My chap has a regular delivery of a magazine called The Week, which I had never heard of until I met him. ‘All you need to know about everything that matters’, is its tag line, which, despite it sounding a little bit smug, I quite like. I do not have a magazine subscription, I don’t think I ever have, I’ve always preferred to read novels. Apart from buying Jackie every now and then with my pocket money in the early eighties, or having a sneaky peak at my older sister’s Just Seventeen, in the later eighties, I’ve never really been a magazine reader. That said, I do have a soft spot for the Radio Times, and always purchase the Christmas issue. During the rest of the year, when doing my supermarket shop, I often glance at it as I roll past, just in case there is someone interesting or lovely gracing its cover, in which case I may be tempted to pop a copy in my trolley.
The Week is basically a roundup of the news, telling you what’s been happening when, and where. It also includes various headings like Health and Science and Sport, and other sections dedicated to Leisure and Arts. In amongst the pages are a scattering of adverts, for things that only those with a certain disposable income would consider buying. I like to read these out in a scoffing manner to my chap, but my favourite pages are those headed ‘Best properties on the market’. Two pages of photographs of property for sale in the UK – the majority of which are exceedingly expensive – with a short account of their attributes. There is a theme to each property spread, a sub-title like ‘Houses with moorings’, or ‘Interesting conversions’, or ‘Scenic hideaways’. These eight or nine lovely housey pictures are where I tend to begin my flick through of The Week, before moving on to the Arts pages, followed by the column ‘It must be true… I read it in the tabloids’.
Seated in a sunny spot at my dining table, a cup of Earl Grey to hand, I open up the latest Week and smooth down my favourite pages, this time headed ‘Properties with famous connections’. I peruse the pictures first, deciding which house I would live in on looks alone, before reading the descriptions. For a cool £2.395 million I could live in Putney, in a refurbished Grade II property with an abundance of period features and charm – once resided in by George Eliot, and where she wrote The Mill on the Floss, in 1860! That would be quite a thing, to walk on the same floorboards as such a prestigious lady writer. A little overpriced though – no offence, George. I could move to Lincolnshire instead and enjoy many more bedrooms for my money, as well as fifteen acres and a swimming pool. £1.4 million sounds a bit of a bargain, and after all, Henry VIII is said to have stayed there in 1541. I sip my tea, contemplating Newstead Abbey, famous, of course, as home to the rascally Romantic poet, Lord Byron. I could live there, in a slice of Gothic splendour – three bedrooms, my very own watchtower and off-road parking. Then there’s the Edward Burne-Jones Georgian town house. Tempting, as I am a fan of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, but could I be happy in a place called Rottingdean? It does rather put me in mind of decomposing bodies. On more careful inspection I see that the full address is The Green, Rottingdean, which sounds like an elocution exercise when spoken aloud, and feels oddly satisfying in the mouth. Although, it also reads like a fuller description of the rotting dean – the green rotting dean! Yuk.
I wonder if any readers of The Week have ever bought one of the ‘Best properties on the market’, after seeing it on the house pages. I’m inclined to think that the majority are ‘armchair’ enjoyers of the pages, like me, seduced by the photographs and mini narratives, drawn into a daydream about which one they’d choose, just for fun. A kind of upmarket version of the horoscope page. The Week does not do horoscopes, I hasten to add.
Having completed my study of ‘Properties with famous connections’, I decide that the attractive sixteenth century house with Georgian façade, top right-hand corner, is the one that I’d go for. Not just for its looks or its games room, but because Dorothy L. Sayers once lived in it! The theme music to her Wimsey radio plays switched on in my head as soon as I saw her name. For those of you yet to discover Dorothy L. Sayers, she wrote a series of mystery stories set in the years between the World Wars, featuring English aristocrat and amateur sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey. Her first Wimsey book was published in 1923. Wimsey is Eton and Oxford educated, terribly well-spoken and frequently adds ‘what?’ unnecessarily to the end of his sentences, when inviting agreement. He is also extremely well dressed – his manservant Bunter ensuring that his Lordship is appropriately attired for each and every scenario. The stories were adapted for radio and originally aired between 1973-1983, but I only know about them from their various re-runnings on Radio 4 Extra. The theme music is taken from ‘When day is done’, by Paul Whiteman (1927). The swing trumpet melody continues to play in my head, doing its earworm thing – I am destined to move in time to it for the rest of the day!
As I’m about to close up the houses and head to the book reviews, my eye is caught by the house in the bottom corner of the page. I realise that whilst I had noted its lovely curves and pointy roof windows, I had not, in fact, read the details. Rectifying this error puts me in a quandary. Not only does it have six bedrooms, two more than Dorothy’s, it also has outbuildings, a coach house and over an acre of land! Admittedly, it would mean relocating to the Scottish Highlands, but it is substantially less than Dorothy’s attractive sixteenth century house with Georgian façade, in Essex. On top of all that, the previous owner was the singer Gerry Rafferty! I’m not sure if Gerry Rafferty trumps Dorothy L. Sayers, but my swing trumpet earworm is fading. Cue ‘Baker Street’ and that juicy sax solo.