A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our move here. I called it 'a new life', which indicates more how it felt to me than how it actually was. I'd only moved a half-hour's drive away, still the same family unit, a bit more money in hand, but not enough to make a difference to our lifestyle, except that this house's upkeep would be a little more expensive.
The differences were that we had moved from the town to the country, and that I was pushed to make a whole new circle of friends.
It was so enjoyable and relaxing here. We came at the start of the school holidays, which was ideal for El and Al, then aged 12 and 10. We had a little dinghy, which we took out on the very small river near the old mill. The water was clear and shallow and you could see the fish darting in and out of the weeds on the riverbed. We would tie the boat up to a tree overhanging the water and have a picnic. I'd expected us to miss living by the sea, but we made up for it by driving over to Southwold and using the beach there. Sometimes we would go crabbing. Have you tried crabbing? It is the greatest fun. We always do it when we have friends with children to stay, as everyone, of whatever age, enjoys it.
The couple who had bought our house, who had a two year old daughter, invited us back for tea. I wondered how it would feel to go back, but it was fine. They had covered the parquet floor in the hall with carpet, and they were planning an expensive new kitchen. They had also gone in for elaborate paint techniques, which were then just coming into fashion, and they obviously loved the house.
Back at home, I had help in the house. A few years older than me, she became a good friend and was my cleaner for 7 years until she took a full-time job. P loved my 2-year-old and he followed her around the house, 'helping' her with the housework and usually, at some time, persuading her to sit down and read or play with him for a while. We also had K in the garden.
K had retired from work at about the time my mother-in-law's garden-helper had retired. He agreed to come and help out in the mornings, and again agreed to stay on and keep an eye on the place while it was empty before we moved here. He is still with us. He is now 87 and comes down the drive every morning on his electric wheelchair, then to feed the goose and potter around doing odd jobs for an hour or two before trundling home again.
My husband and I had discussed our future; whether, in short, to aim for a simple, fairly frugal life or whether to go for a higher income and more conventional lifestyle. We decided to go for simplicity, to have time together, to earn just as much as we needed and be satisfied with that. It would mean few holidays and elderly cars, but that was the only sacrifice....we renewed the conversation a few years later when Ro was a bit older and I could have taken a 'proper' job, but we still felt we were on the right track and decided to continue as we were. And that's how we have continued ever since. I was a bit startled, one day, to have a friend whom I didn't know very well ask me if my husband was still looking for a job. I had to explain that he was actually self-employed and, although he didn't work 9-5, he did work. I realised that we were probably thought either to be filthy rich or scraping the pennies. We were neither, but we felt we didn't have to prove ourselves and had the luxury of choice.