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!
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!
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.
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!