Country houses for sale

Rosie and Jim: ‘They realise there’s no Uber, the postcode takes you into the middle of a muddy field and the local Waitrose is 600 miles away. Then they come straight back again.’

Our columnists are back and have been finding somewhere to live, with wildly varying degrees of success.

Our writers Rosie Paterson and James Fisher blogged for Country Life throughout the lockdowns of last year, when (one way or another) they ended up alone for the duration. Both used to the time wisely: they revealed the rules of cycling, ranked musical instruments (and not in a good way)shared tales of curious robins, video chat and little old ladies winching shopping through windows. You can catch up on all their columns here.

Now, though, our intrepid pair have moved on — one to become a home owner, the other, er, not. Or not yet anyway!


‘The posh Surrey towns drowning in Londoners…’; ‘London’s 18-24 year olds set to migrate from the capital’; ‘London population set to decline for first time since 1988…’

If you’ve picked up a newspaper in the last year, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Londoners were leaving London like an enormous, stampeding herd of migrating wildebeest.

The irony is… perhaps they are? Because did you know that wildebeest migrate in a loop, essentially going round and round in circles, returning to where they once started every year.

Based on my recent efforts to find somewhere to rent (yes, that’s right, I’ve abandoned Devon and am looking for somewhere to live in London), you’d think that, like the wildebeest, all of the Londoners had gone in a giant circle via the Cotswolds or Cornwall, thought ‘no, this isn’t quite what we imagined. There’s no Uber, the postcode takes you into the middle of a muddy field and the local Waitrose is 600 miles away’ and come straight back again.

My initial search centred on two fairly central, well-connected parts of town. Nowadays, anywhere inside the M25 will do. I’ve been outbid by someone who stumped up an entire years worth of rent in cash, rejected by a landlord because I dared to request that the flat be cleaned in between tenancies and turned up to another, just hours after it was first listed online, to find out that it had already been snapped up and someone had forgotten to tell me.

And that’s just renting. God help you if you want to buy. I’ve heard of agents who won’t even give you a viewing if you haven’t already accepted an offer on your existing property, or can’t prove that you have a deposit equivalent to the GDP of Luxembourg. I must ask Jim, over there to my right, how on earth he did it.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I look at available places in Devon… but then I remember the Waitrose conundrum, and the fact that the railway line up to Exeter has the annoying habit of washing away every winter.

The search goes on.

Imagine the scene. It’s been a long week. The boss has been at your throat and you’ve been working extra hours. You are probably a bit hungover from the previous weekend’s frivolities, and have had no real time to catch up on sleep. It’s Friday, the last email has been sent, and you can finally achieve your dream of a night in front of the sofa, eating crisps and doing as little as humanly possible.

It’s all going well! You’ve caught up on all your Netflix shows, and now you’ve just started that film you have been meaning to watch for ages.

And then you hear it. The stifled giggling and laughing, the jangling of keys. That piercing sound as the lock is turned and your flatmate, and their drunk pals, storm the castle of solitude.

Say goodbye to peace and quiet, it’s party time.

The best laid plans of rest and relaxation are in tatters as the music begins and you slink upstairs, doomed to watch whatever on your laptop while the nonsense continues downstairs.

All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again in the world of the flatshare.

But not to me; I got out.

Since June, I have lived alone, in a house that I (mostly) own and it’s been nothing but bliss. I have a cat now, who is the only threat to any kind of peace and quiet, and only when his supplies of tuna are running low, or because he’s sprinting through the house having been startled by an errant slug. I can watch my tv, or read my book, in peace, safe in the knowledge that the only person with a key is me. It is pure Nirvana.

Or at least it was, since naturally it won’t last. As we all now know, I won’t be able to afford to heat the place or keep the lights on this winter. And there will be no food. All of this stems from a series of immensely predictable mistakes by those we (for some reason) keep electing to run the country. But at least I’ll be cold and hungry in peace, and I can use Ted (cat) as a legwarmer.

A lot of adult life is extremely gross and bad. The bills, the taxes, the aching joints, the three-day hangovers.

Not home ownership, though. Having your own place is without a doubt one of the highlights. Good riddance to flatmates, and may they never darken my door again.

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