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
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living