64. Is the Grass Greener? Reflecting on some of the challenges/differences

Wednesday 22 February 2023

I’ve been sitting for at least five minutes looking out the window as the sun rises and the sky is slowly lightening. I can see trees, a large hill beyond and garden birds zooming around. There is bird song, but otherwise I can only hear the ticking of a clock on the mantelpiece. I have a mug of tea beside me and all feels good with the world right now.

I’ve been thinking about the things we have stressed and worried about since we moved here. Yesterday, I posted a blog from five or so weeks ago, when we still had snow and ice. I feel like a lot has changed since then, that last month was a long time ago. My perception of time, on an hourly level as well as monthly, feels different in our remote Scottish home. We have both said the same. When our first guests have stayed, Kyla and Carla, Chris and I have been conscious of taking a lot longer over things than we would have at home in London. We’d generally go out for the day earlier in London. We seem to spend a lot more time over breakfast, not rushing around. It doesn’t even feel like we’re faffing and dithering, but Kyla and Carla may disagree. Chris keeps pointing out that one of the many reasons we ended up moving here is to slow down, though maybe the main reason we’re a bit slower here is because we have a lovely big kitchen, views of countryside in both directions and a large table that is conducive to sitting at. Somehow though, even with shorter winter daylight, we have got what we want done/visited and back home before it’s fully dark. Maybe that’s because towns are smaller here than we’re used to around London and the southeast and I suppose the driving time corresponds to train travel and walking more around London.

That’s another thing, walking. I walk a lot less here. While that is surprising when there is so much beautiful countryside to walk through, it is not so surprising in the sense that I have limited directions to walk, there is nothing in particular to walk to – I can’t even walk to the nearest letter box and back (it’s about six miles each way and would be along the road, which I wouldn’t want to walk on for twelve miles). In winter in Lewisham, I often walk before sunrise. There are always plenty of other people around and I don’t walk on roads. Maybe once the mornings are light here, I will resume my early morning walks, but my routes would still be limited without driving somewhere. However, having a house and a large garden/land, I am definitely more active at home here than in London.

As for the multi-fuel burner, as I look at it now, I still feel myself scowling at it. The remains of our last fire are still in it, the wood fire which ended with extremely hot steam billowing out of the fuse cupboard on Kyla’s first night here and the smoke/steam/heat alarms going off for ages before we discovered the source of the problem. Apparently, that steam could have just occurred because of residue water in the pipes that once attached to the burner, so it should be fine to light the fire now that the water has probably cleared. I am not convinced and I do not want to light it again.

As for the heating, it’s just about warm enough when the heating is on but is cold in between the bursts of heating over the three chunks of three, three and four hours when the electricity rate is just about affordable. It has been a lot milder recently so I imagine that is why it is less cold when the heating is on. I still think the radiators turn off when the house gets to a maximum temperature that is far too low. But we are now down to just a duvet and quilted bedspread overnight, I only have one blanket over my legs now and I’ve not had to wear a thermal layer around my legs since we got the boiler going after Carla’s bitterly cold stay here.

There are still lots of things to put up (pictures), we still need more rugs and not everything is in a suitable place. But the house is slowly but surely looking more homely.

We seem to have a good water supply, back to how it should be. The hot tub is still full of cold water and is still blamed for the water supply stopping for a while.

The latest problem is the septic tank. It would seem that it is overflowing every now and then from a manhole cover we hadn’t realised was the septic tank. We have yet to find someone who can empty it. The list of reasons we are struggling to find someone is quite extraordinary, from bridge-weight issues to busyness over lambing season. Chris is, however, working in partnership with someone on a local Facebook group who also needs a septic tank emptied. An unconventional bonding topic.

We now have curtains or blinds up almost everywhere. I have yet to put up the Velux in my study/the spare room, but it has at least arrived and I can now install them without the need for instructions. We won’t put up a blind over the window by the kitchen sink as that wall will need to be dealt with once we get a roofer to hopefully seal off the area where water must be coming in during heavy rain at whatever particular angle that directs the rain in through a gap in the roof tiles. We also don’t have a small Velux blind for the annex. I would have ordered one back in November when I ordered the others but we had no step ladders then and it’s too high to reach. I think even with step ladders I won’t be able to open the window to find out its code to then order the blinds, and a pole to actually be able to reach that blind. We don’t intend to put up a Velux blind on the hall window and we maybe won’t fit anything over the two small door windows. We both think the curtains, even the thinner ones, keep the house feeling warmer at night. Well, ‘slightly less cold’ is more accurate.

There are still mice who seem to come in at dusk but they are generally quiet. I do have two more sonar mouse repellents on order though. The kitchen-extractor-fan mouse has not been leaving its one-poo calling card very often, and neither have there been more shards of fan-plastic recently. We have speculated on what this could mean but decided it’s best not to wonder. Kyla and Carla both said they heard a few mousey feet in the attic above the spare bedroom, but fortunately neither of them seem bothered. There have still not been any mice indoors. While that is the case, Chris and I have become strangely okay about our mouse coinhabitants.

After the wildlife cameras seemed to go off multiple times for a period of a week or so and we had so much badger footage that we deleted most of it, the cameras have not gone off at all, other than when I walk up to them to turn them off. I have no idea why. One camera is now directed at the badger entry point into our garden, but it’s still not gone off. Surely animals haven’t stopped exploring the garden?

Fortunately, the coal mess is now consigned to 2022 and I am relieved not to be dealing with the multi-fuel burner. It hasn’t been sub-zero for quite a few weeks and I think with all the snowdrops around and daffodils emerging from the ground we are lulled into thinking winter is over. I associate the cold with coal and cold hands as they pick up pieces of frozen cold. I know it will get really cold again before it’s spring, but at least there won’t be coal involved.

I wonder what the next few months will bring, I have no doubt there will be new challenges. But all the while, I feel lucky to live somewhere as beautiful and peaceful as this.