Giving up on the dream house


For as long as I can remember I've dreamt of living in the countryside, in an old farmhouse or cosy cottage, with land enough for chickens, ducks and maybe some goat. A vegetable patch at the bottom of the garden and a country pub just a short walk away. Basically I want to live in Kate Winslet's house in The Holiday.

I grew up in rural South Wales. We lived in an old farmhouse with an acre of land, stables (that Mum stored coal in), an old chicken coop that me and my sister used as a Wendy House and a big Aga in the kitchen. In my nostalgic memory it was idyllic and we had the perfect childhood. It's easy to forget that Mum used to shovel coal into the house everyday to keep it warm. That, as we grew up and wanted to participate in activities like Brownies and swimming club, Mum had to make the 15 mile round trip into town in a crappy old Fiat Panda. And when it snowed, or we had a heavy frost, the driveway up the hill to the main road was impassible. I had a mile walk to catch the school bus in the mornings and the reality is, my Mum must have been awfully lonely once it was just me, her and my sister. Still, this is the life I longed for. The life I longed for my future children to have. The alerts I'd set up on RightMove, along with an unrealistic budget, flooded into my inbox, but it soon became clear that this wasn't a lifestyle we could afford. Turns out, Norfolk is a lot more expensive than South West Wales.

I blame my unrealistic expectations on a mix of childhood nostalgia and Instagram. Some of my favourite accounts to follow are those of women who live in the dream idyllic country cottages. They have chickens and ducks and live the simple life I think I long for. They have Agas, log fires and exposed beams. I have to remind myself that I don't know the circumstances behind their way of life and I generally only see the good bits. I don't get to see their salary slips, they're mortgage balances, their clapped out Fiat Pandas. All I know is, I was longing for a life that we simply cannot afford. And perhaps, when I consider the realities this lifestyle would throw at us, one I wouldn't have enjoyed quite as much as I think I would.

All this to say, our new house was built in the 70s. We now live closer to Norwich, on a fairly busy main road, and it needs completely modernising. There's no room for chickens and it has no chimney, so a woodburner is looking unlikely. It does however have a floral toilet, which if we decide not to keep, I've got a whole host of interested folk on Instagram eyeing it up. But the house was within our price range and essentially a blank canvas that, over time, we can make completely us. The garden is bigger, has a pond, and I may not have room for a vegetable patch but across the road from us are allotments. We're within walking distance of one of Norwich's beautiful parks. I can still pop into the city on a Saturday morning for breakfast with my friends. The house is big enough for us to grow into and I don't feel I had to make any sacrifices in life to make the move work. I've also come around to the thinking that our children won't be left wanting simply because they don't live in the middle of nowhere.

I'm slowly encouraging birds back into the garden, I'm not sure the old folks that lived here fed them. I'm making plans for the flower beds and need to get myself on the allotment waiting list. The little study room is getting a makeover first, as the very old carpet stank of cat piss. And eventually we'll knock the wall down between the kitchen and the dining room to make it into one big kitchen diner. Something that was top of my 'what do we want from our new house?' list. I plan to share progress here on the blog. I'm actually really excited to start blogging again properly. If you would like to see the full house tour it's over in my Instagram story highlights.

And talking of Instagram, I still follow all the country cottage accounts that I love, but I'm also in the market for modern home renovation accounts and have found a couple that I really enjoy. Are there any that you recommend? Feel free to recommend chicken accounts too, I live vicariously through them.

The Bookcast Club // Episode 13


Welcome to episode 13, our first episode of 2019. Alice and I chat about reading slumps, current and recent reads and the books we're looking forward to in 2019. We're also looking for recommendations on a group read for April. A book you think we would both enjoy, or at least you would enjoy hearing us talk about, something readily available and not in hardback only. If you have any questions or ideas for future episodes please contact us on Twitter @bookcastclub or by email.


Listen in iTunes | Listen on Soundcloud

Support The Bookcast Club

If you would like to support The Bookcast Club, please visit my Patreon page to find out more.

Books mentioned in this episode:

I'll be Gone in the Dark - Michelle McNamara

Manhunt - Colin Sutton

Educated - Tara Westover

Spool of Blue Thread - Anne Tyler

Midnight Chicken and Other Recipes Worth Living For - Ella Risbridger

The Christmas Chronicles - Nigel Slater

Wedding Toast I'll Never Give - Ada Calhoun

Melmoth - Sarah Perry

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life - Ruth Franklin

Live Green: 52 Steps for a More Sustainable Life - Jen Chillingsworth

Cruedo - Olivia Laing

The Water Cure - Sophie Mackintosh

Milkman - Anna Burns

Normal People - Sally Rooney

Circe - Madeleine Miller

Becoming - Michelle Obama

Links mentioned in this episode:

Wendy Cope - poetry collections

Brian Bilston - InstaPoet

Captain Fantastic - film with Viggo Mortensen

Sentimental Garbage - podcast

Modern Love - New York Times column


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