On the basis that I might need a new boiler soon, I thought I had better sell the London flat and move to the Cotswolds.
Fine, so it wasn’t just the gurgling noise coming from the Potterton Performa. I had been pondering my place in the world, which is never a good thing for a person of my nervous disposition to do. The break-up with the builder boyfriend; the escalating cost of keeping three horses in Surrey; the liberal leftie south London neighbours regaling me every time I leave my house with the words ‘Isn’t Jeremy Corbyn wonderful?’ — it was all making me feel perfectly unstable, as if a big move was the only thing for it.
I can’t be doing with this madness, I thought. I need to sell up and go somewhere quieter, saner and less expensive. Somewhere I might be master of my destiny, with my horses on my own land and my nearest neighbours not spouting their devotion to a bearded Trot who wants to take Britain back to 1975.
So I went on Rightmove and a few taps later there it was: a lovely little house with five acres and stables in the Cotswolds. I keep typing Cotsworlds, by the way. And that may be Freudian in what it reveals about my motives for retreating to a corner of Oxfordshire where no one might ever find me again.
Also, the place was in David Cameron’s constituency, which I profoundly believed would mean that no one could put a high speed railway past me nor dump 2,500 houses down next to me, two things which are happening respectively where my parents live in Warwickshire and where I keep my horses in Surrey. Surely, a few miles from the PM’s constituency home I would be about as safe as I could be anywhere because I’m fairly sure all governments are NITPMBYs — Not In The Prime Minister’s Back Yard. Nor in the Chancellor’s, actually, which is why HS2 will be made to loop awkwardly around George Osborne’s constituency. But that’s another story.
Yes, this was genius. I will be safe as, well, farmhouses, living a few miles from Dave’s manor near Chipping Norton — or, as the locals call it, charmingly enough, Chippy.
I went to see the farmhouse, convinced myself that every aspect of it was beyond perfect, and concluded that while it was remote, it would do just fine. I instructed an estate agent in Balham to put my place on the market.
Two days after making this decision, my flat was ‘under offer’ at very near the asking price, and I was about as sure as anyone can be that I didn’t want to move out of London after all — not even, or possibly especially not to, Chippy. There’s nothing wrong with Chippy, per se, I don’t think. Well, there might be. I just can’t put my finger on it. I didn’t really look round carefully enough to find out because the place was so pretty it scared me.
The real problem was the second viewing of the farm that took place a week later. I didn’t like it. What I had seen before as charming — fields, outbuildings, barns, septic tank, oil-fired radiators, I now saw as the stuff of nightmares.
Annoyingly, by then, I had been badgered into accepting an offer from a couple who had fallen in love with my flat.
‘They need your answer by 10 a.m. Friday,’ said the agent. ‘Why? It’s nearly Thursday now. Can’t I think about it and give them my answer on Monday, after I’ve been to see the farm again on Saturday?’
‘No. Because they’re going on holiday Saturday morning. They need to know now.’
I stood my ground for a day and then at 9.58 a.m. on Friday I gave in. ‘Go on then. But only on the strict understanding that if the second viewing of the place I want to buy goes wrong tomorrow then this is going to fall through.’
That was fine, the agent assured me.
On Monday, however, I didn’t get the chance to report that I had got cold feet about cold comfort farm before the agent rang to declare: ‘The buyers want to come round this evening to measure up for curtains.’
And as she said this, a mess of leaflets from three removal firms fluttered onto my doormat because, naturally, as well as inventing an impending holiday, the agent had sold my details to every man with a van.
‘Right, that’s it. I’m not selling.’
‘But they’re good buyers.’
‘I don’t care if they’re Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. You can tell them they don’t need to measure my windows for their curtains because I’ve had a change of plan.’
Instead of moving to Chipping Norton, I’m going to call British Gas and get the boiler serviced.