In any search for The One, there’s always The One That Got Away.
It started with a vicarious Rightmove search for someone else.
If you only learn one thing about me, it’s that I’m borderline obsessed with houses. Mention only the vague possibility that you’re looking for somewhere new to call home, and I’m asking for your wish list faster than you can say ‘Kirstie and Phil’.
And there it was.
An early Victorian cottage on a farm estate with crumbly brickwork, bow-fronted windows and little eight-over-eight sashes at the bedrooms. Beyond the cottage, the farm track opened out to a wide expanse of wild, overgrown pasture with views of rolling hills. Unbelievably, the cottage came with just under half an acre.
My stomach lurched and my heart hammered.
[Cue] super-8 montage of Finley running through a wildflower meadow at sunset, a veg patch complete with a flock of hens, summer parties in a bell tent festooned with fairy lights and Christmas card snowscapes.
In a plot twist that felt like fate, Dan’s mum called the next day to say if we were considering moving in the future, then there was a gift of some money to give us a leg up the ladder.
I was straight on the phone to the estate agent.
My secret dream of a cottage on a farm was unexpectedly in touching distance.
The viewing underlined that there was a lot of work to be done internally. The cottage had been rented out for decades to someone with hoarder tendencies. The kitchen and bathroom were in need of total replacement and in one of the bedrooms, wallpaper was practically falling off the ceiling.
None of this deterred me though as the cottage had beautiful bones.
The original hand carved beams in the kitchen had never been touched or covered up. A sneaky peek under the grubby carpets revealed beautiful wooden boards and the original fireplaces were still intact. A swish of the drab curtains in the late Victorian extension revealed the original stained glass windows. A tiny window at the top of the stairs framed the perfect view of the farmland beyond.
After a lot of back and forth between the estate agents and a second viewing with the owner of the estate, we shook hands in the kitchen, agreed the sale and the sold board went up.
I took my mum to visit, standing in the golden light of a September afternoon pacing out the boundaries of the land that in my head was ours and felt like we had won the lottery.
A few weeks later, we got a call from the estate agent.
She informed us in a brusque manner that the people buying the main farmhouse wanted our half acre so it could join with the six acres they were already getting. They also wanted ownership of the land used as a parking area that came with our cottage.
I desperately tried to negotiate but the estate agent became even more abrupt.
Just like that, our dream was ripped away like a plaster.
The One that Got Away was particularly hard to move on from as it set the bar for everything else we looked at, even though we knew the chances of finding another cottage with farmland in our price range was like stumbling over a unicorn.
That should have been the end of it, except it wasn’t.
I would regularly stalk Rightmove in the hope our cottage would come back on to the market. Like the magnetic hold of an ex-boyfriend, I sometimes found myself tapping in the estate agent’s number for updates, only to come to my senses and cancel the call.
After months of house viewings and a second failed house purchase, we fell in love with The One - a quirky four bed Victorian town house in the heart of the Staffordshire Moorlands.
The One That Got Away remains alluring because the affair was fleeting and unresolved.
I still can’t bear to drive past The One That Got Away and from time to time, I still wonder about it.
Although I’ll never live within its cosy walls, it remains an important part of our story as it prompted our move out of Manchester to the countryside of the Staffordshire Moorlands.
The One That Got Away made it possible for us to consider a life where farmers' fields and tractor traffic are part of the school run.
Now they are.
You never know what might just be a plot twist away in your life.
I know lots of you have a One That Got Away. Did serendipity come to the rescue or are you still stinging from the loss? Tell me more in the comments.
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