The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 17 October

Second-home owners can be rather unpopular with the locals, so just how should one behave, asks Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
My husband and I have recently bought a second home in Cornwall but we’ve heard that second-home owners are unpopular and we’re worried about fi tting in. Can you give any advice?
Cindy Braithwaite, Bradford

Dear Cindy,
You’re right to be concerned. In some places in Cornwall, secondhome owners comprise more than 40 per cent of the population. Typically, they are blamed for pricing locals out of the housing market and bringing about the closure of post offices and other local amenities. Their properties are thought to lie morbidly empty for most of the time with interludes of noisy infestation by metropolitan aliens who have no interest in the ways of the countryside.

Yet in some parts, weekenders are now accepted as a fact of life and certain benefits are conceded to accrue. Communities need new blood, different perspectives – and more cash.

But you will quickly be identified as an undesirable townie if you plant a high hedge round your property and plaster it with hostile ‘Keep Out’ notices. The countryside is much more democratic and open than the town. With fewer people about, why do you need privacy? They’re your neighbours anyway, so you ought to be getting to know them, not blotting them from view. Your hedge will mark you out as hostile. The previous owner might have allowed neighbours to walk over their land by informal arrangement. Find out and continue to permit it if this was the case.

When you first move in, proceed with caution. Don’t start cutting down trees and shrubs, even if strictly speaking they’re ‘yours’. Sometimes ignorant newcomers destroy beautiful ‰ owering specimens. If only they’d asked. Equally, a well-meant gesture can go wrong. A down-from-London neighbour of my mother’s thought to hold a fete in a  eld for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee but he mowed a verge to make a car park – it was the wrong time to mow and he wrecked the priceless cowslips.

There are all sorts of opportunities to join in local life. Visit the pub. Find out who the kingpin of the village is. It may not necessarily be the richest or most obvious person. You may want to contribute to fetes and village garden open days. Again, there will probably be some bossy but marvellous individual to whom you must defer. When you’ve done all this, you should progress to giving entertainments of your own. If you’re rich with  ne wines and many courses, don’t be discouraged. Your grand style will be appreciated, provided you don’t appear con ned to your narrow social circle as you might be in the town. In the country you must invite everybody, even those who might never have been to such an occasion before.

Please send your questions to or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER


Views may differ: one in your group was bored to oblivion but another was thrilled and moved. Sometimes one feels that one has failed the performance through tiredness or general failure of personality operating especially powerfully on that occasion. It’s all rather random. But the mistake is to express condemnation too readily at the end of a show or even during it. Some take too much pleasure in doing things down. I once got cross with a friend after seeing a new play by a well-known author. She savaged it before we were out of our seats in quite a high-handed way. I agreed secretly but still was awfully cross. Another time, someone I know was so exercised by Jerry Springer: The Opera (well, it was ghastly) he approached random members of the audience to vent about it. But what if they were enjoying it?

Others may need time to form a view. It’s a shame if there’s no discussion afterwards, beyond ‘Hurry up for the car park.’ Best to be exploratory; no need for an exhausting race to be the first to come up with the decisive view.