Will the pandemic change the superior ‘screw you’ attitude of entitled second home owners?

Barmouth viewed from Fairbourne. Picture by Bex Walton (CC BY 2.0).

Mike Parker

The question is looming larger every day: how the hell are we going to pull out of this strange hiatus?  For most of us, these last few weeks have been like the weirdest sort of dream, those full of a swelling unease that lingers throughout the following day.  Lit by a spring so saturated – the skies so blue, the flowers so bright, the blossom so frothy – our days, and indeed our nights, appear to have been directed by David Lynch.

Our heads are full of noise, but above the discordant racket I’m finding a few themes that are cutting through most insistently.  They’re mainly worries, of course.  First is a terror that our dislocation from each other, something that was clearly gathering pace throughout the last few years, has been turbocharged and pathologised by the crisis.

I dreamt last night of meeting an old neighbour on the lane.  We continued walking together, though she was way too casual about keeping the required physical distance between us.  The increasing stress of it was so great that it jolted me awake, dry mouthed, and with heart and brain already racing.  I cannot imagine how we are going to row back from that.

There’s another theme that keeps slicing through the din, and thankfully it’s a glimmer more hopeful.  It’s what our towns and villages might look like in the post-crisis world.  Of course, the fear of loss is great here too: who knows how many cafés, pubs and shops, even theatres, cinemas and so on will never get to reopen?  It will be a struggle for so many.

My hope though is that the crisis will go some way to rebalancing our communities, and that this will start at their most basic level: the houses, flats and cottages that comprise them.  We are so out of kilter there.  If there’s one phrase that sums up the worst of the last twenty years, it’s ‘affordable housing’.  Even just putting the words together seems psychopathic, as if the concept of earning enough to house your family is something to be ringfenced as separate, abnormal even.  As phrases go, it’s as oxymoronic – or just plain moronic – as ‘friendly fire’ (or perhaps ‘adult male’).

 

Empty

Once things have calmed down a little, one high street business that I’d like to see rushed off its shiny shoes are our estate agents, as they deal with a glut of second homes being put on the market.  We’ve learned a great deal, and none of it terribly surprising, about the kind of people who keep a second home.  Yes, some of them are sensitive to their adopted locale, and yes, some have rescued tumbledown cottages that would probably have otherwise collapsed back into the nettles.  Good for them, but they are not the majority.

It’s the sheer sense of entitlement of too many second homers that has stuck most painfully in our collective craw; the unambiguous ‘screw you’ that, when it mattered most, they showed to the communities that have played host to them for years.  “But we bring money into the area,” they squeal, as if that were a justification.  (And even that is often only nominally true.  Many sidestep council tax by declaring the house as a business, and hardly use local shops or services, as they bring everything with them.)

No surprise that the gobby Brexity crowd of second home owners think nothing of risking us all; to them everyone else, everywhere else is subordinate to their needs and their unshakeable superiority.  But – and here we are again – it’s the intelligentsia, the progressives, those that only ever light their wood-burner with copies of The Guardian, that end up acting much the same way as the people they so loftily look down on.  And from our point of view, it makes absolutely no difference if our surgery is overrun, our few ICU beds taken up or our meagre shop shelf is stripped bare by a paid-up fan of Farage or a confirmed Corbynista.  Same empty shelves.  Same empty villages.

Something’s changed.  At the beginning of the crisis, the self-appointed gatekeepers of liberal London were all merrily Instagramming pictures of themselves in lockdown at their country houses, ostentatiously tending veg plots and carefully curating rustic selfies.  That’s all gone now; silence and, at long last, some sense of self-awareness, perhaps even shame, has crept in.  Has the penny finally dropped that their playgrounds are real places, full of real people and with an identity and culture all of their own?  Or is that just another fevered dream?

Read more in Mike Parker’s series for Nation.Cymru below:

Part 1: We’ve been told before that things will never be the same again – can we mean it this time?

Part 2: Last weekend’s pandemic-panic awayday was inevitable – but so was the visceral response

Part 3: Will we use this crisis to rediscover the value of community – or for more suspicion and othering?

Part 4: The BBC needs to start listening to doctors – not government spin

Part 5: In a pandemic, fake news can become a lightning conductor for our fears and frustrations

Part 6: Could the pandemic bring us all back together while keeping us apart?

Part 7: This pandemic is the moment tech giants have been dreaming of – even I’m shoveling my data online

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Mathew Reesj humphrysJohn YoungPaul MattockK. K Recent comment authors
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Michael McGrane
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Michael McGrane

Adding to the irritation is that as “businesses” they can claim aid from WAG! I guess the same applies in other areas outside Wales too. It’s no wonder the Cornish call them emmets as they are equally irritating – reminding the peasants that they are keeping towns and villages alive – whilst forgetting that by outbidding locals for properties they are forcing out migration and in fact adding to the problem. It’s no surprise so many towns and villages throughout the UK are empty in winter – we must not forget to thank the Broadcasters for programmes like “A Place… Read more »

K. K
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K. K

Absolutely spot on Michael. Property porn programmes have a lot to answer for and given the fact that they can now claim for their second homes as well as I really don’t understand why this article was even published. For those who think that anyone who speaks out against second home ownership as wrong I would recommend that you look at the concept of ‘entitlement’ on the Web. The human condition and psyche of these people is remarkable for the intolerance they show towards others. The question is: when is someone going to effectively challenge them?

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Bleating about second homes/holiday homes is not good enough. The volume of platitudes churned out in assorted Welsh media on this subject, for and against, is tedious. Politicians need to get their act together and draft an action plan which they should communicate to the electorate. Now it is reasonable to expect the Tories, or most of them, to justify the status quo as the tourism/second home/holiday home sector is a jewel in their crown ( really!). Labour will also go along with status quo because they are above all a deferential Unionist mob and won’t want to offend their… Read more »

Jonesy
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Jonesy

Everybody is talking about this problem, and by everybody I dont mean twitter. I mean, cleaners from Pontyberem, carers and nurses from Llansteffan and the working classes. If we don’t start rattling this gilded cage now, and let the status quo remain we will see tax payers paying compo to these hideous hipsters from Bristol who class themsrles right on people with holiday homes in places like Burry Port , Cardigan, or Gower or wherever. Its time for every community to be vocal about this now to their councillors, AM or MP. The time for politeness is over

K. K
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K. K

You should have had a look at the Daily Mail comments board with regards to the Cornish locals being up in arms about Gordon Ramsey. It was truly remarkable insofar that apart from the sense of entitlement and superiority being delivered in spades it also turns out that everyone is jealous, lazy and that the Cornish and the Welsh are horrible people. It doesn’t mention that people have been priced out or work on a seasonal economy model for peanuts. The fact that everyone is talking about both inside and outside of Wales tells me that a problem exists and… Read more »

Morris Dean
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Morris Dean

We should refuse to use the nomenclature ‘second homes’. Let’s call them ‘surplus homes’.

Mathew Rees
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Mathew Rees

Nothing will change. It’s too late I fear. Welsh people also make up a large percentage of second home owners. But you’re not allowed to talk about that. Furthermore, there is no hope for any Welsh-speaking community as long as Welsh speakers see Cardiff as ‘the place to be’. You can’t leave your village, move to the city thereby creating a vacuum for incomers and complain about it. Moving public sector jobs out of Cardiff, banning second homes and making Welsh the sole official language of the western half of Wales is the only answer. Everything else is denial and… Read more »

John Young
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John Young

‘Welsh people also make up a large percentage of second home owners’. Out of curiosity, do you know what this percentage is Mathew ? And if you do where did you get the info from ? As regards moving out of your village and moving to the city, if that’s what people have to do to get a job paying decent money I suppose that’s what they’ll do. I totally agree about moving jobs out of Cardiff. Even Swansea where I live loses jobs to Cardiff, the criminal decision to move the HMRC jobs being a case in point. If… Read more »

Mathew Rees
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Mathew Rees

Well you have a point to a point. But why are public sector jobs and even translation companies to be found in Cardiff? Cardiff should have a thriving private sector economy, not a hub of duplicated government jobs and the third sector. Take an organisation like the Education Workforce Council. It employs 40 staff in Cardiff. 40 jobs like that could rescue a small town like Tregaron or Pwllheli. I find it utterly depressing to see young families turn their backs on beautiful rural towns to raise their children in the slimy terraced houses of Grangetown. It’s all wrong. Yet… Read more »

John Young
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John Young

Totally agree with your first two paras Mathew. And partly with the third. Welsh Labour could and should have done things differently. They’ve governed Wales in a similar way to how successive Westminster governments have governed the UK in centrralising wealth and investment in the South East at the expense of the rest of the country. Those 40 jobs, as you rightly say, could be a lifeline for an entire small community anywhere in Wales. I believe Wales DOES need Independence. We’ve both highlighted the fact that, in our opinion, Welsh Labour haven’t governed Wales as it should have. The… Read more »

Mathew Rees
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Mathew Rees

Plaid is a busted, woke feminist flush that’s got into bed with Islam. There is no way I am voting for a party led by a homosexual (I’m gay by the way), that sees nothing wrong with allowing blatant Islamists to join their party.

McEvoy is a breath of fresh air, but the way I’m feeling now is that Wales would be better run under a conservative government. I’d rather have Paul Davies in power than 5 more years of Labour or Plaid who are two cheeks of the same arse. Perhaps I’ll vote Gwlad Gwlad for list.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Can understand your frustration, if it is genuine
But Wales IS run By a Conservative government from Westminster.
Welsh labour are mostly Unionist rubber stampers, and Davies would probably be worse.

Mathew Rees
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Mathew Rees

Not in reality. The things that affect our daily lives the most such as health, education, environment, housing, transport are run by Labour. Each a huge disaster.

KC Gordon
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KC Gordon

speaking of oxymoron’s – second homes – Corbynistas!

Mawkernewek
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At the beginning of the crisis, the self-appointed gatekeepers of liberal London were all merrily Instagramming pictures of themselves in lockdown at their country houses

I don’t know if anyone has done a quantitative analysis of this, but it does seem to be my impression that the London media types are disproportionately likely to have shared the fact they got the virus early on.

Jonesy
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Jonesy

Did you not know that the virus is only happening in London and environs.?…. according to the papers and media

j humphrys
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j humphrys

How about an article on the many Welsh family farms, which are now under threat from unionist green eco fascists?

Paul Mattock
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Paul Mattock

Well said, but sadly preaching to the converted. Not many second home owners are going to applaud these sentiments. Wealth will always breed greed. It’s the nature of the beast. It wasn’t so long ago, 1970’s to be exact, that holiday homes were set alight. Something i wouldn’t want to see again. But all things must change, i pray that this time it will be for the better.