My Home: Mark Rowlands

A professor of philosophy escapes the city and frees his mind in southern France. Joey Canessa reports

or some of the year, we live in the little village of Portiragnes Plage. It's in the Languedoc region, and Beziers is the nearest city, which is 15 minutes' drive away. The house is around 400 metres from the beach, which we get to by walking through an absolutely stunning nature reserve, complete with the pink flamingos, white ponies, black bulls and the ubiquitous mosquitoes. The mountains of the Massif Central are only an hour's drive away, and ski resorts of the Pyrenees are about three hours' drive. We can get to Barcelona in two hours.

The house was constructed two years ago as part of a small development. It's open plan downstairs, with a bathroom. It was originally a kitchen, dining room and third bedroom but we opened it all up. Upstairs, we've got two bedrooms, a second bathroom, and a large and idiosyncratically shaped sun terrace.

The location was the immediate attraction. A powerful and visionary mayoress has kept development here to a minimum. There's nothing above two stories high, so it's very quiet, relatively speaking. Add to that our position overlooking the nature reserve, which can't be developed, and the fact that the beach (at least on our side) allows dogs, and it seems more or less ideal.

We bought the house off-plan in November 2002 and building was complete by July 2003. At that point, I would describe it as "basic". There wasn't even a kitchen (a slight misunderstanding with the builders that was eventually rectified). There was no shower cabinet or fittings of any description; in fact, it was a shell. It was also in the middle of a building site. The garden was a patch of mud. Even the dogs thought it was a bit primitive.

Nothing gets done quickly here and our house has been no exception. In the summer, we spend most of our time outside anyway, and so we have been content to improve the house bit by bit. The office was first to be sorted, since I needed e-mail and internet access in order to perform my university duties.

When we arrived in July 2003, it was in the middle of the heat wave that had been going on since May, in which close to 10,000 people died in France. So, not only were we unable to sleep at night because it was so hot, but the computer kept shutting down for the same reason. Worse still, because of the demand, there wasn't a spare fan to be had in the entire country. About a year later, we did manage to acquire a set of ceiling fans, courtesy of one of our neighbours.

Then, we started on the garden. We fenced it and covered the mud with gravier jaune - small yellowish stones that provide a low-maintenance garden. They seemed the best option down here, given that we are away for more than half the year.

There's a distinctly minimalist feel to the house - not particularly intended, but more the result of us not having very much in it. Minimalism by default, you might call it. Having lost a coin toss, Emma foolishly ceded authority to furnish the downstairs to me; a mistake she is unlikely to repeat. It looks like a bar, and the effect has been completed by the arrival of a pool table.

Of all our possessions, I am probably most fond of the Waterford crystal decanter given to us by my parents when Emma and I got engaged. This is probably because it's always liberally stocked with Marc de Muscat, a sort of brandy made from the Muscat grape.

The upstairs, in contrast, is all white. It's a cool, tranquil oasis, and shelter from the midday heat, Emma assures me.

In a typical year, we'll spend a month here at Easter and around three months in the summer. The rest of the time we spend in England. We are just moving to a two-bedroom town house in Wimbledon. The combination of city living in the winter, plus beach life in the summer, is ideal.

France is where I come to get my writing done, so professionally it's one of the most important times of year for me. I try to get up at 6am and write for around four hours in the cool of the early morning. Then I go to the beach. We eat when the sun goes down, and then sleep until it rises again. I'm a different person here from the wound up, type-A, stress monster I am in the UK. And, hopefully, I'll live a lot longer because of it - unless I get skin cancer, of course.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent