Weston Hall - William Sitwell's historic family home.
Hot House

Holiday hoo-ha

The trauma of second-home envy

A bad thing is happening. Let me tell you, to coin a phrase from my wildly hot former couples therapist Quinn Goodheart, what this “looks like”.

So here we are, it’s only October, but Hector’s effing school Christmas fundraiser is already being organised, in typically intense fashion. Mostly by a mother in his class who clearly has some kind of undiagnosed personality disorder. Red flags include: leaping at every opportunity to volunteer for school events, imploring others to do the same, talking loudly about how her $300 bamboo leggings don’t “irritate her hoo-ha” (WTF? I didn’t ask, babe), posting slo-mo videos of her twins (yes, of course she has twins) gambolling in sprinklers, and talking about Nantucket. Where, as we are now all too aware, her husband has some kind of WASP heirloom second home. Or probably fifth home.

being Boomers they keep stubbornly hogging all the sodding property

Anyway, a week in said home — presumably in some kind of Martha’s Vineyard situation — is being offered as a prize in the Christmas fundraiser auction. And this has prompted a brutal domino effect whereby everyone in Hector’s class is now scrabbling to offer a week in their holiday houses to save face. And … WE DONT HAVE ONE! We literally only have the house we live in, here in St John’s Wood. And we’re in our mid-forties! How? It was not meant to be like this!

But it is. Because, thanks to my parents and in-laws being in such rude health, we are still waiting for both sets to do the decent thing and concede that they cannot possibly keep up Granny Gore’s house in Cornwall, or the Savage cottage (actually not a cottage at all) in Suffolk, and still less the bloody villa with its massive pool in Tuscany.

But no, being Boomers they keep stubbornly hogging all the sodding property, refusing to confront their own mortality, and leaving me and Will nothing to offer the fundraiser but the out of date vegan Fortnums hamper we bid for — and unintentionally won — at last year’s bloody auction. Probably the most galling £500 spent in the history of school fundraisers.

Anyway, the roster of second homes up for grabs now includes: a Provencale chateau, a small manor house in “The Burnhams”, a studio in the 7th Arrondissement, a Palazzo in Sicily, a massive barn conversion in Devon featured in the FT’s House & Home, a chalet in Verbier (noooo! vomiting with envy) and a whole island near Corfu. I didn’t even really know everyone had these secret houses! I mean I kind of did, I suppose. But I just hoped when they said “the place in Norfolk” they meant some grotty dump like the Air B’n’B we rented in Cley two years ago. Not sodding Burnham Hall.

So here we are, the hell of the seven-week summer holidays finally behind us, and I’m newly obsessed with second homes and the cruel awareness that, as things stand — i.e. all accounts maxed out on school fees — we are doomed to an Ikos resort for half term, with all the other single-home-owning, Boden wearing suckers. As for a Verbier ski pass, there’s more chance of holding a winning Euro Millions ticket.

Hector sweetly suggested that Granny Gore might offer the house in Cornwall for auction on our behalf, which — delightfully — forced me to explain to him exactly how tight my mother-in-law is. Cue Will walking in, going mad, and a row of such magnitude that it necessitated an emergency Zoom with Quinn Goodheart.

So there was that, at least. Bet Quinn “holidays” in Nantucket. I mean I would, on £300 a phone call. #couplestherapy.

This article is taken from the October 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

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