They say the two most expensive purchases any individual will have to fork out for in their adult lives are a reliable car and a comfortable home.
Yes, for most, this statement is true, unless you’re a member of the mega rich. So, assuming you’re an ordinary mortal, the car usually comes first, followed by the house. Nevertheless, before I carry on, let’s take a few steps backwards. You attend school, move up through the grades and eventually graduate. A surmountable set of milestones have been achieved in your life. Then, if you’re lucky, you’re accepted into University, where you study hard…well…most of the time. Above all, you endeavour to have as much fun as possible, and four maybe six years later you’re throwing your mortarboard in the air while holding a well-earned degree in your sweaty little fist.
Then you dutifully proceed into your chosen profession—another set of milestones have been achieved. Now here comes another good bit. When your first proper salary lands with a comforting twallop in your bank account, you feel liberated, and (if you haven’t done so already) you decide to leave the security of the family home and start looking around for your first home. Yes, more milestones have been carved in your life path.
But wait…the beloved girlfriend/boyfriend suddenly turns into a fiancé and the next thing you know you’ve attained a new title—you’ve become someone’s spouse. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s a problem, the cosy one-bedroomed love nest overlooking the local park isn’t big enough for both of you, so house hunting begins. Note: house hunting is not for the fainthearted, one of you is sure to find something undesirable about the others choice—goes with the territory, excuse the pun. The result, a lot of door slamming and deafening silences, and that’s what happened to Richard and Emma McLaughlin when they decided to move up the property ladder and buy a family sized house, close to where they both worked in the suburbs of Stillorgan, situated about twenty kilometres outside Dublin city. Making the decision to purchase was the easy part but agreeing on the perfect house, wasn’t.
After four months and countless viewings, Richard and Emma were at each other’s throats. Then, early on a Saturday morning a random property flyer shoved into their letterbox changed everything. Bray Head Country Estate Build the Home of Your Dreams Unrivalled views — Nine Hole Golf Course — Three Tennis Courts — Two Squash Courts Indoor Swimming Pool — Community Club House and much more… The more she studied the flyer, the more Emma’s excitement grew. She quickly came to the happy conclusion, this way all their requirements would be met. They’d be built in, all of them. Why hadn’t they thought about building before? For sure, Bray was a lot further from Stillorgan than they would have liked, but she knew the train service was frequent and reliable, much better than driving to and from work in outrageous rush hour traffic, and the estate had all those private amenities—what a pleasure. ‘Richard,’ Emma yelled as she launched herself through the door of their tiny flat, ‘Look at this, it’s perfect.’ Startled, Richard looked up from his bowl of Cornflakes, scratched his head (not a morning person) and replied, ‘Why are you shouting, I’m right here?’ ‘Look, look at this.’ She thrust the flyer in front of his face, stood back and anxiously watched as he briefly scanned the contents. After what seemed like an interminable length of time, he placed the flyer down on the coffee table, saying, ‘It sounds nice but what’s it got to do with us?’ Emma nearly exploded. ‘You dolt, don’t you ever grasp anything?’ Not giving him a chance to reply she continued, ‘Instead of buying someone else’s cast off property, we’ll build our own house, exactly the way we want it to be.’ ‘Have you lost it Em? This place is in Bray…in County Wicklow—’ ‘Ever heard of commuting by train? You know you hate battling road raged drivers and—’ ‘Em, you’re being ridiculous, Bray is…out in the sticks…it’s a seaside town—’ ‘Exactly, a seaside town, perfect for relaxing weekends and when we have children—’ ‘Children!’ Richard yelped, nearly sending the remains of his Cornflakes scooting across the floor. He jumped to his feet, briefly scanned Emma’s face and anxiously said, ‘Jesus Em, you’re not pregnant are you?’ ‘What! Pregnant! No I’m not but—’ ‘Phew, that’s a relief…you had me going there.’ Emma, ignoring the last part of what Richard had said, picked up the abandoned flyer, opened it out and spread it out in all its colourful glory on the coffee table. ‘How long have we been looking for a house within our price range?’ Richard sat down again and said, ‘Not long, three months or so.’ ‘We’ve been looking for four months and so far anything we’ve even remotely liked has been far too expensive…now if we build…we can start small and add on when our finances allow.’
Richard scratched his head, mumbled something inaudible, fingered the flyer as if it was somehow contagious and said slowly, ‘Building a house is a lot, a lot of hassles, whereas moving into an existing one is far easier and…well…quicker.’ ‘Quicker, yes it would be, but only if we could find one we both like. The last one we looked at you didn’t want because it was, and I quote, “Stuffed in the middle of a terrace like a misshaped sausage” and the one before that “Overlooked the neighbours back garden” and the one before—’ ‘I get your point, but you weren’t too enamoured with any of those properties either, so don’t lay all the blame on me.’ Emma, not wanting to get into a fight decided to try a different tactic. ‘I know I didn’t, but can we at least just go and look at the estate? We don’t have anything planned for tomorrow and a trip out to Bray would be sort of different, and we can have lunch at one of the seafood places…’ The mention of seafood grabbed Richard’s attention. ‘Okay, we’ll go and look, but don’t go building your hopes up because as I said, building a house is a lot of hassles.’ Emma flopped down beside him, threw her arms around his neck and murmured in his ear, ‘I love you.’ ‘Even though I’m a dolt?’ ‘Even though you’re a dolt.’
‘Oh Richard, it’s positively breathtaking,’ Emma exclaimed as they drove through the estate gates. ‘Look, you can see right down to the beach…and the houses are so—’ ‘Expensive looking,’ Richard bluntly said. ‘Yeah, some of them are, but some are definitely starter homes.’ Richard stayed silent even though he did like the feel of the estate, and the more he saw the more he liked, but he wasn’t telling Emma that, not just yet. ‘Turn right here…the estate agent said to meet her on Periwinkle Drive, the site she wants to show us is—’ ‘I know,’ Richard butted in, but not grumpily. ‘There, there’s her car,’ Emma said excitedly, ‘beside that large rock.’ Richard pulled up beside a white Toyota with decals on both sides advertising Fitzgibbons Country Properties and Rentals. As soon as he’d turned the engine off an extremely overweight middle-aged woman with incredibly stiff looking blonde hair stepped out from her vehicle. Emma was out of the passenger door like a shot, and breathlessly enquired, ‘Mrs Sullivan?’ ‘That’s me,’ the woman answered in a high-pitched tinkling voice. Emma stretched her hand forward, saying, ‘Emma McLaughlin,’ and indicating Richard, ‘and that’s my husband Richard. We’re not late are we?’ Mrs Sullivan took Emma’s hand, shook it briefly while saying, ‘No, not at all, although we’d better get a move on because I’d like you to see the site before the light goes…sorry I couldn’t meet you both earlier…had a couple of show houses in Shankhill and well, you know…’ her words trailed away, and without even addressing Richard she climbed back into her car, started the engine, leaving Emma and Richard standing rooted to the spot. As if in an afterthought she rolled down her window and said, ‘Follow me.’ Emma and Richard gave each other a cursory glance, they’d come this far and they weren’t to be put off by an obviously disinterested estate agent. A couple of turns later, Mrs Sullivan steered her car off the tarred road, onto a rather narrow dirt road, and past a small copse of trees growing happily on a steep incline. A little further up the hill she stopped by a single and ancient looking oak tree, turned off the car engine, and despite her bulk, was out of her car amazingly fast as if she was in a sudden and almighty hurry. As soon as Emma and Richard joined her she gushed, ‘Wonderful view from here and because of the elevation you needn’t worry about the vista ever becoming blocked by another dwelling.’ Emma stood looking around her, to her mind the view wasn’t just wonderful, it was spectacular. To her right she could see all the way to the famous cross on Bray Head Mountain which was all but covered in bright yellow gorse and purple heather, and straight in front of her was an uninterrupted view of the Irish Sea, frothy looking waves, bobbing fishing boats and all. ‘Quite breathtaking isn’t it?’ Mrs Sullivan said to Richard, as if she’d just noticed his presence. ‘Eh, yes it is,’ Richard replied, meaning it. Finding her voice, Emma turned to Mrs Sullivan and blathered, ‘I love it, I just love it. How long would it take to sort out the paperwork?’ Hearing that, Mrs Sullivan’s entire demeanour altered, now she regarded Emma and Richard as serious buyers, and not just time wasting, noncommittal lookers. ‘The transfer of the land takes about six weeks, far shorter than transferring a house or flat, and our company architect has many plans already approved by the planning office…plans applicable to this very site, sooooo, if you use one of our recommended builders you could be turning the first sods over in less than two months.’ ‘Two months!’ Emma said elatedly, ‘I thought the entire process takes a hell of a lot longer than that.’ ‘Not if your home loan is already approved and you avail of our recommended experts,’ Mrs Sullivan informed her, in a nice way. ‘Our loan is approved, isn’t it Richard,’ Emma belted out. Richard beamed his wife a heart-stopping smile, turned to the estate agent and said, ‘Yes it is, and if my wife likes this site…then…I think we’ve found our future home, or I should say, found a plot of land to build out future home on.’ Emma was speechless. She’d been prepared for Richard to argue and complain, find something wrong, something he didn’t like. ‘Excellent.’ Mrs Sullivan extolled, ‘I have a temporary office beside the club house, if you’re both agreed and I can definitely see you are, I think we should go there right now…you can sign the offer to purchase…’ her words trailed away as if she were testing her young prospects decision. Richard looked at Emma’s astounded face and asked, ‘Want to do that?’ Emma didn’t need to be asked twice. ‘Absolutely!’
Just as Mrs Sullivan had told them, the property transfer went through in just over six weeks, and with the plans for a three bedroomed home already approved, Emma proudly stood on their newly purchased plot of land watching Richard mark out the foundations for their first real home-to-be in a white wash solution. When he was done, Emma laid a wool blanket on the grass in the centre of what would be their first proper lounge, cracked open a bottle of bubbly, and huddled together in warm jackets they proceeded to toast their future as newly satisfied land owners. After all, they’d just gathered in another milestone, an exciting one. A short while later, while Richard was topping up their glasses, a red Mazda pulled up on the dirt road beside them. They didn’t pay much attention until an elderly looking man alighted, hobbled over to them and curtly said, ‘Good afternoon, my name is Harold Peabody…I’m the secretary of the Home Owners Association.’ Without waiting for either Emma or Richard to reply, he thrust a sheaf of papers into Richards’s free hand telling him they contained the names, addresses and contact numbers of all the committee members. ‘Committee members?’ Richard repeated, sounding utterly confused. Emma remained silent and stared at the man named Mr Peabody as if he’d just popped in from a neighbouring planet called Gruffly Rude. ‘That’s right, the names, addresses and contact numbers of all the committee members belonging to the Home Owners Association,’ Mr Peabody told Richard for the second time, quickly adding, ‘you’ll need to familiarise yourselves with the correct people, it’s important for all concerned.’ ‘Eh, thank you,’ Richard replied, doing his best not to smirk at Emma’s astounded expression. ‘Excellent,’ Mr Peabody announced exuberantly, as if he’d just landed the deal of the century with some important conglomerate known only to him. ‘Start as you mean to go on,’ he told them over his shoulder, climbed back into his car and drove off in a flurry of road dust. ‘What on earth was all that about?’ Emma said to Richard as soon as Mr Peabody’s car was out of sight. ‘Not sure, but there’s an awful lot of names on this list, and for some reason he’s given us a copy of the Bray Head Country Estate Constitution and—’ ‘Hi there, looks like you’ve met the infamous Mr Peabody,’ a man’s voice said behind them. Both Emma and Richard turned round to see whom it belonged to. Standing just outside the white washed edge of their soon–to-be-built kitchen, was a young couple and a surprisingly large but docile looking Red Setter. ‘I suppose we just did,’ Richard replied and stood up, spilling most of his bubbly in the process. ‘Oops,’ the woman said, ‘didn’t mean to startle you…Mr Peabody is quite an eye opener isn’t he Peter?’ The man called Peter let out a loud snort before saying, ‘Eye opener, that’s a new name for the blithering old busybody.’ He turned back to Emma and Richard. ‘My name is Peter Sheehan,’ and putting his arm over the woman’s shoulder added, ‘and this is my beautiful wife Tara.’ ‘Pleased to meet you,’ Richard and Emma replied in unison. Emma, always the dog lover, moved over to pat the Red Setter whose only response was an overly curious interest in the crotch area of her jeans. ‘Kristy, cut that out!’ The young woman called Tara admonished and tugged sharply at the leather and chrome lead attached to the dog’s collar. Kristy immediately sat down, and if Emma hadn’t known better she could have sworn the dog was smiling at her. ‘It’s all right, no harm done,’ Emma told Tara, meaning it. ‘I don’t know why she does that, I’m so sorry,’ Tara replied, giving the dog a gentle tug. Emma smiled at the dark-haired pretty woman before asking, ‘How long have you been living here?’ Tara looked over to her left and said, ‘Roughly eighteen months, and that,’ she pointed to a large white house barely visible through the copse of trees, ‘is our humble abode.’ Emma didn’t think it looked humble. In fact, by what she could see of it, it looked quite the opposite. ‘Tell you what,’ Tara said before Emma had time to say anything else, ‘when you’re finished here come on over for a bite of supper, we planned on barbecuing a few steaks, nothing fancy.’ ‘Thanks a mil, but we couldn’t…we don’t have anything with us except this,’ she eyed the bottle of bubbly propped up against the can of white wash, ‘nearly empty bottle of champers.’ Seeing Tara’s evident disappointment she quickly added, ‘Isn’t it a bit cold to eat outdoors?’ ‘Don’t worry about the cold, we’ve just finished building an indoor barbeque area and you’ll be our first guests.’ ‘Ah come on, it’ll be fun,’ Peter encouraged. He turned to Richard and said, ‘We’ll crack open another bottle of bubbly to celebrate…after we’ve eaten we’ll go down to the clubhouse and introduce you to a few of the more sane locals.’ Emma and Richard smiled at each other while telling their new neighbours-to-be they’d be over in about twenty minutes or so. ‘Excellent, Tara shrilled, looking genuinely pleased. ‘See you then.’ Kristy, not to be left out, let out a loud woof and strained on her lead as if saying, ‘Can we finish my walk first?’
The sun slowly dropped and eventually disappeared below the horizon, creating a completely different ambience throughout the entire estate. To Emma’s mind is seemed wonderfully ethereal. Unlike the continual hum of traffic outside their flat in Stillorgan, the hush was heavenly. The lights from the harbour twinkled like a string of yellow pearls. Far below her, the various lights in the clubhouse came on one by one and she caught sight of a series of shadow like creatures moving through the trees. Tara explained that the ghostlike wraiths were actually a small herd of Roe Deer that roamed freely throughout the estate, and most nights they came past the end of the dirt road in their search for more succulent grazing. Emma thought that sounded wonderful. The only other place she’d ever observed any deer at all was a very distance glimpse of some early one morning in the Phoenix Park. She was about to tell Tara that when she noticed Richard and Peter scrutinising the sheaf of papers Mr Peabody had given them earlier on. ‘What are those two up to?’ ‘Oh…Peter is probably giving Richard the low down about the committees and all they slavishly get up to,’ Tara replied as she handed Emma a glass of red wine. ‘Maybe I should hear what he’s saying,’ Emma muttered, ‘I don’t want to be told I’m disinterested.’ Tara raised one expertly plucked eyebrow. ‘Buying a plot of land was my idea and…well, you know…’ she allowed Tara’s imagination to finish off for her. Without saying anything else she moved over to where her husband and Peter were animatedly discussing the pros and cons of actually having a Home Owners Association in existence. ‘You see, the Home Owners Association was formed for a myriad of bewildering reasons, the most important being…protecting our interests,’ Peter was telling Richard. Tara slid her hand through the crook of Richards elbow. ‘Well, that’s what they say it’s for, in truth it’s a bunch of doddery MD’s feeling mighty despondent after letting go of whatever reins they tugged on, prior to retirement.’ He did his snorting thing again and continued, ‘The ink is barely dry on the Deed of Sale when you’re handed a list of committee members and their designations, and there are no less than nine separate committees dealing with roads, building regulations, site issues, finance, environment, communications, legalities, security and let me check,’ he glanced at the pages he was holding, ‘and the oh-so-important estate constitution. In essence, you buy a plot of land where every move is closely scrutinized by zealot control freaks. Harsh as that sounds, it’s true.’ ‘What exactly does each committee do?’ Emma asked, curiously amused. ‘Well now, the environment committee tells us that we can own a dog, but it mustn’t roam free, which is fair enough, but do remember, we can’t fence off our property in order to contain our beloved pooch…the mind boggles. And the finance committee controls the monthly levies and special levies which are periodically enforced for extras needed on the estate,’ he grinned devilishly and added, ‘those finance wannabe moguls decide where all levied funds are spent.’ Richard, obviously enjoying himself asked, ‘And the committee titled site?’ ‘Good question, Tara flung in. ‘That lot are adept at swallowing undisclosed quantities of beer in the clubhouse while attempting to discuss site related thingy’s. And the roads committee practically explains itself, but you have to pay a separate non-refundable road levy when the builder starts delivering materials, otherwise the trucks won’t be permitted to enter the portals—no bricks, no house.’ ‘She’s quite right and the building committee…boy oh boy…if your roof tiles don’t match the specific criteria set down in the constitution, don’t even think of having one!’ Emma’s face now looked like a deflating helium balloon. Unperturbed, Richard continued with, ‘The communication crowd, to be honest I’m not sure what they do…but it’s nothing to do with telephone company, and the constitution committee, humph, nothing but a bunch of Stone Age rules and regulations derived to make sure none of us sleep at night. And then there’s the legal committee, which is in place to ensure none of us break any of the prehistoric rules written into the constitution—’ ‘Peter, enough bellyaching about the bloody committees…go get Richard a beer, honestly you’d put anyone off even considering buying here.’ Peter eyed his wife while handing the list of committee members back to Richard. He couldn’t resist saying, ‘Maybe they should add an extra committee, one titled, Crushing the Home Owner Milestone. Take heed my friends, you’ve been forewarned,’ and leaving Richard and Emma with their jaws hanging open he scuttled off, presumably to fetch the beer. Richard hugged Emma and said, ‘He left one out, the security committee—’ ‘They’re a load of bollocking idiots trying to play out their own version of larger-than-life National Security and MI6 combined,’ Peter shouted from somewhere out of sight. If he said anything else, no one heard. ‘Well, now we know,’ Emma said in an effort to break the silence. ‘Now we know,’ Richard repeated, stuffing the pages Mr Peabody gave him into his back pocket. ‘Come on you two, let’s put the steaks on and don’t pay too much attention to Peter, he has a bee in his bonnet at the moment—’ ‘I do, do I?’ Peter said from the kitchen doorway. ‘No, don’t answer that.’ He handed Richard a beer, topped Emma’s glass up and said to Tara, ‘Should I put the steaks on?’ ‘Good idea, I’m starved.’ *** It was nearly a year later before Emma and Richard moved in to their newly built home, and the removal truck had hardly reached the exit gates of the estate before Mr Flannigan (building committee) handed Richard an envelope containing an objection to the wooden deck they’d added to their brand spanking new home. ‘This is ridiculous!’ Richard, totally outraged told the withered looking committee member. ‘You wait until the darn thing has been completed and then lodge an objection.’ Mr Flannigan sighed and said, ‘Unfortunately you chose to construct your deck with materials which contravene the building regulations. It should have been built with stone slabs, not timber.’ ‘For goodness sake, using timber was far cheaper than concrete slabs and—’ ‘You’ll have to knock it down and rebuild with the correct materials—’ ‘What,’ Richard said in a quiet-ish voice, not a good sign. ‘It’s all laid out in that letter you are crumpling up in your hand,’ Mr Flannigan informed him coldly. ‘Well Mister whatever-your-name-is from the building committee, knocking my newly constructed deck to the ground is certainly not going to happen, and if you don’t like my decision, you can take the matter up with my lawyer.’ Mr Flannigan sighed, nodded at a white-faced Emma, turned round and left as quietly as he’d arrived. ‘Did…did you hear what he said,’ Richard spluttered, his voice no longer quiet. ‘I heard,’ Emma replied crossly, and prised the crumpled letter from her husband’s white knuckled fist before adding, ‘We knew when we switched to timber that this could happen, and if you remember, Peter told us it would, very, very clearly. But you insisted on having a deck now and not later on when we could afford to build it according to the plans.’ ‘Yes, but—’ ‘No buts Richard, we didn’t follow the plans and now the deck will have to be removed until—’ ‘It’ll be removed over my dead body!’ Richard furiously yelled. ‘Yell at me again and you will be dead.’ Emma shouted back and stormed into the bedroom. That night they slept in separate rooms, not a good start to their Country Estate living ambience. All the same, Richard was adamant, the deck was staying exactly where it was and if the building committee didn’t like it, they could lump it. And so, the situation went on for two more days until Emma suggested Richard go and talk to whoever had the deciding voice within the disagreeable committee. This he reluctantly did, which only made matters worse because as soon as he’d entered the doors of the clubhouse he was slapped with a €200.00 fine for committing the breach in the first place. Someone with a double-barrelled name told him that such a hefty fine was normal procedure because if the committee didn’t act accordingly, everyone on the estate would think they could do as they liked. ‘Don’t give me that crap!’ Richard flung back to the smug looking committee member. ‘Mr McLaughlin, there is no need to adopt that kind of an attitude, we are acting in the best interest of the estate, another man said from somewhere in the background. ‘Best interests…we’ll see about that,’ Richard replied and stormed off shouting they were all a bunch of disgruntled low lives with nothing else to do but make other people’s lives as miserable as possible. And so it went on. However, with Emma’s persuasion, Richard eventually relented and replaced the deck with the correct stone slabs, and as soon as he’d done that there was an objection to the line of Beech saplings Emma planted on the perimeter of their property, apparently they were slightly over the boundary—yet another fine was issued and they were told to dig them up and replant. Then the garden shed was objected to because it was an eyesore, which was totally ridiculous because it was hardly noticeable beneath the shade of the ancient oak tree. As soon as those hiccups were resolved another objection quickly followed, this time it was the colour Emma painted the exterior walls—they should have been painted off-white, not the brilliant-white she’d bought on sale at the local hardware shop. It was all becoming too much, and if it hadn’t been for Tara and Peter’s encouragement they’d have sold up there and then. But they didn’t, and life in Bray Head Country Estate continued on, despite their growing resentment. Each morning they’d drive to the train station close to the seafront, board the 7.45 to Amiens Street, trundle off to their respective jobs and meet up at 6.15 for the return journey. That small part of living in the sticks was still a pleasure, no rush hour traffic to contend with or gluttonous parking meters. And then, when Emma discovered she was pregnant and wanted to glaze in their elevated stone slabbed deck, they were told they would have to apply to the Department of Housing to have their original planning permission amended. That was enough for Richard. Apply for planning permission to have a few sheets of glass erected over the bloody deck, outlandishly laughable. ‘Emma, this place is more like a concentration camp than a friggin’ country estate. Sneeze too loudly and someone objects. We can’t even have a dog unless we keep it locked up all day while we’re out at work, and when the baby comes you can be freaking well be assured that the baby buggy will cause a hassle for creating invisible ruts in the dirt road, which I might add, was supposed to be tarred over six months ago.’ ‘Now you’re being childish,’ she replied in an exasperated tone. ‘No Em, I’m not being childish as you put it, and I wasn’t going to bring this up just yet, but you do know my parents are moving into that assisted living complex next month—’ ‘Ah come on Richard, not that again. This place is perfect for kids and your parents house, nice at it is, is slap bang in the middle of Portmarnock.’ ‘Which is right next to the sea, has four bedrooms, no elevated deck and a flippin’ huge garden for the soon-to-be born baby and any future kids to safely play in…what’s wrong with that picture?’ Emma sat down on the sofa with flump. Richard’s parents, not able to bear the thought of strangers living in their family home had offered to sign over their property in Portmarnock several months ago, and gifts like that didn’t come around very often. In addition, by selling their house in the estate, Emma and Richard would be relieved of their hefty mortgage, and judging by the spiralling house prices they’d have a considerable amount left over to do as wanted. Deep down she knew Richard was right, but to leave the wide-open spaces of the estate with its free roaming deer, abundant birdlife, golf course, swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, was too upsetting to even consider right now. On the other hand, a week later when the security committee insisted that all home owners pay an exorbitant special levy, payable over three months, to enable the security committee to install boom gates at the entrance, along with twenty-four hour security guards, was too much for Emma. They were barely able to keep up with the mortgage, existing levies and ever-increasing electricity tariffs as it was. It was all right for the likes of Tara and Peter who were swimming in money, no worries about special levies for them, but for Richard and Emma, it was out of the question, especially with a baby on the way. Therefore, 116 Sea View Drive was duly put on the market. Three weeks later, Emma and Richard returned to the Dublin suburbs and to date, they never looked back. As I said at the beginning of this story, house hunting is not be for the fainthearted, but in Emma’s and Richard’s case, neither was living on a country estate, despite all the added extras not readily available elsewhere, and to repeat what Peter told them when they first met, “You have been forewarned.” Linda Penhall © July 2011