Sunday, 19 May 2019

100 days...

As you walk along Rue du Sermon in Sark, heading from the Clos à Jaon crossroads towards Le Port, you'll see a little pink stone farmhouse nestled behind Mon Plaisir Stores. 100 days ago as I write this, I saw this cottage for the first time.

100 days.

In the far flung former colonies there is great play made of the first 100 days of a president in office, or, of course as it is now, the Wotsit in Chief. So when I realised it was 100 days I had to write. Let's face it, I've been threatening to write about the move itself as well as the realities of living on a rock in the middle of the sea.

Wet. Very, very wet.
I often fret that I've not managed to "do" much, let's face it, whenever I'm asked how I'm settling in I usually include the fact that I've still got three boxes to unpack. I have. They are being singularly stubborn and refusing to distract me from other things to get them done.

But it got me thinking, just what have I done? Well...

I visited Sark for the first time, I discovered just how wet and windswept I can get and still keep smiling. Location might have made a difference. I put in an offer for a place, arranged removals, slept little, panicked a lot, packed endless books, lost my marbles and yet somehow managed to get from there to here.

Not Sark.
In the 40 days between visiting and then moving here I also managed to squeeze in trips to Barcelona and Nice as well as forays to different parts of the UK to deal with various issues.

The funny thing with these trips, as well as my final bumble in to the West End for going away drinkies, was that they helped me realise that I really was ready to not being constantly surrounded by endless noise, chaos and... Anonymity.

Don't get me wrong, I love the experiences and no doubt I'll be travelling again soon, but for now I'm happy to adjust to a new way of life.

Un rock star.
The last trip to Nice was memorable for a couple of reasons, one because we stumbled on a fabulous little restaurant, Chez Moi, the other... turns out the Hotel had a dark past as the former Gestapo headquarters in Nice. I guess they liked how convenient it was for Gare de Nice Ville...

I did try not to dwell on the connection.

Ooh, what am I thinking, now we're talking about food... In Barcelona I rather inevitably went back to Bar Restaurant Victòria on Carrer dels Àngels, it's as good as ever, especially if like me you're allergic to tourists... Another highlight, foodwise and if you like dead things, was Arcano on Carrer dels Mercaders. The steak was really good and the view... *fans self*

Somebody will check the address and see that it's down a side street. Ladies, just go, you'll understand.

Bloody bear.
Finally, cocktails, I can't recommend Pura Vida, again on Carrer dels Mercaders, enough. A fantastic, if tiny, wee place.

I really need to do more blogging, I'm way behind on trips!

Where was I? Oh yes. Back in the realities of oh-feck-not-long-before-I-move I had three weeks after returning from Nice before I would be handing over the keys in Epping Upland. But here's the thing, as I will write at some point, to move to the Channel Islands requires a certain amount of logistics which means I had 16 days before the boys from R&R would be turning up to pack everything...


Epping Upland
Wait, when did that happen? I must have booked them at some point in the previous few weeks. Keep in mind that it was 40 days between arriving on Sark and arriving on Sark to move in. Come to think of it there were a mass of things I organised. How did I do that and manage to keep working? Perhaps I'm not as hopeless as I think.

In this time I managed to also take a trip to see my surgeon for a check up to see if the prolapse repair worked (it did) and, more importantly, the travelling one rolled back to the UK for a couple of weeks so that she could organise her things and give me moral support. By organise things we mean sort out anything that needs to be dumped or taken to the charity shop, moral support though? Giggles, morning natters and evenings in the Traveller's Friend, my nearest pub in the next village.

Missy was sent packing the day before R&R turned up and I went from worrying about all the things I had to do to feeling helpless as they were now doing the actual move. And very impressive they were too.

For the avoidance of doubt, as you can see in the picture to the right, Epping Upland was lovely but quite isolated.

The packing went over two days. Well, a day and a half. Fortunately more moral support turned up in the form of my lovely friend Paul. Also handy as he would go to Epping in search of emergency supplies.

I never want to move again.

Way to stressful.

Somehow though I made it to handover day, said goodbye to Rosie next door, managed not to cry too much and then jumped in the SLK and headed to Yorkshire...

For fish and chips. As you do.

Here's another number.


60 days since I moved to Sark. But there was one day in Guernsey.

After the fish and chips in Yorkshire it was an early start for the flight from Manchester. Monty was happy as there was fizz on the plane. Monty is always happy with fizz. I'd also arranged to meet up with a friend of mine and former flatmate of my former flatmate, like a friend of a friend but with more insider knowledge.

As my friend Ermin lives in Guernsey it meant I had a quick run down of things I should know, or not, and a brief tour of St Peter Port.

I also found my trusty boots had decided that they didn't want to be with me anymore, they heel developed a puncture and I was listing to one side. I'm sure there will be a few people that will wonder how this is even slightly different from normal. Fortunately, Millets were selling off their old stock so I picked up a pair of sensible rough walking shoes ideal for life on Sark. Goodbye slingbacks and ridiculous heels, I'll miss you.

The only fly in the ointment was I received a phone call... From R&R, only two of the three containers had made it to Sark...

After a fabulous evening in Da Nello as guests of Ermin and his brilliant and lovely wife Laura a good night's sleep was had before yet another early start.

Moving day.

February sea...
At least the rain was holding off and it was no way near as rough as it had been 40 days earlier in February. I was glad to see the removals guys on the boat.

I was slightly fretting, in the same way that the sea is slightly wet, about what the third container contained. I just hoped it wasn't my bed, or worst still, the kettle.

As is my wont, I spent the hour trip preparing plan B, there wasn't a lot else for me to do other than meet the estate agent and stand there telling people where to put things.

I'm bossy like that.

So what next? Well, over the next 60 days I've simply made a home. It took some effort as first I had to get past the enormous pile of boxes, the pile that grew when my neighbour Jimmy turned up with the missing container.

Eventually the scaffolding came down from the chimneys, the boxes were mostly emptied and, most importantly, I got back to work. At first I was in the lounge as the third bedroom which would be my study was, well, full.

Progress seemed interminably slow as, of course, I was also working during the days which meant I mostly did a sorting at weekends with a little in the evenings.

And Friday is meat draw.

And sometimes you just have to go for a little walk.

The lounge was made ready just in time for the littlest offspring to visit over Easter. It's not quite how I'd like it as the daybed is for my study for when I need thinking time. But it would do until I can afford another sofa.

The dining table, well that's currently my desk. And will stay so until I can manage to order the desk I'd like, which, this being Sark, is really tricky. But that's for another blogpost.

The important room though was pretty much sorted, the kitchen. As with Epping Upland when I first arrived I pretty much lived there.

Needless to say other things have happened. I've had visitors on four of the weekends, which has been lovely. One was written off after spending the entire day in the pub, something I just don't do.

I've explored a little, particularly when the littlest offspring was here. Friday's are the night I always go out-out as I love how busy the Bel Air becomes for the meat draw. It doesn't hurt that I've managed to have a winning ticket a few times.

Lunches have been had in the Island Hall or even a solo picnic on Port à la Jument beach. There have been pizzas at the Bel Air, fish and chips at AJ's and even supper at La Seigneurie were I was fortunate to meet some fabulous new people.

Closer to home I've bought a lovely British racing green bicycle called Imogen, the first I've had in years. She's not quite as quick as the SLK but she does have the advantage of being far easier to park. And cheaper on fuel (about a pie a week). I've baked lots and lots of bread and this has me pondering a mad idea.

I've also managed to re-discover my creativity. Maybe not with writing yet, I'll get there.

I also know there is no rush.

A photo.
For example, last week, I think, I did something I've not done in ages, I planned a photograph. On the perfect day, sun just right, windy and the tide coming the right way, as the Guerns were partying away on their Liberation Day I climbed down to Port à la Jument with my tripod and took a photo. And you know what?

I felt at peace.

I've even restarted running. Now I've not done that in ages owing to, well, injury, surgery and then moving somewhere where it was very difficult, ploughed fields are impossible. So I'm restarting and whilst I'm only at week three I can't think of a better place to go for early morning runs.

There are definite upsides. Whereas in London a 6am run means you have to deal with seeing all the really fit and toned people making like gazelles as I do my award winning interpretation of a hippopotamus wearing Nike, here all I have to deal with are the sheep laughing at me and occasional free range chickens executing their right to roam.

It's truly horrible.

Yes the roads are not perfect. And perhaps a little stony. None of that matters. The air is clear, the breeze keeps me cool and the view is calming.

Yesterday was momentous. At day 99 I discovered that the potatoes I'd planted had started to grow. This was a massive surprise as I wasn't sure whether I'd done things quite right. I'd wondered how best to deal with some sprouting potatoes and found an article that seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Time will tell.

So what next?

Well, more of the above. But none of it in any particular hurry. As I finally finish the last of the jobs needed to make the house just right I will have more time for activities other than just working and sorting. What direction these take I don't know and I'm not sure whether it matters. If you move to a place because you want a more peaceful life then why create artificial stresses?

I'm sure all will become clearer over the coming weeks and months. My days will continue to be punctuated by the rising sun as the birds, horse's hooves and occasional tractors provide a soundtrack.

In the meantime I shall sign off, I have bread to make, the rest of my washing to put on. And, of course, I need a cup of tea.


And there are three boxes left to unpack...

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Mystery, minarets and mint tea

Happy Ferry Face
It started in Bosnia - like most exciting, earth-shattering things do. That country has a magical draw and I need to spend more time there. Of course, it could just be the melancholic thoughts caused by too much beer and burek. But I digress already.

Many years ago I made a friend there, and on the rare occasions we meet, he still manages to challenge and expand my mental horizons; some people just have that effect. May 2016, sat in that dim* Sarajevski Celtic bar, he revealed he was from Turkey and it sowed a thought-seed. He said he was never coming back to Istanbul...but I’m happy he was here to go out for an epic pizza with me, although that’s his story.

Friday, 15 March 2019

You're moving where?

It's been a while since I last wrote.

In fact, looking at blogger I see there were several posts that I never published. I'm not sure why. So you must forgive my complete lack of writing mojo, it's something you have to do often to let it flow easily. This isn't going to flow easily.

But I do need to write because I keep getting asked the whys and whats of "you're moving where?".

Several weeks ago I wrote to my landlord's agents to ask what the scores were about continuing in Epping Upland. They were fine, no changes, I'd move to a rolling agreement with just a month notice and I could start thinking about doing boring things like repairing the skirting board and perhaps a little light redecoration. It wasn't ideal, for many reasons, but I was relatively settled.

And then...

Well then missy decided that she, quite rightly, would like to fund a more permanent place in Croatia. It had to happen sooner or later and meant that I could think about somewhere that didn't have the issues which came with the place. Namely... traffic noise, no easy way to get to the pub in the next village and a lack of community in winter. It wasn't too bad in summer, but winter... Well winter was rubbish and fairly lonely.

Don't get me wrong, I knew it would be like this, but I wasn't getting to see anyone.

So I started looking, something big enough for one but not shoebox, something affordable, something with a community. A veritable Kinder egg of the accommodation world. Yeah, right.

Affordable for one meant nowhere nearer than a stupid distance to London, which meant that any savings I might make on the accommodation would be utterly broken by the travel budget. And as I'd already learned community is something impossible to measure unless you've spent time somewhere.

I even looked at a few places along the south coast and was left with that sinking feeling of being a parody of Waiting for God without a Tom as a foil to my inner Diana. I was definitely not ready for that.

Which brings us to Sark... I'd been fortunate enough to visit the island in February during a gale force 8-9 storm with hellish rain. And I loved it. There was most definitely a community spirit. I had more conversations with people in a simple walk than I ever did in weeks in Epping Upland or even Epping. And definitely not in the two years I lived by Limehouse Marina. Did you know that in those two years I could count the conversations I'd had with my neighbours on one hand. Three of those were with the same chap in number 88.


And then there is the UK. I'm fed up with it. I'm fed up with the rudeness and how selfish everyone is. And the endless anger. When did it become acceptable to have stand up rows in the street because people don't let you do your own thing in a world where everyone is centre stage. But also... brexit. A simple idea that has directly contributed to a rise in the unpleasant index of a once supportive country. When this all kicked off two years ago I had a very clear vision of what was to come, nothing has happened to show I was wrong. At the time I decided that I would get out, leave the UK, I just didn't know where and I knew that it would be potentially impossible to move to mainland Europe in the meantime. Okay so there was a point where it wasn't just a possibility but was the plan. But like people, plans die.

So a lovely place with friendly people, pubs and no cars or streetlights. Outside of the UK. It was sounding good.

Especially as I lay there at 5am listening to the beginnings of the constant drone of vehicles driving past the cottage that wouldn't abate for several hours before starting again in anger.

There was something else. As much as I theoretically lived in a bucolic idyll it was not ideal with the littlest offspring to visit as he couldn't just go wandering off exploring the lovely countryside without  crossing an incredibly busy B road with no footpath. It simply wasn't safe.

Food is available...
So what if he could visit? And those visits could be weeks at a time with him being able to go off, hang out with other kids and explore? The kind of thing I did growing up in the 70s. And on an island.

It sounded... perfect.

Okay there were problems. Getting there is a bit of a pain, but this is not unsolvable.

So with this in mind... I found a place and put in an offer.

It was accepted.

...and proper tea!
Since then things have fallen in to place and, incredibly, the dots of steps have been joined by tenuous lines. And those tenuous lines have become solid. So solid that as I write this my worldly goods are in a lorry heading to Portsmouth and I'm working wherever I can find a place to sit. I think the move has to be the subject of another blog about the realities of moving to an island. In the channel. With no cars.

It will be worth doing.

It will be exciting.

It will be an adventure.

First though I have to complete the move and paperwork. For now I'll leave you with the latest thing I've changed; The marker on Google maps for... home.

I arrive next Wednesday.