Some people simply want a place where they can put down roots. Others prefer a life of packing and short stops...

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A job that lets you see the world and explore interesting places, as the Army advertisements used to say, sounds an attractive prospect to most people starting a career. But 10 years later the worker may have a spouse - who may also work - and children at school. After 10 addresses in as many years, putting down roots in one place can be appealing.

Yet for those who join international companies or the services, moving may be a compulsory part of the job. When the house market was buoyant, this was not such a problem. You could always buy and sell quickly and many companies offered substantial relocation packages.

Now circumstances have changed. Jobs are often short-term and companies have tightened their relocation budgets. If a post is for two years or less, the company may say the family must rent, rather than buy, because of the potential difficulty of moving on. Individuals often prefer a long commute to the risk of losing money on a move.

For some people, travel will always be a bonus. They find a life of short stops exciting. They feel their children become more worldly and broad- minded. Others prefer to have a place they can call home. They do not like to see their children's schooling disrupted, the wife - on whom the burden of moving usually falls - does not want to spend her life making new friends and sorting out new houses, only to leave them a few years later.

Whether you choose to be a mover or a stayer has an enormous impact on your life. These are the pros and cons as seen by two families who made different choices.

The Rooted

When John and Genny Dixon's grandson Timmy comes to stay, he always calls first to check that his friend from the village will be there to come and play. Ford House, where his grandparents have lived for 27 years, is as much a home to eight-year-old Timmy as it is to his parents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

When the Dixons bought Ford House in the Somerset hamlet of Wiveliscombe, they were making a conscious decision to find a home for life. Major Dixon had left the armed forces and was working as a translator, which he could do from anywhere. He was originally from Teesdale, his wife from Kent. They decided on Somerset for two reasons: for Major Dixon it was "as near the North as you can get in the South"; for Mrs Dixon it was a place of fond childhood memories. "I spent a lot of my summer holidays with an aunt, riding on Dartmoor and sailing at Plymouth." She wanted her children, Jeremy and Caroline, to grow up with the same pleasures.

Their listed Georgian house sits in 11 acres of grounds, with lawns running down to a river. There are little wooden bridges and pools stocked with brown trout. Inside the walled garden there is a swimming-pool and tennis court as well as a vegetable garden.

Though the Dixons' daughter left for the city life of parties and playing in bands, she always came back to Ford House. Now she and her brother, aged 39 and 41 respectively, live with their own families quite close by. They come "home" as often as possible for the weekend with their own children.

The Dixons feel it is important for families to put down roots. They think it gives children, in particular, more stability. "If you move they have to make new friends and start new schools," says Mrs Dixon. "It's very disruptive."

Major and Mrs Dixon are now selling Ford House because it has become too much for them. They will stay in the neighbourhood, close to their friends and families.

Ford House is being sold by Knight Frank & Rutley in Exeter (01392 423111) for pounds 435,000.

The Rootless

The Staggs have moved 10 times in 13 years. It would not be quite so extraordinary if they were a small family, but there are two parents, four children, three dogs, assorted horses and a few chickens. How do they do it, as Desmond Lynam might ask.

With cheery determination, would seem to be the answer. Dickie Stagg is in the Foreign Office, which means postings every four years: life has moved backwards and forwards between The Hague, London and Brussels, with a couple of voluntary moves thrown in. One non-job-related move was in London, where they decided to leave their home in Camberwell after Arabella Stagg was mugged.

They are now living outside Grantham. They hope to make this house the family base. Friends gasp at all the animals, given their nomadic lifestyle, but Mrs Stagg says she is determined to make every house feel like home.

"You have to keep life as normal as possible," she says. "If you move a lot you haven't got the usual network of friends. You have to establish a new network very quickly.

"The children love it. They adapt very quickly and take everything in their stride. It does seem to make them more outgoing. Our oldest is 11 and he thinks nothing of going on a plane by himself. It's made them more self-confident."

But the Staggs do think it is important that their children have a base in England. Their oldest boys have been to school in Brussels and The Hague but are now at boarding school in Dorset, chosen partly because it was near to their grandmothers. "With us away, the grannies are an important touchstone," says Mrs Stagg. The five- and three-year-olds are still on the move.

Mrs Stagg is currently working for Savills in Stamford, where she worked on a previous stint in England. If she had been determined to pursue a career, life would have been impossible. "As a wife you have to organise all the packing and the schools," she says. "It's a lot of work, but I'm not complaining. One of the pluses of this life is that it makes you appreciate England much more."

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