Saturday, 14 May 2011

Just along the valley

We hadn’t been together all that long when Philip first introduced me to the small green guide book; 28 circular walks in the Kent countryside, ranging from a gentle stroll round a field to a sharp breath-stealing march up a hill. With his usual boundless enthusiasm he overcame my reluctance to accept walking boots as a fashion item, and over the next few years we tested them out - the boots and the walks - working our way across fields and footpaths, stomping through villages and valleys. As we walked, or stopped to admire the view, we scribbled comments in the book's margins; 'bluebells in April,' 'a cheese sandwich under the trees,' 'Badger!' After a while the book became shabby and dog-eared; a cracked spine and turned-down corners the battle scars of our favourite walks.

There was one page in the book that became more worn and tattered than the rest, one walk we returned to again and again, until we really didn't need the book any more. The footpath started out in a small quiet village, then wound its way up and through a wood, across a valley and a hill, past farms and a golf course; before winding back down again, past a viaduct, along a river and back. 

Before long I was calling the village 'the nice place' and weekend walks were supplemented by visits on a Friday evening. We found a small pub, where the barman always greeted us with a smile, addressing Philip as 'young man'. It was no time at all until he knew our names and started pouring out our drinks before we'd even finished asking for them. Occasional drinks turned to dinner every Friday; the perfect way to mark the beginning of the weekend. We gradually felt more and more at home sitting at 'our' table in the bar, chatting to the other regulars, marvelling at how lucky they were to live in such a lovely place. Our conversation became peppered with phrases like "wouldn't it be nice if..." and "maybe one day..."

So, when one Friday evening we pulled into the pub car park and spotted a 'To Let' board outside a house a few doors down, we knew it was meant to be. Dinner waited while we walked up and down the road, peering through the front windows as we passed, trying to make it look like we weren't being nosy, hoping there wasn't anyone inside looking out. When we finally sat down in the pub to eat, there was no other conversation possible. The very next morning we contacted the letting agent and a few days later everything was in place for us to move.

We both knew it would be temporary; long-term renting really wasn't the wisest move, but we hoped that before long we'd be able to buy a house - if not in the same street, then at least in the same village. In the meantime we just settled in and enjoyed every minute spent living in a street with the friendliest, most community spirited neighbours I've ever known; and next door to the best landlords anyone could hope for.

For months, Philip went round with a big smile on his face, telling anyone who'd listen that it was just like being on a permanent holiday.  We started to put down roots - in the street, at the allotment.  We helped to put up the christmas lights, took part in the duck race, manned a stall at the village fete. Philip chopped wood for our open fires, I trod the boards for our local productions. The village opened its arms and welcomed us, it was only natural that we loved it in return.

After a while, we began to realise our aspirations to buy had been too optimistic. We watched as the For Sale signs came and went; we waited while prices got higher and higher. However hard we saved, even the tiniest most run-down cottage in the village was beyond our purse strings. We talked about it long and hard; renting was fine for now, but we both knew that if we left it too much longer we'd never be able to own our own home.

It's been four years since we moved to the nicest street in the nicest place in the world. This week, we exchanged contracts on a house in another village. 

Our new house is small, but lovely, with a warm friendly feel about it and a wonderfully long garden. It’s only a couple of miles along the valley, so we’ll still be able to carry on doing all the things we've grown to love; and seeing the people we've come to know and admire. I know we are very lucky to have found a place we can afford to buy; I know that it will suit us just fine.

We’re moving in two weeks’ time, so the next few days will fly past in a blur of sorting, packing and cleaning. Before we leave, I will take one last slow walk around the house, smiling to myself as I remember the day when we sat together in the bedroom and Philip asked me to marry him. I’ll think of our wedding day and the wonderful party we had in the Crown pub at the top of the road, made perfect through the hard work and good will of Phil the barman. I’ll stand in the kitchen and think of all the vegetables we’ve proudly carried home from the allotment, the fabulous dinners Philip has cooked here, the gorgeous cakes that Megan has baked. I’ll look at the room, still pictured at the top of my blog, and re-live how I felt when I sat down to write my first ever blog post, marvelling at all the words I’ve written and read at that table ever since.

And then before I know it, and certainly before I’m ready for it, we’ll be closing the door for the last time and handing back the key. The move is, without doubt, a good thing. The tears I know we shouldn’t cry are just a confirmation of the wonderful time we’ve had and the happy memories we’ll be taking with us.

Thank you Shoreham.



34 comments:

Bobby Stevenson said...

I'm sorry to hear you are leaving Sharon but I'm hoping it's not too far. I've always felt Shoreham takes to you in, dusts you down and when you're ready, it lets you go. A beautifully written story, as always and the beginning of a new adventure.

Nicole said...

Best of luck with the move and the new home. Congratulations on finding a lovely house and having the good sense to have lived in a place that you loved and that loved you back.

sarah at secret housewife said...

You made me cry too. Lovely post. x

Megan said...

Yep, as expected, I cried when I read this! Its funny how reluctant I was in moving to Shoreham, thinking I was too far away from all of my friends and from civilisation! Now I don't want to leave!! xx

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Sharon:
We do so hope that you will both be very happy for years to come in your new house which will be your very own.

It is always sad to leave somewhere but then as one door closes.......!

Have a very enjoyable weekend.

Pat said...

It all sounds good and I wish you both happiness in your new home.

Robbie Grey said...

Your story sounds very similarly to how we found our home. Simply wonderful.

Fran said...

That's exciting. I love a move.

lladybugg said...

Congratulations on the new home, and the new chapter in your lives. :)

savannah said...

after reading phillip, i HAD to come over and read yours, sugar! all the best in the house as you make it y'alls home! xooxxo


p.s. i've added you to my blogroll so i don't miss a single post! xo

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

How wonderful that you found such a great place to live. It sounds like you will have plenty of opportunities to continue with the things you love. Change, even good change, is difficult. Given how beautifully you have told this story, I have to believe your life will continue to be wonderful.

Hillary said...

Blessings on your new home, Sharon.

I truly understand what it is to love a place so very deeply. But you won't be far, and the prospect of your new garden must be exciting. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing your memories of lovely Shoreham. I had no idea so many important events in your life developed there, and I've often admired the room and its view that's pictured at the top of your excellent blog.

Lady Wordsmith said...

Congratulations on your new home! Although it is so hard to leave a place you love, many more wonderful memories will be made at your new home, I'm sure.

Rohini Prasanth said...

Congratulations! I am sure lot more sweet memories await you at your new place. I know just how you feel - we have lived in one rented apartment for the last three years, since the beginning of our marriage. and now we are thinking of moving. This is the place where our life together started.. it holds a lot of memories for us. i think we will always have a part of this house in our heart to treasure these good times.

Nance said...

And suddenly I find that I, too, am in love with a house and a village I've never seen. May you be as deeply and fondly attached to your new house as you've been to this one. Perhaps the magic lies in the resident and not in the house.

Will the house be available to let?

Sharon Longworth said...

Thank you all so much for your kind comments. Your good wishes mean a lot - and it's nice to think that even when we move, hopefully you'll all come along too!

Bobby - thank you! We're only going to Otford, so not very far at all. I think your view of Shoreham as somewhere that makes you whole and helps you on your way is a beautiful one and very true.

Nicole, I never thought of it as good sense! But I will try to apply some good sense to the next house as well - luckily I don't think it will be too hard.

Sarah - thank you!

Megan - and you always go on about me crying at anything...

Sharon Longworth said...

Jane and Lance - thank you so much for your kind wishes. As you say, when one door closes... so who knows what adventures are still to come?

Pat - thank you - yes it is good and I know that, even though I can't help but feel sad.

Robbie - now I want to know how you found your home! Have you written about it on your blog?

Fran - have you moved a lot?

Sharon Longworth said...

lladybugg - thank you! It's nice to think of it as a new chapter.

Savannah - thank you - for your good wishes and for adding me to your blog roll - I feel very honoured.

Blissed-out Grandma - thank you. I think it's not knowing how it will measure up that makes it difficult, but I guess we can, at least decide to enjoy it!

Hillary - thank you so much. I am really looking forward to the garden - I've already started planning it in my mind, so lots of lovely work ahead; not sure I'll find much time for blogging!

Sharon Longworth said...

Lady Wordsmith - thank you! I shall get started on planning some nice events to start filling the memory bank!

Rohini - I like the idea of carrying a piece of your home in your heart - I look forward to hearing more about your future plans!

Nance - hello and welcome to the blog - and thank you for leaving such a lovely comment. I'm not sure yet what our landlords' plans are for the house, but I hope whoever lives in it next will be as happy here as we've been.

Liz said...

As I said to Philip, I'm glad you're not going far. I'm looking forward to reading about all your new memories.

Speaking of new memories, I thought of you several times yesterday. All I'll say is that there was a train involved and three little words. Had me near tears.

DPR said...

As I have said over on Phillips's blog, I was shocked when Megan told me the news. I really am quite emotional. I know how much you love it here but I also know how much you mean to each other. Being able to have a place of your own together will bring you more joy than merely living in Shoreham could ever bring. I shall miss you both and Megan very much. Welling up now so I'm off. Don't tell Phillip I got soppy on your blog because I stayed all manly on his! x

Shopgirl said...

Gorgeous writing aside, I am touched by how well you do know your neighbors, landlords and others around you. I felt, vicariously through your words, the warmth of your village, and the tinge of sadness in your goodbye as you embark on the journey across those 2.5 miles. :)

Jennifer said...

This definitely made me tear up. It was wonderfully written (though I never expect any less of you), and your life with Phillip just seems so beautiful and meant to be. What a blessing.

Baglady said...

What a wonderful journey together. Just so touching.

I look forward to photos of your next home, one that belongs to you in a place that you will belong to, too.

Good luck with the move. I look forward to raising a glass with you soon.

otherworldlyone said...

This was a beautiful post, Sharon. I can't wait to read the beautiful posts I know you will write about your new home too.

Sharon Longworth said...

Liz - wow - tell me more, was it the film or something else? I feel an urge to find the DVD...except we've packed it in a box somewhere...

DPR - I can't tell you how much I appreciated this comment. Getting to know you (at least a bit) has been one of the highlights of living in Shoreham. I really, really, hope we will still meet up and talk sometimes. (And no I won't say anything at all - your manliness is safe!)

Shopgirl - I'm so glad you could pick up something of the warmth of the village - it really is a very special place.

Sharon Longworth said...

Baglady - I hope you will be one of our very first visitors - we've got a bottle of desert wine sitting here waiting to be packed, and I fully intend to share it with you.

OWO - thank you. I really hope you'll come and visit us before too long.

H A R R Y G O A Z said...

New chapters can be unsettling at first. My best to you !!!

Happy Frog and I said...

This post really read like a love letter to the village, your home and your relationship too. I so enjoyed reading it and I wish you ever happiness in your new home.

Young at Heart said...

wow what an adventure....have itchy feet myself since my travels, got into the whole nomadic thing......good luck, with such posative spirit I know this new move will be exciting!!

BrightenedBoy said...

What a lovely story.

Shoreham sounds like a beautiful place. I'm glad that it will continue to be a part of your life, and I'm sure that in time your new home will be filled with as many wonderful memories as your old one.

Jeannie said...

When you said, "Before we leave, I will take one last slow walk around the house, smiling to myself as I remember the day when we sat together in the bedroom and Philip asked me to marry him."

Oh, that got me. I'm sorry you're leaving the house, but after all, it's only a shell cos you're taking Philip with you, and you'll be even happier once you're all settled into your own place. Just give it time. x

Olga said...

I wish you best of luck with your the new home. Life constantly changes, as those around us.

Sharon Longworth said...

HARRYGOAZ - hello! thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment - and thank you for your good wishes.

HappyFrogandI - thank you. I'm sure it will be lovely once we settle in and start building some new memories.

Young at Heart - I like your positive take on this - I shall try and view it all as a big adventure and not let myself get too sad...

BrightenedBoy - thank you so much. Shoreham is indeed a very lovely place and we have been privileged to live here.

Jeannie - such a wise comment and you are completely right - I will be taking all that is most important with me.

Olga - thank you.