'It is a truth universally acknowledged', to borrow from Jane Austen, that the British coastline is gradually, but steadily, being eroded away. On this we speak with a degree of authority. But lest we digress further, let us explain.
Whilst Budapest remains home to us, for some months now we have toyed with the idea of a place by the sea - proper sea. For although we enjoy the time we spend in Brighton, which we shall continue so to do, we crave soft sand, rock pools, fishing fleets, pleasure boats, cliff walks, seaweed, ozone in the air, deckchairs for hire, indeed all of those things associated with seaside holidays from childhood, now rather too long ago.
|'On the Coast, Isle of Wight' [1860 Frederic, Lord Leighton]|
So, availing ourselves of the internet and establishing with the various estate agents our intention to buy 'off plan', so to speak, for to arrange an actual viewing, we decided, involved far too much time and effort and would, almost certainly, become tedious, we set about our search.
|'Near Swanage' [1916 Mark Gertler]|
We favoured Dorset. An apartment, directly overlooking Durlston Bay in Swanage and sited at the cliff edge, we thought it wise to abandon when it was revealed that the authorities could no longer maintain or support coastal defences and that the magnificent views of the sea crashing against the rocks below were likely to become even better, and that before we had finished placing the furniture.
|'Ventnor from the East Cliff' |
In Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, we fell in love, on line of course [the estate agents produce such alluring pictures], with a charming little Edwardian villa. The first sentence of the structural survey report, when we read it, indicated that our desired house was in a 'landslip zone'. We moved on, and so perhaps did the villa.
|'Barbican & River Stour, Sandwich, Kent [1900 Henry Maurice Page]|
Sandwich, an attractive mediaeval town and Cinque Port, now two or so miles inland from the Kent coast, seemed perfect. A pretty terraced cottage, nestling within the Conservation area, upon which we set our hearts, was prone to flooding. We let it go.
|the exterior of a house which we actually, and unusually, saw|
|Lance Hattatt taking a bracing walk along the promenade|
Warned away from both Lyme Regis [more shades of Miss Austen] and Cromer, and not a little dispirited, we journeyed to Cornwall in the belief that we should do so much better if on the spot. Four days later we returned to Hungary satisfied that our search was over. A stone built, late Victorian house, a pebble's throw from the sea, seemed ideal, the eight hour bus journey from London a mere nothing. Sadly the dream died with the discovery of high levels of Radon lurking within all those rocks.
|'Bournemouth by the Sea' [1896 Henry Maidment]|
Let us not bore you with the detail of the brand new, Art Deco style apartment in Bournemouth, and never let it be said that the chance remark overheard of 'Bournemouth for the newly wed or nearly dead' affected our decision in any way. Nor will we repeat here our eulogies for a smuggler's cottage on the borders of Devon or a mansion flat in Eastbourne. Suffice it to say, they have come and gone.
|'Norwich Cathedral' [1955 David Freeman]|
For at last we are settled. It is for Norwich we are enthusing and if this cathedral city, to which we have never been, and this artisan cottage, which we have yet to see and will not until it is finally ours, are as far removed from the sea as can be, then so be it.
Steeped in history, replete with period features, our little house, built originally for the workers of the Colman's Mustard Factory, will, we are sure, provide a wonderful holiday home from which to explore both the historical city, surrounding towns and unspoilt countryside beyond. In a matter of just a few weeks we shall take possession, and how exciting is that!
|Christmas Day 2010, Sunset over the Terraces of Norwich [Unknown]|
Now, what was that about earthquakes?
[We have been unable to ascertain ownership of the image, Christmas Day 2010, but will be pleased to provide full acknowledgement]