I remember seeing the landmark self-help title, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway on my Mum’s bedside table and while, like her, I never read the whole book, the title seemed to capture an important life lesson. Much of my life has been about adopting slogans and potted wisdoms borrowed from books I have been too busy to read.
The last month in our new home has been about accepting that ‘with change comes fear and some discomfort’. More importantly, it has been about ‘recognising you need to step out of your comfort zone’ to progress in life. For us, that comfort zone was suburbia, with its street lights, hyper-organised kids’ clubs, corner shops, 24hr flagship Asda, outstanding schools, wine bars and exceptional public transport links.
Er, remind me, why did we decide to move to the country again?
We plumped for the suburbs when I was first pregnant. There was nothing wrong with it at all, I met some incredible people there, I just knew very early on, it just wasn’t for me long term. I really needed to try life in the country. We started to look at villages around Nottingham back then, but the timing or housing market was never quite right, or we got cold feet. So I’d actually been trying to ‘escape’ suburbia for 10 years.
Friends had even bought us leaving gifts before, we’d come so close to moving.
This month we have mainly been facing our fears about winter country life: spiders, mice, rats, SAD, the cold, the dark, breakdowns in remote locations, blizzards, power and heating failures.
Not all of these things have fully realised yet, but the possibility of all has been discussed, often in great detail, including the provision of proper god-awful horror stories often provided by whichever visitor from the town or city (or tradesman) has descended. People who live in the country have stories too of course, but they also come at it from a position of empathy, and experience.
Basically, what I am saying, is, it is winter now, and the countryside is slightly less forgiving than it was when we skipped merrily into our house on the remote hillside in a May heat wave.
But I still have absolutely no regrets.
But I have noticed something.
One thing no one tells you when you make a big house move is that you open yourself up to all and sundry exploring your new life for you. It feels like everyone has an opinion about your new life.
Just for the record, I am not lonely or isolated and we have run out of milk less here than we did in suburbia.
For me, other people’s talk about my fears is sometimes worse than my fears.
Which must, in turn, mean I am becoming less afraid.
And more of a country dweller.
Let us go in; the fog is rising.
I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I blooming knew Winter would be a test. I mentioned the fog was a bit depressing last month. But, that hasn’t been a permanent feature, in fact, we’ve had the most incredible pink sunrises and bold blue skies, even if the daylight is shortlived.
Then the snow fell for the first time, like a great big punctuation mark, I woke up and wondered why I couldn’t see out of the skylight.
The extension felt like a snow globe as the flakes fell and I loved watching the world from our windows. It was perfectly timed for Mr G’s birthday.
Suddenly the world slowed down and we all felt so excited about the Winter again. With the snow came my Dad’s stories of being trapped in a blizzard in the Winter of 79′.
There is no way on earth I want to be stuck on tiny country roads in a snowstorm, so I bought a fold up shovel and bundled torches, blankets and fleeces in the boot as a precaution. A school Dad told me to ‘borrow’ some grit from those boxes by the side of the road, I told you people in the country were full of empathy.
The kids can’t wait for school to be closed for a snow day, and I’m fine with that, as there is no way I am attempting the school run in snow up here.
‘We have a mouse infestation, Grandma,’ said my son casually.
The kids have gleefully told everyone about our mice.
For years I was absolutely terrified of mice after living in a student house where the landlord didn’t sort the problem. They really are unsettling. So I am really pleased our little visitors have been moved along.
Sadly humane traps had very mixed results, often they just knocked them over to get the treats and didn’t get trapped. I also read mice released from humane traps are unlikely to survive anyway.
So, a local firm laid traps inside boxes, this way the dead mice can be left out for the owls and stoats (who would have eaten them anyway eventually), and there is no mess or risk to the kids or dog or other wildlife from poison or traps. It was over within days and we’re told that after a week or so that should be us, mouse free for the winter.
It certainly seems that way.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Dad’s food science background came in useful. Using the same logic he used to ensure factories were mouse proof, we became mouse detectives for a Sunday afternoon. We found and removed an abandoned nest in the boot room, complete with plastic toys the mice had claimed – which made me smile amongst all the stress. There was much shrieking, winding each other up, and sealing up more holes with steel wool and polyfilla.
Meanwhile, my brother’s wife, who grew up in the country, told us tales of her mum’s cats Ronnie and Reggie, and so the next week my daughter began asking around at school to see if she could ‘borrow’ a cat.
We’ve had so much kindness in the playground, from offers of cats, to directions to a farm that sells kittens, even whatsapp images of other’s attempts to catch mice to reassure us we are not alone.
Everything might be breaking, the dishwasher, the chimney, the heating, G’s teeth, but I feel like we’re kicking out silly fears, fixing stuff slowly and really making a difference.
Mister G had an awesome birthday apart from chipping his tooth. Mr A had old friends over for his and we discovered Ashbourne’s pubs and market square took us all back to Macc, our hometown. The kids are happy and loving being in a smaller school.
We have a bath, a gorgeous slipper bath we won at an auction. You can see it over on my instagram – follow there for more daily ponderings on country life.
The barn renovation is coming along nicely too. Although the newly resident heron seems to be swiping the fish, we haven’t seen Jaws in a while.
The heron makes me laugh, by flapping off when I appear and hiding amongst the sheep.
I’m really excited about Christmas here, but I’m realistic, we never achieve half of what we set out to do in December and making it feel like Christmas in a new home seems a little daunting. The house is overspilling with stuff from the barn renovation and the youngest has been bedroom swapping.
It won’t be the most organised Christmas, I’ve already lost track of Country Living’s suggestions for things to do each day in December. I’ve almost switched off from social media where it all feels like Christmas is unfolding too quickly. My daughter is the only one who is organised.
I got up from my desk earlier, after being totally engrossed in my work, and as I walked out to the car to pick the kids up, and drove across the hills, I pinched myself again.
I’ve totally felt the fear and done it anyway this month.
Let me know if you have any questions about moving house, moving schools, moving kids, moving area, moving to the country, I will try and answer them next time.