In 2013 we swapped a buzzing Bristol suburbia for the Wiltshire countryside. In hindsight, no one should commit to such a momentous, life-changing decision with two kids under three. Extreme sleep deprivation can do funny things, everyone knows that – yet me and the iCandy were yearning to pound anything other than cracked pavements (no pun intended) and the longer we stayed put, the more unattainable the dream seemed. Matt and I despaired. Would we ever see a tree again?
In the end the decision was easy…once we actually got round to having a conversation about it. Back then our topics were invariably baby-related, interspersed with the occasional passive-aggressive right-hook when one of us dared to steal five minutes for ourselves. I was going to write romance stories, the kids would transform into ruddy-faced, mucky-handed, pinafore-wearing cherubs who shunned the very idea of refined sugar, and Matt would finally have a chance to construct the pinnacle of masculinity in the modern age – his very own pizza oven.
Being impulsive we bought the first ‘doer-uper’ that we saw. The cottage needed work. A LOT of work. But hey, what was a little rising damp between marrieds? Our new neighbours would be ponies… ponies for chrissake! Four of them! No more drunken horror shows like the time some lunatic turned up at 3am demanding a shag from Simon next door. He passed. From what I recall the words ‘fuck’ and ‘off’ were used liberally.
Moving day was upon us. Emily was two. Jessica was nine months. It was hell. The previous owners screwed us around and left our new cottage in a terrible state. The damp patches seemed to multiply before our very eyes. So did the fleas. We consoled ourselves with buckets of disinfectant and gin. It took us six months to find our feet (and the nearest M&S) and we’re still in the middle of renovations three years later.
Matt never did build his pizza oven and the only way my youngest will ever wear a pinafore is on her head, naked, and smeared in chocolate buttons. Doesn’t matter. The kids have embraced it; sheep poo, oozy mud and all. The local village school is so close to our front door it’s obscene, my new definition of a traffic jam is being stuck behind a tractor and the fields and forests behind our cottage are numerous.
And best of all? Our kids’ imaginations have exploded in the best possible way. We climbed all the way to the top of Narnia on Sunday and were back in time for tea.
I’ll take the rising damp for that alone.