Dorset County Show


Moving house must be traumatic! For the past few weeks, I have concentrated on my feelings, the progress we are making, the packing and unpacking.

With the advent of the end of summer, the countryside explodes with shows and events. In early September, Dorset sets up for its greatest show…The Dorset County Show!

We had seen the tents, the toilets, the parking spaces being pegged out, put up and pulled in on the exhibition ground just outside of Dorchester. Clearly it would be big, but we had no idea how big!

My daughters came down for the weekend with Keoni. This seemed a great way for us all to experience this new way of life. So we piled into our cars and set off. There is a one way diversion around the show ground, but parking is very easy and free. As we drive onto the parking lot, I gasp at the size!

Fields and fields of neatly arranged cars span the horizon. It is well organised with plenty of efficient marshals and we are soon parked up and ready to roll.

As Keoni has fallen asleep in the car, we are able to push him round the first sections and gain an impression quickly. It brings back several experiences to me.
– a small show in Lincolnshire which my aunt took me to: I remember the men washing, combing and smoothing their cattle just prior to the show
– the village fete we attended the other day in Piddletrenthide, where people took their time to admire and discuss
– the ‘Grand Designs’ exhibition in Excel Centre, London (or indeed the Education Show in Birmingham) where you see more exhibitors of things related to the theme of the show than you could ever have imagined existed!
Country crafts, fine artisan cheese, life sized model horses demonstrating bridles, honey bees, log choppers, ploughs, combine harvesters, tractors, hens, sheep, country clothing, more food stalls than anyone could manage…the list just goes on and on.

We did not get round a quarter of it!

Keoni woke and loved it. He adores any large machinery, tractors in particular, and here he could climb on them, touch them and see them in every direction. He must have walked miles. Having taken in the first impression of tractors, he was drawn to the central ring where stunt drivers completed their show, followed by lovingly restored vintage tractors, a tractor dressed up as a police car (including siren) and finally the prize winning sheep, goats and cows paraded.

Cows! Some of the bulls were enormous! Beautiful sleek animals, whose coats gleamed in the sun and whose muscles rippled with pride as they walked their lap of honour.
Sheep! Their wool was such a variety of colour, so clean and their feet so trim.
Goats! They gained a dignity which the word does not usually imply!

There were pitches for local independent schools, for faster broadband connectivity, for artificial grass and straw logs.

As a way of learning about our new domaine, I would say it was excellent.
As a day out for the family: exhausting but great value.

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?

Exhilaration


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!

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Thoughts on moving – some background


You will probably know that I retired last August as a head teacher. You may have read about our six months travels round Australia and New Zealand. You can flick back over the past 14 posts to see our voyage around Turkey and Greece, but the stark reality of being retired does not just sit with travel and adventures.
Anyone who has been on holiday knows they come home to a pile of laundry. Even though we threw away the clothes we had literally worn out while traveling, there still seemed to be mountains of dirty clothes and ironing.

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Add to this the fact that our daughter and her family have been house sitting for six months and we have arranged for them to remain at our house while we re-established our relationship with our grandson. This makes 5 in the house, lots of noise, laughter, and running up and down the hall corridor. Not to mention the fact that we need to separate their things from ours because it has become one comfortable whole rather than two families.
My daughter has lived in this house most of her life. She loathes it for its familiarity and loves it for its comfort. She has been an excellent house keeper, but running a massive house and a not quite two year old is very hard work. She enjoys a few weeks of Nonna (that’s me!) taking over, before the real work begins.
By the time we return from Greece, they have packed their belongings but have no job, nowhere to live. Her husband moves out with a van load of stuff to Devon, in search of their future. She, wisely decides to remain here with Keoni, until he has secured a home and job.
It takes a week to further disentangle our belongings. Much of their stuff is piled into our shed, but we still have boxes of fragile things to contend with.
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In short, it is a dreadful mess! My dreams of putting our house in order within days and putting it on the market, crash around my feet. My daughter becomes an amazing tower of strength. She cajoles, reasons, plans and moves. There is the constant need to keep an eye on Keoni but between three adults we manage well. Bag loads of stuff are carried to the charity shops in town. Boxes are re-housed in my daughter’s room, rather than scattered throughout the house. A schedule of tasks is written and we all try hard to stick to it.
Each of us in turn, dips into doldrums. It is an impossible job and we will never do it. When this happens the other two work harder to impress the success of the venture. Gradually, very gradually, the house separates into two and the grand spring clean commences.
My daughter has a brilliant eye for decor. She can move a vase, an ornament and a cushion and create harmony, where I would shove things together in over similar mode to create something altogether too heavy and dreary.
Today, we have been at it for ten days! We had a day off for the Queen’s 60th Jubilee, and a day at the farm with Keoni.
Still to do…
1. Touch up paint in our bedroom
2. Re-paint kitchen
3. Store my daughter’s things in the attic so her room is more livable
4. Hire a carpet cleaner for the whole house.
5. Spring clean front room, my daughter’s room and dining room
6. Pressure hose patio
Problem with 6 is we are in a hosepipe ban, so it looks as if it might be a hand situation. Yuk!
I hope we will be going to the estate agents by the end of next week at the latest.
What do you reckon are my chances?

A Grand Design to see the Queen


Flushed with success as Nonna and Poppy, John and I are happy to be asked to care for Keoni again for a day. Actually, it was all a bit of a mix up. My daughter and her husband are keen to move to Devon, but have lots of packing to do before they can. I have generously given them old sofas, chairs etc but as they have no where, as yet, to move to they are reluctant to take them with them.
I am reluctant to take them back. Everyone is agreed that selling this house is high priority and that it is crammed full of 28 years living. So they agree to hire a van, and take loads of stuff to the dump. Trouble is, I don’t realise that they will not be able to manage Keoni, so John and I have booked to go to the ‘Grand Designs’ show on the same day.
Still, toddlers love large spaces and new things. How hard can it be to take him too?
This particular journey across London, involves several trains. Right down Keoni’s street: he loves trains. We get to Waterloo without incident. John plans a short detour, purely for educational purposes. Today is the State Opening of Parliament. the Queen is in London. So we stop at Westminster station, with just ten minutes to spare before she is due.

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He loves the horses, the bells, the beautiful coaches. Even though we cannot actually see inside to be sure the Queen is there, it is worth the effort. The British do pageantry with a particular panache.

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By the end of the day, Keoni seems to recognise the headlines in the newspaper of the Queen’s carriage and happily ‘reads’ the paper on the train.
After our Royal Appointment, we head over to the Excel exhibition centre. This involves two more trains. By the time we arrive, he is asleep, which is great because it gives us time to get orientated and visit the stand we really want to see: oak frame houses. Part of the dream is to buy a wreck, knock it down and build our own house.
We are impressed by the range of companies and the standard of care and design they offer. For a short while we believe this will actually happen.
When Keoni wakes we dedicate our time to him, allowing him to tell us what to see. Favourite things are; houses you can walk into without queuing, garden seats where you can sprawl and a giant telephone.

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Armed with our information about timber framed houses, we begin the journey home.
Another successful day.

Unravelling Mr’s Mystery – part two of Mystery Cat


I couldn’t believe we had just inherited a cat and that his last owner had three others,but simply did not care enough about him to encourage him to stay.  So I returned to my neighbour’s house several times to check they really meant it. They never changed their minds, but they told me more of his history.

Mr had been born in their house of two equally large and hairy parents.  Initially, he had been a playful, affectionate cat, but as the family grew, and he experienced several changes he became withdrawn, even aggressive. (Oh good!)

The family have moved about a lot.  Firstly to Northumberland, where Mr was involved in a car accident, resulting in a chipped canine tooth and damage to his claw.  This claw got so bad, it was eventually amputated.  The family then moved to Spain, taking Mr (aka Simba) with them.  He found country life did not suit him because the local farmer shot at him, thankfully missing.  I guess the idea was to scare him away for some reason.

He then came back to England where the family had the new baby and invested in another kitten, who seriously challenged Mr Simba within the house.  So Mr decided to move into the garden, returning to his house for food every third day or so.  All the neighbours knew him because he also tried his luck in their kitchens, requesting food and menacing their cats. He was frequently chased away.  We think he lived a hobo’s life for nearly one year.

Why he chose to move in with us and the new kittens; who knows.  Perhaps he thought he could gain dominance whilst they were still so young.  Perhaps he knew he was onto a good thing.

Mostly, he slept and ate.  Sometimes he disappeared for a day, but never longer than 24 hours.  He learned to play with the kittens.  His huge bulky frame gambling down the garden like an elephant, tumbling headlong into a kitten, who was bowled over in the rush.  The kittens thought it normal!

He joined in with them when there was a string to chase.  As he weighed over 8kg, he crashed through the undergrowth, somersaulting onto the string and grasping the tiny thing tightly in his massive claws.  Just for comparison a full grown domestic short hair cat should weigh 5-7 kg.

When he was poorly he was a great hypochondriac.  Many was the time we took him down to the vet, only to be told there was nothing wrong with him.  So when recently he took himself down the garden and sat in the rain, refusing food, we knew he was ill. The only other time he had been truly ill, it had been a urinary infection and £500 vet fee, nearly a year ago. My daughter was house sitting.  Her only task (apart from looking after her own family etc) was look after the cats.  She took him over the road to the vets.

£750

Bladder the size of a football.  Hospitalisation.  But all failed as within two days of our arriving back from our travels, I just knew he was still really ill.  The vet said we could try drugs for a few months and more hospitalisation, but there was more than a chance it would not work.

So this is my salute to Mr.  The cat who decided for himself.  Despite the fact that every time you touched him, drifts of fur flew through the air; that he dropped twigs and dirt over the carpet when he scratched or shook himself; that he continued to hassle local residents by wandering into their kitchens, he had many outstanding features.

He welcomed you by sitting at the front gate, rolling in dirt baths to bring in more mess. He showed us that he loved us by learning to play.  John loved him, and he does not like cats much.  He was incredibly laid back with us,  very easy going.  And now he is gone.