In a life filled with work and family responsibilities, it is easy sometimes to forget the simple things. The down times that make all the hard work worthwhile. The reasons why you wanted the mortgage and to build a family of your own in the first place.
These past few days have been a rediscovery exercise. An interlude of fun and relaxation in the hustle and bustle of daily life when I have tried to stop and smell the flowers. Not actually, obviously – I mean, no-one has time to do that!
It began last Friday when I gave up the day job for a couple of days to head back to my sailing roots. I was asked to help out with the launching and display of the Team GB yacht entry into the Clipper Round the World race 13-14. Being there on this gorgeous new racing yacht plumped slap bang in the middle of Trafalgar Square – an amazing sight – was a privilege and an absolute pleasure. I spent two days meeting and greeting thousands of people who crossed that famous London square and introducing them to my love of the boat, the race experience and the legacy of sailing that catches all who take part and never lets go. Four years on from my own exciting voyage across the Atlantic, my enthusiasm for it is still undiminished, although two whole days of smiling and chatting has left me with lock-jaw and a need for Botox around the crow’s feet. I would leave with this year’s crew to set off around the globe on this mad race in an absolute heartbeat, if only I could. Ah! Jealous? Me? Abso-bloody-lutely!
Anyway. Having had that lovely catch-up with old crew and Clipper pals, including the brave and wonderful Rachel about to set off for a seven month sojourn in Switzerland before joining me back here for our Coast to Coast walking challenge next April (!), I moved on to some even older friends and a lovely Sunday in the country.
I have known these two particular good buddies since the heady days of our times together in investment banking in Canary Wharf. Many a lunch hour was whiled away setting the world to rights over curly fries and a bottle or two of fizz – would be totally frowned upon in these days of austerity and belt-tightening but in the mid-90s it was all completely normal behaviour.
Without them, I would have been an even worse employee than I have eventually turned out to be! They saved me, nurtured me, made me a better person and we will be – I have no doubt – lifelong friends. Babies, annoying and inconvenient health issues and my stubborn refusal to lie down and live quietly will never affect our close bond. We meet rarely, owing to geography and intruding life, but when we do it is as if we have not been apart in the interim. We can, literally, talk for England.
So having finally got our diaries synchronised, we all met up close to our home in Sussex at a bizarre and eclectic pub called The Bell at Ticehurst that we had been recommended to try. As it turned out, it is a great pub with a friendly atmosphere but, sadly for us, not a marvellous restaurant for a big group of chattering people. The quirkiness of the staff and surroundings palled quite quickly when faced with cold plates, wrong orders and slow and eccentric service. The men folk that accompanied us to lunch returned bemused at having had to pee literally into a trombone – an experience the Man-Hog described in excruciating detail later that day. Ew. Nevertheless, it was a lovely – if expensive and slightly weird – day with our friends and we shall just have to re-group at a better researched venue next time!
The following day was family day. A fab, sunny morning meant it would be rude not to hit the beach in some form. That beach turned out to be Deal in Kent. Via a brief stop in Sandwich. It was a treat to be out with the kids all day. I call them kids but, of course, one of them is not really. I sometimes hyperventilate at the thought of the Teen’s impending adulthood – come November she can legally get locked in at a pub without me! So these days spent all together are all the more precious because of their rarity and their approaching end. How much longer can I realistically expect her to hang out with her old Ma? Burying your Mini-Pig sibling up to his neck in beach stones will not appeal forever – although when he is annoying her it is ALL she wants to do!
A flying visit to the Isle of Wight by ferry and some exciting Colin McRae driving in the Mini ended our travelling days out – they know how to do a cream tea on that island. Devon and Cornwall – beware!
Some final shopping with the Teen and a sprinkling of CVs around neighbourhood in her continuing search for the Lesser Spotted Saturday job completed a relaxing and enjoyable week. Tomorrow I go back to work – ugh. But just for a while there, it was nice to do – and think about – practically nothing at all…..
Moving house is acknowledged to be one of the five most stressful experiences in the average human life. Right up there with death, and we all know how that ends. As I write, I am sending hopeful prayers to the god of British estate Agents, asking him to unearth their good natures which I know must lurk somewhere beneath their seemingly rhino-like hides and have them do their jobs properly for this little family. No more, no less. Sell my house, help me find the new one and then slip quietly away clutching my hard-earned in their paws. Simple. Stress is not something I wish to invite willingly in to my life. I am not very good at it; I tend to over-react and have been known to bite people. Literally.
So why have we made this decision to up sticks and slink West by over 200 miles? A decision that will, inevitably, lead to more than a little over-crowding in my tiny stress pouch? Why would we willingly put ourselves through it? Staying put is the obvious solution, isn’t it?
I want to move. I’m done with the current status quo. For many of the usual reasons – changes in the local neighbourhood, changes in our lifestyle as a family, a general yearning for sea air, beautiful walks, friendly locals, more sailing, alternative opportunities for the kids, etc etc yawn yawn. Most of which I already have and will be sad to leave behind, but which I hope we will find again. We have made some truly great mates in our nine years in this locale, and we will miss them all horribly. Coupled with this, we know we are lucky to be thinking about moving at all at a time when many people are just looking for some job security, extra income or someone to even give them a mortgage.
So why else? The simple fact is that I need to go. Some other, less conventional, reasons are also behind the decision. Not the least of which is the hole in my home and my life since the demise of my gorgeous labbie back at the end of last summer. The house, that haven of happiness after the hellish working day, would greet me with jolly children and a waggy-tailed pooch. All that has changed since his demise. Now I come back each day – we are talking almost seven months on – and there is no joyful canine greeting, no excited yelping, no-one to sit by my side at the dining table puffing biscuity breath into my face until I take him for a walk. No stench of dog or filth underfoot either, of course, which I acknowledge to be a minor upside but not enough to overcome my sadness and sense of loss.
That’s just the inside of the house. Outside is even worse. I have tried to walk the paths of the beautiful local estate lands three times since Fred shuffled off this Earth. Each time the lack of crunching feet behind me, or a black rump in front of me snuffling through the woods, has seen me return crying my eyeballs out. I don’t do crying, I promise you. Clearly, now, I don’t do walking either. If even the gorgeous local countryside no longer holds an attraction for me, then I am as they say “stuffed”. I know there will be those among you who think I have lost my mind – he was only a dog after all – I’ve lost a lot more significant others than that. But grief is a funny thing. You can’t plan it, you can’t even really understand it. You just have to acknowledge it is there, and that things have changed irreparably.
Another reason, perhaps even more non-sensical to the majority including the Man-Hog, is my panic that life is passing me by. Too short all together when looking at my parents – surely my best source of genetic life expectancy calculation – who both sadly croaked fairly early on into retirement and with so much still left to do in their lives. I don’t want to be that person – waiting and waiting for retirement, for the perfect time, whatever that even is? I fear “not getting it all done”. I want to go while I have such a desire, some sort of means to pay for it, and the determined will to change things for everyone in my family for, hopefully, the better. The Man-Hog is lonely at home, the kids are great but too pale and chesty, and I am craving fresh salty air and a change of pace like my own personal crack habit. I want to get on with it.
There are many more, very personal, reasons why we want to go but I shan’t bore you with them. Suffice to say it has taken two years to come to this decision and I am so glad we finally have!
Amazingly, we have the support of our two children for this move. Upping sticks as a teenager is not an easy issue for most to come to terms with. The Mini-Pig girl has GCSEs to contend with this summer, something we have to factor in to the overall move plan somehow. I know about enforced moves, I had to do it at the age of 18 and I couldn’t wait to turn my back on my parents and hightail it back to where I came from. Luckily, the Man-Hog (the boyfriend du jour) was in situ back in the former homelands and it all worked out very well. But I remember the feeling of doom, of panic and of powerlessness. I have never wanted that for the children and if they had voiced any dissent for this plan, we would likely have re-considered. My kids positively embrace the idea. They are just as eager to get on with it now that any prevarication between the parentals has ended. I cannot count the number of times people have told us how lucky we are that the children are enthusiastic for this new era – I would be shocked except I am conceitedly proud of them and their ability to adapt. Living with a mother like me – the original Mrs Ants-in-her-Pants-Let-Us-Chuck-Ourselves-Off-A-Cliff-Today – it should really be no surprise. It is one less stress to have to deal with.
So, the house is up for sale – I have smiled winningly at the estate agent and am praying I had no poppy seeds in my teeth at the time! The Man-Hog and I are venturing West hand-in-porky-hand on Friday for a nose around properties in our price range at the other end. All we need now is a fair wind and some good fortune. Oh, and estate agents that do their jobs. Watch this space.
Photo credit: http://businessinsider.com