Moving to the country…

The whole point of starting this blog was to write about the move from town to country, and instead I’ve written one post about my struggles working from home and another about a local character. So, here is a bit of back story about why we moved:
Moving from living in Sutton, and leaving our secure teaching posts in Sutton and Kingston was a pretty monumental decision. We love London – we were living close to our immediate families and lots of dear old friends in Surrey and all over London. The schools in South London are fantastic; our older son was attending a great school (the one I was teaching in, of course! Haha!) and Jim was also working in an excellent school. Our decision stemmed from a yearning for the sea, but also for bigger reasons – in 2013 I suffered a break down. To cut a long story short: panic attacks and depression due to stress from work, long commute with child in tow, financial worries (Jim was back at uni), family health worries, etc. It really did make us re-assess things and look at what our priorities were at the time. We talked back then about how to ease a lot of these issues and we made vague plans for a move to the coast in the future…

Fast forward to June 2014. We had son #2 at St Helier’s Hospital near Sutton. Amazing (more on that another time!). We knew I’d have roughly 6 months of maternity, and then I’d have to go back to my teaching post. We booked a couple of camping trips to explore areas we’d theoretically like to live. Focusing on Dorset and Devon. And then in August we took our new baby and 6 year old camping several times! Yay!  

 

Camping professionals wear onesies ❤️

 
After a summer of cogitating and fantasising about coastal life, we decided that Devon was where we’d like the boys to grow up. Surf, sand, open spaces, outdoor living…

Teaching jobs are annoying to apply for because they come out at certain points during the academic year, and James would need to keep a look out for posts from February, that started in September, so he could hand in notice by the year deadline in May. 

Interviews came flying in and he had to travel down the night before for 9am starts! He landed a great job, in Torrington, in April, so now we had to find somewhere to rent from August. 

We started to panic when we came down for Jim’s “meet the class” day in July, and we had not been able to find anywhere to live yet! We camped again for a couple of nights, and then we found out that one of James’s new pupils had a mum who managed the local estate agents! Yay! I joked with her about her son’s teacher living in a tent come September (not actually joking at this point…it was looking like a distinct possibility) and she got on the case pretty sharpish. Helen (well, her minion, Matt) found us a perfectly located, pretty massive temporary home for the start of August! 

The plan was that once we had settled both Jim and Eoin into school, we could start hunting for houses and sussing out areas we wanted to buy in. 

I’ll post about house buying at some point soon…When I’ve calmed down…until then this’ll have to do!

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Are you local?

Have you ever seen League of Gentlemen? Have you ever wondered if places or people like that exist?
Well, I want to tell you a story about Dave.

Since our move West we have met some, erm, interesting characters. (Not that London doesn’t have its fair share of weirdos, it’s just that Devon—in particular the town we’ve moved to—offers a niche type of person.)

On my first post-summer-holiday day of living in our new town (older child and husband safely deposited in the primary school), the sun was shining (yes, really!) and I happened upon an old chap walking towards me on my way home up a footpath.

He was round-shouldered and hunched over, walking very slowly and carefully. A “sports jacket” and a shirt, with his trousers grazing his ankles, but pulled up in the fashion widely recognised as “Cowell-esque” around his rather large tum. His hair was white and curly, and he had incredibly thick-lensed glasses on. He was carrying a blue plastic carrier bag.

I was immediately reminded of Tubbs, and had to resist the urge to grab out my phone and snap a selfie with him for my old uni pal who is Shearsmith / Pemberton obsessed.*


No joke. He is the spitting image.

We exchanged “hellos”.

He spoke very loudly, in a brilliantly cliched Devonian voice, asking me, “who’s that then?”

I —being in a surprisingly cheerful, sunshiny sort of mood— patiently explained that he wouldn’t know who I was, as I was new to the area.

“I could tell by your voice: you’re not from round ‘ere,” he grimaced.

He asked where I was from, and I (being a total sucker and softy) obliged, explaining our recent move from South London to Devon, and that my husband was now teaching at the local school.

“What’s he wanna do that for?”

“Do what? Teach? Erm…to pay the bills I guess. He enjoys it. Hopefully he’ll enjoy this school more than the last.”

“Mad is he? Is he mad? Horrible things sometimes, children.”

So I told him I was a teacher by trade too until the summer, and after much banter about Gove—love a political rant, me!—we discussed where we’d been before (Sutton), and he told me he’d attended the school for the blind in Reigate, Surrey (not far from Sutton), back in his youth.

“What a small world. I went to school in Reigate. RGS. Loved it.” (I said this grinning, because I genuinely did love school…well, OK, I loved 6th form. And I love the friends I made…but more on that another day.)

Anyway, the exchange went on for a few more minutes and, in a strange way, I felt like I’d been in Devon for years. Chatting to locals like I’d known them all my life.

I NEVER spoke to people in Sutton like that. No one chats like that in London really. It’s a courteous greeting and a swift getaway. Standard Londinium Operating Procedure (SLOP), innit.

As terrifying as Dave might possibly be (a la Tubbs…what was in his bag? Was he going to lock me in his basement?) I actually felt welcomed and that put a smile on my face. No one in Sutton (apart from our boys next door) ever bothered to say hello or chat. Everyone is too busy and tired and rushed…

I was already feeling like I was on Devon time.
Cheers, Dave. Total legend.

*confession: I did actually manage to (surreptitiously) snap a pic of him during our next exchange. I did send to my friend but won’t post on here because that is just mental.

Trying to work with a toddler (AKA dancing with the devil).

  
NB: This photo is not a fair representation of the toddler. Sleeping is rare. And normally boob-induced. 

I recently took on a last minute editing project of 22,000 words: four chapters of a new book. It was exciting to be working on something new and I was delighted to be given the opportunity. However, the author needed these chapters editing pronto, and had a five day deadline. Being fairly new to the business and super keen to impress, I took it all in my stride. Hey, that’s doable. No problem. Mental calculations of my reading speed and editing abilities ensued, wondering if it was actually going to be possible…If my son sleeps for an hour after lunch, then from 7pm – 11pm, that’s at least 6 hours a day for editing. Plus all the time when I can just leave him to play/with the babysitter (CBeebies) while I fiddle around with formatting and layouts and Track Changes. Easy-peasy, right? WRONG!

Toddler has other ideas. 

Mummy wants to work on the computer? Well he obviously wants to touch the mouse/keyboard/screen. 

Mummy tries giving toddler an old laptop as a decoy…what does she think he is? An imbecile? This doesn’t even turn on!

Then clever old Mummy thinks she can fob him off with an (actually working) iPad. Drawing app? Nope! 

Lego car game thingy? Nope! 

CBeebies? A whole episode of Woolly and Tig later (a whopping 5mins), Mummy has managed about a paragraph of reading and has changed the speech marks and corrected a couple of typos. Another episode? Not a chance! 

  

Toddler then signs that he’s hungry (despite breakfast only recently being devoured) and Mummy has to open the stair gate, take toddler downstairs and proceed to scour the cupboards (bare…) and fridge (miserable…) for some sort of toddler-friendly snack. “Do you want some blueberries?” The scowl on his face says it all. “Melon?” Frown lines. “Cheese?” Hangs head. “A breadstick?” Shakes his head. “Rice cake?” He does a little excited jig while clapping, as if I have just offered him a top-notch hor d’oeuvre. Asda rice cake packet in hand, we traipse back upstairs.

And so it starts again. Repeat earlier steps, minus bothering with “educational apps”; straight to CBeebies…this time for a programme with a longer running time…! 

Postman Pat. My hero. 

  
Toddler happy for entire 15 minutes and 5 seconds, even dances to the theme tune during the credits. But when the screen minimises and Mummy tries to play another episode there is a meltdown. Fresh air needed. By both!

Devon is very wet. Very wet indeed. I don’t think my UppaBaby rain cover has ever had so much use. Despite the rain, we shove coats and wellies on and go for a walk, toddler in the pushchair (he is still happy to go in here, rear-facing, and doesn’t yet do the horrid back-arching, claw your face off technique…yet…). We walk for a little while, stopping to say hello to all the dogs, and the little robin, and the rubbish truck. He falls asleep after 10 minutes. Yippeeeeee! But he’s then woken up by a passing tractor. I decide I’ll go to the shop and grab some milk. He falls asleep with the humming of the shop fridges. I quickly pay for the milk and power walk home. This could be a solid hour of work time! Go go go!

With this in mind, I race home, panting (to be fair, we live at the top of a hill…) and wheezing as I put the key in the porch door. Toddler still asleep. Yes! 

However, he wakes up when I turn the bloody key and push open the sodding awful second door – that is warped and swollen because of the cold and wet weather (only been waiting six months for it to be replaced by the cruddy landlord…). Dammit. 

Lunchtime is fairly uneventful, and both members eat well and somehow manage not to spill sweetcorn chowder down themselves (mostly the toddler is a cleaner eater than his mother anyway).

After the plates are cleared, we try working again.

This time Mummy tries printing the manuscript off to combat cranky toddler harassing her…cue toddler finding every highlighter/felt-tip pen/biro in the vicinity to scrawl all over the project. Helpful. Thanks, sweetie. 

Clever old Mummy tries to outwit the infant by giving him a giant art sketch book to doodle on, but it seems to have limited appeal. It lasts less than 4 minutes. Well, actually, he must have been drawing on the wall next to it for at least a minute of that time so, in reality, even less value than I’d originally thought. 

So Mummy puts CBeebies on the TV. We don’t have terrestrial telly, so it’s good old iPlayer again, and once again my hero, Pat, lends a helping hand. 

Mummy makes a few key changes in the text, pre-empts Pat’s empty van and pops on a second episode. Mummy thinks she’s onto a winner. But then she glances at her phone and realises she has less than half an hour before school run needs to happen, washing up, dinner to cook and several phone calls to make. 

Mummy gives up on the manuscript and uses last 2 minutes of Postman Pat to have a wee in peace and check Facebook while on the loo.
The next few days consisted of this on repeat, and evenings spent in front of the PC, toddler on a boob; or trying to block out the sound of him screaming at his daddy downstairs because he wanted me and didn’t want to be fobbed off with a bottle (or even CBeebies)!

You’ll be pleased to know that I did manage to get the chapters edited—on time—and they were done to an excellent standard. Off to the agent for the pitch to the publisher! Fingers crossed!