Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lemon tarts and cloudy days

I am ridiculously pleased when friends take the time out to come up and see me. I saw one girl fresh from London's city fields on Saturday and promptly cried. My husband pretended not to notice. Unless he was not pretending. I am not sure which is the more disturbing. The friends who really matter to me and to whom I matter, have done their bit and travelled to see me. Even if they really did not want to. And some of them really did not want to. One urban diva hates it up here. She spends the entire time shivering; looking "shoot me now" miserable. Even more miserable than me. She still comes. Another, this one a Midlander, arrives and plants daffodil and tulip bulbs for me. As she brushes off soil from capable hands, she says: "You are definitely doing the right thing. God. Who would want to live in London?" Time is such a valuable commodity to all of us, that being given a gift of someone else's time is like being given a bit of what is best in each of them. In return, I can offer little more than "thank you for coming" and hope they do not ask if I am happy.

I am trying to fit in but sometimes a visit exposes you adrift in poppied mud, caught between camps. The other night I had a Northumberland neighbour round to dinner with my Londoners. I instinctively spoke out against a town I find grim, grey and forbidding. I have only been to this town once in sunshine. Usually, knowing that I do not like the place, it has chosen to rain on me there. At the very least, it pushes me around with chilly winds. My local friend, offended, immediately leaped to its defence; describing the town as "historic". I shut up. Later, when we were talking about what to do the next day, I invited my Londoners to a fete in a village hall. There was a silence of some seconds as they struggled to find a plausible reason not to go. I now look forward to the village fetes. A recent coffee morning with lemon cream tarts, tea and a tombola where my six year old picked up a bottle of Bailey's Cream, was a high point of the last month. I am a creature caught between two worlds.

48 comments:

simpletruths said...

You stick to your guns, girlie. I live in the heart of LA and ache for a quieter, less opressive existence.

There is something essential and nourishing about village fetes; simple pleasures are too few these days, and so-called urban sophistication is just a sham of hollow consumerism. Not to mention scoring a bottle of Baileys!

Some friends will make the trip up, some will need you to make the trip down. It balances out, in the end.

Bernard said...

... and the "other" world to my mind starts North of Watford Gap!

Beautiful though it is, I couldn't live up there, it's too cold for large parts of the year.
By the time Global warming has made it habitable to my taste, I'll be pushing up the daisies not planting them!

mutterings and meanderings said...

Bernard ... get real.

Wifey ... your Midlands friend talks a lot of sense. You, however, have to decide what you want. You can't be caught in limbo forever...

Anonymous said...

I am a Londoner and moved to Newcastle in 1993 with a 5 month old baby. I hated it. I lasted 4 years before moving back. I was so desperate I risked all and gave my husband an ultimatum: if you love me you will move back South - he did. I too felt grateful when friends took the time to visit me and I sobbed for days when they left me again. I felt abandoned, alone and isolated. However, on the bright side I met many people who settled down "up there" and are very happy (or so they say!) I read your blog every morning and I sometimes forget that what you are writing about is not fiction. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Move back. This is crazy. You can't force yourself to enjoy living in Northumberland. The compromise is too great. Think on it as a chapter, build your house, live in it for a while, and then hightail it out of there. Can't you? I would. Find another compromise, like Bath for instance. A nice compromise.

Anonymous said...

Northumberland is nice.

I don't know why all you bloody southerners who have probably never even been here have this idea that it's located on the dark side of the moon.

she who ponders most said...

stop whingeing - it takes at least 2 yrs to settle into a new community. You put on a happy face and stop hankering after the old. Be brave - Your southern 'friends' prob green with envy. They wish they had the gumption to do the same. The friend who plants bulbs sounds very kind. Invite her more often - she likely to try support and encourage to better future.

aminah said...

I understand you in that you don't feel quite at home just yet! Everything will fall into place ( and on shelves) when you get that pantry made...hopefully, fingers crossed!

mountainear said...

Bit obvious I suppose but re anon's comment of 7.58 - how satisfying it would be to post as 'Wife of Bath'.

Emma said...

If you really hate it I reckon you should move. I lasted three and a bit years in North Yorkshire and kept telling myself that of course it would take time to feel at home. But it never felt right and I'm so glad I eventually made the decision to move south again. I've never looked back since!
www.emmaleepotter.co.uk

belsay boy said...

Little of what you say makes sense. Why did you move to Northumberland if your husband works in London and you didn't want to do it? Does either of you have any prior connection with the county?
I don't really understand what you miss about London life; I've lived there on and off over the years, but found that the benefits did not outweigh the sheer hardness of city life.
It seems, from reading your longest whinge in history (I'm not saying it's not amusing) that it's London that you think you miss (or miss ambivalently) rather than that you find Northumberland particularly irksome. You might enjoy John Cowper Powys on the Art of Happiness (he wrote two books with the same title - in 1923 and 1935) and try to get intense daily pleasure from whatever circumstances you find yourself in, wherever you happen to be. It's hard, I know, but it's worth persevering; maybe that's why you find yourself up here, to be tested.

mutleythedog said...

I will come and see you with copies of the Standard,Ms London, City Limits, Big Jugs of Battersea etc and all your fave London mags. Go on invite me

Stay at home dad said...

I'll have to get hold of Big Jugs of Battersea. All we have in West London is Notting Hill Nobs...

Sahd

sophie said...

judith

i am mad or blogdom is.
blogdom says my password is wrong.

this is my 2nd mssg

hope you are free are at 9.30 ish i am calling you.... am back in the land of the living, began to feel a bit normal mon pm.

managed half day at work this pm first in 10 days

such lovely weather and i have missed it all.

jealous of Mids friend. Hopefully you made it up and it is my first (0ut of body) mention, I will really plant you lettuces and cucumbers and mangoes given the timing

love sophie
ps have you signed contract?

bernard said...

Meanderings and Mutterings..... Get real about what??? I note you live "nearly in Scotland" which is even further North than Northumberland.
Wide open spaces, beautiful countryside I'm sure, but the weather in comparison to the South where I live, close to the South Coast, is incomparable.

I'm sure there are some beautiful days up there, and I'll bet the people are more friendly and there is a better community spirit, but the bad weather massively outweighs the good. As one gets older, ones tolerance for the cold gets less by the day......
Some people would love it, but it's not for me.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Bernard, dear, I mean get real about the weather. It is not that cold. Why do people who live 'dahn sarth' have this ridiculous idea that the north is perpetually freezing? It is not.

For your information, 'nearly in Scotland' could refer to either Northumberland or Cumbria; both counties are adjacent to Scotland. I live in Northumberland.

Anonymous said...

Don't go to Bath, I went last week big disappointment. Some of the locals looked like they hadn't had a bath since the Romans left. It was sunny though.

bernard said...

Meanderings and Mutterings, All I can tell you is that I always look at the weather forecast, and "oop North" it's ALWAYS colder.
I dislike it equally when it's too hot , and if it gets to 95F every summer "down souf". I may end up relocating North,but I'm not anticipating it anytime soon.
Dornoch in Scotland is very pleasant however...in Summer......

mutterings and meanderings said...

Bernard, you know that recent snow? Didn't have it here... funnily enough, didn't have any snow at all this winter...

in the desert said...

Back in 1991, somehow, I convinced my wife to quit her job and move from Boston to Phoenix. (I tell people the week we had to decide that she was mad at her boss and that's why we moved). We'd been married just about a year and a half at the time.

This move was predicated by a bigger move -- that was from the boonies of New England to Boston. Both of us grew up in small towns, and both of us grew up hating all that Boston stood for. I moved to Boston because that's where I could get a job in my chosen field. She moved to Boston when we married.

Boston wasn't too hard, because we could take a weekend drive to visit friends or family (home) at a moment's notice.

Phoenix is harder -- Instead of 7 inches of rain a week, we get 7 inches of rain a year. And I'm pretty sure that neither London nor Boston has ever seen a temp of 120F (50C). What's hardest is being a 5 hour airplane trip away from all our family.

Except our kids. To them, Phoenix is normal, because the first one was born here.

It took us two years to connect to our community. It sounds like you've connected much faster. As things stand for us, we can't ever see leaving...but if we did, it'd be within a couple hour driving distance of the New England boonies.

Carol said...

Bernard and Mutterings shut up about the weather, it's late I need to fill my hot water bottle- 'never cast a clout till May is out'

mutterings and meanderings said...

Wifey, I reckon your need to reimpose your comment moderation. It could get out of hand ...

Stay at home dad said...

From LA to Dornoch in 18 posts!

The trouble with leaving London is that you can never really go back, property values being what they are.

Aw, shucks, it could be fun M&M!

Dee said...

Dear wife in the north, you and only you can know, what's best for you and what you truly want, where you want to live. We all have our own experiences, but everybody's different. I too live far from friends and family, and it took years to make new friends and feel at home in my new location.
I have found that it is usually the one that moves away, that has to make all the 'efforts'.. or most of them. I used to call/ email everyone of my old friends, and make many trips home. Not anymore though. Why should it be all me. I hope your friends will continue to be supportive and come visit you now and again. And I hope you get to the point where you don't get so upset anymore when that happens, but you can enjoy their company and find happiness in Northumberland. If not, it's time for plan B.

bernard said...

Comment moderation after a nice chat about the weather.. I hope not!. Chatting about the weather is a British institution !

spymum said...

The process of transplantation takes time - 'shewhopondersmost' is absolutely right; at least one - two years. Give it a chance, you'll be just fine and you'll wonder how you ever found it so hard in the beginning.

Your Midlander friend has a great attitude - and what is the point of visiting friends in the countryside if you don't want to enjoy what it has to offer? I'd jump at the chance of a Village fete - wusses!

Madame C said...

I left London not knowing where I would end up with my husband. As it happens Gran Canaria.
The first few months I kept thinking about all I was missing, especially when things weren't going well. Then one day I realised my 'old life' did not exist any more. Someone else was doing my old job, friends from work had got new jobs, my old boss was having a baby. They were moving on, just as I had.

Some changes in life are so great and your new life so different you just get on with what you have got, it doesn't stop you missing what you used to have.

Some days are easier than others, though I have to confess constant sunshine does help.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Bernard, dear, I wasn't referring soley to our little tussle over temperatures, fun though it was...

debio said...

I moved from the London area to deepest, deepest Gloucestershire when my daughter was 2 years old.

Even though I was raised in the country, I never really settled and the country is oh so not the place to bring up very small children, as most of your lives are spent in the car.

We now live in Dubai, a culture which could not be more different from UK - yet, I feel more at home here than I ever did buried alive, deep in the UK countryside.

Some places are just not for us and it's useless trying to pretend that you will eventually fit in.

You will get used to it as memories of your previous life fade, but that it a far cry from being happy.

www.landofsand-debio.blogspot.com

Marianne said...

Hovering over my link list - you are close to Rachel in North London - what I thought I saw was Wife in North London. Interesting.

Ms J said...

it happens to all of us - those who make vast changes from what we like (comfort zone) to something new , made especialy more difficult when we do it for others and not self. i have moved from Asia to the US - citylife to american suburbia. life cant be anymore different than this!
but in the bigger scheme of things - how many really dare to move - lock stock and barrel - into the unknown? that, is strength in itself.

Nick said...

Goodness so many people on the move, looking for the right place for their body and soul! Well I might as well weigh in and say that I moved from London to Belfast with my partner Jenny in 2000 and we absolutely love being here. Most of the people we knew in London thought we were stark staring mad but we're very happy and we've both gone in completely new directions workwise which has been a real shot in the arm. I would say, if you're feeling out of place, then just pluck up courage and try somewhere else!

swlynn said...

I moved to SW England from London 30 yrs ago and for the following 20 yearned to return but thought it best for to bring children up here. Now I've finally come to appreciate it here mtself and wouldn't return. Both my children have been to uni in big cities but are choosing to come back for the open spaces, the surf and moors. It takes a lot of time to make a move such a yours - stick with it if you can.

The Grocer said...

Name that Twon wifey, we need to know, go on be controversial.
My word verification has just created an anagram of "escaped" spooky.

Kim said...

Wifey, I am confused.

Is "whingeing" some sort of British spelling or did "she who ponders most" not bother to ponder the correct spelling of whining?

If you are whining, please don't stop. I love reading you.

jane said...

My husband has just returned from Scotland, via Northumberland. He says the country is absolutely great, but there's a whole lot of **** all and people like us wouldn't know what to do with it, so we're best suited to be surrounded by restaurants, theatres, pubs and Waitrose.

He has a point. The further up north I go, the more miserable I get. This is not meant to be an insult, I think I must suffer from something similar to SAD syndrome where a person is debilitated by lack of sunlight, but I am affected by majestic windswept vistas edged with very dark forboding rocks. Does my head in every time.

If you are a darn sarf person, there's no denying it. Up north is always going to make you feel alien. Get back to Selfridges while you still can :)

Jane.

Anonymous said...

Whining is US. Whingeing is UK. Both mean the same thing, ie kvetching.

Vanessa said...

Dear Wife in the North, I do feel sympathy for your feelings of displacement but, like one of your other readers, I do wonder what on earth possessed you to make this move. It seems to have been your husband's idea, although he works in London all week, and you don't seem to have been happy about the move from the get-go. Why Northumberland of all places? If you thought you would miss city life why not Oxfordshire or even Devon which has wonderful countryside and Waitrose in Okehampton to boot? Or why not Edinburgh where I live? It's a good place to live - small enough that it doesn't feel overpowering but large enough to have all the galleries, restaurants, theatres, shops that one associates with a capital city. I have a couple of friends whose husbands work in London and who fly home on a Friday evening, returning early on Monday morning.
If you really aren't happy then don't force it - put your foot down and point out that you're the one who has to live there, alone with the children all week, and that you're not prepared to carry on. If you don't want to issue any sort of ultimatum, then I'm afraid your only option is to stop whinging and being patronising to the locals, and get on with it. Apologies for being blunt but really it is time for you to assert yourself if you're genuinely unhappy.

Anonymous said...

But if the Wife does say 'Right, I've had enought, I'm off back to London', where will that leave the book deal?

Is there a clause to say you have to stay put and write it from Northumberland?

Cathy said...

North v south, city v country...different worlds and not everyone can adapt. Personally, having grown up in the back of beyond, I longed for the city, but having lived in both inner and suburban London, I am now wishing we could escape a bit further out.

I think, as others have said, you would have been happier in a country location a little closer to London, perhaps somewhere a friend has a weekend home or where there are quite a lot of incomers, especially media types. The Cotswolds perhaps? But then again that might be almost home from home and wouldn't make such a good story....

VanessaR said...

anonymous said: "But if the Wife does say 'Right, I've had enought, I'm off back to London', where will that leave the book deal?"

But is there perhaps more of a story in 'down-shifting isn't necessarily a good thing for everyone' rather than 'let's move to the country and won't life be lovely' which is the theme of so many books these days...?

Hopeless said...

Just because you whinge doesn't mean you are not committed to giving your new life a good try. I know this because I am doing the same. I love my scottish farmhouse and the beautiful surroundings, but there are things about the life that are hard, the isolation, dislocation and having to go everywhere by car. Before we moved here in December people told me it would be very cold. So far however the weather has been surprisingly good and like one of the above commenters said, we haven't had any of that snow that made life darn sarf so difficult a little while back. Chin up Judith, if you can do it, so can I.
Lynda

The thinker said...

So many comments! I can't trawl through them all. But want to reply to a few and a couple of my own observations. Waitrose isn't only in Okehampton. There is a Sidmouth branch as well. If you moved there you would 'look' young - so long as you don't need a zimmer frame to move around. Trouble with up north? It's not the weather - it's the dark winters - near the land of the midnight sun etc. Down here in the SW we're all moaning about what a dreary winter it's been - all grey etc. We are all suffering from Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) Up north where the sun don't rise much at all in the winter months must be far worse. You'll love it in the long hot summer they're promising us for 2007. I also assume you don't have the water shortages London have. Imagine - HOT LONG SUMMER and standpipes in the streets. I know which I'd prefer - Up North or Devon.

L. said...

Oh, for heaven's sakes. You live in a country the size of a postage stamp, and you act like you've gone to the utter ends of the earth when you've moved less than 500 km.

Get a grip.

If your "friends" drop you because you're "so far away", they weren't good friends to begin with. Find some where you are.

This is too adolescent for a woman of your obvious intelligence.

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Anonymous said...

Wifey - can I be invited to one of your dinner parties ? It sounds so loverly - all your London friends will be there, I will tell you I'm Welsh, and you will slag Wales off knowing that I'm outnumbered 6 to 1 !

And they say people 'oop north' can be rude !!

There's nowt so queer as folk..

Anonymous said...

vanessa - if you want to know the answers to your questions, suggest you ask Rilly Super..

icegrrl said...

I stumbled upon this blog looking for people like me who LOVE cloudy, foggy weather...I am a 5th generation Texas who becomes filled with despair in summer with the relentless brutal sun & 110F temps. To counter it, I work in Anatarctica, an awesomely beautiful place. I hope you find your happy place - I'm sure you will...cheers, from a redheaded yank tired of frying...