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Country Living 5 Months In: Apocalypse Now

I started planning this series of posts before we moved to the country, and the middle of nowhere, when I’d wake up at 3am petrified by all kinds of crazy things. Terror about mice invasions, crippling loneliness, social isolation, miserable kids and being a taxi service.

I didn’t factor in the apocalypse. But that is exactly what seemed to appear one morning, long before everyone in London had started to point out the weird red sun on facebook. Luckily I wasn’t alone that day, we had friends over and some googling revealed it was a hurricane sun and not the end of the world. Up until that point, I really did wonder whether to dash back and get the kids from school.

It’s five months now since we moved to our hilltop house a couple of miles from the nearest village, I’ll leave you to work out if my pre-move fears were well founded or not.

We’ve started to conquer the barn. It had already been let out as part of the B&B that used to run here, but had been unused for a couple of years so needed some modernising. After months of talking (arguing mainly) we’re really enjoying working on it together. We’ve found a brilliant local joiner and jack of all trades who keeps us on our toes making decisions and offers solutions to any problems we can’t get our head around.

It’s staggering what you can achieve when you decide to stop thinking and start doing. It was overwhelming, frustrating and stressful, but we planned and collected everything for the kitchen in two days flat, and the kitchen and bathroom were installed in nine days.

There’s been one crisis day, where bloodcurdling screams ran across the hills when the B&Q website crashed at the checkout with 36 carefully selected parts of the kitchen in, not just once, but twice. The web user experience was agonising, but their staff in store are utterly brilliant and came to our rescue so many times, even chatting to our builder over the phone.

Friends who came to visit have helped to set up the wood burning stove. Next stop floors and walls.

Glimmers of promise, amid the chaos, it will be worth it for the views…

We’ve been having far too much fun at John Pye auctions, they sell department store end of line and returned stock for bargain prices. Mr A and I snuck out for a thrilling lunch date rummaging the auction lots, before bidding online on some sofas, dishwasher, fridge and a crazy chair.

Meanwhile, thick fog set in up here in the hills over half term, I ended up marooned at home with poorly kids and no car. My SAD began to kick in badly and panic we might have moved to the wrong place for me, plagued by fog on a lonely hilltop. The house is big and harder to heat, the heating has been a bit temperamental. Delivery drivers look at me strangely when I answer the door in a bobble hat or dressing gown over my clothes.

I bought a SAD lamp, made a big effort to get outdoors every day and we bought a second car. I’ve dug out my thick socks, and we’re looking into the most economical ways to heat the place. Now I’m chirpy, just about remembering to get above second gear after years of driving an automatic, and giddy about taking photos of the changing seasons. I think you can really see the seasonal changes happening in the photos from the last month.

As I type this I can hear an owl hooting, the first time I have heard one from inside the house, I’m hoping to get an owl box or two, part of my master plan to attract more wildlife, and to keep the rodents away naturally. My 11 yo rescued two baby shrews from her room,  slow, dozy and easy to catch under a cup.

At the weekend, as we were celebrating Mr A’s birthday with friends, we realised a field mouse was trying to join the party. I think we have a few more holes to fill in, it is a house full of nooks and crannies. I thought I was petrified of mice, but I’m strangely calm about the odd field mouse here. I can’t quite believe I typed that sentence. Although friends saw a stoat in the garden, which is amazing, but I really don’t want him to move in.

We’ve been out and about more too, showing more friends who have been to visit around. My kids started to moan about going to Ilam, which has to be one of the prettiest places in the Peaks, a sure sign they have settled in.

We had an amazing Halloween, trick or treating with friends and parents from their new school and ended up warming up around the kitchen table of new friends. The school bonfire was impressive and really brought the whole village together.


My running slowed down a little with renovations and guests, but I am back on to it and had a glorious run around Carsington reservoir as the mist rose and the sun caught the Autumn trees yesterday. I feel lucky to live here. Cobrafit classes – slinging a 5kg sack around your body – are still awesome fun too.

I had a gorgeous Autumn walk to Chatsworth with Rachel from Mrs Rachel Brady blog last week, we took our dogs Hugo and Max and despite meeting in real life for the first time, totally put the world to rights, and failed to take any photos.

After the bustle of half term, Halloween, Mr A’s birthday and Bonfire night I’m looking forward to hibernating a little and honing my firelighting skills. Although the chimney sweep visited and put the fear of god into me, he works on all the National Trust properties in the area though too, so reassured me anything old can be fixed. He made me promise I wouldn’t ever use the Rayburn in the kitchen, but I’d already made my mind up about that myself.

One of the hardest things about moving is that everyone who sets foot in the house feels they have a licence to tell you what needs doing or what you should do, or what’s missing. That has overwhelmed me at times. We knew this property was a project, I’m still in awe, and excited to have such a beautiful, if complicated, roof over our heads.

It’s taken me a long, long time to write this month’s update, I’m not sure why it was so tricky this month. Perhaps because there has been so much doing and less time to reflect? My energies are going on preparing for Winter, but I am also loving how in tune with the seasons I feel here, I’m excited about Winter.

Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I secretly crave a bit of social isolation, and an evening or two of crippling loneliness wouldn’t be too bad either. I joke, but people automatically assume I must be lonely here, when I’m anything but. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve been lonelier surrounded by people and houses.

Despite fighting SAD, mice, the challenges of kitchen planning and a full-on few weeks, I have no regrets whatsoever about moving. The kids are thriving, Mr A and I are happier than ever. The highs are huge here, and the lows, well, they are simply problems to be solved, with time.

Let me know if you have any questions about moving I haven’t answered and good luck if you are in the process!



  1. We're going on an adventure
    08/11/2017 / 3:40 pm

    Oh Penny you make me want to run away to the hills!

    • Penny Alexander
      17/11/2017 / 11:07 am

      Anytime you want to come and visit…

  2. 09/11/2017 / 3:01 pm

    Lovely to catch up! I know exactly what you mean about feeling more isolated when surrounded by people then when surrounded by place, it’s what I love about heading out to sea. We’re longing to move but our business is keeping us here for a few more years, then I’m heading to the coast, putting down roots and staying there!

  3. midlifesinglemum
    09/11/2017 / 4:02 pm

    It still sounds idyllic. What will you do with the rayburn if you can’t use it?

  4. 13/11/2017 / 2:36 pm

    Oh Penny – I’m so in awe (and if I’m honest – incredibly jealous) of your new countryside life. It all just sounds so lovely there despite the lows if you know what I mean. I look forward to the next monthly instalment and hope that you and your new home keep growing to love each other.

  5. 16/01/2018 / 8:26 pm

    We always have mice. I almost went into labour when one ran across the room. We use peanut butter in traps and have terrier dogs 🙂 shrews though-I think I would have to stop myself putting them in a little box or something. I love these updates and hope Spring will lift everything

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