Life is all about choices. Imagine you’re in France on holiday. You’re strolling around a local town and it’s just past midday; everyone is feeling a little peckish, and the restaurants all around you are filling up with diners – where do you go? The choice is endless……but then in your mind you recall a few wise words, whispered by a french friend many years ago, “Always go where the locals eat.”
You lead your husband by the hand, your children following behind, and together you glance at menus and chalk boards displayed outside various cafés; everywhere looks so good.
After a brief discussion you all decide on a pretty place overlooking the square. The outdoor tables are filling up fast and the 16 euro menu satisfies each of you.
Whilst choosing where to eat you happened to pass an estate agents, and briefly you stopped to take a peek at the photos of properties proudly on show in the windows. As you did so, your mind started working overtime, and without even knowing why you picked up one of the free property listing magazines from the rack by the door and tucked it under your arm.
Seated with the family and sipping a deliciously chilled crisp white wine, you start to idly flick through the magazine, casting half an eye over the photos whilst listening to your children and husband planning the afternoon ahead in a smatter of friendly banter about where to go and what to do.
A plan is starting to take shape somewhere in the depths of your consciousness. What if…. without even thinking you blurt it out, “What if we bought a house here?”
The family conversation stops abruptly and in the stunned silence three pairs of eyes study you carefully. Your husband is the first to speak, he smiles that secret smile, the one you first fell in love with 20 years ago, and the skin around the edges of his eyes crinkles; “You know what, I was thinking exactly the same thing”, he says.
Lunch passes in a blur of optimistic chatter and day-dreams; the children are equally enamoured with the idea, although in their minds they are choosing chateaux and maisons de maître rather than the tiny holiday cottage you are envisioning.
The simple day-dream grows at an alarming rate, fuelled by another glass of local wine, and as the fantasy takes shape you realise it is simply that, a fantasy, for it can never really happen, surely? But for now, you are on holiday where the skies are a relentless blue and the sun is a burning force that never tires; just for a short while it’s fun to enter a world of make-believe and everyone is happy to play along, and while you do so there are so many decisions to be made!
Pausing for breath you gaze around at your surroundings, opposite you there are two imposing houses side by side, one is for sale
the other is for seasonal rent
Would this be the way to go? A town house, within walking distance of everything, or do you buy something out in the country, with complete privacy, peace and quiet?
Everyone around the table has their own ideas, their own image of perfection. Gently you remind them that you are not in the market for a 10 bedroom manoir. It has to be something within the vague realms of possibility, something that could feasibly be faintly achievable. You tell them you really think a village house would be best, something small and romantic with roses and wild flowers covering the walls.
However, you’re not sure if you should buy something ‘move-in ready’. Should you purchase somewhere that somebody has already taken the time and effort to sympathetically restore to perfection?
You are casting your mind back to every “À Vendre” (for sale) sign you have seen
and thinking of all the tiny cottages you have fallen in love with over the past week, none of which were for sale!
Or would it be more gratifying to renovate and buy a total wreck that is a complete rebuild?
or something with at least four walls and a roof
The plan is really taking shape. The children like the idea of being in a village so they can walk to the bakery and buy croissants for breakfast each morning. Your husband likes the idea of walking to buy a baguette to have with cheese each day. You really want to be within sight of a church, for you find their very presence so soothing and calming, and the fact that many have stood for perhaps a 1000 years or more has imprinted their character upon the villages they stand in; you want to feel a sense of history, and you want to feel a part of a community that has joined forces for centuries. Within minutes you’re all agreed, a village house would be best.
Now that is decided the conversation quickly moves along, you want old iron gates and large stone pillars
but what colour should you paint your shutters and doors and surrounding fence?
In the midst of the discussion, your husband reminds everyone you will need a car, perhaps that longed-for French iconic vehicle, the Citroën 2CV; would it fit the bill?
Or should it be something sleek and modern to take advantage of the fabulous weather? Neither are particularly sensible, really, but that’s the beauty of fantasies, nothing has to be sensible. The children vote for one of each, a ‘his’ and ‘hers’ and you cannot disagree.
The ideas twist and turn, bobbing this way and that, like corks on a choppy sea. You consider schools, ponies and dogs. You want enough garden to at least have a potager.
You think perhaps you might want chickens too, but which breed? This leads to questions about the colour of eggs which provokes another round of furious debate.
You start visualizing the meals you are going to cook and mentally contemplate the pros and cons of Lacanche versus La Cornue. You are still picturing the huge old oak kitchen table in the small cottage that sits right next to the church when the waiter arrives with your bill; it brings everyone smartly back to reality. Casting your eye around the restaurant you notice that you are the last to leave, the tables are all empty, you have all been so engrossed in ‘buying’ a home you haven’t even noticed that it’s 2.30 in the afternoon, and it’s time to decamp and head back to the car.
Alas it’s not a convertible but something eminently more practical. You all jump in. Your husband is driving, heading vaguely westwards towards the beach, and no one really knows where you are going so no one speaks, all afraid that if they do they will break the spell and the dream will be lost forever. Your husband takes a left turn and you find yourselves heading down a quiet winding country lane. No one knows what is around the next corner or what the future holds.
Perhaps one day you will buy your dream home or perhaps it will forever remain a figment of your imagination. Only time will tell.