Ah, the difference between what you see in the property brochure and real life!


The photo on top and to the right is from the sales brochure from last autumn:  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, and away I go!

Dream on.  Reality was different from the property brochure.  When I arrived on February 20 to view my cottage for the first time (I bought it sight unseen–at least by me), whatever was shown in the sales brochure was eminently worse. The cottage hadn’t been lived in since last August, so it had gone through an entire damp English winter without heat.

sitting room

There was a mildewed carpet against the back wall (to the right in the photo).

The north wall of the room was crumbling from the intense damp.  When I scraped at the plaster, chunks fell wetly to the floor.


The room was intensely wet (a huge understatement)  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. Finally the plumber, Brendan, had some success, using many matches until one caught fire.  But as soon as I shut off the gas fire and tried to get it going again, it sat there as dead as a doornail and about as useful, oozing gas fumes.  I wasn’t sure how safe it was, so I asked the builders to get rid of it;  I’d have radiators fitted instead.

So they tore out the gas fire, and look what they found behind it–


–a HUGE opening behind where the gas fire formerly was, filled with soot, rubble, and soil!

My heart sank, and all I could think was, why is there dirt and detritus in my sitting room?  Yet another thing to deal with that I wasn’t expecting, and which will cost me oodles of pounds.