Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Little Things

Living in an old workshop whilst we contemplate its renovation is certainly a novel experience. We live a kind of ‘glamping’ existence, being quite inventive with few resources and largely making things up as we go along.

It’s amazing how quickly it became normal to prepare food on an old workbench in the same room as I have my bed, or wash up in a series of bowls on a camping table next to a load of old tools. But we humans can be adaptable creatures.

Of course, there are certain things that I miss and find harder to do without, so when I’m suddenly reunited with such items, however commonplace they may sound, I get really quite excited.

I can currently only dream of a kitchen, but maybe one a little more rustic!
Our cooking arrangements until recently had consisted of a microwave, a couple of camping stoves and an Antony Worrall Thompson health grill. Despite becoming quite inventive with menus, there were still meals that we all missed, and I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms from not being able to bake. So you can imagine my delight when we became the proud owners of a mini oven!

With numerous settings, and even a small two-ring hob on the top, we can now cook almost anything (though I think a full-blown Christmas dinner may still take some thought). Casseroles, pies and even oven chips suddenly feel like a luxury cuisine, having not tasted them for so long.

The day we took delivery of said oven, all of us crowded round expectantly, struggling to discard the packaging and have a go of our new toy. It now proudly sits on the worktop (sorry old workbench with wipe-clean covering) and is certainly earning its keep.

If we can get this excited about the appearance of a mini oven, what state are we going to be in when we become the owners of a whole new fitted kitchen? They’ll probably hear us cheering from miles away!

You can now read a review of said oven here 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Strange Sounds And Swirling Mists

A change in location has certainly meant quite a change in the sights and sounds that surround me.

I no longer live my day to the background hum of traffic punctuated by sporadic squeals of emergency sirens. The view from my window is no longer of a similar house opposite, with the residents’ actions mirroring my own – that old suburban routine.

My new lifestyle largely runs to the soundtrack of nature, with the occasional hum of boats drifting by. OK, some of their engines can be a tad noisy, but as we live on a tidal stretch of river, the times when these pass are restricted. I’m much more likely to hear birdsong (though screeching gulls can be less restful) and animal calls than the hustle and bustle of human life. Sometimes it’s almost silent.

This said, I did find the nights a bit unsettling at first. Not only did the building creak and groan in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined, keeping me alert to every noise, but I was hard-pressed to identify the sounds piercing the darkness outside.

Even I, as a lifelong townie, could recognise the bark of a fox, but other strange chattering and squealing sounds had me flummoxed. The strangest I’ve heard, I could only describe as a duck being throttled – actually in view of my former comments, let’s just not go there.

The first day that I spent alone in our makeshift home, there was the most awful commotion on the roof. I was rather startled and at a total loss as to what on earth could be happening. Answer – a sparrowhawk had landed and caught a pigeon.  I’ll spare you the details, but I thought to myself, “Welcome to country life!”

To add to the atmosphere, we have experienced frequent episodes of river mist since we arrived, some so dense that the river itself seems to disappear completely. The whole effect can be quite surreal.

So all things considered, I don’t think I chose the best time to read ‘River of Destiny’ by Barbara Erskine, a story of a couple who move to a converted property by the river. When the mists roll in so does a ghostly ship and strange things start happening all around them. Oh well, at least my new circumstances meant it left less to the imagination!

Monday, 22 September 2014

A Departure From Housework (I should be so lucky)

One of the advantages of living on a semi-construction site is the reduction in housework – as I know it at least.

Our current flooring is not this good!
There’s no kitchen to keep pristine, just an old workbench covered in wipe-clean material, and no conventional cooker to clean. There’s no bathroom to scrub, just a small washbasin (we shower at my mother-in-law’s). There are no carpets to vacuum, just an old tiled floor that needs a bit of a sweep and a mop. And as for the windows – if I were to clean them I think the dirt would stay in place and the glass would fall out!

Of course, there’s still washing to be done, which in itself is a strange affair. I can use the washing machine, but have to fasten the outlet hose to the washbasin to drain using an old shoelace!

I’m not forgetting, however, at this stage of the proceedings where we are merely planning and getting organised, things are relatively clean, if rather in need of repair. We will soon start on the first stage of renovation – putting in a bathroom in what used to be an office. After that, slowly but surely we will renovate each part of this former workshop, until we end up with a finished bungalow.

It will be chaotic, there will be mess with lots of clearing up involved, but conventional housework has certainly gone out of the window (along with the glass if I dare touch it!)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

And Tuesday Evening Is Bell-ringing

After a lifetime spent living in towns and suburbs, a move to a small village nestled in the countryside has certainly brought a few changes.

I’m used to living in a location that has a Tesco store and a branch of Costa within walking distance, a bus every 10 minutes and just about anything within easy reach. I’ve now traded all of that for a location that has a small village shop, two pubs and a church with a clock that chimes every quarter of an hour. Buses run hourly at best, but sometimes two-hourly or not at all and most things now involve travel of the four-wheeled as opposed to two-legged variety.

All that said, it’s amazing how quickly you do start to adapt. I don’t feel the need to dash off to so many places, revelling in my new view and surroundings, and have soon started marking the time of day by the chiming of the clock. It got a bit awkward last week therefore, when I realised the clock was running somewhat behind, chiming the hour some 15 minutes or so late. Fortunately, it’s now running – well – like clockwork again!

Our first Tuesday evening here, I was stopped in my tracks by the sound of bell-ringing wafting from the church. It seemed quite a novelty and I soon got used to listening out every Tuesday evening for the dulcet tones. So I was quite put out when another Tuesday evening arrived to the sound of silence. What happened to the bells? The fact that the chime of bells was never part of my life before just didn’t matter; I was quite perturbed that they had failed to ring! Thankfully normal service has now been resumed.

Bit by bit we’ll no doubt start to integrate into village life. Now all we have to do is convince family and friends that we haven’t disappeared to another planet, just a country village where they can still actually come and visit!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

It All Started When …

A collection of circumstances set off the catalyst for our move earlier this year, seeing us depart from our life as townies and set up home in a more rural village setting.

Said circumstances are far too long and boring to relate, but the details of our new life, and what we hope to achieve, make fitting tales for a new blog. So here I am with my first post on the subject.

I’ve lived in a town setting all my life and whilst I’ve enjoyed country holidays and staying in my beloved static caravan in a rural part of East Anglia, had never really contemplated what a full-time country life would entail.

This summer we not only made the move to a village surrounded by countryside, but decided to renovate a former ice cream chime workshop (further back in time a coal wharf), with the aim of turning it into a three-bedroom bungalow. How straightforward it sounds said like that! But as we have already discovered, things are not as easy in reality, with plans changing on a daily basis, even though our eventual aim remains the same.

Our first, and most obvious, thought was to move afore-mentioned caravan on-site, so that we could live in it quite happily whilst we tackled the business of ‘doing up’ the property. Unfortunately, our calculations about logistics were a bit awry (or perhaps we just exercised plain, blind optimism), and we discovered that the caravan would just not fit down the narrow, slightly bendy lane to its plot. So we’ve had to abandon all thoughts of that one and plump for a sort of semi-camping existence in what I can only currently describe as a glorified shed!

OK, so it does have plumbing and electricity, but we have to go to my mother-in-law’s for a shower, and our cooking facilities consist of a microwave, two camping stoves and a health grill (sounds like an interesting title for an alternative cookery programme). Our ‘bedrooms’ are just small areas constructed using tarpaulin. Are you getting the picture?

Somehow we aim to work round all this chaos and eventually be the owners of a very nice little home. So watch this space …

Of course, alongside all of this we have to adapt to country and village life, which is proving quite an enlightening experience. We have the good fortune to be situated right on the riverbank, so have traded cars whizzing past our window, for the more tranquil passing of boats and swans. The only problem I’ve found is that I’m constantly distracted by the wonder of my new view – the river, the fields, the trees and the hills in the background. I presume the novelty of all this will diminish in time, or maybe not!

And as for the village? More about that in my next post.

You can also still read my original blog www.shoppersjoy.blogspot.co.uk