Monday, 15 February 2016

Some added stability to an uncertain sort of life

Around the time of my 42nd birthday, I spent (I think) 4 days straight all alone. I decided this could possibly be a first for me, in my entire life, to have spent that much time alone without spending time with anyone at all. I used to live alone, I've travelled alone for months on end since I was 25 years old - but I was never actually alone. Anyway, on this particular occasion - which was now 3 years ago - I used my time thinking about the future and, though I hate to admit, where I wanted to be in 20 years time (and there's you thinking I'd use that time all alone to do something deep and meaningful - pah!).

Spurred on by a conversation about the reality of now and our futures (with now ex-Montenegro Mary), I put together a spreadsheet called Project 52 with ideas of how we could continue with this wonderful boaty seasonal-working life that we have as we got older - and if we couldn't, then how the hell were we going to afford to live. Memories from the 1980s of old people dying of cold in front of their electric fires (as they could only afford to keep one bar on) were well embedded in my mind.

Anyway, we ummed and ahhed and discussed and discounted and went this way and that way with all of these ideas - then last spring (2015) the way forward became clear. Together with our mums, we would buy a little cottage in our beloved Peak District which would be a holiday home for our mums, a business and eventually our home in many years to come.

So the hunt began and when we were not entertaining guests on our boat, I was searching searching searching for the perfect place (on a bottom-rung budget). Not easy in a National Park.

I took a mad last-minute dash home in early July to see my very poorly mum (now well) and a potential house came to nothing (though I realised as soon as I got there that my primary reason was to see my mum, not the house, oh how complex and misunderstood are our emotions).

Autumn came and the boiling hot summer of 2015 crashed to an end just as we headed up to Croatia for our cruise - doesn't it always pan out like that? - and we spent several weeks not getting very far, totally knackered and being kept awake by strong winds.  And my head was in Derbyshire, still searching searching.

After sending both mums off on a wildgoose chase a few months before, I was reluctant to ask them to view something again but of course I did. My mum went off  to look at a place in Matlock  Bath (too steep, too noisy, too chipshoppy) and on the spur of the moment I asked her to take a peek at a cottage in Winster which had just come back on the market - it happened to be the very first place I'd ever bookmarked when I started my cottage search but had quickly been under offer.

Knowing me all too well, my mum and Richard knew I was going to love it - very old, very quaint, full of character.  Unfortunately someone else had already put an offer in that day so we went for it and made a counter-offer but they wouldn't accept it without me viewing the property so accepted the other offer!  We couldn't believe it - and after trying to be cool about it, the following morning we thought about how we could change their decision - a big thunderstormy, stompy dog walk with Mollie with waves crashing in seemed to do the trick as when I got back to the boat, the estate agent had been in touch and the owners had changed their minds!  HOORAY!

So I did a mad dash back from Korcula where I left Tim with the boat in Lumbarda Marina.  Bus at 6am, ferry to mainland at 8am, bus to Dubrovnik, bus from Dubrovnik to airport, fly back to Birmingham.  Then reverse trip 48 hours later - it was pretty hectic - but before I'd even stepped into the house I knew it had to be. I stood in the jungle of a garden, looking over our very own limestone dry stone wall, into sloping fields with huge beech trees and horses - and I tried not to cry.  This was it.

The rest of the tale is too dull to be told but between that point and this was lots of hard work and potential disappointments but determination saw us through and as of last week, Lancaster Cottage, Winster is ours!

It is a 300 year old Grade II listed cottage - the kind of place I used to dream about as a kid - the perfect place for us if we are to live on land.  There are many similarities with Monty B and the scope for improvement is high.  All it has to do is stay standing for another 40 odd years and we're all good.

It is the stability that the sensible side of me now needs, now I'm in my mid-40s (thought didn't I always) and these years fly by.  It is the piece of the puzzle which makes the rest of it fit together much more happily - and weirdly, it has made me realise that far from spending the last 8 years winging it, we've actually built up a great business which has enabled us now to invest in our future too rather than just keeping us in bread, cheese and booze.

The time was right to do this  - in every way. It has made me appreciate even more what we have here, it has given us a new project to work on (8 years is a long time to think of nothing but a boat) and we get to have our green grass AND blue sea fixes, making life more interesting and diverse than ever.  I've always felt that I've straddled our life here with life aka friends back in the UK - I've never managed to say goodbye to it all completely - and there was a good reason for that.