I'm one of those sad people who partakes in house porn. You know the type. We watch every episode of Relocation Relocation, Build a new life in the country, Escape to the Country and Grand Designs. We spend hours on Primelocation, searching different parts of the globe for houses that could potentially become our new dream home. We drive to Weymouth for a weekend just to see if it would be a good place to live. And if I didn't have children and did have slightly more bravery, I'd spend my weekends going to view houses for sale just because I'm nosy.
And it's not that I live in a tiny box fronting a motorway that has me searching for something more. In fact I live in a Grade 2 listed quintissentially English thatched cottage with a big garden and swimming pool, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. So why do I have the secret house porn fetish?
The truth is, I'm not looking for a new house per se. I'm scouting around for a potentially new lifestyle. I've always dreamed of living by the sea as that's where I grew up, so searching for seaside properties is an ongoing jihad. But I've scoured most of Britain and have yet to find a seaside location that works for us (mostly somewhere that allows my husband to still commute into London). Plus, living by the sea has less appeal when seaside visits require thermal underwear and sou'westers.
So I cast my eyes further afield.
I've spent many hours looking at the US as a possible option. We used to live there. I loved it. Could I go back there? If so where? East Coast. West Coast (certainly not the middle). I see the potential for a fantastic life, but I also see the lack of things that I missed when we lived there before. Like good pork sausages. And pubs that don't feel like a plastic chain. And cars so small you can almost fit in your handbag. Would I want American children? Sure summer camp looks great. But the schools give me the willies. Hmmm.
Some of my family live in South Africa. My husband has just returned from a work visit there and waxed lyrical about us moving back. The weather. The education the kids could get (£3k a year for private schooling - that's the price of a nursery place for a few months here). The outdoor lifestyle. The vibracy. The entrepreneurship. The wildlife. The food. The wine. I was seduced. I spent many evenings - munching on biltong - surfing South African houses and drooling over the space (I particularly loved the way they'd advertise a house as having 5 bedrooms and then in fine print at the bottom would point out that it comes with separate 'staff accomodation' including another two bedrooms, sitting room and kitchen - like that wouldn't be shouted about at the top of a UK brochure).
But then I thought about the crime, the weak currency, the likelihood that our children would leave and we'd just repeat the cycle of a family living in different parts of the world. The fact that Johannesburg (which is where we'd have to live for a job) isn't next to the sea and is a big snarling city.
So I look towards Oz, where so many Brits emigrate to. And watching Phil Spencer search for houses Down Under has had me salivating. But I've never been there. My experience of Australian men has put me off the population as a whole (which I know is a gross sweeping statement but there you go).
The truth is, every time I look to greener pastures, I find that there are few that are quite as green as those in Blighty (probably because it never stops sodding raining). If we left here, I would miss those things that are so absolutely British: like going blackberrying, walks that involve stiles and rickety fences and gorse bushes, supermarkets that have fantastic food, Ocado, history, free healthcare, Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson. The fact that last night I walked back from our local pub (in the rain) with my boys waving a torch and hunting for owls and never once feeling unsafe. Simple things really, but things that I've grown to love.
But then there's the weather. The fact that every bank holiday is spent sitting in a car in a traffic queue before sitting on a pebbly beach in the rain, the cost of living, whinging politicians... and I talk myself out of staying all over again.
I have no solution. I guess I will just keep on with the house porn until a pasture presents itself that has just the right amount of green. If you have any suggestions, let me have them. I'm sure I could wile away a few more evenings surfing for the perfect location...