Thursday, 21 February 2013

Village Life and Jelly

This week is half term and so all the usual attempts at routine and structure have somewhat gone out of the window. I am trying to work, do some exercise and keep on top of the mess at the little house on the prairie. However, keeping pace with the stuff going on my kitchen is proving a challenge.

It is a source of pride that all my children can cook and the younger two who are still resident cook for pleasure. Actually number 3 cooks lots of additional meals for himself because he is always hungry and frequently claims that we are starving him to death. Anyway, this week, amongst other things, number 4 has made a very beautiful and delicious red velvet cake and a rather less successful raspberry jelly. Why was the jelly unsuccessful? Because too much stuff was added to the dissolved jelly cubes. Consequently there is some raspberry jelly/sludgy drink in my fridge with no hope of setting.

This thing about adding too much stuff to something is a subject I've been thinking about for the last couple of weeks since I heard the news that our village has been earmarked for a development of 40 houses.

If you come across my blog often, you will know that I love where I live. I love the open fields around my house and the woods beyond and the way that they reflect the changing seasons and I absolutely love the friendly, all-embracing village that is just a mile away.

Our village is one of those that makes every estate agent's lips smack. It has, in no particular order: one village shop, one primary school, two pubs, two churches, a village green, a sports field, two village halls and a bus service. All marvellous and very much appreciated by the locals who genuinely operate on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. All of the above, of course, also make it prime target material for the local authority to site new houses. My question is how many new houses in a village of currently about 200 houses (my guess...) will change the chemistry of the village and ultimately stop it from gelling?

I can see why the local authority would want to build here but the size of the single development is a major concern. Perhaps, for example, the judicious use of various smaller areas within the village envelope where, say, anything up to a dozen houses can be built in two or three places would enable the village to absorb more readily the new influx of residents over a period of time. And I can also see that any development is good news for the shop and pubs and will hopefully maintain the bus service, not to mention the local clergy who have probably done a dignified celebratory jig in their cassocks. But 40 houses in one site, perhaps 120 new residents, is a big dollop of something that will inevitably change the nature of the village, perhaps rendering those things which make it such a great place to live not so great in the future.

I know, you're probably thinking that I won't be able to see the new houses from where I live but I do think that this size of development will change things for everyone and once the houses are there, there can be no backward step. I just think there must be a better way to do it. Or our village may end up like the jelly in my fridge.

Number 4's fabulous cake - I fear I am responsible for the large hole in its side. Delicious!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

There's no place like home

I have been painting one of the bedrooms this week and as I slapped yet another coat of emulsion on the walls, it occurred to me that we will have been living in this house for twenty five years this April. That's a lot of coats of emulsion, let me tell you! It also crossed my mind that I had never written about how we came to live here.

I know I refer to it as the little house on the prairie but actually it's a little house down a long track standing in the middle of green fields and sandwiched between two woods. Before we lived here, we lived in a village the other side of the A1 or The Great Divide as we saw it. We lived in a lovely little house in the middle of the village but with one baby and plans for more, we needed to move so we decided to put our house on the market and see what happened.

What happened was that we got a buyer - two, in fact - and we finished up being offered a very good price. And we found my dream house. All brilliant. Then things started to go very wrong...

The first thing - and by a country mile, the worst thing - was that my beautiful baby was deaf. We didn't know, we had no inkling; she was just like every other baby but better, because she was ours. I'm not a fainter but when the consultant said that she was severely deaf, would never go to a mainstream school, would never speak - that was the worst moment of my life, the worst day of my life and I did faint. I didn't deal with it very well - total denial kicked in so we decided to move house anyway. Not very sensible, I know, but at the time being sensible wasn't in my spectrum.

The dream house wasn't going to be available until about a month after our purchasers wanted to move into ours so we decided to move into a rented cottage on a chicken farm. And I am now pregnant. And then our surveyor gave my dream house the worst survey ever. I think the words he used included: "It's on the move" ie its total lack of proper foundations would make it a potential nightmare for us and probably make it impossible to sell in the future. I'd like to point out that it's still standing and I drive past it often.

So we are on the chicken farm in the pokiest cottage ever with the toddler who doesn't want things stuck in her ears because it makes a noise in her head that she doesn't understand, another baby on the way (who I prayed every night wouldn't be deaf like her sister) and nowhere to buy.

So off we go on the house-hunt again and we find, eventually, a house in not really the ideal location but very nice nonetheless and as Kirsty Allsop would say now, compromises had to be made. We are on with the legal stuff and there seems to be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel - housewise anyway.

One evening in the pokey cottage on the chicken farm, with one baby finally asleep and feeling tired in a way that only pregnant women really know about, my beloved is late home - again. So I ring him on his mobile (at that time, mobiles or 'car phones' as they were then known were the size of house bricks) and he answers that he is being loaded on a stretcher into an ambulance having been in a head-on collision on the way home from work. I think my enquiry as to his lateness included several expletives which he has joyfully reminded me of over the years. The result of all this was that he had a broken leg on one side and a broken ankle on the other so here I am in the pokey cottage on the chicken farm with one baby who can't hear and another on the way and a husband on crutches. This is not good.

But at least we will soon be moving into our new home before the arrival of number 2 child. Eventually, plasters off, crutches gone, my beloved is back on the road and things are going in the right direction. One day, he comes home so excited. "I've bought a house!" Brilliant - except that we are already buying a house and this is not the same house and I haven't seen it. So off we go, down a long track, in the middle of green fields and sandwiched between two woods. Yes, he shook hands on the deal before I actually saw it but he was right. It's perfect - scruffy (still is!), chaotic but the perfect home for us.

Nothing in my life since then has ever been as bad as that winter, but one thing I know - there's no place like home.