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.

20121201-000202.jpg

20121201-000237.jpg

20121201-000434.jpg

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.

20120813-203414.jpg

20120813-203315.jpg
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!

20120811-223002.jpg

Organisation


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!

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!

20120807-230158.jpg

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!

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.