Location, location… location?

Back in 1986, my father was rising up through the ranks of Coopers and Lybrand, a company that would much later be amalgamated into what we now know as PwC, and my family was growing rapidly with the addition of innumerable siblings…

The gigantic Elizabethan mansion my mother had got my Dad to purchase was becoming too small for our family and now my mum decided it was time to move back nearer to my ageing grandmother. So, one day my parents packed us all into my father’s VW camper van, which always smelt as if the exhaust fed directly into the passenger cabin, and we drove off for two hours to look at a prospective new home. I admit that my memories of the house my mum had chosen have faded with time, but Caradoc Court, as it was known, was some kind of cross between a Victorian monstrosity and Hogwarts. The inside was a veritable maze. You would open a cupboard only to discover that it was really the doorway to a narrow staircase leading who knows where. The garden was even more remarkable – it was better described as an overgrown forest and if you wandered too deep into that dark morass, an eerie booming sound would somehow emanate through the knotted gnarly trees. This was not some distant orc army preparing an invasion, but just over the fence articulated trucks were thundering up and down a massive six-lane motorway. As we got back into my father’s puke-mobile for the return journey, my mother was ebullient with praise. “It’s fantastic, it’s wonderful, it’s beautiful, it’s magnificent…” she was saying. “It’s perfect, except for that motorway at the bottom of the garden.” At which point my father butted in with his booming authoritarian voice that was never to be contradicted. “It’s absolutely perfect,” he almost shouted, “including the motorway.” To my astonishment, I then realised my Dad liked the house even more than my mother.

In the end, that was the only time I ever got to see the place. According to my mum, the owner had never really wanted to sell but the banks were foreclosing on him. If he was going to have to go through with a sale, he preferred his house to remain a family home. My parents made an offer and then upped it and he spent a very long time considering it, but eventually the money they had was too meagre and we were turned down. The place was sold to someone else – but then, just as the sale was being finalised, the house suddenly burned down to the ground. Mum said that arson was suspected and that we’d been very lucky – I don’t want to be sued, but she heavily suggested that the previous owner had been responsible.

You may (or may not) be asking yourselves how I can be so certain that the date was 1986. Well, that year turned out to be a major turning point in my life, but that isn’t the real reason I remember it. I found out on the internet that the property is now worth millions despite having been gutted by fire. It’s been rebuilt, although one wing still remains uninhabitable. It’s now owned by some county councillor. Now, again, I really don’t want to be the subject of a lawsuit, but I keep on wondering how come some minor public official in a backwater of the UK could actually be so wealthy. Anyway, my mother later found another house, which to my father’s chagrin was much further from the motorway. This time it was a house built around a Norman stone keep and hence the place was called Holt Castle. To my utter embarrassment, my first boss here in Poland would tell everyone he could that: “His parents live in a castle!”

You may have guessed the reason why I’ve been telling you about this memory that I had actually completely forgotten, as it was only recently that it all came back to me. Although both my parents are now long gone, I’ve now found myself hearing my father’s words almost every time I drive past one of the super-modern warehouses we often write about in this magazine. “It’s absolutely perfect – including the motorway.” Indeed, some of them are so close to the road that I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself driving through one. I recently got onto the property ladder myself, but found I was having to compromise on the location. It turned out to be more important for me to have separate rooms for my two children – and so I now find myself banished to Warsaw’s furthest outskirts.