Thursday 18 January 2018

Life with a property addict: 'I was afraid to take a day trip anywhere in case he suddenly decided he wanted to move there'

Sharing life with someone who suffers from chronic wanderlust is no fun, as Eilis O'Hanlon discovered

Google maps allows you spend hours wandering around.
Google maps allows you spend hours wandering around.
Eilish O'Hanlon.

They say that moving house is one of the three most stressful experiences in life.

The other two, of course, are assembling flat-pack furniture with a significant other, and explaining the plot of a boxset to someone who starts watching halfway through Series Three, and expects to keep up. Both of which are an accepted justification for divorce, if not murder.

What they don't tell you, however, is that moving house in your imagination can be just as stressful. That's what happens when you live with a person with terminal wanderlust.

To begin with, it manifested itself in small ways. "Let's go to Mayo this summer," I'd say. Himself would agree. Half an hour later, he'd show me some holiday cottages that he'd found - in the Orkneys. "I thought we were going to Mayo?" I'd say wearily, but I knew it was hopeless. He'd already forgotten Mayo, and pretty soon he'd forget the Orkneys too, and be planning a short break in Sweden. Or Italy.

The advent of budget airlines was a total disaster in our house. Cheap flights to London became cheaper flights to Budapest, but nothing would ever get booked, because he'd change his mind again.

When it came to deciding where to live, insanity was inevitable. I'm pretty sure that, in our time together, we've lived in every county in Ireland. I haven't even visited every county in Ireland, but he's had us living there in our heads all the same, having seen a lovely house with land, going cheap.

He's had us living on the shores of Lough Derg; on Achill Island; in Ravensdale in Co Louth (he liked the name); there was also that time he found a house in the woods in Leitrim. He even decided once that we should move to Glengarriff in Co Cork - despite never having been there.

It got to the stage where I was afraid to take a day trip anywhere in case he suddenly decided he wanted to move there, too.

I ought to be more sympathetic. It's a form of addiction. People get addicted to pornography, so why not to property porn as well? Thanks to the internet, it's now even easier to feed that inner craving. If you can live anywhere, how can one place ever be enough?

Don't get me started on Google Maps. It's a great technological wonder, this ability to hone in instantly on any part of the planet and take a closer look, but for someone with a yearning to always be upping sticks and moving, it's like dropping a rock star in a swimming pool filled with cocaine. It's just never going to end well.

Once it was merely Britain and Ireland that called out to him - tapping at the window of his subconscious like Cathy's ghost in Wuthering Heights, whispering, "Come and live here, you know you want to" - but now entire continents beckon.

Do you have any idea just how many desirable small towns there are in which to live in the United States? I do.

Do you know what an 18th-century hunting lodge with outbuildings and two acres costs in different regions of France? I do.

Want to know what the area looks like from ground level, without ever leaving your home? Just pick up that little orange man in the bottom right-hand corner of Google Street View, drop him in the road, and, voila, you can spend hours wandering round.

I'd say you could spend your whole life doing this; but then I realise that I already have, whether I wanted to or not. The one thing missing has been the not-so-small fortune needed to afford one of these fantasy houses, instead of simply dreaming about them.

If we were rich, we could buy scores of properties, one in every corner of the globe, so that Himself wouldn't have to make a choice, and could hop from one to another in reality, instead of just in his imagination, while I stay behind in the house that we actually live in, put my feet up, and watch Pointless.

And if, by chance, those Lotto numbers never come up, there's always Plan B. Murder. Or "justifiable homicide", as I like to think of it. There's not a jury in the land who'd convict me after hearing what I've been through.

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