Magazine article Management Today

Four Walls Second Thoughts

Magazine article Management Today

Four Walls Second Thoughts

Article excerpt

You're making good money, settled into a decent career and mortgage misery is a fading memory. But you and the family crave a place for the weekends. For months you've been secretly rotating Arcadian fantasies. Your basic choice: cottage or house? Either represents a separate, sometimes mutually opposed mode of existence. What do they entail?

The classic entry-level second home is the cottage in Devon. After flogging up the motorway, car bulging with dogs, children, bikes and smuggled laptop, you arrive and fall apart in the fresh air feeling wonderful. So the roof leaks and things don't work, but in theory you like it that way -- and the pub serves an excellent Sunday roast. Walking off lunch in the pouring rain, a thought flits across your mind: you could have bought bigger for less in France. But stop! You're English. This -- England -- is the deal.

Security isn't an issue until you've bought out the local antique markets. If you've brought along your big city paranoia, you'll probably have the odd boundary dispute. But by then you'll have met the odd-job man who mows the lawn and keeps an eye on the place. People drop by. You meet other locals at church. Funguslike, you'll put out spores into the community. Or you might not. Some prefer to avoid country folk, thinking them stupid farmers with their mud and poisons... and besides, you're a vegetarian.

A cottage works best when the children are young, your career is under control and on the move, and you can't focus on much else. Then the foundations of life begin to shift; you become a partner or director and suddenly the cottage shrinks to a pokey hut in the back of beyond. What seemed 'genteel poverty' is now 'restricted circumstances'. You couldn't possibly invite guests round. There aren't enough networking opportunities. And when the children prefer clubbing in Chelsea, the cottage becomes just a bore at the end of a two-hour traffic jam.Sell.

If, on the other hand, you have the temperament and organisational flair, then, subtly and invisibly, a new way of thinking steals up on you: 'We'll sell in London, pick up a pied a terre and buy that honey-coloured rectory with the clematis. I'll work four days a week and drive down on Thursdays. …

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