The Shameful Confessions of a Porn Addict

I have a problem. A very big problem. And I’m finally going to admit to it. Judge me as you will, but I can’t help myself: I’m into a very niche form of pornography.
Property pornography to be precise.

pervert 2

I have spent countless hours (ignoring my children) whilst on RightMove and Zoopla. If you’re selling your house and it is in any way old, pretty or architecturally interesting, then I have, metaphorically, been in it. Sorry (not sorry). I’ve strolled around your lounge, redesigned your bathroom and sat in your kitchen having a cuppa whilst I’ve contemplated living in your house. Bet you feel all sullied and unusual now. But why, you might ask, do I have this strange compulsion?

As a family, we’ve been renting for a couple of years now, waiting for the right property to come up to buy. It’s proven trickier than we could have anticipated. Partly that is because we have to triangulate the location of the girls’ school/pre-school with that of my husband’s work. We also like to take part in the community we live in, so somewhere with a good park, useful shops, lively social scene and a few pubs is high up on the list.

We’ve sold our house so you think we’d be in a good position, wouldn’t you? If we weren’t so picky, perhaps.

In my previous job as a curator for interiors, architecture and landscapes, I was often called in to comment on plans for all sorts of buildings which was always fascinating and helped my spatial awareness to grow (and my latent palace-owning desires, obviously). As with the role’s necessity to redecorate spaces for both modern and historical uses, it helped to sublimate my desires for a grand place of my own. Salivating over Farrow & Ball and Little Greene paint charts is tons of fun, if someone else is footing the bill (actually, it’s tons of fun anyway – I can’t help it, I’m just built that way). As is finding just the right bamboo screen for a WWI seaside convalescent home recreation: you can almost pretend you’re buying it for yourself (it was a lovely screen).

colour-wall-md
Farrow and Ball colour wall – http://www.farrow-ball.com/

Due to my last job, I’ve got pretensions waaaaay beyond the capabilities of my wallet. There’s nothing like a landscaped garden to get me frotting faster than Vic Reeves in front of a Lovely Lady.

vic reeves

I like to try and dignify my prying into big houses by making out that I’m a kind of country house tourist, drooling over internet photos in an effort to learn more about county-specific plaster mouldings or important architects. Plaish Hall is the first brick built mansion in Shropshire, is it? Well, well, how fascinating…

plaish hall
Phwoargh! Check out the mullions on THAT!

Some houses that have been on the market for a while become old friends. If I happen to pass them on my way somewhere, I tick them off in my head: that’s the one with a lovely dining room for Christmas or that’s the one with the questionable bathroom suite (I’ve already redesigned it) and that’s the one where I held a massive birthday party for all my friends in the garden and I nearly fell in the fishpond whilst twerking! I wonder why it hasn’t sold yet?

All the lives I’ve lived in different houses, becoming a slightly different person in each one, feel like a sort of expenditure of mental energy. It’s cathartic in one sense. Imagining myself into those environments is like tapping off a dangerous build-up of longing. Hopefully if I do it often enough then the pressure won’t build up and explode, causing all sorts of fall-out (and the spectacle of me locking myself inside someone’s best bedroom and refusing to come out until I get the all the keys).

easton cottage

Even if I go on holiday or travel somewhere a little further away from home, I’ll take my affliction with me: I can assess the perving potential everywhere. This is a pretty cottage in the same village as our friends’ house in Hampshire.

No, you can’t have it, it’s mine.

I’ve not taken it as far as actually organising a visit to a house I’m particularly taken with (although there are those of you that have, I know). For me that’s a bit like those women who are so far gone in planning their weddings that they book in to boutiques to try on wedding dresses despite not yet having a fiancé. I’m a touch more discrete with my lechery. But sometimes, it’s a really difficult urge to resist.

There are quite a few people who have admitted to me that they have this same odd fetish (£50 and I won’t name names): the inability to leave RightMove alone. The sweat beading on your upper lip as you’re talking to someone because a new property alert has pinged on your phone and you desperately want to excuse yourself so that you can sneak off to the loo to check up on it.

Could this be it? Is this The One? You fumble with your mobile, desperate to look. Is it a roomy but sweet little cottage? Is it a tumbledown farmhouse inexplicably on the market for £150k? Is it a steal? Would there be space for a treehouse…?

Ah, f*ck it, it’s only a three bedroom 1970s semi-detached with an integral garage. Eye roll. (Apologies to readers who love their 3-bed 1970s semis, I’m sure yours is lovely).

Sometimes this affliction can lead to good things. You can come across truly unusual buildings, like this cave that artist Antony Dracup hand-carved out of the sandstone cliff face behind his house, “Colditz-style” as his son described:

antony dracup house
Bridgnorth Cave House

“His persistence was rewarded with noticeably stronger chest muscles and extra living space.”, his son noted, laconically.

greystones oban
Give me a lottery win and a helicopter and I’m there

Or you might find somewhere so astonishingly beautiful or dramatic that you can scarcely believe real people actually live there. Country Life magazine used to be a good source for those types of dwellings (taking my online obsession back offline into paper for a while). Where else would you find pretty Cotswold cottages cheek-by-jowl with Cornish beachside follies and Scottish castles?

Whilst looking at all the lovely places, it’s hard not to become weirdly attracted to the terrible ones too. A series of photographs of someone’s home can provide the most compelling portrait of their lives and personal hobbies. Creepy doll collection? Check. Disturbing interest in guns? Check. The belief that a surface, any surface, should carry a pattern that does not necessarily have anything to do with the others around it? Check.

Some photos were clearly taken by a bored estate agent, desperate to wash their hands in bleach and get back to the office for a restorative coffee. A whole website has been dedicated to this phenomena called Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos. It’s an American website but there are obviously a fair few British contributors and there’s a subsection of awful toilets. The snarking in the captions is to die for.

mermaid bathroom
It’s a tribute to my late wife, who used to dream of being a clumsily-drawn, questionably-shaped mermaid

But just as there’s a perfect partner for every human being, so is there an owner for every house and they all get sold eventually. Somewhere that would send me shrieking in the opposite direction is someone else’s quirky bolt hole or five bedroom des-res (once Rentokil, a demolition crew and ten years hard labour have done their bit). If you look hard enough, maybe tilting your head and doing a big squint, you can recognise the potential in everything and everyone. It’s kind of heartening really. And somewhere, out there, is my perfect house just waiting for me to find it. I wish it would hurry up.

Now, erm, excuse me for a little bit, won’t you? I’ve just got to check something on my phone…