The 2011 census has revealed that more than one and a half million of us have second homes in a different local authority. That’s almost three per cent of the usual resident population of England and Wales. So should the rest of us feel resentful towards them? A second home is one of those property-programme ideals, after all. Work in the horrible, polluted city, but then retire to your country abode at weekends.
I can’t imagine anything worse. I waited for ever to buy my flat, because no matter how much more I earned each year, it was never enough to catch up with house price increases. By the time I eventually bought a place, I had loved the idea of it for too long. It is no exaggeration to say that any time I’m not in it, I’m worrying about it. What if it gets burgled, or catches fire, or evaporates into thin air?
My relationship with my home is like I am dating a much too handsome man: I know it’s too good for me, so I live in constant fear that it will leave me. I can never truly enjoy a holiday other than retrospectively, once I’ve come home and know for sure that nothing has flooded or had something fall on it from a great height. The idea of having to feel that way twice over makes me slightly nauseous.
Most of the second-homers have no choice – 77 per cent of them are children of separated parents or students who have a term-time and holiday address. Neither of these situations seems very enviable to me: two bedrooms don’t make up for squabbling parents, and being a student means you are now spending a fortune to panic-read books at 4am, while living in damp building with people you secretly hate because they steal your cheese while you sleep.
Of the remaining second-homers, half have their other property for work, and many of those are in London. While I’m sure plenty of those are perfectly nice pieds-à-terre, at least some of them are going to be those cupboard-sized studios you see on the news where you have to sleep standing up and persuade yourself it’s sort of like Tokyo. That doesn’t seem much like the property-owning dream either.
Only a teeny 11 per cent of all those second-home owners have the holy grail: a holiday home. The highest density of those are in Gwynedd, in north Wales. Second-home owners there have caused so much concern – over rising house prices and the perceived threat to Welsh-language speaking – that they may not feel terribly popular when they get there.
There really is no place like just one home.
One good reason not to buy No 5
Brad Pitt has started appearing in ads as the new face of Chanel No 5. I am genuinely perplexed by this. I can just about comprehend that if you want to smell like, say, Lady Gaga, you might buy a bottle of her perfume. I guess she probably wears it, perhaps to mask the smell of the raw meat she occasionally wears where you or I might wear a nice jumper.
But Chanel No 5 is a fragrance for women, so I’m thinking Brad Pitt doesn’t use it. It’s been around for longer than he has been alive. And while he is an extremely handsome man (I saw him at a press conference once, and he was genuinely breath-taking), the sight of him burbling pseudo-philosophical inanities in a black and white commercial wouldn’t make me buy perfume, any more than a perfume manufacturer blethering about nothing would persuade me to go and see a film.