THE SIMPLE EDIT

A Shropshire lass who went away and a New Yorker who came to stay

Life

MY LUDLOW LIFE – Monty Lowe

Ludlow is a town of small businesses. Behind the Jacobean and Georgian facades, down the scenic streets and cobbled alleyways, thrives a community of talented creatives. They are artists, writers, potters, chefs, restaurateurs, jewellery designers, book binders, beauticians, curators and florists and they are Ludlow’s beating heart. If anyone can tell you about the ins and outs of our buzzing town, it’s the people who work here.

This is week, we interview Monty Lowe, curator of Ludlow Buttercross Museum

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Ludlow’s Broad St viewed from The Museum

What’s your connection to Ludlow?

  1. Are you an incomer (fell in love on a visit)
  2. Returner (grew up here, went away, glad to be back)
  3. Have never left the shire (why go anywhere else?)

I am in incomer. I grew up in Leicestershire and have lived all over the UK.

Living in and around Ludlow is the bees knees because….

It is centrally placed on the Welsh borders within a great landscape both geographically and in its archaeological and historical context. It is also vibrant in the modern sense too.

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Ancient Artefacts on display at The Museum

Tell us something about Ludlow nobody knows

The landscape archaeology of Ludlow is interesting and complex. Old routes enter the town and make reference to the site occupied by St Lawrence’s church. It is documented that a large burial mound occupied the site before the church (the ‘low’ of Ludlow) and part of the perimeter on the Bullring/top of Corve Street is circular; I have suspicions the site may have been a henge monument before Christianity. It is possible that the site relates to the old field site at Bromfield which was a Necropolis burial place from prehistoric and into Anglo-Saxon times.

Your favourite haunt and why?

The Castle bookshop in Ludlow. Stanton has been a great friend since I moved to Ludlow. It is both a great shop and also the place to catch up on Ludlow gossip. The building is an important place in my social life and people-watching from high up in the building onto the square is an excellent way to waste time.

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The Buttercross viewed from King Street

What would your perfect day in Ludlow look like?

I like Ludlow early in the morning, before the town fills with people. I like approaching the Buttercross Museum in the bright sunshine and seeing the building; I am always amazed I work in this beautiful place. I love engaging in talk with visitors to the museum and it’s great that many have shared heritage/archaeological interests. At the close of day, the perfect view of Ludlow is from the museum; directly upon the length of Broad Street with the church of St Giles, Ludford poking its head above the Broad gate. In winter, the sunsets from the window are exceptional particularly when the Christmas lights are lit.

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Monty giving a talk at The Museum

Finally, your recommends: your top spot to eat, drink or visit in the area?

For drink, I am going to recommend ‘Artisan Ales’ on Old street. The downstairs is a bottled beer shop and the owner (Publican Gary), has created a parlour pub upstairs where, changing guest cask ales are available; as well as choosing from the bottled beers. It is a great place for beer and conversations.

Food: It would have to be ‘Aragon’s’ café on Church Street. This is where I meet friends for breakfast. Quality food and ran by owner, Dave, and his brilliant team of friendly staff.

Visit: I have to recommend the Buttercross museum. We are approaching our first anniversary since re-establishing the museum in this building. It is a beautiful venue of calm inside with the vibrant hub of the town outside. The resident collection has a great display of key artefacts that any museum would be proud of. We have established a quarterly changing exhibit space which receives favourable interest and we have celebrated the work of 1980’s computer gaming magazines, Zzap and Crash, which were produced just feet away from the museum. We presently have a collaborative British Museum exhibit named ‘Treasure 20’ which recognises the great work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. From September 1st, it will be a private collection of everyday Georgian ephemera.

We are more than simply a museum. It is a place for people with an interest in Heritage, history, museums and archaeology to engage with. Myself and my colleague Helen are more than happy to assist with any enquiries. We work closely with the Shropshire museum services, local archaeology, education and other allied professionals and volunteer groups.

We have also created a programme of public lectures/talks at the Buttercross for summer and next Spring; with a special Christmas lecture added in too. It’s a great opportunity to visit the museum outside of the usual operational hours. The lit cases come alive when the big lights are dipped and we also have the Castle bookshop as a ‘pop-up bookshop’ selling related publications.

Who would you like to nominate for the next profile?

Seeing as I have mentioned the Castle Bookshop several times, it is only fair that I nominate Stanton Stephens, proprietor, for the next profile. I think of Stanton as a statesman for the town. He is Ludlow-born from a family of greengrocers. He is a Dr of Art history and a great supporter of Ludlow Museum and heritage groups.

BIO

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Monty Lowe

Born in Leicestershire, Monty spent some time studying in Stockholm as an A&E & Trauma Nurse, a career which lasted 19 years. He came to work as a Minor injuries nurse in Ludlow. Having been involved in Archaeology in a voluntary capacity over the years, Monty was appointed along with colleague, Helen Jones, as a curator at the Buttercross Museum. He also assists with the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Links:

The Buttercross Museum on Facebook

Monty Lowe on Twitter

My Ludlow Life: LA Jewellery

Unless you live in Ludlow, you wouldn’t know it is a town chock full of small businesses.  Behind the Jacobean and Georgian facades, down the scenic streets and cobbled alleyways, thrives a community of talented creatives.

They are artists, potters, chefs, restaurateurs, jewellery designers, book binders, beauticians and florists and they are Ludlow’s beating heart. For those visiting the area, the best placed to tell you about its ins and outs of our buzzing town are the people who work here.

To introduce these wonderful craftspeople, we will post an interview in our new column, “My Ludlow Life”.  Here we get the real low-down on life in Ludlow from those in the know.  

Our first interview is with La Jewellery proprietor, the lovely Lisa Anne.

Bio

Lisa Anne Dickenson (the “La” in La Jewellery) lived and worked in Wales for 15 years and still has a small design studio there. Now based in Ludlow, Shropshire on the edge of the Welsh Marches she believes wholeheartedly in the magic of the Marches landscape, seeking and finding endless inspiration in her surroundings.

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Large Fairtrade Heart copyright La Jewellery

Q: What’s your connection to Ludlow? a) Are you an incomer (fell in love on a visit) b) A returner (grew up here, went away, glad to be back) or c) Have never left the Shire (why go anywhere else?)

LA: I am incomer and came here six years ago from Monmouth with my husband.  The first time I came to Ludlow was to present Eddie Izzard with jewellery at a charity event at the Ludlow Assembly Rooms. The second time, we helped a lady who worked for me to move house and that’s when we decided to stay.

Q: Finish the sentence: Living in and around Ludlow is the bees knees because…

LA: The energy is constantly changing, I love the fluidity. There’s a constant mix of new people, new energy coming in and out and a lot of creativity I find in Ludlow. There’s always something going on, there’s always something happening whether it’s a play or an exhibition or a shop launch, poetry evening.  There is so much to do here.

Q: Tell us something about Ludlow that no one else knows

We have our own beach!  The beach down at The Millennium Green.  When the water level falls below a certain level, a pebbly beach appears either side of Dinham Bridge.

Q: Your favourite haunt and why?

55 Mill Street with my grand-daughter on a Sunday afternoon, trying on frocks and hats and invariably coming out with some random purchase!

Q: What would your perfect day in Ludlow look like?

It would be having lunch with my daughter, Anastasia, at the French Pantry eating our favourite (Helen, the owner, will laugh when she hears this) French onion soup which they know as I never order anything else!

Q: Finally, your recommends: your top spot to eat, drink or visit in the area?

The French Pantry or The Parkway (a tapas bar run by two Spanish chefs) – their garlic prawns are to die for especially soaked up with a bit of bread and butter.
Who would you like to nominate for the next profile?  

Andy and Sarah Nash of Pepper Lane Gallery.

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Lisa Anne at work in her studio copyright La Jewellery

 

4 reasons to love: Stockton Bury and Hampton Court Gardens

We are spoilt for choice when it comes to gardens here in South Shropshire. Lucy and I picked just two:  Stockton Bury and Hampton Court Gardens because they are easy driving distances between the two.

They are contrasts in beauty, where Hampton Court is large and expansive; Stockton is small and intimate.

The very best gardens are sanctuaries. Find a bench and get lost in reverie or find inspiration whether expert gardener or novice. I fall into the latter category but Lucy is a couple notches further up because she can identify quite a few flowers and plants.

I may not know all the plant names, but I can just as easily find wonder in nature’s own literary form of colour, structure and scent. I love strolling around gardens.

We set off to see what was on offer at Stockton and Hampton and here are our top 4 reasons to love them.

1. A place to lean and loaf

Cafe Stockton Bury

Cafe Stockton Bury: (Source: thesimpleedit)

Gardens make me hungry. Is it because the garden is a feast for the eyes and the soul , which then manifests itself as hunger?

Whatever the answer cafes in Gardens are obligatory, if done right, they often feel like an extension of the garden. Personally, I like to indulge in the fantasy that what I am eating is the produce of the very same garden I’m strolling around in and I concede this happens somewhere.

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Coffee and cake at Hampton Court Gardens (Source: thesimpleedit)

Anyway a good cafe can make or break your visit. Thankfully the cafes at Stockton and Hampton are both cosy spots taking advantage of their lovely settings.

They also have plenty of outside seating and at Hampton Court you can easily picnic if you choose.

2. Perfect garden landscapes

Aspirational. The gardens I visit remind me of the possibilities of things I could achieve if I had time and money in abundance.

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Sitting girl at Hampton Court (Source: thesimpleedit)

I have neither. I don’t want to replicate a garden I visit. Instead, its an opportunity to see things differently. How the experts would do it. A visual tutorial if you will.

I tend to translate some of the little touches that are easy to adapt at home, such as: creating a focal point, using bold colour combinations, using water features or even where to place a bench (shaded recess seems best).

Stockton Bury is a much smaller garden, but it really packs a punch in four acres and this is why its among my favourites.

There are so many things to admire. It’s got a medieval pigeon house, a kitchen garden, beautiful water gardens, a mini maze and a greenhouse to name a few things. All of that and it still manages to feel spacious.

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Broad beans in a row: Stockton Bury Gardens (Source: thesimpleedit)

It’s got this Victorian feel with its elegance and tucked away nooks.  Yet it’s not stately or grandiose. It feels attainable. As if given enough time, I too could be an extraordinary gardener.

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Keeping it straight: Stockton Bury Gardens (Source: thesimpleedit)

Another thing: I have never seen a more militaristic vegetable garden than what is on view at Stockton Bury. All the vegetables like broad beans, lettuce, chives were all regimented in tidy rows.

A royal splash

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Handsome colour at Hampton Court (Source: thesimpleedit)

Hampton Court is equally lovely but as you can imagine to a different tempo and scale. It’s like Stockton Bury is the wild child and Hampton Court its more elegant and refined sister.

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Feels utterly Zen, Hampton Court Garden (Source: thesimpleedit)

It’s bigger open spaces to explore with luxurious garden areas like their kitchen garden.

There is a Wisteria Arch, Sunken Garden and you can relax, have a coffee surrounded by ancient Yews.

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Life a house at Pooh Corner, Hampton Court Garden (Source: thesimpleedit)

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Hidden pond garden, Hampton Court (Source: thesimpleedit)

The kids can get also lost in the maze. One of my favourite areas is the hidden pond garden, which is seriously verdant and lush.

3. Garden events

Garden are at their busiest in the Spring. Hampton Court is open throughout the summer and into Autumn when it closes in October.

Stockton Bury has a Floral Demonstration coming up on Wednesday 4 July  with Chelsea Flower Show RHS Gold Medal winner Yolanda Campbell.You can contact them here.

Hampton Court has a range of events ongoing throughout the summer including a Midsummer Fair 24th and 25th June.

There is also a Flying Birds of Prey Spectacular 23 July.

4. Children and gardens – a wish list

When you have kids in the countryside you have to think laterally. Yes, you have your own garden they can lounge around in and plentiful walks in stunning locations.

But formal gardens are like 3D pictures and I want my daughter to participate in things I enjoy too.

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Hobbit like entrance: Stockton Bury Garden (Source: thesimpleedit)

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Chinese red birch tree (Source: thesimpleedit)

I took my daughter to Stockton Bury, it’s less than 30 mins away from Ludlow and its a small enough size I knew she could handle.

I know I can take her to Hampton Court Gardens anytime to spend a sunny afternoon with a picnic and a book and she could explore as she felt.

However, at Stockton I discovered that while I was content to look at colour and flowers and admire their placement, my daughter was less so.

She was quickly bored until I asked her to create a portfolio of images using my phone camera. That got me a further 15 minute complaint-free window.

Also my limited knowledge was not helpful because my 12-year old wants to know the name of everything.

I wished more gardens (Hampton Court too) were willing to engage novices and young with either a flyer or an occasional name tag on various plants especially those that look unusual.

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Not much of a puzzle: (Source: thesimpleedit)

At Stockton we knew a monkey puzzle tree because we have seen it before, but what about the giant water lilies or a birch tree with a red trunk that peeled and why does it peel?

A Google visit later. We now know the red trunk to be a Chinese red birch and it peels to reveal the white trunk beneath.

As I said gardens are not in short supply in our part of the country and in the near future, we’ll be visiting Berrington Hall and Croft Castle both part of the National Trust and within 30 minutes driving distance of Ludlow.

 

Our Simple Spring Preen

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It’s Springtime!

The countryside is dotted by the yellow of rapeseed fields and the daffodils dance lazily in the breeze.

Here in Ludlow, Lucy and I have decided that Spring heralds not just a new start for nature, it means we have to take our cue too.

All winter, we stuck our feet into thick socks and muddy wellies, our faces weathered and windswept by all those outdoor walks.

The extra padding that is so comforting in winter feels somewhat unwieldy now that the warmer weather has arrived.

We know that all too soon, we are going to have to expose elbows, knees, wobbly bits and toes to the elements.

So, we’ve put together a three-step pampering plan using what Ludlow and the surrounding area has to offer.

Step 1: Feet

We’re at the age where corns, calluses and bunions (gulp) call for serious attention so our very first stop is with local chiropodist, Kerry Banks (01584 891727).

Getting those cracks smoothed over is a blissful experience and once Kerry has worked her magic, we’re ready to get our feet noticed with a pedicure at one of our favourite salons: Nail Gallery and Vanilla Orchid.

We may be bumpkins but we still know our Nars Ikiru Pastel Blue from our Butter Majestic Red!

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Step 2: Face

It may be a bit of mutton into lamb (excuse the Spring pun), but the face has been ignored all of winter and it is definitely time for renewal.

We’ve been talking about trying out the new spas at  Overton Grange and Fishmore Hall for months now so it’s time to stop procrastinating and book that much needed facial (the Light Lunch Spa Day Package at Fishmore is looking particularly tempting).

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Step  3: Fitness

Winter was a time of stop/start training. There were weeks when the only exercise we had was shovelling food into our mouths. Now our elbows are suffering from bursitis (as we write this, we are tucking into a lemon scone and warm cinnamon roll at The Green Cafe).

The lack of training and willpower has to stop!

We both need a realistic goal to motivate us so this May we have signed up for the 26K Big Black Mountain Challenge walk in the Brecon Beacons (Claire calls it the ‘Big Break Me Challenge’ given our sporadic training schedule).

Not content with suffering alone, we’ve duped 15 other mums into taking part.  In the countryside, walking is the proverbial ‘killing many birds with one stone’; the best way of getting together with friends, motivating each other, socialising, gossiping, walking the dogs and exercising all at once.

There you have it. Three little steps to physical, mental and spiritual rejuvenation.

IMG_0344Similarly, our home and garden are also in need of an uplift. Spring cleaning and tending to the garden feels right.

Once we’ve completed our simple steps, it will be time to dust off the Yellow Peril and head out to visit some local gardens.

First on our list:  Stockton Bury and Hampton Court for a bit of inspiration.  Watch this space…

Tax on Ludlow life?

Be aware of things that act as kindling to fire up antipathy amongst the neighbours (in no particular order): bins, parking, cats (either for or against), dogs, parking, noise, branches, fencing, kids (for or against), parking…

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Getting through filthy February

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We love January. I can see you raising a skeptical eyebrow but for us, January not only heralds a fresh start and time to reflect, but also the opportunity to fire up exciting, new ventures, plan holidays, pick up a new skill and give mind and body a good kick-start.

February, on the other hand, is not a welcome month; it is January’s hangover and March’s grumpy neighbor. If February were a colour tone, it would be sludgy brown washed with a cloud of grey to match how we feel – bah humbug.

We are not quite ready to come out of hibernation and if there’s ever a time to view life with a half-glass full attitude, it’s over the ensuing weeks.

However, there’s enough January feel-good to tide us over and here are a few ideas to get you through filthy February, in and around Ludlow.

 THE GREAT OUTDOORS

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Titterstone Clee viewed from the West

The Dutch say that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. So invest in a good pair of wellies, a decent waterproof (Countrywide in Ludlow have a good selection) and get outdoors.

This time of year, the countryside is at its most wet and wild and if we get another very cold front, you can experience the most spectacular views all across the outstandingly beautiful Shropshire hills and valleys.

To date, we have already scaled to the top of the Titterstone Clee, bounded up and down Carding Mill Valley and stomped through a very misty, muddy Mortimers Forest.

Next on our list: Batch Valley, the Stiperstones, Croft Castle and the Brown Clee. For more inspiration try: Shropshire Great Outdoors Walking or National Trust.

BIRDLIFE

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Greenfinches and a Goldfinch

The dawn chorus is slowly warming up but for the most part, all you can spot are LBJs (little brown jobs) flitting around the hedgerows. We’ve invested in a birdfeeder (try Ludlow Homecare) and have been amazed by the colours of our local garden birds and the simple pleasure they provide.

The flash of red from the elusive woodpecker is enough to warm even the coldest heart. Hanging from our birdfeeder this morning are gorgeous goldfinches, a particularly handsome bullfinch, the habitual but very pretty blue tits, an opportunist, plump pheasant, a jet black black-bird (our top songster), a flitter of nuthatches, a loyal robin and of course, a few LBJs which we’ve yet to identify.

Click here for an excellent site on how to identify garden birds for amateur enthusiasts.

FAMILY TIME

This month, make the most of your support network. For those of you who’ve seen enough of your children over Christmas but feel the grandparents are missing out, gently nudge them towards Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre which is offering a How to Tell a Bedtime Story workshop throughout February. From 20-24 February, the Centre is also holding a Fantastic Beasts workshop where children can ‘learn about some of the fantastic beasts of the wizarding world’.

WELL-BEING

Why do we choose to dry out during a habitually cold and wet month? It’s that New Year new beginning isn’t it? If like us, your motivation is already seeping away, then bring yourself back to focus with techniques to boost the spirit. On 3 February, Friends Meeting House in Ludlow is holding classes on Meditation and Mindfulness.

For cooking enthusiasts, on 25 February, Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre is holding a Gluten and Dairy Free Cookery Class, a great opportunity to get inspired.

Looking to be more creative? Have a look at the wonderfully eccentric and very welcoming Westhope College,which offers craft courses ranging from basket weaving and hand embroidery to upholstery and jewellery.

Classes are small and intimate and your course fee includes homemade lunch served at a formally laid table and afternoon tea and cake.

EATING OUT

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Yummy chowder at The Green Cafe in Ludlow

We may not have the handful of 3-star Michelin restaurants of the past but Ludlow still has a fantastic selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants.

A favourite image on Instagram recently has been a log fire viewed through a glass of prosecco. Claire and I are all about moderation: it’s important to treat yourself every now and then (and quite frankly, we could do with a break from kale, porridge and quinoa) so when it really is too foul to go outside, find a place by the fire, enjoy a meal made from local produce and experience the true meaning of ‘hygge’.

Restaurants and pubs we have enjoyed: Mill on the Green, Ludlow Kitchen, Pizza Ten, The Unicorn Inn, Koo Japanese Restaurant, The Blue Boar, Pizza Express, Riverside Inn, Chang Thai, The Charlton Arms. Find a full listing here.

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As fully paid up members of the sandwich generation (middle-aged, caught between a young family and ageing parents, juggling work and family, battling the bulge) we know it’s not always possible to accomplish all of the above.

This month, the idea is to manage the stress: strip down the to-do list, learn to prioritise and give yourself much needed ‘me time’. When the weather outside is pants, the children are bickering and you are constantly chasing your tail, here’s a very Simple solution: run yourself a deep bath, pour yourself a stiff drink, light a scented candle, shut the door and…BREATHE.

You had me at Holly

Last year, I tried the ‘handcrafted stamp’ look but it looked as though I had delegated my gift wrapping to a three-year old. This year, I am liking the ‘brown paper/butcher’s twine/stag’s head tags’ look as seen in the latest issue of Red magazine.

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A whole lot of hygge going on

Lately, I’ve been seeing the word Hygge (hue-gah) everywhere, particularly in my favourite magazines that focus, naturally, on simplicity, countryside and everything we associate that with. Hygge is the Danish equivalent to my mind of Feng Shui – that means ubiquitous, open to interpretation not to mention pronunciation and a fleeting trend. Unlike Feng Shui I can get with Hygge, the concept seems simple enough: burn candles (tick); relax (tick); spend time with family (tick); minus gadgets (er, hold on a minute!).

The goal of Hygge is to be happy, live well, live simply. I like the idea that it is to be embraced as a part of your lifestyle. Zeroing on the little things which add up to satisfaction and well I get that to a point. Every morning, it’s a little hygge. I have the pleasure of driving my daughter to school down the Wigmore Road and as we approach Whitcliffe there we get to drink in the dramatic views over the town of Ludlow with Clee Hill in the distance. And, it’s quite a painting, one that changes every day. It can be shrouded in mist, transformed by dark clouds or suffused with golden light.  If we leave the house bad tempered that vista always improves our mood.

Of course, I feel lucky that this is my life now. There are many things I don’t miss about life before in London: the crowds, the lousy train journeys, feeling under pressure. However, sometimes I do worry about how to sustain our lives here financially without the real tools and knowledge of what most people do around here, which is farming – self-sustaining or otherwise. People always mention opening a business but I have a hard time thinking of a commercial business/service I can offer to a scattered population of frankly older people who don’t need the trappings you would find in a larger city – else why live here? That’s the charm after all. Then I begin to hanker for my old professional life, where I get a regular pay cheque; daily dressing up; hanging out with colleagues and getting validation from professional achievements.

Old life, new life

Then I realise happiness and satisfaction don’t figure into the wishing for what I had before. It’s my old job or keep it small and stay happy.  To compare, I once had a senior job in the City where my boss insisted I be at the office at 7:30 am although he knew I was a single parent. My daughter was two at the time and it was an exercise in lunacy. We were on the first train to London every morning mercifully only a 20-minute ride. I would rush across London Bridge with my daughter strapped into her stroller to the Barbican where there was a nursery that opened at that insane hour. She was the first to arrive and I would hastily dropped her at the door with one of the nannies and run across town to get to the office at 7:45. She was always amongst the last to leave. Needless to say I did not survive that job for a year and I hated every single second of it including my boss.

No way do I miss that kind of lifestyle. However, there is still a reality to living in the countryside and if you’re not a farmer, independently wealthy or at least have the means to live genteely as if you were a Jane Austen character, then it is a bit of a challenge.

You have to think laterally. I think it’s got to be small living, perhaps finding a job within reach that is a lot less pressured and that helps you to keep things ticking over. That will allow you time to be creative and active, space to bond with my girl (sometimes without the gadgets) in other words – hygge.

I’m thinking that maybe to make my life here, I have to come to terms with the limited types of jobs available. I have to stop wishing for the same pay cheque and lifestyle while wanting to live in the country side.

On balance, I prefer to relax and to do the kind of activities in a place that give me pleasure. I know I’m fixating; in my last couple of posts I have been focusing on this need to enjoy myself while I’m relaxing. Much harder than it sounds folks.

I tried to explain this to my mother, who lives in New York and still doesn’t have a clue why I have moved so far from a City and is constantly asking however will I support my daughter and myself. I offer her as much comfort as possible by saying sincerely that I am happier. I suspect though that if she drove down Wigmore Road with me then she would have an answer to the first and while I am still trying to figure out the second, I’m going to throw caution to the wind and embrace hygge. So I think at least the next couple of posts will be focused on the how.