Country Living Four Months In: I really live here

The leaves are turning yellow and falling, the plums and damsons are gone, the flowers have died back, the house is getting chilly, the field mice are eager to move in. We’re lighting indoor fires, making friends with the chimney sweep and the coal man, but everywhere I look I see happy memories that we made this summer, and overset jars of homemade jam, slightly burnt damson chutney and ‘fingers crossed I didn’t ruin that huge bottle of alcohol’ damson gin. We’ve filled enough of the garden and house with fun to feel like we own the place, and filled nearly every hole a field mouse could possibly entertain too.

Hello four months!

I feel like I really live here.

There have been some defining ‘feel like I really live here’ moments this month so I thought I would share those (I’ve tried hard to make sure this doesn’t sound like one of those awful round robin indulgent family update letters people used to send in Christmas cards).

I stood at my 11yo’s school hockey match last week and I knew the kids, I knew the parents, and I realised I was really rooting for the kids. Last term felt different, I knew no one and felt really awkward, the PTA meeting after just two weeks in a new place felt like an out of body experience, but luckily people all smile here at the school gate. I got chatting at a rounders match and made our first parent friend, a lovely family who have been a real support to us all, and more have followed.

We went to look round the secondary my oldest will go to next year and she thought it was awesome. The school goes back hundreds of years and I had a bit of a Hogwarts moment as a bespeckled and very charming sixth former whisked us through an archway in front of the school overlooking fields and the town below. I loved discovering that the majority of kids are bussed in because the school has one of the widest and very rural catchment areas in the UK, and that events have to be planned around milking time on the farms. We have been really lucky with schools here. It’s amazed me how adaptable the kids are too, my oldest is adapting to a new primary, but she is really excited about moving to secondary too.

My 8yo finds change harder but turned to me yesterday and said “I love this house” and that epitomises everything I hoped for about this space. The house itself is not much bigger than our previous house but the layout and extra outdoor space seems to work for us.

Mr A blooming loves it here and it’s magic to see him throwing himself into so many creative projects outside and to be able to work together on plans for the holiday lets (even if we agree to disagree on most things). I felt like we were hugely dependent on each other when we first arrived, I felt like I couldn’t work anything in the house or garden and his commute meant I had to do the majority of the school runs and kids’ stuff. The gender divide was a chasm, the mental load felt sexist and I wondered what I had done moving to the blooming country (making bad jam while he rode the lawn tractor). Finding new rhythms for our work as self employed people has been interesting. But we’ve come to similar realisations and the mental load is rebalancing with time.

I was proud that when he went to San Francisco for the best part of a week last month, I didn’t get freaked out once, even when Max the dog woke me at 4am for a wee and the owls were hooting and Max ran off into the dark after something.  It’s all relative; drunken students, arguments between halfway house residents, fire engines and daily hearses on route to the crematorium were a different kind of disconcerting in suburban Nottingham.

It’s taken longer than I thought, but I’ve made some massive inroads into settling in myself now the kids are settled into school. I can see now I wasn’t ready for that until now. Summer was a flurry of visitors and all about connecting with long term friends who really helped us to feel at home here. Meeting other bloggers and instragrammers in the area has been fab. I’ve also found some exercise classes and potential running buddies through a local facebook mum’s group. We’re managing to keep in touch with friends in Nottingham too and the mental scales I mentioned last month aren’t so tippy.

I painted my office. I joked I was just procrastinating, but actually I can now see I was marking my commitment to being here, working from home and to making our holiday let business work – it is slow going but I am recognising that you do have to live with stuff a bit before you can pile into making changes.

One afternoon and my office was transformed, I could see and think clearly and now I can see we just need to do that to the barn and caravan and get them on Airbnb, so we can share the stunning views with some other nature loving people, and perhaps the hammock too (this hammock is on loan however, we still need to buy our own one).

After getting fed up of people telling me I would need a gardener and how much we have taken on, Dad and I tackled the front garden, it is the most gorgeous cottage style garden, and we won. However, nothing will quite kill off the Pampas Grass, chainsaws, setting fire to it, root killer and still it’s swinging tentacles reappear.

Dad’s suggestion of a morning coffee spot was genius and it’s my favourite place to go when I feel overwhelmed by my to do lists. Dad has also been able to go to the Grandparent’s lunch at the kid’s school and pick them up at hometime as we are nearer, which is special stuff; one of the reasons we moved was to be nearer to each of our parents (not in the on tap childcare sense, but that’s been an added bonus).

My running routes are getting longer and feel quite symbolic of me tackling the new area. I’ve worked out some ways to navigate our lack of pavements and the main road our drive leads onto, and to cope with the inevitable road kill I have to skirt round to reach the hill tops and places which I make my heart sing. Yep, its cheesy, but I have these moments when I am running where I just stop and giggle at how blooming amazing it is to be running in the country. I’ve made some animal running buddies too.

As always with these monthly updates, there is the coming and goings of wildlife to report (alive and dead). Each morning I return from the school run to find the garden full of young pheasants, they are daft as anything and their screeching and flapping scares you out of your mind if you disturb them. I was gutted to run past a dead Tawny Owl on the road this week as I love to listen to their wit wit woos as I snuggle down in bed. His brown speckled feathers caught the October sunshine as his impressive yellow talons lay limp. I really hope that isn’t the end of that beautiful sound, I hope he had friends, but the last two nights have been quiet. Apart that is, from a 4 am chorus which after some googling I can only think was a toad in the pond, no joke, it sounded like a duck quacking, but ducks don’t quack non stop. I saw a Kingfisher in the garden, swooping over the pond, which was pretty mind-blowing, the last time I saw one I was sat in a hide with my dad aged about 10. Dad and I watched a field mouse playing in the front garden for a good ten minutes last week too.

If I could go back and talk to that me that had sleepless nights in Nottingham, worrying about whether making this move was the right thing, about being isolated, kids’ schools, making friends, strange noises in the night, mice and mortgage payments, I would tell her to get on with living and forget the worrying, for this is everything she dreamed of, and more. There is stupid amounts of stuff to do and never enough time, but Staffordshire oatcakes, slightly charred chutney, damson gin and tea in a hammock are the best pick me up when it’s not quite going to plan.

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9 Comments

  1. Thanks for the update! Love reading about country life. The new school sounds fab – how canny is a grandparents lunch!! I might suggest that at our school.

    • Penny Alexander
      06/10/2017 / 11:53 am

      The new school has been a gem of a find in many ways, I think we got really lucky. Grandparent’s lunch sounded great, Dad said the food is so much better than when he was at school in Staffordshire!

  2. 06/10/2017 / 10:41 am

    A wonderful update Penny, so lovely to hear how you’re all doing, and the changes that moving to the country has made to your lives. Look forward to the next one. x

    • Penny Alexander
      06/10/2017 / 11:54 am

      Thanks for popping by Jen, I need to get you over here for some interiors advice, and a proper catch up 😉

  3. 07/10/2017 / 7:39 am

    I think you’re living my dream. I’ll be along for the virtual ride. xxx

    • Penny Alexander
      09/10/2017 / 12:48 pm

      So lovely to be reunited after all these years, coming to catch up on your blog too!

  4. 08/10/2017 / 11:17 am

    Really lovely post Penny. Great words, and all those fab photos complement them perfectly. I’m really happy to hear that you’ve all settled in so well – and it is SUCH a mum thing to make sure that everyone else is happy and calm before making a start on your own space. Before you know it, it’ll be 6 months, and then a year, and then you’ll barely be able to remember what life was like before, but I hope that sense of novelty and wonder at your lovely new lifestyle doesn’t wear off anytime soon. Enjoy the autumn xx

    • Penny Alexander
      09/10/2017 / 12:47 pm

      Aw Ruth, such lovely words and great perspective, thank you. I’m glad I am writing it down as I am starting to look back and see how my feelings are changing! Hope all is well with you xx

  5. 16/01/2018 / 7:28 pm

    oh the donkeys!! your views are breathtaking. Even the bricks of the house are a thing of beauty. You write so beautifully

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