This is the house I mentioned over on The Barstool last week, down in Dawu in northern Hubei, where I stayed with friends for a week in the middle of this month. It's in the middle of an unremarkable single-storey brick-and-concrete terrace and has rather basic facilities, but it is blessed with high, high ceilings and thick walls which do a good job of keeping the searing summer heat at bay. It also has this rather charming little courtyard (almost as soothing to contemplate as this one in New Orleans), and a tiny, tiny roof-deck affording a view of the nearby lake.
The owner, my Chinese friend JP, bought it primarily as an investment. She had also planned originally to live there during regular summer visits to her family, but rapidly decided that there was an intolerable concentration of mosquitoes in the vicinity (a quite unreasonable paranoia, I would say, from my recent experience; I hardly saw one of the critters on the couple of occasions I went down there) and has chosen instead to stay each year in an apartment (next to the river, where the mosquitoes seem to be quite a bit more numerous). Hence, at the moment, the place is entirely unused. That seems a terrible waste to me.
I am extremely tempted to try to make this a regular retreat from the increasingly soul-crushing awfulness of Beijing - perhaps a month or two down there every winter and early summer, to crack on with my novel.
The house has been promised (if property developers don't seize it first) to my friends' teenage son Billy, and he proudly regards himself as the owner even though the title can't yet be formally transferred to his name. I have his blessing to stay there rent-free any time the fancy takes me. Now I have to work on his rather more money-conscious mum....