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!


Exchange frustration and others lives


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.


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.


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!

Three tons of love

The pace of change is astonishing! Just a week ago, John and I went to Dorset and changed plan to move there rather than the South Downs. Just a month ago, my daughter and I came back from a week’s holiday in Spain with a master plan which promptly crumpled with a phone call.

The part of the story with my daughter is best told through hints. Forgive me, dear reader, you will have to guess this subplot.

The conclusion of her story is told through a heap of boxes, and a half empty attic, when her husband arrives with a truck to transport his family down to Devon. All morning, grandson, Keoni and I walk the street on a homage to playgrounds in the area he has known and loved. Meanwhile my daughter, her husband and John achieve a gargantuan task of loading a three ton truck with her belongings.

She had no idea she owned so much! A lifetime of clothes, toys, baby things, cooking stuff from previous flats, bits of furniture accumulated over thirty years of travel and life. The house feels empty, as though it can breathe again now it is all gone.

Of course, it was all integrated amongst our things, while they looked after the house while we traveled round Australia for six months. Slowly, it has separated.

Slowly we have separated!

My generation of parents have approached their role in a totally different manor to our own parents. We all seemed to leave the family home, never to call it home again, usually about the age of twenty, if not before.

We have a stronger , more empathetic relationship with our children. They famously boomerang back after traveling, university or divorce. Multigenerational living is the subject of magazine articles and clearly has its ups and downs.

But I loved it! Watching my daughter grow in confidence as a mother. Knowing that Keoni was totally comfortable when we looked after him. Seeing my daughter with him: her skill, patience and love. A total magic beyond words.

All bundled up in a three ton truck. Waving goodbye partly because John and I have chosen to move on. The dilemma of emotion in forcing this parting and regretting this split is incredible.

Of course it is best for them. Of course they will be fine and we will see them often. Of course I want this to happen…but Keoni’s room is empty tonight. The hurly burly of childhood suddenly stopped, leaving a silence of old people.

Yet our future is so exciting! Today we await the exchange news (again) the removal firm are booked, the new house awaits with a new community, new challenges and a new lifestyle. There seems so much to do and so little at the same time.

A Knife Edge between Joy and Sorrow

Less than a week ago, we went down to Dorset in a “let’s see what it has to offer” mood. We had arranged viewing for three properties to buy: a mill, a barn and the wing of a Dower House. All so different, but exciting properties. Could I see myself living the stately life with antiques and the faded beauty which the Dower House offered? Did I prefer the massive spread of exposed cogs and beams in the mill, which happened to be right up against the road? Or would I like the finish of the barn; all done to a high spec, down a tiny road next to a farm?

I guess, the reality was more…did I like the area? And we did! Very much. So we stopped all efforts to live on the South Downs and focused on Dorset. Time has run out to buy. We need to rent for six months or so.

Within a week of hard work and constant viewings or phone calls, we have found the property.
A four bedroomed house with steep garden up to a wood. This house must be centuries old, with the first floor to prove it; all uneven, sloping and higgledy-piggeldy.
The basic structure is a dolls’ house with a central hall, flagged in stone polished over the years and four rooms per floor. The kitchen has an oil fired Aga and quarry tiling. It is located in the middle of a tiny village, opposite a pub and some 100 metres from the village shop.

We agree to take it immediately because it is vastly more characterful, cosy and spacious than any other we have seen.

But we have not yet exchanged. We trawl through quotes from four removal companies and choose one who, promptly say, “ah, yes! But that is the Bank Holiday!”. So we agree to pull the whole thing forward to next Monday for packing and Tuesday we move.

That is 9 days!

And we have not yet exchanged! So we had no legal way of knowing our buyers will buy and it will really go ahead.

Hey! I have taken risks before. This will be alright.

So today, we hold a family meal. Both my daughters have grown up in this house. It is a simple farewell! A meal, a trawl through a handful of old photos, laughing at our hairstyles from the 80s, and a ritual story for our grandson. All of us in the room together.

Laughing through silent tears, that this can never be replicated.

For the girls, their childhood is disappearing. Of course, they can always come back to us, but never back to this, their childhood home. Of course they are both past 30 years old. But we are a tight knit family, our bonds are strong.

I can hardly come to terms with the constant waves of emotion. This is it! A really big move. I have never lived out of London. It has been years since we rented a place. I am so excited to be learning about a new community. So why was it only today, that I ran into at least four neighbours, while shopping?

How can I so willingly let my grandson leave my house, where I have the total privilege of seeing him every day?

How fantastic will it be for the girls to come to see me, rather than use the house as a base to visit their old school friends.

24 years, I have been here. Before that, we lived just around the corner for 8 years.

This is a BIG move.

I am looking forward to it with tears in my eyes!



Gradually, I begin to think this will pan out ok.

Today, we had a relay of removal firms coming to assess our clutter and estimate the cubic capacity of everything we have gathered over the past 24 years. They seem to be coping with our vagaries about the next location and date of moving house.

I walk round the house with them, ignoring the piles of boxes which belong to my daughter who moves out at the weekend.
“Are we taking the birdbath?”
It is a dawning of the realisation of the finality of this move.

Earlier in the day, we took Keoni to the playground to give his mum a break as she battles to squeeze thirty years of growing up into a three ton truck. Well, the boxes which will eventually be loaded into such a truck. Keoni is oblivious to the chaos. His train set runs merrily over the floor, with diggers and cranes and he is perfectly happy.

But as I walk him down the all too familiar roads, I realise there are only a few more opportunities to do this. Sights and sounds I have known for over thirty years (the last move was a simple one, round the corner!) will fade from my routines. A whole new world of friends and environment lies ahead.

I shiver with excitement, mixed with a tingle of fear. Retirement offers such freedom. Good friends will always travel the two hours to visit us. This can only deliver a host of new experiences.

The uncertainty only adds a delicious taste of danger, of risk. As a younger person, I was a control freak. Many teachers are, I think! As a head teacher, I began to see that risk was worth it. A young teacher given the chance; a creative twist in the curriculum; a brave announcement that “if it benefited the children, we can do this.”. All these paid off. I am sure this risk will too.

Tomorrow we will drive back to Dorset and see four potential rental properties, with the hope that their availability, price and amenities are acceptable. If so, we are ready to go.

A new life! Wow!


It’s a whirlwind! It’s very exciting! It feels more than a bit risky…and I’m loving it!

Having found a buyer for our home of 24 years standing, the paperwork is nearly complete. Surveys done, solicitors engaged and dates are being spoken of…our buyer seems very keen to move in. They have new schools to enrol in, and no doubt want to start at the beginning of the UK school year. (That would be the beginning of September)

We are rooting through our belongings, happily taking stuff down to the charity shop or recycling centre on an almost daily basis. Probably not taking it quite as seriously as we should.

Occasionally we drive down to West Sussex and mooch around villages, debating their merit; or we might browse the web and estate agents, searching our ideal home. This is apparently not there! They are too big, located too close to a road, too far from the town, too new, too old….

My daughter and her son, who have been living here for many months now (and looked after the house and cats while we traveled round Australia) are also packing to move to Devon next weekend. On one level I am thrilled that they are up and running again, on another more profound level, I cannot bear the fact that Keoni will not give me my daily hug and insist that I play trains with him.

The house is filling up with boxes again as she gathers her possessions. For the first time, despite her 30 years, she has to gather everything! Girlish diaries, school book memories, pieces of childish art, a lifetime of nicknacks. Plus, of course, all her clothes, books, Keoni’s toys etc etc. It’s quite a hoard! And it will reduce the amount I have to pack and move.

Then, quite suddenly, our buyers suggest moving on 24th August. That is three weeks away!

It strikes us! We have nowhere to live! No decision. No short list.

We have been planning this for nearly two years. I am in no doubt at all that we want to move. W want to experience the country, rather than the city. I have always lived in London. It is time for a change. We looked at North Devon, ourselves initially. Beautiful countryside with incredible variety, but not very hot on shopping towns of the kind I might need. That lead us to Dorset, which we both love for the soft rolls of countryside and the warm stone houses. We are spoiled for villages in Dorset. Yet, for some reason, we had jumped to West Sussex recently.

OK. I know why we changed to West Sussex. We had been on a family day out, had a great time and just went for it!

Now, I know I should be ‘having kittens’, horrified that we have nothing firm planned. But it’s brilliant! I spent today, on the phone, persuading removal firms to come to assess our needs.

“What day will you be moving?” they asked
“Well, I’m not sure. Maybe 24th but we might prefer to do it earlier if we can find somewhere to move.”. Small pause.
“You don’t have a moving address?”
“Not yet!”. I smile “but I think it will be in Dorset!”

I always knew this would get to be exciting enough to blog about!

I’ll keep you posted!


“Under Offer”

The English system of moving house has a strange rhythm.  The first part is to choose an estate agent (real-estate) by asking a few to come in and guess – I mean value your property.  When this ranges over half a million GBP, I began to wonder what on earth the world was coming to!

House prices have soared!  We have lived here for 24 years and I find it staggering to hear what they think we could be offered for the property.  Anyway, we chose the midrange agent and set them off on a merry-go-round of viewings which mostly meant that we had to leave the building each Saturday while families came to consider if they would like to live here.

Of course, we could stay in, if we chose, but I felt I did not want my grandson emptying out his toy box or made anxious by strangers.

Three weekends of this has resulted in an “offer”.  It is usual in England to haggle over the price a bit and it took a week to agree a price.  It’s a good price!  

Now we enter the next phase, where solicitors, surveyors, estate agents, building societies all bid for a share in our profits.  Searches on the land, services, building controls, and boundaries of each property in the ‘chain’ have to be made.  Those who need a mortgage will need an additional survey from their lender.  The ‘chain’ becomes a vital element and we all nurture it.  One weak link may result in a family quitting and we might all have to start again!

We are lucky because there are only three of us in this chain.  John and I have decided to rent for a while to get to know our new location better.  Who knows we may hate it and choose to return to London!

The renting market is wretched.  Even at the upper end of it.  We have seen two converted barns so far.  one in a fantastic location but very small and dark.  The other is a dreadful location but a reasonable size and bright.

No one will take us seriously until we ‘exchange contracts’ when the chain of sales becomes legally binding.

Thank you Laura for your comment which made me come back to the blog for an update!  I am not sure if it is very interesting yet, but if I feel it is, I promise to update again!  Meanwhile, I am having fun taking grandson Keoni to the South Coast, under the name of research to get to know the county, or round a children’s petting farm!ImageImage


It must be the awards!
They have gone to my head.
Well, not really, but I have put in a massive spurt of energy to the moving house project and tomorrow we meet the first of several estate agents who will value the property.
We have gone from piles of boxes, mountains of washing and arguments about where we should put things and what we can throw out, to a tentative sensation of calm.
Most rooms look good, though I say so myself. I have used a whole tub of beeswax furniture polish, discovered Lakeland, a shop which excels in selling cleaning products alongside bakeware. Stainless steel gleams, porcelain sparkles and carpets have lost most of their stains. It is a sad fact that fashion currently dictates cream. Our walls are all neutral,splashes of colour provided by cushions. Carpets are equally cream and that has meant, with a young grandson in the house that we have had spills.
Not only children, but cats have taken their toll on our beautiful house. While we were traveling they have been ‘disturbed’ by changes to their routine. Add in poor old Mr’s bladder problems and we have corners of carpet that have need to be thoroughly disinfected and shampooed.
It has been gruelling but I have experienced a sense of pleasure in getting things ‘just so’! The house looks the way I have always wanted it to look.
It’s a bit like school really. A classroom looks so organised, calm and expectant when the children are not there. Teachers can achieve so much, in the way of marking and display. When the kids come to school the whole atmosphere changes.
So it is with our house. It looks calm and expectant but not like our house! It seems to be waiting for us to get back to living in it. It liked the noise and commotion of three generations, the odd spill and the happy chaos which we offer.
Our daughter and her son are still living with us, but she has been away for the past three days. That probably helped us crack on, but suddenly, as I wander round the house admiring the organisation, I get a small feeling of impending nerves. It has been such an honour to share so much of my grandson’s life, and to has my daughter with us. We both are disparate to get moving but also sorry this stage is coming to an end.
Kids!. Who would have them?




Versatile AND Inspiring? – Thank you Laura

To receive one blogging award seems most fortunate, to mis-quote Lady Bracknell. But to receive two seems flamboyance!
Yet it has happened!
The lovely Lazy Laura Maisey, who follows this diary of my travels and retirement, even though she is only 27, has nominated me as an Inspiring Blogger. Laura, you are too kind and I truly don’t deserve it! Laura is a blossoming writer and her blog, which often centres on food, is always worth reading. But I nominated her last time, so I want to flag up some different blogs that I have been looking at.
Firstly, according to the rules I am to tell Laura 7 things about myself. That will have to be in addition to last time too…ummm!
I get addicted to rather mindless computer games and have been know to spend several hours building virtual cities.
I used to sing solo when I was at school and starred as Yum Yum in the Mikado at the age of 17.
I had a sausage dog called Micky (a daschound) and a tabby cat called Puss, when I was a child.
I have lived in London all my life.
I studied drama at college, which people did not call university when I was training to be a teacher (that is two things!)
My best car ever was an MGF and I am very sad that we moved on.

Ok, now for some blogs which I’ve found inspirational. These are not necessarily one I follow but ones that I came across only recently and found a few posts both inspirational and interesting. See what you think…

Leadership Freak writes short inspirational pieces for leaders. As a head teacher, I frequently needed non educationalists to inspire me and make me a better leader. I especially liked his posts on being different and success.

Where’s my T and other stories is a wonderful blog on the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease. As one who inevitably faces old age (eventually!) I found this supportive blog offered both insight and humour.

12 resolutions for 2012 are an attempt to uplift and challenge this blogger. I love anything where people reflect on their own learning as this was something I was always getting the children to do at school. I love the post on unicycling. Fantastic!

Jenny Munro offers her reflections on life with some lovely photos. Thoughtful, insightful comments make this inspiring reading. Thank you Jenny for your work.

An adventure in education has a brilliant post on how to climb a rope. This is something I have never been able to do. But the video which inspired our blogger to succeed is brilliant. Schools should use this for children!

Claudia inspires me with her wisdom about ageing. I loved her piece on laughter and am sure it is a miracle cure for feeling too old!

Gwen shares her thought on retirement too. Like so many of us she finds the pace of life is key. Good luck Gwen and keep blogging!

Senile Denial is another of my retiree friends. Shelley and I are trying to think of a better generic name for us and are wondering is “Seasoned Adventurers” might have a better ring. Anyway this blog builds my confidence in old age. I loved the thoughts on down sizing and family life! So True!

Dad Knows is such a lovely portrait of how parenthood works. It is an honest celebration of daughters and I love to read it.

Who would think that NASA would have time to blog? But they do! Check out their photos for true inspiration of how beautiful our universe is!

There is also a blog from theBritish Museum which is inspiring because I somehow feel that I am witnessing history. That’s awesome!

Any blogs about children get my vote and the Honest Toddler has a wonderful post on car sleep that struck me after my grandson had fallen asleep in the car just 3 minutes away from home after a great day of tiring him out!

You know I love good photographs and the desert in bloom was inspirational as it opens your eyes to a magical carnival in nature.

Another beautiful reflection on nature’s beauty can be found in Umesh Patil’s blog. this self confessed inspiration makes excellent reading.

So, with Laura’s blog heading this list, here is my 15 inspirational bloggers. Now, Laura, don’t go hanging any more awards on me! I am just an ordinary woman who is coming to terms with their retirement and capturing some of the most exciting bits in a blog so that when that Alzheimer’s does come to get me I can hopefully look back on this as wonderful.

Thanks, Laura!