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David Robbins: A dream of life, from Saux to Seapoint. . .

There was this house I passed every day on the way to school. A big, square Georgian house in its own grounds overlooking the bay at Seapoint.

It had white shutters and you could just catch a glimpse of a chandelier in one of the upstairs rooms.

"If I ever become rich enough, I'll buy that house," I promised myself as I sweated up the hill towards Monkstown, switching down to first on my Sturmley-Archer three-speed gears.

I didn't just want the house. I wanted the life that went with it. I wanted the quietness of big rooms, the roar of a fire in the library, the regularity of tea on a tray at four o'clock.

I didn't become rich enough, and the feeling passed. I became immune to the lure of other people's houses.

"I know exactly how you felt," my wife's uncle confided the other day. When he was first married, he lived in a tiny, dark house in Kew, on the outskirts of London.

Every day, on his way to work in the City, he would look over the river at a terrace of houses on the far side of the Thames.

"Strand-on-the-Green. Lovely houses. Early Georgian. Small rooms, but lovely proportions. One in particular, at the Chiswick end, stood out," he said. "A bit prone to flooding, though."

He made himself a similar promise to the one I had made. After a career in the City, he did become rich enough. A few years ago, the house came on the market. He confessed to a pang of uncertainty. Now that the moment was upon him, he wasn't so sure he really wanted it.

However, he took the plunge, and now he and his wife live the very kind of life I dreamed of all those years ago. There is a library (no fireplace, though) and tea is served promptly at four.

I wished him well of his new house, but his tale did not stir up my old vicarious property lust. Strand-on-the-Green did not call to me the way the house on the right just past Trafalgar Terrace did.

Perhaps I was over all that, content to flick through Elle Decor and Living Etc from the comfort of my own home. The desire to have someone else's house -- and lifestyle -- was dead.

And then, last week, I went to France. To the part of France I have been visiting for the past 10 years.

I picked up a car as usual at Blagnac airport in Toulouse and headed west, ticking off all the villages that have become waymarks on my frequent journeys to Montaigu-de-Quercy in the Tarn.

As usual, I remarked upon the heat, and the beauty of the landscape and the ripeness of the peaches, planted right up to the roadside, their trees covered with netting against the birds.

As usual, I slowed the car at Saux. The chateau there is set high on a ridge, all turrets and towers. A row of Cypress trees stands guard before it. Below, several terraces fall away like steps. The pool and poolhouse are on the last of these.

The sun struck the yellow-white local stone and it was almost too bright to look upon. Someone was swimming in the pool in the late afternoon heat. There was a blue-and-white striped towel draped over one of the loungers.

As usual, I sighed. The scene could have been boiled, bottled and sold as the essence of France. If there was one house that could rekindle my hankering for another property and another life, the chateau at Saux was it.

The scene was unchanged from my last visit. I had spent 10 years sighing at the chateau at Saux and, as with every other time, I would get over it.

And yet there was something unusual about it this time. Something had changed since our last visit.

Yes, there it was, just to the right of the entrance pillars.

There was a little sign, discreet and elegant, consisting of two simple words: Á Vendre.


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