Alexander Averin

Sunday 16 March 2008

Where I Live

Dear Diary,


I think of her sometimes when I lie in bed,
falling asleep in the room I have made in the roof-space
over the old dark parlwr where she died
alone in winter, ill and penniless.
Lighting the lamps, November afternoons,
a reading book, whisky gold in my glass.
At my typewriter tapping under stars
at my new roof window, radio tunes
and dog for company. Or parking the car
where through the mud she called her single cow
up from the field, under the sycamore.
Or looking at the hills she looked at too.
I find her broken crocks, digging her garden.
What else do we share, but being women?

Gwyneth Lewis

I have been asked by In The Mud to write seven random or quirky things about myself.
That will be my next task, later on in the day hopefully. First I have another piece of homework to hand in for Purplecoo. I have been asked to write about Where I Live.

Perhaps my Where, will be intermingled with Why I live here, as we chose to escape to Wales eighteen years ago when we had had enough of life in the south-east of England. I was born in London and moved out to rural Surrey and then Sussex but even though the countryside was lovely, there were different values surrounding us, ones that felt unreal to me. I guess we dropped out really, feeling totally disillusioned with the way things were going at that time in Thatcher’s England. The area was full of yuppies (remember them?) and what I can only describe as pretension. We felt our values were becoming ever-more different to our contemporaries who were caught up in making fast money and the Thatcher’s me-me philosophy.

We looked at properties

(sorry I hate that word, it just slipped out)

in Ireland too, but much as I love Ireland, at that time I felt that the children’s prospects would be better if we stayed in the UK. How wrong I was as Ireland’s Celtic Tiger was soon to rise up and make that country the most opportunistic of all. More importantly it also brought with it a new freedom and positive social changes that I had felt previously were lacking. I still feel a pang that I did not return to my true homeland but it was not meant to be and as things have turned out in my personal quest it was definitely the right decision.

We sold up and moved here having no idea of how we would make a living and we bought a smallholding deep in the Welsh hills with no electricity and with its own water supply. All Hovel in the Hills stuff. It was a dream come true really because for ten years we had dreamed of owning such a smallholding, having chickens, ducks, geese, goats etc. Growing our own vegetables, drinking our own milk. Getting back to nature.

Our dream came true and we moved with our two children, our daughter V, aged twelve and our son S, aged nine, into an old Welsh stone farmhouse which stood , in seven acres of land, well off the beaten track, down an unmade and many-gated road. Our nearest neighbour was a farm, half a mile away. There were fields, a little stream and plenty of woodland. Views to die for. Pretty idyllic really, apart from the many gates we had to open and close to get there! (I don’t miss those I can tell you). I could write a book about it, perhaps I will one day, though let’s face it there are loads of books about with the Escape to the Country theme.

Nowadays though, escaping to the country is a kind of a fashionable thing, more about the Country Living lifestyle and the décor that goes with it though to be serious there are many more pressing reasons nowadays that cause people to strive to escape the city life. Different ones to ours many moons ago. We were probably labelled more of the so-called hippyish variety I suppose. We followed our dreams and took a big step; it was a risk, it is only now that we look back and realise that. But we learned a lot and had many wonderful experiences.

We lived there for five years or so and wished we had moved earlier when the children were younger. It was the right thing to do, the best move and we have no regrets but now the children have flown the nest we live in a little old blacksmith’s cottage about ten miles or so from our original house. There are many, many reasons why we gave up the smallholding which I can save for another time, maybe. I can say though that where I live now is a very special and magical place, there are no bad vibes and everyone who comes here comments on its relaxing atmosphere. I just love it.

Where I live there are hills and mountains, delicious valleys, lakes and streams. We sit surrounded by hundreds of scattered hill farms, all hidden amongst the hills and valleys. Sheep far outnumber people and my cottage is set by a little mountain river. Indeed the love of the river caused me to buy the cottage in the first place. We cannot see another house from ours as was also the case when we lived in the remote old farmhouse.

I exist in a near-constant state of appreciation and wonder, such is the peace and beauty of this part of the world. I am however not part of this land, I am not Welsh, I am proud to be Irish but I chose to live here. I am still an incomer to this country and probably always will be.

I have waxed lyrical in so many past blogs about the country life and the view from my window that greets me each morning. About the beasts and the many species of birds who are my much-loved companions around my cottage.

What else made me move to Wales? To answer that I could tell you what this part of Wales lacks.

Traffic, pollution, crime. People.


(It also lacks shops but that’s a blog in itself.)

Wales is favoured by tourists but this area is still relatively ‘undiscovered’ - it has been called the secret Heart of Wales which is a very good description.

I have an excited feeling in my tummy as Spring and Summer move ever closer because just one glorious day of summer here can make up for all the cold, wet, grey Welsh winters.

I do feel closer to nature here. OK it’s a cliché but it’s true. I don’t need to go away on holidays as I am content to just sit by my little river, wander in the field, walk in the hills, or potter in the garden. Peace comes dropping slow. Talking of which it could be Ireland, it resembles West Cork which is, along with County Kerry, the home of my soul. Perhaps I could explain it by telling you what I miss when I go away from here. I miss the purity of the air, the mists, the hills, the sense of freedom and personal safety. There is no frenzy in the air which is almost tangible when you go back to the Otherworld where we used to live. I feel overwhelmed now when we go to cities or built-up areas.

The downsides are those that probably affect rural folk all over the UK nowadays and that is our slow ‘dismantling’. The fragility of our existence, our feeling of powerlessness and helplessness. Either lost and gone forever or under constant threat are our public services, our post offices, pubs, schools, public toilets, banks, schools, libraries, transport systems etc etc. So, apart from all the beauty which one hopes and prays will always be preserved, (though even that is not guaranteed in some areas!) we are a shaky community at the moment as we feel our democracy is crumbling. But this is probably UK wide, a perception felt by town and country folk alike. However, here we are in a minority, a poor one to boot and the poor relation is being ignored.

But that is the shadow side, let’s not dwell on that. We look forward in hope and with certain unity of purpose. I have not touched on the ‘C’ word yet. The sense of community is a strong one and we get on well here, locals and incomers alike and we shall fight for our rights, of that I am sure.

I am daily inspired living here. Inspired so much that I am often moved with such passion I just have to write about it and I am sure this would not have been happening so much if I lived elsewhere.

They say Nothing is Perfect but even so, Where I Live is pretty damn-near so.

Perhaps all that is missing is the sea………….

Bye for now,

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Inthemud said...

Cait, That was absolutely wonderfulto read!
What a perfect place to live, you are so very lucky. Though the sea would add another aspect, it does make for cold winds and damaged plants!

I know exactly what you mean about surrey and sussex, living here as we do, we have no pretensions, hubby sees to that with all his cars and clutter, but we see it all around us and so many people live behind electric gates now and take no part in the community, very sad.

Thanks so much for sharing where and why you live where you do!!

Muddie-Elaine XX

Suffolkmum said...

I lvoed this Cait. We share many of the same values and asprations, it seems. I was very interested to know more about why you moved where you did. Did your children settle well? We have sometimes thought about going somewhere more remote, but, being far more cautious than R, I do worry about uprooting the children. I salute your bravery!

Zoë said...

Sounds fabulous Cait, and I can fully understand your reasoning behind the move; its something we have been dreaming about for about 20 years too, but work necessitated we stay put. Soon though, soon!

You make your home sounds like paradise, long may it remain the secret heart. xx

Milla said...

Gorgeous, Cait, and this sentence says it all:
"I exist in a near-constant state of appreciation and wonder, such is the peace and beauty of this part of the world."
I love the sound of it for you, and for you it is clearly perfect. It wouldn't be for me, I'm bad at remoteness, I like a hustle and bustle and chat. I'd be twitching wanting something to "happen". I like to look at a hill, and think, yes, nice hill but couldn't live there. But that's what's so interesting, the difference. And it's a horror of a world such as I would love which seeks you to appreciate so what you love. My little one, my nature boy, would love what you love.

Faith said...

Your home sounds deeply peaceful Cait, and I would love to visit. I wouldnt personally like to live so far away in the countryside though.
Thanks for blogging about it.

Happy St. Patrick's Day Cait. My Em's dad's family are from the Cork area too.

Pondside said...

"I exist in a near-constant state of appreciation and wonder, such is the peace and beauty of this part of the world." Cait - I loved that line in today's blog, and can understand, from your writing, why you feel that way.
As I opened your blog Leonard Cohen's Halleluiah played! No coincidences, in my eyes, so I just sat back to enjoy the reading and listening.


Dear Cait

Wonderful description - your passion for your home is completely tangible in your writing and makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. And so lovely to have your reasons for being there, too. Love that title "The Secret Heart of Wales" and would love to discover it some time. Sounds like you've found the perfect place.

Chris Stovell said...

Wow! That was a really fascinating and heartfelt blog and so beautifully written. I really enjoyed reading about the 'why?' as well as the 'where?'. And Happy St Patrick's Day.

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

Total empathy.

Maggie Christie said...

That was a lovely read Cait. Much of it resonated with my own experiences, except I, like your children, was brought to live in Wales by my parents. Also, like you, I will always be an 'incomer'. So beautifully written and the Gywneth Lewis poem was the perfect choice to begin it with.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Lovely Cait. I feel sure I would love where you live and hope you would like mine. I know exactly what you mean about the beauty of place, really beautifully written.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Lovely Cait. I feel sure I would love where you live and hope you would like mine. I know exactly what you mean about the beauty of place, really beautifully written.

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

Forgot to say I found the Poem very moving.

Sam Fox said...

Loved reading this about your life and the why's and wherefore's, Cait. Can relate to so much - esp. the "state of near-constant appreciation" about your surroundings. As someone born in England (no matter I was only small when we immigrated) I feel too an incomer.... but love this land no the less for it. You write beautifully and should certainly consider that book.

Kitty said...

Just gorgeous to read, you evoke the sense of the place to so well, and you love of the countryside just sings out.

CAMILLA said...

So beautifully written, and where you live sounds heaven, indeed a paradise even.

Many writers/artists have said about the importance of being in a solitude of beautiful surroundings and scenery so as to be creative in their work, perhaps Dear Cait that is why we are so fortunate to have you share with us your wonderful Diary's which in themself are creative, and leaves us wanting more.

A beautiful Poem, and a truly wonderful blog, thank you sharing with us.


Carah Boden said...

Cait, loved reading this blog, but had to read it too quickly. I will have to come back again when I return from hols. So much I can relate to. I'm quarter welsh but that part rather shrouded in mystery. Family came from Golden Valley I think. We've been trying to dig up more about lost relatives. Another half of me is Cornish, so Celtic to the core! My Christian name is a Cornish surname, so I'm reminded of my roots daily despite being born and brought up in Sussex. Like you, I marvel at the views from my window (tho I'm not as remote as you) and feel so privileged to live somewhere so beautiful and peaceful after the freneticism of city life.

I love your blog, and your music. Very much my taste.