Tag Archives: country life

The wrong turn, the right result

One of the things we’ve missed out in recent busy months is the random wandering across the countryside that you do in the interest of Sunday adventuring. Pick a place that sounds pretty, drive out, and have a walk! Such was the plan this Sunday, and, minor bits of Internet research complete, we headed out…

Of course, as Amanda knows the area pretty well, SatNav was kept in his box and we struck out confidently in roughly the right direction… and ended up turning off slightly too early on our route to scenic Kingsclere (our original destination), ending up in a tiny but beautiful village called Hannington. Discovering a map of local walks in the Lych-gate of the village church, we struck out on a cold and misty morning and had a lovely (short, and cold) walk, miles off the beaten path, meeting no-one other than two local villagers and their dogs out for the morning tramp around.

The pub, the Vine, is possibly one of the nicest country pubs I’ve been to in the area and the food was amazing – Emily even thought so, eating her way through a portion of pasta big enough for a 7-year-old. Wonderful.

Here’s to more countryside adventuring in the weeks to come…

One year of country life

Dawn over Basingstoke Common

A year ago today, we packed up our bags and left the Big Smoke. I won’t deny that I had some anxiety about it; leaving friends and (my) family, introducing a 2.5 hour a day commute, having to drive everywhere and more, and with Emily (then merely "Hippo") on the way, it was a fairly hectic experience.

Looking back on the first year of this new life, I have absolutely no regrets. I’ve had barbecues from Spring through Autumn, played with my daughter on our big lawn, grown and eaten veg straight off the plants and fruit off the trees, run and cycled through village after village, made local friends via the NCT, discovered the joy of jumble, DIY and more, and am enormously enjoying the lifestyle. We’ve even found good local Indian and Chinese takeaway restaurants and discovered Papa Johns.

It’s been a fantastic first year. I still miss my friends but many of them are being good enough to visit with some regularity and I’m getting better at heading up for London nights out here and there.

Here’s to what comes next.

From city dweller to country gent

Many of my friends (and family, no doubt) are probably still somewhat mystified as to how I’ve taken to country life so well. My mother keeps saying "you were such an urban boy…" and smiling when I show off our veg patch.

Whilst I do miss the proximity of friends and family, the transition from city dweller to country gent really hasn’t been a hardship in any way. Apart from the extra space, there are lots of other things that have made it easy on me.

  1. Everything is more convenient. Admittedly its more convenient thanks to having a car, but the truth of the matter is that getting anywhere in London takes a disproportionate amount of time. I had a rule of thumb – if I had to get a tube or bus somewhere in London, it would take at least 30 minutes. And crossing London can take a considerable amount more time, never mind when there’s a disruption, fall of leaves on the track or a light shower of rain. In the countryside? Most things I need to get to are a maximum of 10 minutes drive away.
  2. The pace of life is wonderful. When I get home, it feels like a dramatic gearshift. I’m sure a lot of that is due to being a family man, but even if it wasn’t – walking around in the late evening sunshine in my back garden, bouncing Emily around or looking at the veg… is pretty amazing.
  3. The commute is better. I know, I know, I moan about it… and the SWT guys aren’t great, but, except, for when I was in cycling range of my office, the public transport from other places in London – like my sister’s house – can take longer than the train does to get home. That’s the 5 miles from our offices in Victoria needing an hour and a quarter to traverse (admittedly on a bad day, in rush hour).
  4. I like the structure the trains put around my day – I’m in the office every day at 7.40am and have to be out at 6. Still a long day, but at least without the uncertainty of when I’m getting home (again, except for delays). And obviously I’m able to be productive on the train in and out of Basingstoke in a way that I could never be on any London transport vehicle.
  5. I was never really a ‘true’ urban dweller. I grew up in the suburbs in a country where you had to drive everywhere, spent five years in the deepest countryside, 3 years in a small University town and then 7 years in London. I’m beginning to think that living in London as the unusual part of my life…

All that said, I do still very much enjoy being in London for work. Some of the things that happen here, only happen here, and I’ll never stop thinking of it as one of the greatest cities in the world. It’s wonderful to visit friends and family there, when they’ll have us, but I have to admit, I’m resoundingly and categorically glad I don’t live there any more.

Herman the cake

Herman I’ve never been a fan of chain mail… until my wife got this one from a friend in the village.

Using a sourdough starter, a set of instructions guided Amanda through the process of making a very tasty sourdough fruitcake. And given that Herman is based on a ‘live’ mix, it is designed to be expanded and shared. It was, however, as you’ll see from the recipe, a considerable amount of work for Amanda, so she was a little reticent about spreading its offspring…

It however, was delicious, and is a crazy way of spreading baked goodness amongst your friends, if you happen to know some passionate bakers… According to Lucy it’s good with apple and cinammon and a thing to be expected in the Home Counties.

I’m wondering if my baking colleague at caketakesthebiscuit has experienced this one…

The routines and rhythms of a country gentleman

I seem to be turning into a country person. My surprisingly enduring passion for running has been joined by a not-insignificant-interest in gardening (at least insofar as it results in food), instead of drinking I’m more often driving, BBQs have become a regular occurrence, and every room in the house is fast acquiring its own ‘project’ – whether its painting a wall, putting up shelves or insulating.

Is this a mark of middle age? Maybe. Am I embracing it? Hells yeah, this is massive fun. Maybe at some point a year or two after we moved in we’ll ‘finish’ but the received wisdom seems to be that these things are endlessly cyclical…

There are limits to this, though. I don’t own any tweed, will never own a gun, and don’t plan on taking up hunting or fishing. Golf, however, may happen again at some point…