With midsummer here at last, I’ve been wondering if we have been touched by a bit of that good old midsummer magic of late. Don’t worry we weren’t last seen dancing naked at dawn around a stone circle or joining a load of druids on a pilgrimage to mark the summer solstice. (Although, Jerry swears he was on the 18:23 from Waterloo with Druid Arthur Uther Pendragon on Friday night). No, nothing all ‘Glasto’ drastic as that. However, trundling along the parish boundaries in an ancient village church tradition to bless the fields and the beauty of our little patch of countryside, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Jerry and I had gone native, dear Reader. In a month or two, it will be the anniversary of our first year here and it is difficult to imagine us anywhere else these days. Continue reading
What a busy few weeks it has been! Harvest celebrations, dinner parties in the village, Primrose’s birthday, her party complete with farm animals in our garden and a hilarious moment in the dark changing a Land Rover tyre with Jerry and one of the villagers…… I am definitely ready for a rest in the dark with a large gin and tonic, dear Reader!
Autumn is rushing around too it would seem! Our little landscape is changing again and walks have become muddier and leaf-strewn. Everywhere you look, you can see that the harvest has well and truly been brought in. Gathering with all the villagers to celebrate the bounty in a neighbour’s barn, Jerry, Primrose, Poppy and I felt rather like we had stepped into ‘dreams of foregone times’ last week. Hops hanging from the ceiling, checked tablecloths and wine flowing, homemade shepherd’s pies made by the ladies of the village (and of course, yours truly) as well as crumbles galore, the whole village sat together following the Sunday service to eat, drink and generally make merry! A time honoured tradition, made even more special by the whole village singing “Happy Birthday” to Primrose. Primrose was mortified, slumping further and further down her chair until she was almost under the table! Poor love! Mind you, Primrose wasn’t the only one to blush with embarrassment that day. Asked by the village harvest committee to create a floral display for one of the church windows, I had no idea of the brief and ended up creating a rustic autumnal wreath to sit amongst a sea of really rather elegant blooms. One villager called it ‘charming’. I wondered if this was village vernacular was ‘a pile of old rubbish’. However, I did at least manage to make it all from things in our garden and although it wasn’t the most beautiful tribute to the harvest in the church, it did have a bit of Margot charm. Well, at least Jerry and the girls thought so!
Best of all, was the amazing haul of vegetables we were given as we left the harvest lunch. The village is awash with fantastic kitchen gardens, orchards and flower gardens. I shall to have to up my game seriously for next year. Squash, artichokes, potatoes, courgettes, purple and orange carrots….I could hardly carry my handbag as it was brimming with veg! Dear Reader, I had no idea that pattypans really existed outside of Beatrix Potter but here they are..
From harvests and growing your own food……we even managed to parade (albeit briefly) as a smallholding for Primrose’s birthday party. 2 donkeys, 2 goats, 2 pigs, 2 sheep, 2 turkeys, 2 bantams, 2 call ducks, a mini colony of guinea pigs and rabbits and one extremely well behaved dog (note, dear Reader, that it was most certainly not Monty, who was kept inside for fear of him devouring a duck). A veritable mini Noah’s Ark and all in OUR GARDEN! A huge hit with children and grown ups alike. I was happy to play farmer’s wife and it did get me thinking about how marvellous it might be to rear a pig next year when we are a little more settled. Jerry nearly had a coronary when he heard the farmer who brought the livestock to the cottage, saying that he would happily give us the Kune Kune weaners he had brought that day. Apparently they do make the most delicious sausages! Considering that I have finally managed to persuade Jerry to let me have some chickens, I think that asking for a pig for Christmas might be a step too far. For now, dear Reader, for now…….!
Dear Reader, I bet you thought I had vanished into the ether or had stumbled down a ditch! Well it has certainly felt like it over the last week! We left the Big Smoke a week ago now and to be honest, life could NOT be more different. Everything is rather lovely here and Jerry, Primrose, Poppy and I keep having to pinch ourselves as it all seems too good to be true. It is every bit the rural idyll we hoped it would be. It was distinctly odd saying goodbye to the cottage but rather surprisingly I didn’t shed a tear (and I am well-known for being a tad gushy with the old water works). Perhaps that was because the time was right for us to go? The cottage seemed so small without all of our clutter and shutting the door, Jerry and I were more than happy to skip off into the sunset to try and retrieve the keys for our new countryside manor.
Boxes piled high in the ‘new’ cottage, Jerry and I spent our first night eating bread and cheese and drinking champagne from the girls’ plastic beakers. Utterly exhausted but very happy indeed. It wasn’t until Day 2 that I remembered what my lovely friend Bee had said to me about how I would feel in my first week. Then the sudden realisation hit me that there was an EXTRAORDINARY amount of unpacking to do, that the puppy still needed to be walked, girls still needed to be fed and that I was amidst farmland with no phone, no internet and no mobile signal as BT had crossed our lines with a dear old lady in the village who was housebound and now unable to use her phone too! Apparently the countryside has no need for that new fangled invention: the internet or indeed a phone line! So I can tell you, dear Reader, that I have so far spent the week unpacking boxes, yelling at BT, organising where everything is going to go, yelling at BT, shouting at the computer and phone, more yelling at BT….I am sure you get the gist, dear Reader. Margot without the internet it would seem spells mini breakdown. This combined with Monty the dog shredding a 12 pack of loo rolls, eating one of Jerry’s shoes, making himself sick gobbling up a dead mouse found in the lane, the girls refusing to go to bed because they want to watch the sunset from their bedroom window , the fridge and washing machine being too large to fit in the utility room despite being the standard size and did I mention no internet ?! To be honest, there is not enough gin in the world that could have mollified my black mood.
HOWEVER…..with every cloud comes a silver lining……..I can wholeheartedly say that never a truer word was said as we have been truly welcomed into the village with open arms. Villagers have left cards and bunches of flowers, invitations to drinks and all have greeted with the warmest of smiles and firm handshakes. The postman even ventured that he thought we would bring some much needed life to the village. So we may not be totally unpacked, we may not have any telecommunications (I am posting this from the top of our nearest hill as hanging out of the bedroom window was deemed a bit too dangerous by Jerry) BUT we all LOVE it here and feel very very much at home. Big Smoke – where’s that?! Our adventures in the countryside have just begun…..!
Last weekend saw the Margot and Jerry brood visit the new digs in the countryside. The current owners (a very sweet couple who have lived there for 13 years) invited us down to measure up and chat about the village. With only 30 houses and a church, it is a close community and everyone knows each other. I didn’t spy any twitching curtains but I was sure we were being vetted for our suitability! Jerry and I fell in love with the house and our new hamlet all over again and it was useful to talk through some of the practicalities of village life! No mains gas or mains sewerage certainly will take some getting used to and I was thoroughly grateful for all the advice given on cess pits (it’s a whole other world having the contents of the loo in your garden!) and oil fired heating.
From loos to locals, Sunday lunch proved a success too as we tested out the nearest pub in the next village along. Anywhere that can accommodate a small puppy and 2 little ones is a wonder in my book – there don’t seem to be many child friendly pubs in the countryside so this was a gem of a find and only a mile from the house! Jerry and I could see ourselves propping up the bar happily or enjoying a swift half on a Sunday after church. Everyone was very friendly and people actually said “Good afternoon” to each other – we were definitely far from London! So far so good….village life was looking idyllic!
Well, dear Reader, we must have passed muster as we have FINALLY exchanged contracts on the new house! Champagne all round! Immense relief washed over us like a tsunami when we finally heard the news and both solicitor and agent contacted us to let us know that all was set for completion. Jerry and I have been grinning like Cheshire cats ever since! In 6 weeks’ time, we will be surrounded by boxes in the ‘new’ (well actually rather old…17th century) cottage in rural Hampshire. Is the village ready for Margot and her capers? Most certainly not. Are we all set for leaving the Big Smoke? Well, with a view like this literally a few yards from our front door, how could we not be ready to move to the country?!
Making a mad dash from London to Hampshire for a meeting at Primrose’s new school one evening last week, I had one precious hour in the car to contemplate life, the universe and new kitchens. Having sold our house in the Big Smoke, we are waiting for solicitors to let us know when all is set with the new ‘cottage’. Moving is tantalisingly close now yet still we are in limbo. Patience I know, dear Reader, is required…. However, I am ready to get packing and start carving up kitchen cabinets and fitting an Everhot! Bombing down the M3 with music blaring, I was lost in these very thoughts as I passed field upon field of glorious oil seed rape all sunshine and dayglow yellow in the evening light.
Turning off the motorway, driving through windy lanes and then up the long school driveway, I wondered what Primrose’s new school might have in store for me that evening. Stepping into a room filled with exceptionally well turned out mummies, I quickly breathed a sigh of relief that I had decided to leave my Barbour in the car. Thank goodness I had also dusted the cobwebs off my Portobello Market ‘Mulberry‘ handbag. Where were the ladies in wellies and tweed? This was, after all, a countryside school. A sea of double barrelled surnames rather than shotguns….I felt cheated, dear Reader. Talk turned to our relocation, choice of village and profession and I felt instantly sidelined – a ‘townie’ in their midst. What was I doing? I was never going to fit in in the countryside if these über-mums were anything to go by. Everyone seemed to live within ten minutes of the school and they all knew each other in that rather annoying “Do you remember when little Johnny did such and such at the May day fair?“. It was like being on the set of Mean Girls. Where was the industrial sized gin when I needed it?! Suddenly I could see that our school run of 25mins each way would probably result in no one wanting to come and play with Primrose after school. Too late to do anything about it now though…..as we were about to exchange on our new house and Jerry was set on living a 15 minute drive away from the best commuter station. I drove back to London and went straight to bed, convinced that moving to the countryside was all a massive mistake.
To make matters worse, Primrose had her own wobble the following morning and decided that she wasn’t going to move. Tears and wailing ensued and cries of “You and Daddy are very mean taking me from all my friends…” Our usual morning chit-chat was replaced with sniffs and blowing of noses as I tried gallantly to save the situation and talk up the advantages of having a bigger garden. Neither of us were convinced to be honest, dear Reader. Nursery drop off completed (tears at the door for the first time), I armed myself with strong coffee and the advice of some very sweet friends and headed off to the park with Poppy and the pup. Woodpeckers, bluebells, a serene herd of deer, giggly toddler and a happy hound…..amazing how a good walk and the sights and sounds of nature at its best can restore a troubled soul. Just enjoying moments looking, listening and being able to marvel at all the things which somehow the hustle and bustle doesn’t allow time for. The countryside makes you want to slow down, take stock and enjoy the simpler things in life, like a good walk. With that mantra firmly in hand, I decided that I was not going to let a little wobble about moving stand in our way, nor the cast of Mean Schoolmums either! Turned out that Primrose had had a change of heart too as she skipped out of the nursery doors with a drawing of our new house in Hampshire in her hand………and despite our little wobbles, we are both smiling about our new life in the countryside.