New blog


It’s been ages since I last wrote a post for this blog, yet still I see people are viewing it each day. Thank you!

I feel I have moved on, although this is very much part of my life, I have settled a little and am learning to adapt to Dorset life.

To mark this change I began a new blog. I am not really sure of its format yet: a mix of my explorations around Dorset, learning about its villages and attractions and recording the beauty of nature through photos.

If you would like to join me on this new blog, here is the link

Currently called “A Londoner in Dorset”, I would be very interested to hear how best to ‘spice up’ a blog on country life and living quietly in retirement. Those of you who have read this blog regularly, followed me for a while or know me will know that “living quietly” has never been something I have been good at.

I hope you find time to drop by this new blog and leave a comment. I intend to keep this blog live but will not add posts for the foreseeable future. If you would like to continue to follow me, please use the new blog.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks to everyone who has followed this one.

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Travelling cats


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Bob mewed every 6 seconds for the first hour in the car. He panted and climbed mercilessly over his sister, sitting on her, aware only of his own distress. Gizmo sat in silence for the most part hoping it would all go away soon!
On arrival they were locked in the downstairs cloakroom while the removal men unloaded our home. Eventually the cats graduated to the run of the kitchen, where Bob explored every cupboard and Gizmo grabbed some well earned sleep.
Gradually Bob seemed to settle but unusually he chose to sleep tucked closely next to Gizmo!
By day three Bob was scratching in his litter tray every few minutes. The litter tray remained dry. Bob was in trouble.
We made enquiries of our lovely new neighbours and took him to a wonderful vet in Puddletown. The name seemed very appropriate!
David showed great care, explained that distressed cats cannot produce the hormone which protects the bladder from urine, thus causing cystitis. He gave Bob an injection, which he hardly noticed, prescribed some pills, looked Giz over and pronounced her fine. In contrast to vets I have visited in London, David took his time, gave me loads of information and had a great way of relaxing both cats.
Within a few days Bob was clearly better and back to his confident self.
Gizmo assures me that this is a better kitchen than the one in London because there is more space, an indoor toilet and an Aga.
Bob is busy persuading me he is ready to face the big outdoors. We will see, Bob!

Never Ending Boxes


How strange things look when out of context!
As we unpack the essentials and the oddments from our life, I get the strangest sensations of disbelief!
Sometimes I pick up the most familiar of objects in wonder. Suddenly, here in this new house they seem quite bizarre. On occasion they take on a new elegance I have never seen before. Other times, well loved objects seem dowdy or ugly.
There seems no logic in this. It is just seeing thing with new eyes. Now they are out of the house I have known for 24 years, they take on a new shape or meaning.
This is perhaps what I have been longing for. The chance to truly gain a fresh perspective. Another way to consider my values now I am retired.
The dimensions of each new room are different to our old home. The front of the house is quite grand with square rooms and tall ceilings. The back is older and as a consequence is more cramped and has an unexpected wave to the floor. If you unpack a box in the front of the house things either seem to take on the mantle of grandeur or shrink from this elegance. The same things unpacked in the back of the house may well match the cosy quirkiness or seems oversized!
Well, to be honest there are things I look at and simply throw out, no matter which part of the house I am in!
Box after box is opened. Some everyday things don’t reappear for ages. Where are the tea towels? I’m sure we had some shampoo! Sometimes we open a box and caress the contents because we haven’t seen it for a while. The professional packers did a great job but they mix your things about, which can be confusing.
Slowly some kind of order emerges. First priority is the kitchen: there is a need for food but it is more than that, it seems the heart of the home. The Aga is constantly alight and fills the room with dense heat which is overpowering during this warm weather. I HAVE to ask a neighbour how to turn it down!
Our bedroom and the bathroom also come high on my priority.
There are moments when I can’t bear to unwrap another thing. Empty boxes swamp us and clean wrapping paper smothers the floor.
Thank goodness there is a great pub nearly opposite which has a takeout service with pizza!

Moving House


 

After a hectic day of packing the day before, all our belongings are stowed onto the two trucks.  Our moving team are incredibly efficient and we arrive in the small village of Piddletrenthide, Dorset by about two o’clock.  The next few hours fly by.  The house owner, Kim, has just finished painting the dining room to hide the damp.  She greets us warmly.  Clearly this is her family house, but due to illness she needs to live with relatives for a while.  She loves it and hopes to return soon.  That is why the house has such a lovely feel to it, unlike many buy to lets.

John is occupied by the estate agent and her twenty page list of notches and marks throughout the house.  What do people expect from a house which is two hundred years old?  The removal team ask for a two minute debrief on what might go where and they use their initiative to place the furniture and the sixty boxes.

We are here!  The next stage of our retirement project!

There is such a mix of emotion.  Exhaustion! Exhilaration! Bewilderment!

We have no mobile signal in the valley: no landline so no phone calls are possible until we discover that we can walk up the hill almost a mile off!  There is no internet set up.  We suddenly feel very cut off from friends and family.

Once everyone has gone, we walk happily up the garden hill in the hope of getting a signal.  We clutch a bottle of champagne and a plate of food.    We climb over the style at the end of our grass area and enter the wooded section.I had no idea the hill would be so steep.  I end up grasping roots and pulling myself up.  There is the remains of a tree house to the right.  Ivy clings to the trees, making it darker.  Soon we reach the opening and a path which runs along the ridge behind everyone’s garden.  Disappointed there is no where to sit we descend again a little way and perch on a fallen tree trunk.  Here we sip champagne and wonder at the beauty and difference!

The view over the valley beyond, the farmland, the rooftops is wonderful.  I think I will be happy to call this home for the next six months or so.

 

Packed and waiting


That’s it then!
We’ve done it!
Around ten o’clock this morning, whilst we had five men and two vans packing us away, we heard that the exchange had taken place and the completion on the house deal will be Friday!

Woohoo!

It all worked out after all!
We move tomorrow.

There may be radio silence for a while. The new place has no broadband, no 3G signal and no mobile phone signal. So if you don’t hear from us for a short while- don’t worry. We made it to Dorset.

I promise photos and news as soon as possible.
Thanks to everyone who sent their support and messages of hope. You have all been wonderful.

Oh! I am so excited!

Pre-packing


Tomorrow, we are going to take our furniture on holiday!
Six men are coming to pack it all in boxes, with loving care, we hope, and plenty of bubble wrap. Our cats are going to be confined in a room, which they will not appreciate.
There will be nothing to do and there is everything to do.

It feels like a holiday because we are only staying in this new house for six or seven months, so we cannot get rooted in it. It feels like a holiday because we still have not exchanged contracts with the buyers, although everyone tell us this will happen tomorrow. As I have been hearing this for over a week, I am a little dubious.

On Friday, John and I sat down for a crisis management talk.
What if it all falls through?

After copious lists of possibilities and calculations on how much money we might lose over this, we made several phone calls to check our facts. The probability of it all working out as planned rose as a consequence to the phone calls. It reminded me of my role as head teacher. “If someone does not do something to resolve this situation, heads will roll!” Someone did something.

If all is not going to go well, we have plan B and C. They are, loosely, renting out out current home or returning home with the furniture after a short holiday.

The pre-packing continues with increased frenzy. The washing machine is disconnected: this proves more difficult that it sounds. Assorted wood is pulled from dark corners in the attic where John has been storing it, in case he ever wanted to make something. Now, wood is something that I remember from my last move 24 years ago. So that must have made quite an impression! For years after the last move John bemoaned the loss of a specific piece of wood that would have been perfect for whatever job was in hand. So I am keeping out of the woodpile.

There’s cleaning, and gathering things we will need over the moving days, along with packing or gathering the myriad of small things we have no use for but cannot throw away. Oh! So that is how junk is born!

At one point I can stand it no more and grab my bike for a tour of our lovely local park. That’s where my elder daughter lost her Wellington boot in mud: over there our kite got stuck in the tree about 20 years ago: here is the playground where both daughters loved to play and recently Keoni enjoyed. The list of loved places grew as I pedalled.

But I do not want to go back. Much as I love it. I want new adventures, new friends to join old ones, new decorations and styles to try out in new houses. A life full of visitors and fun and friendship.

I am hot, exhausted, unable to rest, fiddling with things which do not belong together and refuse to find their way into the rubbish bin.

What am I doing?
I am taking my furniture on holiday tomorrow!

Age difference


My wedding anniversary, yesterday, brought me to pondering how my dad must have felt.

My father was born in 1901. A different era to ours. He remembered the first cars, which had men carrying a flag to warn the pedestrians it was coming. He did not have to pass the driving test, none had been invented! Early planes: the First World War; telephones with live telephonists to handle your call and phone numbers which named your town and a simple two or three digit number.

He was a gent of a peculiar kind. He had slight difficulty saying a breathy ‘h’, but was well spoken. He always wore a suit, usually with a waistcoat, even when sitting on the sands at Scarborough, where we went on our annual holiday.

He rarely played with us as children, read stories with no expression at all and we knocked to enter his bedroom. I remember asking for a raise in pocket money about 10 years old.
“Why do you need it?” he asked quietly.
“I’d like to buy a weekly magazine and this will mean I can.”
Having explained my need there was no question about the raise!

A gentle formality! Lovingly remote!

Dad was a publican in London, mostly around the East End. He did not marry until he was in his forties. My mum was only in her twenties. What must people have thought?

I had never realised the age gap until I was a young teen and he had his seventieth birthday. I knew other friends had parents in their fifties and I was horrified! He did not look that old!

I never considered the age gap of twenty years anything other than normal. They seemed perfectly matched.
“Age is a quality of Mind,” he declared, quoting the title of a poem by an unknown poet.
If you left your dreams behind,
If hope is lost. If you no longer look ahead,
If your ambitious fires are dead –
Then you are old.
But if from life you take the best
And if in life you keep the jest,
If love you hold –
No matter how the years go by,
No matter how the birthdays fly,
You are not old!

All the family plans led to him dying before my mother. So it was inconceivable that she should die first- but she did!

My dad was a sentimental man, with such love for her. A shrewd businessman with a head for figures. Whilst a product of his age, he seemed happy to be in a world with younger people. I wonder how much he coloured my own attitude to age?

Wedding anniversary


Thirty-nine years ago today! I married, at the age of 19, a man I had known for eleven months!

My dad was not very happy about it but he did us proud! There seemed so many factors against us and dad gently shared some with me, yet he still supported me in my decision, once I had listened.
John must have come across badly. He had left university to be a steel work crane driver in Sheffield. When they made him redundant he had come to London to enjoy his redundancy money and eventually ended up on the dole. Then he met me.

None of us looked good in the 70s. My dad found it hard to overcome the long hair and beard. “You hardly know him!”

My mum had died just a fortnight before I met John; my dad was still in trauma, but we went ahead.
A simple registry office. My aunt picking roses from her garden at the last minute and wrapping the stems in silver foil for a bouquet.

My best friend couldn’t make it through illness, so we had to find another witness. My brother missed it, but made it in time for the photos. We had smoked salmon for our first course, and John had never eaten it before, but it was dad’s favourite. I guess about thirty people attended at most, but I felt like a queen. When the champagne ran out, the waiter came discretely to inform my dad. “Don’t you have any more?” he asked. The shamefaced man nodded and we drank nothing else.

The whole thing was organised in about a month. A week before the wedding John and I went to camp in Paris, just to wait out the arrangements! No wedding list, so we got three toasters and a whole heap of hideous stainless steel serving dishes.

My geography was so poor, I had no idea that a honeymoon in Windsor meant a simple commuter ride from Waterloo. Me all dolled us in my special going away outfit.

Most years we go back to Windsor Great Park to drink champagne and eat smoked salmon. Wherever we are in the world, we find the same key ingredients. Today we sat beneath a canopy of trees sipping champagne, waiting for the phone to ring, with news of the exchange, which never came. My elder daughter came over for a meal in the evening to say goodbye to the house.

Thirty-nine years! I neither feel it nor believe it. I am not old enough!

Oh yes, now I remember, this blog is all about being retired, so perhaps I am!

Turned out all right though, Dad!

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Exchange frustration and others lives


Aaah!

This is so frustrating!

There is a tension in my stomach and a mix of pure excitement and horror.

Since Friday we have had a daily question about our exchange. Everyone will tell you that buying a house is one of the most stressful things you can do. It is up there with divorce and death.

Our house move has gone so very quickly in comparison with other people. We have been very lucky to achieve a record price for our street, and the whole thing has gone from first view to offer in a matter of weeks really.

We have chosen to be the top of the chain of buyers. We thought this might make us more ‘appealing’! Ultimately it will also makes cash buyers; a strong position I’m told.

Our chain of buyers is only three long, but the people at the bottom, I’m told are in the process of divorce. There are additional papers for them to sign, and they chose to go on holiday just last week.

For three working days, the estate agents have been saying, ‘today’! But each day passes. I feel so sorry for the couple and their relationship. No one would want to be in their position.

But we have tried to go with our own buyers who are disparate to move in so their children can get places in local schools. To this end we have found our rental house and told removal firms and letting agency that e hope to move on Tuesday. Yes, that’s the one! Six days away!

Fellow bloggers have been so kind with their wishes for our future. I am heartened by these virtual friends!

It will happen. Just not sure when!

So nothing to report. Everything in place like dominoes lined up for a small push.

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Space to think?


Yesterday was so hectic! As soon as my daughter had packed up and moved out, our buyers turned up to measure for new furniture.

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In one way, it was great timing. With three tons of belongings shipped out of our house, we suddenly think we have room to breathe!

Today our thoughts turn to our own future. We have still not exchanged on this deal. Until we do there is no legal binding on either party to go ahead with the sale. A little lower down the chain, someone has taken a short holiday and was not able to sign a vital paper about their part in the deal. So we all wait!

It gives us time to trawl through our attic, now mercifully un jammed, so we can actually move things and see what we own. There is a large quantity of paint, which the removal men will not touch. I stare at the rainbow of muted colours that map our decorating history. All to go! Packed into the car for the dump.

There are lengths of pipes from plumbing jobs we have undertaken, bits of wood, old handbags that have now fallen apart and are not even suitable for the charity shop. Alongside these are old clothes, boxed games, ornaments which are taken down for others to buy from Oxfam.

If this all goes ahead as planned we have booked packers for next Monday and will move on Tuesday to our new rented house in Dorset. It is in the heart of a small village, opposite a pub, not far from the only shop. I guess about 200 years old, it is a double fronted detached. Down it’s centre a flagstone corridor, the stones smooth and shiny from age. The large square kitchen has room for a central table, loads of wood cupboards and an oil fired Aga cooker. I have often coveted such a cooker, always hot with a hint of constant baking.

Behind the house is a large hilly garden running up to the woods on the brow of the hill. The garden is double the width of the house. Our cats should love it, once the shock of country life has evaporated. Bob is a good hunter and already clears out any nest of mice he might find. Two or three in a day sometimes, until the whole family have been presented on the kitchen floor. Often he brings them in live and I pick them up to give them a second chance back in the garden, but he is relentless. I wonder what he might find in Dorset?

As I fold clothes for the charity shop, I visualise my new life.
These are exciting times: the stress rises and falls but the sense of movement it definitely in the right direction!