Sunday, 31 January 2010

Cat Flaps and Chinese Food.....

The dog-doo was delicious, thanks for asking!

Talking of poo, I can no longer tolerate the kittens potty training in the house. I had invested in a lavatory for felines from the store that should be re-named, 'You love your pets so much that you will be blind to our' But the pong is unacceptable so....OUT! OUT! OUT I SAY!

We are now the proud owners of a cat flap. How cool is that? Husband spent an age in the store reading the back of packets. Did you know, of course you did, that there are some cat flaps that magically open up just for your precious kitties?....Some sort of computer chip tells the flap that this is his/her home. No bringing pals over, no chickens popping in to warm up in the kitchen, just your cats! We bought the cheap one; it opens, it closes! Cool.

Posting the cats in and out of the cat flap has been fun also....

On a completely different note, I have to confess I have fallen off the wagon....1 glass of wine Friday, 2 glasses of wine Saturday!! In order to have a good week next week I am sitting here finishing the bottle! What a saint I am! To Sarah, a friend with will power who lasted the whole of January I say,'I am not worthy to wash your feet.' MANTRA: *Monday to Friday I will not drink. Monday to Friday I will not drink. Monday to Friday I will not drink.... *Exception: Book Club on Wednesday.

Last night, Saturday night, I thought I'd have a night 'off' so to speak. I'm a bit of a cook on the sly (just ignore the poo incident in previous blog) and like to menu plan during the week; spaghetti bolognaise, roast duck and mash potatoes, chicken thighs wrapped in bacon, slow cooker lamb, to name but a few. On Saturday I thought I'd get a take-away meal from Tesco, delivered with my usual order on a Friday. I chose a Ken Hom (he's on the telly don't you know, AND he's brilliant at cooking chinese food, mainly because he IS Chinese.) The take-away was revolting. I could detect no chinese flavours at all! Put it this way; when we could eat no more we scraped the spring rolls and egg fried rice into a dish for the chickens. (We binned everything else.) Then we set about putting the kids to bed and when we came back downstairs an hour later, the cats hadn't touched the left-over food which was exposed on the kitchen table. THAT IS A VERY BAD SIGN!

My advice: Cook it yourself or go to an authentic take-away restaurant. Ken Hom - you ought to be ashamed!

Thursday, 28 January 2010


For those of you familiar with Nigella Lawson, or Slapper Jenkins as I like to call her, ( you will know that she makes great food even if it is a little naughty on the hips! Today I tried to copy her version of Rocky Road which looks great in her book. OK I didn't exactly have ALL the ingredients, but what mum does? I rifled through my cupboards substituting cashew nuts for brazils, (who likes brazil nuts anyway!? Oh, you do. Sorry, clean out today!) Dark chocolate got changed to milk chocolate....milk, see that's even good for you. I actually had mini marshmallows and I decided I'd go a bit off-piste with some crushed Crunchie Bars (how that honeycomb and chocolate made it passed my mouth is a complete mystery!)

Anyway I mixed it all up and the result was......domes of dog-doo. De-li-cious!

Rain drops on roses......

So excited, I saw snowdrops this morning in the school grounds; onion green leaves and tiny white bowed heads. Unmistakable. Spring is on its way.

Last night when I picked the children up from school the five year old was tired and grumpy. I passed him the DS and he played with his friends Mario and Sonic in a Winter Olympic wonderland while we sped through the snowless countryside. The seven year old said she felt car sick so I opened her window. Not wanting to be outdone, the five year old (without looking up from his game) said, 'I'm sick too, can you open my window?' I suggested he may be feeling unwell because he was playing DS in the car but he was quick to correct me, (again without looking up.) 'I'm car sick, not Sonic sick!' Lippy, very lippy that one.

We've got a fabric box filled with cottons and silks. Grandma gave it to me thinking I might create Von Trapp style creations for my brood. Wrong! Yesterday evening the seven year old raided the stash without asking. Later I found her with scissors and a naked grumpy five year old in her bedroom. She had lured him into her room under false pretences telling him she would make him a superhero costume. Unfortunately it turned out she was making him a Captain Underpants costume and he was none too pleased. (I knew I shouldn't have read her that book! Back to Harry Potter tonight.) He was stood with his arms folded over his tummy a pink cape secured at his neck with red wool. His eyes said 'Rescue me!' and, believe me I would have rescued him, if only he hadn't been lippy in the car. As I left the room she was quite dominant. 'Stand still! I've got to staple your underpants on now.....' Will the air ambulance get here in time I wonder?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Raised beds

Husband made me some raised beds in October or November. They are all constructed from reclaimed scraps of wood he found around the site. I must finish filling them with soil in the next couple of weeks in order to begin planting in March. I'm going to enjoy using this Blog to document changes in the garden, successes and failures.

The chickens are doing a good job, they have guzzled slugs and snails. Mind you, they don't care what they uproot to get to them so I'll need to create some protective domes for seedlings. I don't mind those kinds of tasks, spring is definitely the best season. Imagine the edible produce for our summer and autumn meals. I may even enter the village fete which has a 'best in class' for veg. Steady on now girl!!!!

This will be the first spring in the garden. Already I can see buds appearing on plants that I do not recognise. It will be fantastic to see things emerge and bloom.

Well, must go. Off over Clee Hill again to collect the children. Wonder what the view will be like this afternoon?

[Update 2014: 5 years on and our new website is launched here come visit us online.]

Sunday, 24 January 2010

My guilty little pleasure....

On her last visit to The Larches, The Entrepreneur looked at me in a concerned way and implored; 'Don't go feral here will you?' This was purely because I'd mentioned that I couldn't find my Epilady. Maybe she thought I'd grow hair to my knees in the country air!

Several weeks on from that conversation (no hair showing yet) and 15 miles in distance I have discovered shops....(nervous giggle.) There's a big Tesco. When I say big, I don't mean by superstore standards but it does stock a few clothes, has a cafe and pharmacy and way more food lines than the quaint Tesco in Ludlow! There's a tiny Department store in the town too. I walked in and was greeted by the familiar sparkle and aroma of the make-up and perfume dept. I've missed those girls, those sun kissed, pouty-lipped advisors on skin tone and blush.

Sadly I was only shopping for rugby boots and wellingtons, but hey, it's shopping!

Seeing myself in the bright store mirrors reminded me that I really must start paying attention to my appearance. In the past, throwing on a pair of old jeans, strapping into a Rigby and Peller and slapping on a bit of lipstick was all that was required. At 44, I'm still attempting this but unfortunately I now look like Tracey Emin's Bed. I desire to look 'interesting' rather than 'deranged.' A re-think is required.

So far I'm on day 8 of the 'drain your system of alcohol' experiment. Feeling good actually, spurred on by a tiny bit of weight loss and good sleep (thank you children.) I really never expected to last a week. I have drawn up another 21 days on my white board....hmmmmm, we'll see....

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The view

The view from the top of Clee Hill is awesome. Allegedly you can see 5 counties from the summit. We are treated to a different view each day on school run and often the fog in the valley looks like cotton candy. We've named the roaming fog-world 'The Kingdom,' our own Narnia.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


I'm being bullied. I mentioned to the kittens that fresh air would do them good but as I type they are meowing sadly, sitting just outside the kitchen window on Santa's strategically-placed sleigh. Using our Christmas decorations against us is really low. (Don't judge me, it's still only January.) Beneath the sleigh lurk 9 chickens. They clearly can't be arsed to move a bit of snow to find a frozen worm. They're probably thinking 'Where's that woman with the bad hair do and bushy eyebrows? We want corn.'

Yesterday the Entrepreneur called to say she couldn't visit for the weekend as planned. She has taken a bit of a 'turn' and needs to see a doctor. A wonderful friend, a businesswoman, a sportswoman, I'd arranged for her to shoot with a gang of farmer friends this weekend. She would have enjoyed their banter, held her own. I want her pronounced well immediately. Back to feeling herself; creative, ferocious and strong.

Her rushed words over a poor mobile connection reminded me to slow down. I was getting my proverbial knickers in a twist about the snow, house mess, the kids, my book. IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER, DOES IT?

I've decided to try something; I'm going to carry a little bottle of water with me and every time something annoys, frustrates or attempts to screw up my plans, I am going to take a sip of water. In my grumpy state I could drink my body weight each day.

I'm on day three of no alcohol too. My body has been abused over Christmas, (don't call the police, I did the abusing) so I think a month off will do me good and maybe lose me some poundage!


Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Oh my goodness it's back.........

Snowed in again, therefore no school. Even husband had to turn around and come back home this morning. I am slightly desperate now and have considered working out school fees per day in order to see how much a day off costs! Bitter and twisted again.

The five year old was sad because his class was going to learn about police cars today, sooooooooo.....we made a really cool paper police car courtesy of NZ Police Dept. (You can too.)

I must confess to be desperate for a routine week.

Anyone know a rain dance?

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

My eggs are huge today....

Wit-ta-woo my eggs are big today, well not my eggs but those of my chickens! Must be all the extra corn I gave them during the Siberian spell.

I've woken up old today. Someone must have sneaked into my house in the night and hit me in the back with a cricket bat. I'm walking a little lob-sided. My hair desperately needs cutting and my eyebrows need harvesting. Let's not discuss any other hair areas as it's lunch time (in this part of the blogisphere.)

On a positive note I managed to get the babes into school by 8am. Daughter asked if she could board at school, aparently it's all the rage with her friends. I had mixed feelings, first; obviously, I'd really miss her, second; that room might finally get tidy. It's not an option anyway, I'd have to sell a body part in order to pay for it.

After drop off I drove to Ludlow.
A beautiful little town, nay gastro-centre, where the proper butcher resides. The tiny shop, enough room for maybe three customers, is filled with merry singing butchers. Murder victims hang on hooks street side; pheasants and bunnies fully furred and feathered. I bought lots of good stuff and now have a beef brisket gently bubbling in the slow cooker. Smug, smug, smug - dinner's done.

Monday, 18 January 2010

The cattle came

It's quiet today. The children are back at school, thanks to warm rain washing away the snow. Husband is at work, kittens are asleep on a cushion at my feet. Out through the window I can see several of the chickens scratching away at the earth. I'm back to work too, editing a children's book, but I'll take a quick break to reminisce about this past Autumn.

As you know, we bought The Larches just over four months ago and it was in a bit of a state - a project is the polite term. We knew we needed to cut the fields and the hedges desperately needed three years growth removed. Being new I asked around to find a hedge-cutter and was rewarded with a telephone number. Trying to telephone a farmer in August is useless - they're out and about till way past bedtime. They know the winter is on it's way. I asked neighbours for his mobile number but they just laughed.

One day I spied his enormous green tractor down a grassy track, a cutting blade shredding someones hedge. I’ll never know if he saw me immediately or whether he just thought it amusing that a high-heeled woman had to chase his tractor for almost a mile. Its fair to say that he is a little past his dancing days, with wild long white hair and twinkly eyes. A font of knowledge. He agreed to cut our hedges.

I swaggered indoors and bravely phoned the local beef farmer to ask if we could borrow his cows to eat down our fields. I was on a roll; he agreed too.

The day fifty cows arrived was thrilling. They stampeded on to the land, bull, cows, calves calling to one another, upset to be on unfamiliar territory. Beautiful shades of brown, cream, black and white charged this way and that. If it hadn’t been for the farmer, his wife and sons calming them, I think they would have broken through the fences and run home. The herd stayed for a few weeks and ate everything in sight, enthralling the then four year old with their anal explosions.

In late Autumn the scenery from our sash windows began to change. The wild summer meadows were replaced by neatly eaten fields and squared hedges while the woodland behind the pasture began to turn to coppery hues. Its a wonderful view.

Sunday, 17 January 2010


We got two rescue kittens on Christmas Eve. Brothers, they were abandoned, left to fend for themselves in a cardboard box. We love them, they are our new babies. The chickens are less in love. Tiger-like, low to the ground, Benny and Tabby hunt together. They stalk and chase and upset chickens scatter. I'm assured they couldn't bring one down so I leave the hunters to their delusion.

We thought we'd lost both of them yesterday. A friend came to visit with a little gun dog. Well trained, he didn't bark or attack, he just give the kittens a nasty look. Hours later, using strong torches, we found them in the attic barn. Fluffy and sad.

When the children go to sleep, husband and I watch the evening show. Up the curtains, round the sofa, tiny and ferocious, our kittens charge at one another intent on dangerous play then flop to sleep on us. I'm pleased we found them, our house is nicer than a cardboard box.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

It's melting, it's melting

I really think the worst is over. The sun is out and I can actually hear the thaw! Flooding next, said the bitter and twisted 44 year old!

'Happy Birthday Mummy,' said the five year old. 'You're fourteen today.' Daughter had set out a beautiful breakfast. In the centre of the table sat a tiny hand-made marzipan cake with a candle. I did enjoy my breakfast although I feel guilty confessing that all through the meal I was trying to think of a plan to avoid eating the cake. I'd overheard husband saying to daughter 'Don't let the cats lick your fingers while your making mummy's cake!' Still, if I get ill I may lose weight. There's always a silver lining.

Tesco couldn't reach the house today. We followed the delivery driver back up our drive, down our lane which is actually a bridlepath and out along the little road. We were very resourceful, pulling sledges along behind us to collect our order from the van. The child labour came in handy, bearing in mind they're still not at school.

I must have been slightly depressed when I ordered our provisions, forgetting milk was a bit daft. All the other major food groups were covered in sensible proportions; Chocolate 35% of order, Alcohol 35%, Protein, Carb, Veg and household supplies 30%.

Laura-Hen's looking a bit cold and bedraggled today. She's shivering too. I took the seven year old aside: 'She may be ill, she might die.' She looked into my eyes. 'Can we bury her?' I suggested we might wait till she was actually dead! I made a mental note not shiver or to lie still in the vicinity of daughter.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Happy Birthday to me....tomorrow

We have been snowed in all day and it is still snowing. The children and I built an igloo when husband got loud, discussing business on the phone! We are trapped: The thing is, 7 miles away there is a big'ish road, it's slushy but acceptable. Unfortunately, our cars can't make it the 'rural' 7 miles to that road. Have I mentioned we need a 4x4?

As I write the husband is lying on the five year old's bed giving him some life coaching. He is discussing how to avoid the girls that try to kiss you. There is a five year old cutie in my boy's class who pursues him, wanting to kiss him. She's got good taste, I want to kiss him! The trouble is you've got to catch him first. My husband has no expert knowledge in the art of avoiding kisses. Truth be told I've caught him and kissed him loads of times, he doesn't even struggle!

Tomorrow I am 40 something or other.....I had dreamt of popping the kids into school, a haircut, maybe a bit of shopping. The snow has caused me to restructure my day! If we are all snowed in again it will be a box of hair colour and a reckless spree with Amazon. Let you know tomorrow!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Getting back to normal...

This morning we made it to school (mainly because I begged husband to drive.) The 14 mile journey is usually stunning, running through gorse and fern downs and up and over a prehistoric volcano dotted with fluffed up sheep. This morning all were awash with cold white Christmas cake icing.

The children seemed relieved to be back to routine - bored with our company. We kissed them and sped to an oil depot to pick up 200 litres of heat and hot water and sanity which we will have to manually pour into our oil tank. Heading home, oil and bulk chicken food combined to make a heady smell in my car.

The final problem was to extract husband's silly car from it's igloo. We tried and failed, even with my digging skills so there was nothing for it but to beg: A nursery man neighbour - a grower of Christmas trees, fruit trees and ornamentals came with his pea-green low-loader to drag the unwilling German to the road. Kind tree-man then pointed his metal scoop close to the floor, shovelling tons of snow from the drive and lane. He was awarded a trophy - Shiraz flavoured.

Husband is free, he will leave us now to go to his office far, far away where adults buy my country eggs and converse in adult speak. We will await the next disaster that generally occurs when he goes away!

Back to the olden days..

The ploy over lunch didn't work so yesterday I found myself alone on the drive digging the cars out. I was going to complain, shouting through the window at the warm family, until I realised that I was quite enjoying the white solitude. It would be good for me and would ensure children would be at school tomorrow.

Husband materialised later to let me know that we have no oil - the stuff that magically makes everything work in the house. No heating or hot water tonight. Deep joy, not! Happily he has ordered some...hurrah for husband. The delivery will occur a week on for husband!

I insisted we eat dinner by candlelight. I'm not sure why I did this but I may have been inspired by the open fires and lack of heat anywhere out of range of said fires. The downstairs loo is particularly bracing and would seriously benefit from a heated loo seat! The children were intrigued, but not in a good way. 'I can't see my dinner,' commented the seven year old. 'This is how they ate in the olden days,' I explained, 'before they had invented lights. In fact, before they had even invented TV.' They looked at me as if I was making this up, surely there has always been TV! 'Mummy?' enquired the five year old. 'Do you remember the dinosaurs?' Can you withhold pudding for comments like that?

Monday, 11 January 2010

White stuff...everywhere

As I appear to be forced to educate my children at home, I am wondering whether there are any 'valuable life lessons' in the movie Ratatouille. Disney Home Education - brilliant!

We did try to get to school, believe me WE TRIED! Up at 6.40am, dressed in uniform, school bags, PE kits bulging, shoes in bags and wellingtons on we crunched to the car. Funnily enough it was husband who seemed more determined to get everything back on track. I was resigned to the fact that we were doomed.

Last night I looked out the window. It was melting, it hadn't snowed, my life would be back tomorrow. No more relentless catering, yeah! But the snow pixies heard me and dumped a load of white stuff when I was trying to sleep. I say trying to sleep because the five year old has been relentless in this cold snap. He knows where the warmth is and it's in mummy and daddy's bed. He arrives almost every night at an ungodly hour. Sometimes we are so tired we don't notice his lovliness wiggling in. We wake to blond curls and the loving phrase 'Phew-ee your breath smells.' Bless.

Grizzly Adams (Aka The Husband) has decreed that 'regardless of the bloody weather' he is going to work tomorrow and we are going to school. Therefore, the family (enforced labour more like) are being tasked with removing the offending snow-drift from the 50 yard concrete driveway. This will occur immediately after lunch. Ha, I have a plan. Lunch is going to be a gastro feast, Heston-like, I am going to serve 15 courses and alcohol!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

More snow.....oh goody!

A snow blizzard is burying us. The chickens look unamused. Weather-wise it looks as if we'll be hunkered down till Spring. I've mentioned to the chickens that I'm watching egg production, anyone not pulling her weight may be invited to Sunday lunch! This doesn't include Laura-Hen as the children would never speak to me again.

What's really concerning (for my santity) is that after a month of Christmas holidays, school is looking doubtful for Monday. Walking out into the bleak midwinter seems a tempting option; trailing across the fields in my pjs muttering 'I may be some time.'

Thursday, 7 January 2010


It's so cold I've had to microwave my red wine.

Today the five year old went abseiling. While I mopped the kitchen floor after a kitten vomited, he threw his beautiful body over the staircase. He had considered safety: He was holding onto the skipping rope which was secured to a banister by his sister. He is now sitting on the sofa with frozen peas on his foot. When they defrost I may make soup.

The joys of motherhood.

Snow bound not egg bound

Yesterday we were snowed in and the chickens went on strike only supplying 1 lousy egg. Luckily husband had decided to work from home, so no ill could possibly befall us. I was a domestic goddess even attempting bread. The bread was a disaster but the smell was great. The chickens are far less fussy than my family and loved the bread.

We survived the whole day, although five year old son couldn't quite fathom why Daddy couldn't play computer games all day. 'Come on Dad,' he said. 'No,' said patient father. 'I have to work.' 'But you're the boss, so you don't need to work.' My husband believes I instill these lax ideas.

Being kindly, Husband set two of the open fires and warmth began to defrost the inside of the house. Just as I was beginning to get reacquainted with my toes, the six year old who is now seven, decided to play with my sharpest knife and a magnet!

I know we've been at The Larches since the end of August and I've thought of registering with a GP but something always seemed to get in the way. We've got one now!

The drive to the nearest little town was hair-raising, we so need a 4x4. I wondered if I could ask the GP for a quick fix of Prozac for the journey home. The cut on daughter's finger was just short of requiring stitches so we didn't need to drive the additional 30 miles to the hospital. We made it home after dark, leaving the the car parked at the top of the drive at a jaunty angle!

Another job ticked off the monumental list!

Bitchin' in an ice ditch

Monday 4th January 2010.
Slid and got the car stuck in an ice ditch today, a butch farmer pulled me out with his tractor. Apparently the Shropshire ice cap should melt by February after which it will rain for 6 months - all according to the farmer! The four year old who is now the five year old was in the back of the car watching A Knights Tale (PG - I was desperate). It must be a good film as he didn't notice our dilemma and only got cross when I restarted the engine and the telly turned off.

Some incidents are best not explained to the husband but when the farmer asked me where the tow hook was and I looked blank I was forced to call him. Luckily I had my mobile with me, unfortunately it hadn't been charged since last year. I borrowed the farmer's phone and left a very terse message which ended not in 'I hate you for no reason,' but with a better sentence; ' I WISH you'd answer your phone!'

The tractor's tow rope went taut around the back axel (I have no idea what I just wrote there I'm just repeating what the farmer said) and we were pulled backwards from the ravine - slight exageration.

That night husband was victorious; 'I can't leave you guys for a moment can I? Something always happens when I go away.' I loath the fact that this is true.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The neighbours and the land

10th September 2009.
Today I met two neighbours and a future neighbour; a builder, who has bought the cottage and land along the lane. I say neighbours, you can't exactly chat over the fence unless you're prepared to walk a bit.

One neighbour is a farmer. He's to the point. He said 'Yer hedges are a mess, yer land is worse. Yer needs to get cattle in.' We didn't get much more from him except to offer his opinion that the last owners were idiots who frittered away money. 'Well,' I assured him, 'We won't be like that. We've got no money now we've bought this house!' 'Shame,' he repled 'thought I was livin' next t'millionaires.' Then he walked off.

The next neighbours are fab. Fellow drinkers I'd say, we'll be friends whether they like it or not!

The builder-neighbour came and laughed at my poo-smelling utility room. He assured us it will be transformed by Christmas. I'm relieved because currently it makes me retch and we have to open the window to throw the spin dryer's extraction hose out. I imagine that this won't be wildly practical in winter.

We have six stables in an American Barn. We have no pets and certainly no horses. I have no plans to get horses unlike my six year old. A lonely horse lives in one of our fields; a tenant from the previous owners. He comes with owners who bake us cakes and who pay weekly dues. His owner gave me the telephone number of Land Man: 'He can do anything.' she said.

Land Man is wiry, strong, ten years my junior. He drives a pickup and has chocolate brown labradors. He knows about land and livestock. He will cut the fields but suggests I get cattle in first. (I'm wondering whether they all expect me to buy a herd. Is there such a thing as a cow-shop?) He has given me the number of the best hedge-cutter in the land. Land Man will harrow our menage. I am learning a whole new language.

[Update 2014: 5 years on and our new website is launched here come visit us online.]

The Tree Surgeons

Tuesday 8th September. Four rugged men were standing on my drive beside their cherry picker when I returned home from school run. They will strip the house of it foliage and murder roots. They are professionals - they belong to the Arboricultural Association. I don't mess around.

I fed and watered the workers all day so that they wouldn't wander off. By the end of the day the house was naked, the bonfire pile in Home Field was enormous and I was out of food. I handed over a wad of cash and they left. The site was spotless. Wow.

The naked house is a green colour and there are huge cracks in the brickwork. Delightful. I think I preferred it hairy.

School starts - D-Day

Monday 7th September School holidays are officially ended. I failed miserably in the non-gushing department although I had brushed my hair and applied blush (couldn't find my lipstick). The four year old tried to cling to me as his blond teacher, who is twelve, held her arms out to him. I was resolute. Daddy was more emotional, especially when he saw the six year old's teacher! He grew up in Hereford and it turns out he thinks he went to sixth form with The Body. Typical.

School uniform

Thursday 3rd September. We three went to the uniform shop. The four year old starts in Reception and will be forced to wear grey shorts till he is eight, summer and winter! The six year is restricted to skirts and pinafores. She is unhappy as she wore trousers in Oxfordshire. The shop resides permanently in a room at school, handy for the boarders. I met lots of mothers and carefully wrote all their telephone numbers down on the back of my cheque book alongside their daughter or son's name. Didn't actually need the chequebook as everything goes on your account, carefully written out by a Grace Brothers employee. Clearly the shock comes later.

Everyone seems really nice. The six year old's teacher is really cool, very feisty, probably my age. I instantly like her. She wore leopard skin or zebra-stripe reading glasses and displayed the body I wanted. Can't wait to deliver my babies to school on Monday. Freedom!

I have been contemplating not being me at school. I tend to gush and a very good friend, The Entrepreneur, has previously described me as 'giddy:' Aged 43 this is possibly a bad thing. I will hang back, assess the other mothers. I will be cool, always brush my hair and wear makeup (if I ever find it) so as not to frighten them off. Good plan.

Rural unpacking

1st September 2009. I have been abandoned. All extra adults have left The Larches, including husband who has retreated to work. They have left me with two children who can't stop saying; 'Can we watch television?' even though the sun is out, they have 15 acres of meadows, various dens in the arboretum that doubles as our garden, a tenant horse, a million rabbits and 3 hopeful rat-traps in the attic.

I am unpacking. It is a rubbish job. Over the past two years I single-handedly kept an Oxfordshire charity shop in business with the amount of nonsense I gave them. Why then is there still so much stuff packed into these boxes? Our last house was half the square footage of this house so how have we more than filled it? I think I'm tired, even though it's only about 10.30am. I wonder if it's too early for vodka and whether vodka and orange would pass as a morning drink?

In a utility room that smells of stale dog poo I find a laminated card. It is worrying; telling me that in the event of an emergency I will need to call the air ambulance to tell them my map coordinates, these are helpfully inscribed on the card. I realise that in the event of an emergency, we are all going to die.

After I have said no to television for the nth time the small people storm off. Some time later when I am trying to break into a reception room filled with boxes I realise it is way too quiet. Wandering the house I finally spy them from my bedroom window: The six year old carries Daddy's huge tree loppers to an impressive rhododendron bush while the four year old, dressed only in pants, no shoes, is helping her by using Daddy's rusty saw. I mentally divorce my husband.

Cavalry arrived

The cousins arrived. The two boys who had acted as ushers at our Channel Island wedding had morphed into men. Mechanics with aspirations to be gamekeepers. Their wives and four and a quarter offspring set about the site. Their efforts revealed quarry tiles, dry stone walls, extensive views from old sash windows of Monarch painted meadows.

I appointed myself head of catering and faced the Rangemaster. Both ovens, the grill and hobs were finally cleaned to an acceptable level. I whispered into the phone, so as husband didn't hear that I was considering spending yet more money, to a lovely man called Roger. He promised to show me the inside of his van where he kept acid baths to dip offending oven bits while he set about the body to 'bring it back to showroom standards.' That's what I call foreplay. Sadly I couldn't afford Roger or his services.

As I was preparing the latest batch of foodstuffs for the troops the cousins appeared. The previous night I'd heard a lot of noise from the attic and wondered if husband and gamekeepers might investigate. They grinned at me and suggested I might follow them to the attic to submit their findings. 'It's not a dead body is it?' I asked lightheartedly. Their exchanged looks lead me to believe that it must be worse than a dead body. 'I know what it is, it's mice isn't it?' Once again the looks. 'Not mice,' they said. 'Oh, I know, it's bats!' The eldest spoke to my bottom as I climbed the metal ladder to meet husband in the darkness. 'No, but it rhymes with bats.'

Monday, 4 January 2010

Moving Day

It was August 28th and warm rain began to fall heavily as we turned from civilization into rural Shropshire. No more white lines down the centre of the road for us! 'Off-roading' along our lane made me realize how inadequate our two cars were in this environment. Was I as inadequate as the cars, had I just made the biggest mistake of my life. I imagined the future; isolated, lonely, saggy, shopless. As we reached the wooden gate the rain stopped and the sun came out. A sign surely?

The removal men wouldn't reach us till the following day so we unpacked blow up beds and essential provisions which included champagne. Leaving intrepid explorer girl and Daddy treking the fields, the four year old and I set off in the car across a prehistoric volcano to the chip shop, a mere seven miles away.

Later husband and I ate our chips standing up in front of an open fire. Champagne and chips are an excellent combination. The children sat on cushions caked with dog hair that they'd pulled from an abandoned sofa. I drank faster. The last inhabitants clearly had allergies; cleaning and gardening!

We all slept together that night. Warm and happy in our new adventure. We slept late too, on account of the darkness of the house wrapped in wisteria.

The next day the sun streamed into the kitchen, the only room in the house naked of foliage. Unfortunately the rose coloured specs I planned to wear that day were nowhere to be seen. In the bright light of the morning the house was revealed. Every cupboard, drawer, ledge, shelf was filled with abandoned objects. They lay under a deep layer of dust and sadness. Nasty furniture lurked in every room. I physically recoiled from toilets and hairy plug holes. The expensive kitchen range was filled with a tar-like substance, possibly deceased dinners. I felt a real dislike for a person I had never even met.

It's amazing what bleach, Milton Fluid and heavy duty gardening gloves can acomplish. Husband had almost filled the skip by 10am when the removal van appeared.

We worked hard that day, removing the horrid things left in the house and bringing in our own horrid things. That night exhausted, in front of the fire on our own sofa, we read husband's text from his twenty-something cousins from Hereford.
'See you in the morning, we're coming to help.'

Life-change to date:

We seem to have done the impossible. In the worst recession for a billion trillion years, if the media is to be believed, we managed to sell our house and buy another.

At the time it felt as if life was in slow motion. It was the beginning of the summer holidays and my four year old and six year old were released from their usual routine into our custody. They instantly turned feral. It was early July and our buyers had insisted we move out by the close of August. An interesting concept when you haven't yet spied a house you want to buy.

I tore about the Internet looking for property. We were living in Oxfordshire and would have happily stayed had we found dream house with the right price tag. I dreamed of a spacious house, he dreamt of land. I thought the land-thing pretty indulgent until I watched the four year old and six year scrabbling over our perimeter fences to retrieve lost equipment.

Husband works in Staffordshire, a hateful commute from Oxfordshire, so we could afford to be flexible. In Shropshire we found a wonderful school. A story-book school with towers and a lake. Now to find the house.

One very early morning before my brood awoke I found it. Victorian, neglected, huge. Beautiful. When the estate agent phoned me I learned that it was a divorce house and although the previous owners were already re-married the house was still a bone of contention. But it was empty, a quality that greatly appealed bearing in mind that we would be homeless within 7 weeks.

We booked to see six houses that were a reasonable distance from the new school. My 'reasonable' and my husband's 'reasonable' are not the same. With mine you get to hear a lot more of the programmes on Radio 4. All the houses had their merits; lots of land, good size houses, outbuildings and two boasted swimming pools, all for a fraction of the cost of Oxfordshire. Finally we pulled into the driveway of The Larches.

The Estate Agent was delightful, even smiled at our scowling children who had decided they hated house-hunting. 'Wait here please and I'll open up the front door.' I thought we'd never see her again. The house was completely covered in wisteria and Victoria creeper. It obscured the windows and had in fact eaten the front door. The outbuildings looked as if green waterfalls were cascading from their roofs. I loved it. My husband looked frightened. When almost ten minutes passed we set off to search for Marilyn. She appeared looking flustered, a scratch bled down her leg. 'Sorry, I just couldn't get in. I've managed to prise open some doors round the back. This way. The six year old recognised the house immediately. 'Sleeping Beauty's house,' she said.

The inside was far worse. Who'd have thought that white porcelain could turn that colour.

At the beginning of 2009 we pre-booked a summer holiday to Portugal; we'd not had a holiday in two years while we waited for potential viewings. In accordance with the rule of Sod, the holiday coincided with our sale and we conducted final negotiations scantily clad round the pool. Thank goodness it was a private villa, as husband's language was deteriorating by the day, especially blue when he fired our Estate Agent. I distracted the children by hunting Algarve chameleons, picking mulberries and when all else failed allowing the children to take turns pushing me into the pool.

A week after returning from holiday and 18 hours before we would be officially homeless we exchanged all contracts. We were to become The Archers at The Larches. [Update 2014: 5 years on and our new website is launched here come visit us online.]

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon