In two weeks time we are due to move into an unfurnished, rented house in the village to allow the builders to start work on knocking through the cottages to create that dream home I was promised. I suspect our stone-built rented house is cold. When I asked the estate agent whether it was a cold house, he looked at me in that blank way people up here do when I talk about the cold. "It has radiators," he pointed to two very small radiators hung on an immense magnolia wall. "Yes, but I might like to leave the radiator at some point over the next five months. Will I be cold when I do that?" I am so cold, so much of the time, I am contemplating sewing myself into my thermal underwear like someone from the depression.
The move means packing up this house in all its playmobil glory. Who invented playmobil by the way? Who had the bright idea to invent a children's toy that comes in 3,473 bits? We also have to clear out next door which we have used as an enormous storage cupboard since we moved here. "Hello, I come from London. I like to live in one house and buy the house next door to keep my clart in." I cannot think why there is a rural housing crisis or for that matter why second-home owners are despised by locals up and down the country. As you can imagine, I work very hard to avoid any admission that we are renting out our London house so that we can go back there if we decide it is just too cold to live here anymore. The only good thing about moving is that we will escape the mice who are overrunning the cottage at the moment. I figured if we left enough playmobil behind, when we move back in five months time, they might have built the Viking longboat.
Because we have decided that we do not have time to sort out next door, we are renting an enormous metal container to put in the barn at the back of the cottage. "Hello, we come from London. I like to buy houses and I have so many things I need a metal container to put them all in." We really need that container; you know those Channel 4-type programmes which feature busy-body women with sharp noses who declutter your house. I do not watch them. I am incapable of decluttering anything since I threw out a clear plastic pencil case belonging to my eldest child when he was two. His nanny had bought him it but I bought him a bigger, better one and thought "He will not need that pencil case, so I will throw it out." An hour and a half I spent sorting through the rubbish to find it, watched by a tear-stained child and his smug looking child-care professional.
Needless to say, I have not started packing. I am hoping instead that Walt Disney will appear in the kitchen one day and start drawing arms and legs on my pots, pans and general deitrus which could then pack themselves while they whistle an Elton John hit. I am in far too much chaos to start packing. A neighbour dropped by for a cup of tea (one of those second home owners, we locals despise)."I so admire you," she said gazing at me, as I moved a dirty saucepan to reach the kettle. I looked round my kitchen at the enormous Gilbert and George-style painting of the children we all did together, the wilted yellow roses on the table, their heads just visible above the breakfast ceral packets. I picked the baby up from the wooden floor where she was eating her brother's buttered toast crusts. "Do you?" I said, touched. "When I was a young mother," she carried on, reaching out to take the grubby baby from my arms, "I was always cross with the kids for making a mess, I was always picking up after them, cleaning and keeping house. You just don't bother. I do admire that." I decided not to offer her a chocolate biscuit.