The Second Home: hideaway or albatross?

I’m back up North again in my 3-month game of slow-motion ping-pong up the M5/M6 corridor. Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards ….  For the first time I travelled by car partly to bring a load of tools to tackle jobs in the garden, partly to take the stuff home which I have been gradually trickling up on the train and leaving here.  This will be the last time as Ruth and Tim get back home at the beginning of May so I need to take my clobber back to my place.

So time for reflection.  What has it been like living in two places?  The short answer is ‘increasingly tiring’.

It has been a bit of an insight into having a second home, not about the ethics of owning two houses, that is a separate issue, but about the practicalities.  Since early February I have been spending 10 days alternately in Ruth and Tim’s and my place.  Each time I have needed to clean the house when I arrive and again when I leave – doubling that particular chore.  The gathering of dust stops for no man.

On top of regular chores there is essential one-off, urgent maintenance: the chimney falling through the roof in the middle of a hard winter, a leak into the boiler cupboard; leaky taps ….. never ending problems.  Age takes its toll not only on the fabric of the house but on my inclination to sort things out.

Then there are the gardens.  Each garden has 10 days of rapid Spring growth to contend with when I change location meaning that I have to play catch-up before I can get to grips with any improvements.

At my house catch-up is made more difficult by my absence last Summer and the consequent massive and cumulative growth of weeds.  A quarter of an acre of weeds is a lot. I am coming to the conclusion that my only hope of getting back to square one is either a flamethrower and a scorched earth policy …… or to hire in some pigs.

The size of the task isn’t as overwhelming at Ruth and Tim’s because not only is the garden smaller but the soil is sandy.  Push in a garden fork, wiggle it around, grab the weed and pull it out of the soil and shake …… all the soil falls off, perfect for composting.  Compare that with the heavy clay in my garden:  push in the fork, lever it up, lift out a great clod, attack it with a hand-fork to get some of the soil off, give up and ditch the lot.

Three months has been enough for me.  Keeping up with the increasing job list is gradually wearing me down.   I’m doing it because it needs doing.

But what if the other house was on a Greek island? Somewhere great to spend Summers.  Available whenever I wanted to fly out.  Small traditional house, close to the sea, away from the Brit-pack, two-bedrooms so friends and family could come and stay.  Tempting?

The last 3 months has reinforced me in my view that even if I could afford it I wouldn’t buy a second home.  One reason has always been that I would then be tied to going back to the same place all the time and that would be very limiting.  Now I would hesitate because of the additional workload of maintaining a second place.  It wouldn’t simply be the cleaning and so on it would be the maintenance, dealing with a leaky roof and damp problems in winter, idiosyncratic electricity.

When I go to the islands I want to go walking in the mountains, swimming in the Aegean, sitting on the balcony having a drink.  Not indulging in continual DIY, I have more than enough of that at home.

You have no idea how much I am looking forward to going back to Greece.  Flight booked for 4 June.  No more cleaning.  No more maintenance.  No more weeding.  Chill!!!!

Second home?  Who needs a double dose of stuff to do?  I’m supposed to be retired!!  Who needs an albatross round the neck?  There are no albatrosses in Greece.

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