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Stepping Stones

"HOW MANY house moves have I had?" asks freelance writer Annie Phillips: "Too many to count when I was younger..." Annie currently lives in Brighton with her son and a friend, but her first buy was a "cute" two-bedroom cottage in the Devon village of Ippledon, which she bought in 1980 with her partner for pounds 16,500.

Three years on they sold for pounds 21,000 and after renting several places "rashly" bought a 1920s bungalow near Cranborne, in Dorset, which "stood in a marshy field, complete with pig sty".

It cost pounds 27,000 but the purchase was a lengthy affair: "The Marquis of Cranborne owned the land and wanted to retain hunting, shooting and fishing rights."

He was to be disappointed. "My partner was a hunt saboteur so this seemed inappropriate and we delayed buying until the clause was diminished to `with permission', which of course we'd never give."

The bungalow was situated down a "totally inaccessible" lane and the couple were kept busy: "We spent most of our time bailing out the sewage that seeped from the cesspit."

In 1984, having "tastefully redecorated", they sold for pounds 36,000 and moved to Lewes, in Sussex. Here, Annie and her by then husband bought what she calls her "favourite house", a two-bedroom Victorian cottage which cost pounds 40,000.

In 1986 she became pregnant. They sold for pounds 54,000 and for pounds 60,000 bought what Annie calls "an inappropriate Thirties semi" on the edge of town. It was not a successful move. "I felt like a Stepford Wife. My chief memory is of a sloped garden which was impossible to negotiate with a carry cot."

The couple split up, sold for pounds 90,000, and for pounds 94,000 Annie bought another "gorgeous Victorian terrace" in Lewes. Here she lived for five years, landscaping the garden and installing an Aga, but by 1994 a desire to reduce the mortgage persuaded Annie to "undersell" for pounds 84,000.

The next purchase, Victorian again, was a two-bedroom terraced house in Brighton. A year later Annie had the place "looking like my house" with stripped floors and doors and, two years later, a loft conversion.

Annie's home is now worth a reassuring pounds 95,000: "I feel I am nearer to the price I should have got for my last Lewes house." But as that is now worth more than pounds 100,000, Annie asks: "Why do we ever move?"

Ginetta Vedrickas

If you would like your moves to be featured write to Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.We will award pounds 100 to the best story published before 31 June