Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Town or Country Living?

We're going to see a house today. Together. This is the first house my husband has got really excited about or been to view with me. He has even been doing a few sums to work out if we can afford it. We probably can't, unless they accept a lower (much lower) offer.  And then there's the issue of getting a mortgage when my husband is on annual contracts & I don't have a job.  And we've been overseas for 5 1/2 years. Off the radar.

Before we moved back to the UK we said we would definitely move house. We decided we would move to a village. It was all settled. I started looking on the Internet as soon as we knew we were moving back, so that's been 18 months now. I couldn't help it, it's one of those nesting things. Very little suitable has come up, even less that my husband would consider. Part of it is that I have much more of an eye for what you can do to a property. I still desperately want to move. It's one of the things which has made me feel much less settled and in limbo. It also feels a real step backward, being back in our old house, with the same people round the corner, doing the same things we did 6 years ago. Did those last six years really happen? They feel as though they are being compressed and squeezed into a mere hourglass of time, rather than the tome of experiences it was for us. I know I should be grateful we have a community to move back into, but I have changed & moved on, yet this just feels like I am being squeezed back into who I was & where I was in 2005.

I was hoping that moving would give me a project as well as help me put down roots and settle. My husband has his new job, my children have their new schools, I over exuberant puppy & a mid-life crisis.

I want to be in the house we will be in here, so I can make it a home and get on with life. Doing a place up has always set my creative juices flowing and I would love to put my mark on somewhere rather than make do with what we inherit from the previous owners which is what we have always done before. After all I am 46 now. I've waited 21 years for this opportunity!

We have constant circular discussions about what to do. Mealtimes, late night debates. Town versus country. Which is better? My husband changes his view weekly. One week it's too expensive to move at all (stamp duty), another week it's to move way out into  the countryside to get more for our money. The next week it's to convert our cellar. And then my Country Boy decides our suburb is so convenient we would be fools to move.  It doesn't add to my feelings of security. But I feel equally paralysed by indecision.

Where we live is 5 minutes from the bus stop to school & town, a 10 minute walk to shops, library, tennis courts, six lots of friends are walking distance away. We share lifts to school, to youth group, clubs & can even have dinner & enjoy a nice bottle of wine with friends & then WALK home! BUT there are loads of student lets on our road, it's a rat run so quite a fast, noisy road and busy at rush hour. And just very urban.

Part of it is also that it's just not where I envisaged  bringing my children up, but then life often thwarts our expectations and dreams. Part of it is that I keep hoping & dreaming. Maybe I just need to let go of my dreams.  My husband is much more pragmatic & down to earth (and probably realistic)...

He had an idyllic childhood, living in a huge house, with rope ladder fire-escape from the top floor, an acre of garden, tennis court, zip wire, tree house & rope swing in the garden & what I call 'glorious isolation' - not that I would like it. I would hate to be 2 miles from my nearest neighbour!  He seems to feel if his children can't live somewhere like that, which of course they can't, then he would rather just stay put & live where we are & not try & get something a bit better. A bit more space & a bigger garden.

I did one of those pros and cons lists of 'suburb versus' village and they came out very equal but on different things. So that didn't really help either. Most people think I'm mad to consider moving and are very envious of the community we are in!  But then all my life I have felt out of sync with what everyone else is doing,  so no change there.

A few friends have said that as their kids get older, they quite like the 'limiting' nature of a village. i e their children CAN'T just be out and about all the time. You can maintain some degree of control by ferrying them around even though it is a pain. Our children have both just turned 12 and 8, so maybe we are too late for the country life and we need to be in town for the teen years......

Oh I don't know.......

What do you think? What would you do? Are you a town or country mouse?


nappy valley girl said...

Interesting. We have similar discussions about what we will do when we return to England, although it's more London vs not London than town vs country. I have always thought of myself as a town/city girl but I love where we live now, which is a small commuter town by the sea. I am not sure I could live in a tiny village, but I don't know if I really want to return to central London either, living in a cramped townhouse with no real garden. You certainly get more for your money in the country. But it could be boring, especially for teenagers.

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Hi NVG. Yes, I forgot to say in the post how mch I loved where we lived in Albania. We had a fab balcony with views over a small lake, olive trees & a vineyard. In the other direction we could see the mountains, the big park & its much larger lake. AND we were only 6 mins from downtown! in most other countries you'd pay a mint for such a great location! Having read yr posts abt where you live, it does sound lovely, with views & open spaces, & water. You'll miss that. I was in shock when we 1st moved back. It felt so urban & hemmed in! I guess I've got a bit more used to it now & it certainly is convenient. Not sure I wnt to settle for convenient though!

Anonymous said...

I'm a country girl. But the convenience of city living is hard to give up. Interesting what you say about wanting to have felt you've moved on during your time away. I'm considering a return to the UK after essentially almost 4 years of abroad and am feeling a distinct pull to move to a different flat, not back into the one I lived in before. That need to not go back in time and feel as though I'm settling back into the rut of a few years ago.

Hard to justify (stamp duty is a bugger!) but a very real pull.

PantsWithNames said...

Exactly the same conversations going on here. I keep wanting to up sticks and go somewhere rural, but Dave points out that I'd have to use a car more than we do now (almost never) and that I'd miss being able to pop into neighbours for a coffee. So we do nothing and talk about it for a bit more.

Fancy meeting up in town at some point?

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Mud: If you can avoid it do! Make a new start. It seems so banal to settle for convenience somehow doesn't it??
Emily: Why are men always so devastatingly pragmatic? Do they have to point out all the flaws in our dreams?! And yes, I'd forgotten we were in the same town! I'd love to meet up.

Anonymous said...

When my husband and I took early retirement 6 years ago, we moved to France to live in an idyllic setting in the country. We converted a barn ( that we could never have afforded in the UK) and it's just beautiful. We're not far from a small town but my oh my, life is dull dull dull and I miss my grown up kids and my girlfriends. Also I never get to enjoy simple pleasures like having a coffee in town with a girlfriend and a good old chinwag and don't get me going on shop opening hours.....
I thought I'd love country life here as I am a friendly gal and a fluent french speaker and was a real francophile but it's made me realize what a townie ( and a Brit) I really am. So we are selling up and moving back and I can't wait!
I think it's easier for a family to move to the country as friendships can be made through your children and the school. And I suspect British country life isn't quite as isolated as French country life.
One thing that I know is a problem in both countries is the fact that you have to drive the kids everywhere and will rack up miles. Also be aware that in some country areas ( both in the UK and France) drug taking is a potential problem among young people who have few leisure facilities and too much time on their hands.
The best advice I was ever given was to let the decision make itself....and it always works so good luck with whatever you decide to do.
I do enjoy your blog by the way. Blogs are a lifesaver!!!

Expat mum said...

I have quite a few friends who did the tiny village thing, and then moved into a more urban setting when the children were teens, because the parents were fed up with ferrying the kids everywhere.
I'm right in the city (Chicago), and although it's urban but residential, I sometimes long for a bit of peace and quiet. My kids however, won't even hear of a move. They love the hustle and bustle and being able to get the bus etc.
We also walk a lot so it's good for us and I hardly ever fill up the gas/petrol tank.

London City (Mum) said...

City girl but need 'space'.
Which in London equates to living near the river, with parks and greens a stone's throw away, and sufficient ceiling height in the house that I don't have to sit down to feel less cramped.
Not cheap, but worth the hard slog to get here.


Iota said...

Oh gosh, I don't know any more. I suppose city, but not too big and overwhelming a city, and only if my mum stays living where she is, so I can have breaks in the country. I would find it intimidating to move to a village where I didn't know anyone. Somehow it's easier to move to a big place, (town or city), where you don't know anyone. That's not logical, but it's how it feels.

Midlife Singlemum said...

What about a small town as a compromise and living on the outskirts of it? I'm sharing this post as well - it's a sort of micro expat problem.