Beautiful New World


I am feeling my way into a new world. Gently nudging the edges so they grow, unfolding like petals. First, my house begins to feel like home. I find myself settling down for the evening,like my cats, rather than roaming round restlessly. I begin to potter in the garden, someone else’s garden true, but huge and in desparate need of care and attention. I pull out brambles, prune back unruly bushes, we cut the beech hedge in the front of the house and in doing so begin to feel a pride.
My tendrils reach to new experiences: popping to new neighbours for a cuppa, bearing a slice of cake. I am proud of the cake too; my first from the Aga!
Life has the texture of a holiday.
Visiting new villages, new towns most days. Walks, markets, new shops, even supermarkets tempt me to difference, to change habits of a lifetime.
How many times have you walked the isles of your local supermarket, cursing that they have changed the shelving layout? It takes longer to shop, but you see more. We are trying lots of new shops, market stalls for fresh vegetables, the Sherborne Pannier Market for fresh fish and bread, supermarkets in several different towns.

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Today, as I was driving back from a perfectly normal supermarket experience, I looked… Really looked! Rolling hills, a soaring buzzard, wide skies, a patchwork of creams, browns blending together over the farmland, describing the stages of harvest in their hues.
Pull in, stop and wonder a while!
Really! This is special! It’s beautiful and I live here!

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The Village Fete


When you live in London, it is hard to take the concept of ‘Lord of the Manor’ seriously! When we heard the local fete was to be held at Manor House, we thought no more than, “Great, we get to see a big house!”

Dorset has a special style to it. There is an air of private school, of landed gentry, of breeding. This may be the beautiful cows and sheep that abound in the fields, but breeding nevertheless.

School have fetes and fairs at least twice a year. Summer and Christmas, the stalls, the sideshows entertain and raise money for much needed equipment. These build a sense of community, past pupils come back to see their old school, neighbours pop in to support: it is a great event.

Villages do the same thing. Each parish organises a fete and it seemed a good idea to attend ours.
The Manor House is indeed grand. Beautiful grounds and a proud confident building. Amid the usual book stalls and bricabrac we see our new friends who run a plant nursery and a retired couple enjoying tea in the marquis.

Suddenly I feel at home. These are friends we have made over the last few days and they greet us warmly. We pay our due to lift the paper cups covering dozens of green bottles. Will they be unopened bottles of wine or filled with water? We cannot resist the books, or the home made marmalade. There is a very leisurely feel about the place, I am in no hurry to leave.

We drink tea, enjoy a burger from the barbecue and sit on the grass enjoying the views, quietly people watching. The dog show is a highlight for me. Mutts and hounds, scruff bags and pedigrees walk round the small ring. Some classes only had one dog enter, to nobody’s surprise they win first prize. Most animals seem to win something but it’s judged with care, informed by years of performing this role.

The competition is compared by the Lord of the Manor, and a grand job he does too. A sense of family pervades the arena, dogs and their owners are cajoled to enter. I love the fusion of serious and jovial.

It is our first taste of village life beyond the local pub: a mix of gentility and function.
I like it.

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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!

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!

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!

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!

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