Brendan O'Connor: My nightmare home in the sun

It’s my time of the year for watching A Place in the Sun. And indeed all the offshoot shows: A Place in the Sun: Home and Away, and then the Winter Sun and Summer Sun variations.

It’s not something I deliberately start doing. It’s like how a squirrel knows when to hibernate or a bird knows when to migrate, or a lemming knows when to jump off a cliff. I just know, and I go to the Sky box and find I have accumulated hundreds of them unbeknownst to me.

My proud boast is that I can get through a one-hour show in about 15 minutes. You know how they say these property porn shows are all about the human stories really? Not for me. I’m in it for the hard porn. I’m not reading Playboy for the articles. I just want to see the pictures.

I will allow myself to be briefly introduced to the participants at the beginning. I enjoy wondering how a retiring policeman and his non-working-outside-the-home wife have 250k (sterling, I might add) to buy a house somewhere in Spain; 250k in fact to buy a house in some area they claim to love even though they only ever went there for one week each year and they appear to have spent all that time on the beach.

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Some of them are worse. Some of them will have been to the country in question but never to the area where they are planning on buying a house and retiring to.

I also enjoy when the presenter asks them, slightly passive-aggressively in my opinion, what they will do when they are out there in Spain or wherever. What do we think they’re going to do? They’re going to sit around and get fat and start into the wine a little bit earlier every day.

Obviously they can’t say that, so they usually say they love walking. Which is a bit like saying you like breathing. “We love breathing, and this looks like a lovely place to breathe. So we really look forward to doing lots of good breathing when we are here.” They will also mutter something about loving the food. For which read: wine. In the daytime. With no guilt. Because it’s the continent innit? That’s what they do here. It’s cultural innit?

So I get the brief set-up as to who they are and where they are looking for a house and what they claim they will be doing there, and then it’s fast-forward to the first property. You get a one-minute look at the town in question, and then a one-minute skim through the house. That’ll do me. I don’t need to see them shuffling around the house making inane comments about the size of the bedrooms and pretending they have loads of friends who are going to come and visit them. I don’t stick around for their post-viewing reactions either.

I’m on to the next place and the next house. Sometimes I’ll take note of one of the little towns on my phone if it looks like a nice place to visit. Apart from that, I have a quick look at the property and on I go. I’ll check in at the end to see if they actually buy a place – and amazingly a lot of them do.

Although in fairness, they have discussed it overnight, or at least long enough to change their clothes. We know this because the presenter and the couple are always wearing different clothes for the ringing-the-agent bit at the end. And yes, this does mean they are wearing the same clothes for the whole of the house hunt, which generally involves five properties. Presumably this is not big-budget TV. So basically they hustle around five houses in a day and then buy one. We can only hope there is a bit more looking and thought going on the behind the scenes.

The purpose of the show for me is two-fold. One is to get a mini-holiday for 15 minutes, and the second is to scratch this itch I sometimes get that I would like to have a little apartment somewhere sunny. I get this notion that this is how I will spend my latter years, wintering in some small town in Italy. I would be like one of the locals. I’d be up and down for weekends too or whenever took my fancy, depending on when the flights were cheap. And no luggage because I’d keep my holiday clothes in my pad.

I see myself sitting around with the other old duffers in some seaside town, drinking coffee laced with strong local hooch, arguing with hand gestures about the communists over card games and dominoes or whatever.

But do a session of three or four Place In The Suns and you’d be cured fairly quickly. It’d be all fine during the day but at night you’d be there alone in a depressing little house, far away from everyone you knew, with a hangover for your daytime tippling. I think there’s a reason holidays only last a week or two.

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