Updated: Jul 6, 2018
Even though I'm a country girl born and bred, adjusting back to rural living has been somewhat of a culture shock, after the hubbub of city life over the last 20 years. A lot happened in those years to change my general outlook in life. These have been my adult years, my grown up years, the ones in which you're supposed to be all sensible and settle down... do grown-up stuff like: get a job, get married, have kids. Well I did all three of those whilst in Stoke on Trent, so my formative country bumpkin single years were well and truly over by the time we decided to move to Wales. My husband however, is a city dweller through and through, brought up in Crawley not far from London so has never know any different. Yet he seems to have slipped rather nicely into it.
When we were looking for our new rural home we used to do our own voice overs in the car "the Derbyshires Escape to the country episode 7, Bettws Gwerfil Goch, will this be the village they call home? Tune in to find out..." Well it was, and as I've said before we brought our home totally led by our hearts. My eldest son grabbed my arm as we walked around the garden and begged us to buy it there and then! The boys love it just as much as we do and all my fears about them being able to cope have been well and truly laid to rest. This was the one thing that had stopped us moving sooner... the kids. As a parent you naturally overthink things and worry far too much. Will they make friends? Will their school work be affected? Will they hate it? Will they be able to speak another language? Well, I needn't have worried about them at all. Kids are so elastic and pliable, they adapt far more easily than us oldies. Friends were made in a matter of days, schooling conquered with both my boys now speaking a fair bit of Welsh, with my youngest being nearly fluent and all in just a few short months! They certainly don't hate it either, they have that same space and freedom to grow that I had as a child and all in a relatively safe environment. I no longer have to sit twiddling my thumbs anymore worrying what might have happened to them on the way to the park or the shops.
Community spirit is also very much rife in our village. That's not to say that that I didn't have wonderful friends and neighbours in the city, because I certainly did, and I miss the dearly. It's just that everyone here seems to be operating in a slightly calmer pace, they seem to have more time to get to know you to chat. Everyone looks out for each other and knows everybody by name, or house name at least hence - Hafotty Interiors! In Stoke.... I feel ashamed to say, I only really mixed with my direct neighbors. Having the odd fleeting conversation with the people 5 doors down for example but then others I never saw, let along spoke to, the crazy thing is they only lived the equivalent of our front door to the back of our new garden away. This community spirit has made it fairly easy to make new friends has certainly helped us out in times of need.
One thing we've had to adjust to is the weather. Our house is located half way up a hillside, it seems to have it's own little climate and sometimes it feels like you have four seasons in one day. This makes for some awe-inspiring and inspirational pictures for me, but certainly does not make for easy living. My husband and I soon learned to be prepared for anything. When you're partially off-grid like us and relying on your own spring-fed water supply, you soon learn to be economical with the water in a dry period... back to sharing bath water now and again just like when I was a kid with my siblings. When we first moved in we had no oil tank and single glazing, with just a wood burner to heat the house. On the very first morning it was a stunning crisp November day (when I say crisp it had gone down to an unseasonable low of -10!) we had ice on the inside of the windows! We hadn't had time to sort logs or figure out how to keep the fire going overnight. Many a night, after that, was spent piling on layers of clothes and a ton of blankets on before bed. I turned into a full time log-chopper and fire-stoker, trying every combination under the sun to keep the fire going over night, to no avail. It's amazing how quickly you turn into an eagle eyed wood hawk, scavenging bits and bobs of wood wherever you go. We are slowly bringing the house kicking and screaming into the 20th century, with the addition of the oil fired central heating and double glazing... ahh the convenience of just being able to turn up that thermostat. We still have the fire but it's slightly less essential now and a little more decorative, which is lovely.
The snow when the 'Beast from the East' hit was phenomenal, in our foolish newbie ways, we thought "arh it's fine, it won't get that bad". When we woke up the following day, our whole gate had been swallowed up under 8ft of snow and we were trapped in for days, until our friendly farmer freed us with his tractor! During those days the village checked up on each other, neighbours pulled together to make sure everyone had what they needed and there was that real sense of camaraderie that you get in a close-knit community. We really have been welcomed into Wales with open arms and that's been wonderful. We now have a emergency box under the bed full of all sorts in case we get trapped in again and for those oh so inevitable power cuts we regularly suffer. There's just one real bug bear of our move to the country for the kids. And that's the diabolical WIFI and mobile phone signal up here. I can often be seen hanging out of the upstairs window in the vain attempt to get a signal, then the kids hogging the bandwidth, meaning my husband and I can't work, so we have to kick them off the PS4 - much to their horror! But we wouldn't swap any of it for the world, we love it here. You LIVE here... not just exist. Everything needs preparation and forethought and I actually enjoy that. I love the satisfaction that that brings, the sense of achievement when you get that fire started, or chopped up that tree to provide your family with warmth, fixed the tiles that fell in the storm or gathered the damsons to make jam... living for you, working for you, creating for you...
...it's so satisfying and that's our rural life in a nutshell.
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