtor.
Like lawyers, real estate agents are not high in the popularity stakes. That’s as the case may be, but years ago when Guy and I were looking to buy our very first house in South Africa, we made a new best friend in our agent Jilly. She was full of joie de vivre, hilariously self-deprecating and, above all, totally without artifice. In other words, she just didn’t believe in bull and was adept at showing us houses that would suit both us and, more importantly, our budget. It wasn’t her fault, then, that we ended up buying a house we couldn’t really afford. See, the thing is, after a long weeks of viewing and just not finding anything that rocked all the fleet, Jilly sighed piteously and said, “Okay, I’m going to take you for a peek at a house that has just come onto the market. It has everything on your wish list – and on mine too, for that matter - but there is no way in Hades that you can afford it. So forget about buying it. It’s strictly a ‘look and drool, but don’t touch’ house.”
Jilly unlocked the front door of No. 3 Havelock Square and motioned us through. Guy and I walked into the hallway, gazed up at the sweeping staircase, the beautiful architraves, the scrubbed wooden floors, the enormously high ceilings and huge sash windows and were both rendered speechless.
As we were leaving, I looked back at the house…..and it winked it me. I kid you not. It winked and whispered, “I’m yours.” And so it came to be that we lived there for many very happy years with our girls and two fat Labs until the time came for us to say totsiens to South Africa and head off on other adventures.
During our recent house hunt here in England, I knew that we’d never find another Havelock Square, but the cottage we found on our safari to Norfolk last weekend did make us look at each other and squeal. Well, Guy doesn’t do squealing, but he grinned widely when I did, so I knew he liked it too.
It’s called The Red House – which I like – and it’s in a tiny village called Great Snoring – which makes me laugh. It‘s a few minutes from the wild and empty Norfolk coast which means long walks and seafood feasts and lots of sailing in the summer. It’s only an hour and 40 minutes from London by train, so not far for the girls and not far for us to go to get our big city hit every now and then. It isn’t very big, but there is enough room for friends and family. Most important of all is that The Red House feels happy and looks pretty. D’you know what I mean? Yes, I’m sure you do!
Right then, let me take you on a tour of England and show you a small selection of the houses we’d seen before we found the little red one in Great Snoring.
(Important to remember, though, that ‘one man’s meat...’ All the houses shown here are truly lovely, but just not right for us.)
Lovely converted chapel, tiny courtyard garden and no room for family and friends.
Cute, but too dark and squishy inside.
Wonderful position, dreamy views, but it didn’t ‘wink’.
Adorable, but just a bit too teeny weeny.
Blissful isolation. Bit chilly.
More glorious solitude. Too far away for weekend visits from family.
Too low for long people.
Enchanting, but looming pylon.
Almost… but not quite.
The Red House.
Hold thumbs that all goes according to plan and do remember, the door will always be open for my bloggy friends! If you’d like to see a little more of Norfolk, I wrote about it here: Childhood Imaginings.