When I arrived on February 20 to view my cottage for the first time (I bought it sight unseen–at least by me), I almost broke into tears.

What I saw in the property sales brochure was nothing like real life.

Property sales brochure:

screen-shot-2017-06-13-at-9-55-53-pm.pngThe photo in the property sales brochure shows a room that can definitely be described as “needs-work,” but with original-looking beams, sunlight flooding through the windows, walls that look OK, and a useful gas fire.  Rip up the carpet, paint the walls, and I’m in!

Real Life.


The cottage hadn’t been lived in since last August. It had gone through an entire damp English winter without heat.

The carpet against the back wall was mildewed.

The north wall of the room was crumbling from the intense damp.  Chunks of plaster fell wetly to the floor.

The room was intensely wet and  desperately needed heat.

I went to the gas fire and started trying to get a spark to light the coils. Nothing. I tried pushing the lighter knob hard, softly, quickly, slowly, but nothing worked. The tick-tick-tick never resulted in a flame.

I went upstairs. It immediately became clear that there had never, in the almost 300 years of the cottage’s existence, been heat on that floor except for that provided by three tiny fireplaces that hadn’t been used for decades.

I could see my breath. It was 38 degrees outside, and almost certainly the same inside.

I put my hand on the walls.  My hand came away dripping with water.

I’d needed the cottage I bought to be a fixer-upper so that I could afford it, but this was so much worse than I had anticipated. I slunk back to my cousin Julie’s chalet in the raw January darkness, glad that there was a wood stove that could supply heat and that the walls weren’t running with damp.

Reality hit me:  I have made a terrible mistake in buying this cottage.