I’ve been guiding my students through the postmodern maze that is Atonement for a solid six weeks now. It’s great watching their reactions to the complicated narrative and the little tricks, which tend to fall on either extreme of the spectrum: faces fall, groans erupt and books slam shut as disheartened students realise they’ll have to write about this shit in May; or books slam shut and enthusiasts cry, “Holy sh- *hell* McEwan’s a genius!” and I think well yeah it does seem that way, but I’m still not sure I enjoy his writing…
Well anyway, this post is supposed to be a tangent and it doesn’t seem to be drifting yet so let’s push it politely in that direction. In trying to find suitable articles for my students’ wider reading (I should be so lucky), I came across a piece from the Guardian Online about McEwan’s place in the tradition of the Country House Novel in English Literature. I’d really recommend a skim through if you’re into books, there are a good few to add to your reading list in there.
Tangent approaching to port, Captain, and she’s coming in fast!
So I was reading through this article as I often do of a wild Saturday night and was reminded of a particular childhood dream of mine which has evolved into an irregular but potentially self-destructive adult hobby – I always wanted to live in a country house.
I see your faces falling and groans erupting as my evidently substantial skill in building anticipation has been rear-ended by a VW Beetle with poorly sprayed graffiti on the side saying, “Everyone had that dream, you’re not special, let it go.”
Well I’d like to say with the utmost respect that frankly, Volkswagen, you can royally do one, because this was (and to an extent still is) a really sizeable dream for me – a Mustang dream to your crappy, sarcastic Beetle. I wanted a country house so bad I’d often be found drawing one to add to a pile of similar scrawls, designing one on the original Sims, pretending to be bored but actually loving life on a National Trust visit.
But like I said, this middle class white boy dream has morphed into something else. Sometimes I find myself on the Knight Frank website, a specialist estate agent for the obscenely rich and the outrageously snobbish, and I love it. I can (and do) spend hours trawling through the same list of houses which never seem to sell, fully aware that I myself will never live in one, but wishing all the same.
So on this particular raucous Saturday evening I sat (slouched) on my sofa in pajamas, browsing for my future (fantasy) home. Not at all helpful for my students, nor for me and quite probably not for you either, but I had fun, so I thought I’d share with you some of the top picks from my shopping list.
King of the Country Castle
With your shiny silver Range Rover and your 2.4 beautiful cereal box children, you can’t go wrong with a convenient country manor. Blending the perfect mix of being in the middle of nowhere and not being too far from a Waitrose, these houses are all you could possibly desire.
1. Sixteenth Century Stunner
This not-so-little beauty has it all: 8 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a swimming pool, a tennis court, 19 acres of land, the list goes on. To top it off, it’s very tastefully decorated for a house in this price range. It seems that for the most part when you get rich you lose any semblance of taste. Go figure.
Price: on application (translation: too much)
2. Elizabethan Excellence
What can I say about this darling of a house? Well, quite a lot evidently, as it too has 8 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, plus the standard swimming pool and tennis court, ample stabling, 2 flats, 3 cottages and over 21 acres of land. Who could say no? Probably most people with regular-sized wallets.
Price: £3, 950,000
3. To The Manor Born
Looking for something a little more traditional? Look no further! With 9 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, a swimming pool, a tennis court and 10 acres to frolic in, you too can be Lord of the Manor with this traditional, but palatial mansion.
Ooh I went a bit estate agent there. Or shopping channel.
4. Kitschy and Kute
Don’t let the title fool you, prospective rich person, this is the smallest so far but is by no means pokey! With all the modern conveniences , this property is a blank slate for your ludicrously expensive interior designer to play with. This beauty can offer 6 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and 15 acres to live in, plus it’s close to the most beautiful and characterful town in these United Kingdoms, you guessed it, Maidstone!
Were they a little too isolated for you? Concerned you would sink into the luxurious sofa and never speak to another human again? Perhaps you need to live near other people – not too many, mind! Might I suggest to you the Great British Vill-age. With roots in the French Ville meaning town and the English Age because only old people live there, the Great British Vill-Age could be the Dawn French to your Lenny Henry before they divorced.
5. Gorgeous Georgian
She’s got style, she’s got grace, she’s an old vicarage so try not to be a Satan worshiper, it’s The Old Vicarage! With the perfect combination of village and country life, this regal motherfucker sits on the High Street and looks out over its own 9 acres of land! Add to that 8 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and a swimming pool and I’m sold. I’m even going to add another photo here, because any love of books will frankly swoon over this library.
6. Restoration, Man!
Sure, this one may need some work, but I for one would certainly be up for the task. With anywhere between 5 and 10 bedrooms, this old rectory is another stunning house for Satan worshipers to avoid. 8.5 acres of land and a swimming pool make this a pretty persuasive prospect.
Price: £2, 250,000
7. “Lovely Proportions” – I’ll say!
This one’s a beast.It’s on the edge of a village, with only 4 acres of land, but a separate cottage giving it an impressive 9-12 bedrooms and 5-6 bathrooms, plus swimming pool and tennis court. Some of the decor needs a fresh eye, but maybe that eye is yours!
8. Cathedral Views
Not so much village as little cathedral city, this seventeenth century sizzler occupies a spot in the most prestigious part of Salisbury. Walking around its halls, you may hear echoes of Charles II and Handel – that’s right, famous old people stayed here! With 6 bedrooms and a bathroom for each, this fancy little fucker offers a slice of privacy in the midst of a bustling (sort of) town.
And Now for Something Completely Different
Sort of. Well it’s less thoroughly traditional than the properties above, but I thought I’d include it just in case those lovers of modern style among you felt like your voice wasn’t being fully expressed.
9. Best of Both Worlds
A beautiful old cottage with a sleek but stunning glass-clad extension. 5 bedrooms and as many bathrooms fill this masterpiece of modern ingenuity, which sits in 10 acres of private land and boasts a swimming pool and a separate cottage. There. Consider yourself expressed.
Look What Happens if you Venture North
You may have notice, keen-eyed wealth monster, that these properties are all safely within the confines of the South of Britayne. But, what happens if you venture North? Look.
Seriously, it has 6 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and further separate accommodation, plus a tennis court and almost 50, yes, 50 acres of land. Not only that – by purchasing this house, you, dear reader, could become the Lord of the Manor of Offcote and Underwood. How cool is that! Now, surely this is one of the most expensive on our list? Guess how much.
It pays to live in Derbyshire.
11. Seriously Scotland?
This one really takes the biscuit. Doesn’t look quite as large as some of the others, does it? Wrong. 9 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, with 10 acres of land. Remember the Southern manor with 9 bedrooms? Well.
It’s less than £1,000,000 wtf.
And finally, if you’re willing to venture a little way North, you could be the proud owner of
12. A FREAKING CASTLE
I shit you not friends. You could soon be moving into an actual real life castle with 16 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, cottages, a farm house, a great hall, formal gardens, an established dairy farm and, wait for it, 193 acres of land! Now this has to be the most expensive house, nay, castle on our list, right? Not even.
If there’s a moral in all this, it’s 1) there’s a lot more bang for your buck in Northern Britayne, and 2) I need to stop fawning over expensive houses and actually work out how to become rich enough to buy one.
A somewhat delusional King Putney