So, it’s finally time.
After all the shilly-shallying, will we-won't we, we are finally going to put this crazy, gorgeous, mad house on the market.
How do I feel? Conflicted. I thought this would be my forever home, I really did. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’ll know how I fell head over heels in love with the place, with everything about it. I could see past the layers of vinyl wallpaper, past the nutty layout (inherited from when it was a sporting hotel). Its problems didn’t faze me – I knew I could put it right. Okay, so it’s not quite finished – there are bits that still need some TLC, but the bones of this house are good. Oh, let’s be honest – it’s drop-dead gorgeous. That vast sitting room with the immense fireplace and the vaulted ceiling that could be a chapel or, if you’re feeling fanciful, a Viking great hall (on a small scale); those arts and craft windows with the dragon latches; that secluded garden; those suntrap bedrooms.
Why are we moving? Because it’s time. Because things change and, no matter how much one might like to keep everything in aspic, it’s akin to asking the tide to stay put and please wait just there. No lapping, if you don’t mind.
After twenty years of country living, it’s time to head for the city again. London? No. Much as I love my old manor, I couldn’t move back even if I wanted to. My old house (a three-bedroom terrace in North-East London) would now cost close to a million. Crazy, huh?
‘Of all the people I know, I never thought you’d settle in the country,’ said an old friend I met recently. ‘London was your happy hunting ground, your patch. I never thought you’d stick it in the sticks.’
Yes, I loved London. But I have loved the countryside too. Over the last twenty years, I have watched so many city dwellers arrive starry-eyed, only to become disillusioned, and race back to the smoke. Mainly they find the countryside boring in comparison to the city. There simply isn’t the diversity of shops, entertainment and people that cities have.
Here in Dulverton, we’re lucky – we have four pubs, some great restaurants and cafes, tons of individual independent shops, plenty of clubs and activities and plenty of deliciously odd people (as well as some very nice normal ones, of course). Even so, people want more - it often seems as though what they really want is the city with a few cows, sheep and thatched roofs. But the countryside (even relatively 'civilised' outposts like Dulverton) is a very different beast from the city and it takes a certain mindset to get on here.
I've been lucky. I have made great friends here – a far greater variety than I ever did in the city. Back in London my friends were all pretty much arty media types – journalists and musicians, artists and fashion designers, with a garnish of lawyers. Here in the country, my pals are teachers, carers, farmers and builders; fitness instructors, beauticians, owners of small businesses. The age range is far wider and, whereas in London my friends shared much the same political views, in the countryside one simply can’t afford to let politics get in the way of friendship. I’ll miss them and this community that open-heartedly welcomed us.
I will miss being able to walk straight out into stunning countryside, up through the woods, down through the fields, along by the river, out onto the moor. I will miss popping into the shops for a pint of milk and coming back an hour later because I’ve bumped into so many people and been kept chatting. I will miss my outdoor exercise classes – in drizzle, fog and frost, even in snow and cloudburst – Exmoor folk are hardy. And I will miss this gorgeous old house which is right in the centre of this glorious Exmoor town (is it a large village or a small town – I can never decide) and yet remains completely secluded. As James recently pointed out, if there were a Zombie Apocalypse, we would be ideally situated to hunker down and stay safe. Now there’s a good selling point!
My son, however, is not remotely conflicted. The countryside was his playground as a child – yes, we followed all the clichés – wild swimming and picnics by the river; lazy days on the glorious North Devon beaches; building fire-pits and willow huts; larking around with dogs and ponies; hunting for antlers (and finding them); hiking and cycling, canoeing and camping.
But now he’s fifteen, he wants something a bit edgier, something more urban, something more ‘youthful’. His friends, who used to love coming over to build huts and tree-houses, now want to hang out at the shops or go bowling, paintballing and to the cinema. Soon it will be bars and clubs. So, it’s time to go. Time to let him stretch his wings and time for me to snap out of my country fugue. Besides, journalism is changing. I am changing. I need a new challenge.
So. If you know anyone who is keen to try the Good Life on Exmoor, let me know. I’ve tugged together a blog to show a little more of the house so take a look and spread the word. Just make sure you're the 'right type' huh? :-)