There are so many empty houses near where we live – you’d think something could be done.
We have been walking the dog very diligently the past few weeks. Under strict orders to get my husband’s cholesterol levels down, and also mindful of the fact that the dog’s heart condition is helped by exercise, I’ve been extending the walk by 50 yards or so each day until now we’re up to about 5km each lunchtime. Not as long a walk as I’m used to, but for some reason it seems quite enough these days. The menopause is doing my joints no favours at all and sometimes I feel 100 years old.
On our travels, we’ve lately been passing a 1970s house of the deep-roofed red-tile style that is quite common around here in the more modern buildings (the older ones, like ours, are stone with slate roofs). But it was a few days before we realised it was quite empty.
In fact it’s clearly been empty for some time, as the brambles in the garden are now over six feet high. It is such a shame, and a shame on our culture, too. There are tens of thousands of homeless people in France, and here is a perfectly lovely property, with a beautiful garden, sitting empty, with – doubtless – the family involved in some legal dispute or other, given the lack of primogeniture in France.
I well remember the elderly couple who used to own it, from the days when I sometimes walked the dog right around the village. She would be working in the garden in her blue overall, and he would be busy in the potager or the polytunnel. I’d give him a cheery wave and he’d cut me dead, the miserable old sod. My mate N called him ‘the paedo’ because she’d seen him touching up a young girl at the village ‘do’. But apparently the woman died and they weren’t married, so her family kicked him out. They are Spanish and appear to have no interest in the place.
And so there the house sits, with its crumbling render and one broken window (curious locals, perhaps), wine bottles and crockery still on the dining table like some weird apocalyptic event has befallen it. The once-lovely garden with its purple acer, big hibiscus bushes, lily of the valley lining the paths, and well-tended apple trees, all gradually disappearing under a forest of bramble and crack willow.
The house next door to it is empty too, then there is one still occupied, with immaculate lawns and hedges, and then a holiday property that nobody visits, with the hedges grown out of control and lawn grass three feet high.
I would love to see squatters take over these empty properties. Or the commune. Or someone, anyone really, just to bring them back to life again. It seems a disgrace on a house, really, that after people have lived in it, and had emotions and feelings in it, that it is just left to wrack and ruin like this.