Thursday, 29 March 2012

Moving to the Country

Twenty years ago I moved from Lancaster in the U.K to a tiny, picturesque village in north County Meath. At the time I said, "six weeks and I am gone".  I was sure I would hate life in the country being a Dublin girl through and through.  It was a huge culture shock at the time as the selection of food available in local shops was light years behind what we were used to in England.  The only bread available was the ubiquitous sliced pan as this was even pre-Cuisine de France.  The first time we had a power cut I realised with complete shock that we had no water.  When you grow up with mains water you don't appreciate how much you take it for granted.  Quite apart from power cuts we have had various trials and tribulations with the pump (for pumping our water up from the well). Last winter the pump froze and the pipe carrying water into the house froze.  Two summers ago our well ran dry.  Before this, one very dry year I had to drive to the village to fill up 20 litre containers from the village pump for the horses as I was worried the well would run dry.  The following summer I went to do the same again but this time the local tidy towns committee had hung hanging baskets from the pump and the water was disconnected.  It makes me laugh when city dwellers moan about paying for water.  Well when you have none, you would gladly pay, as believe me carrying containers of it is no fun.  We always have to be mindful of wasting it and we never flush loos unless absolutely necessary.  You get very conscious of recycling water and in summer I use washing up water to water plants.  Baths are out in summer and they become a huge luxury in winter.

The next big shock was the septic tank.  The whole concept of it was really horrible to me.  Especially as it had gone for so long unused to sudden heavy use and it couldn't cope.  The house was built over 200 years ago and I am not sure of the age of the septic tank- but it is old.  The local farmer arrived with his slurry spreader and emptied it and then sprayed it over the rest of our fields.  Thank goodness we weren't growing anything!

Local knowledge was another shock and by local knowledge I mean the locals all knowing you and you not having a clue who they are.  I regularly arrived back to my car parked in the village and found my post left on the passenger seat as it saved the postman a trip out our road.  When I went to order coal in the village another time I payed for it and the shop assistant walked off down the shop so I stood waiting for her to come back and get the delivery address.  When eventually she came back she asked me did I want anything else.  So I said "do you not want my address"?  She immediately said my married surname and then "yes we know where you are".  Another time I went to collect my kids from school and there was a funeral.  The graveyard is beside the school.  The place was black with cars and there was no way of driving down to the school.  My kids were small at the time and I did not want to leave them waiting so I jumped out of the car, leaving it in the traffic jam and ran down to the school.  When I got back the traffic jam had cleared and my car had been "lifted" out of the way and was neatly parked at the side of the road!

Our address caused more trouble.  We have no house number or name, no street address just the name of our townland.  I am not sure how many townlands there are around the village but some of the names are lovely, Carrickspringan, Rathbawn and Feagh in particular.  Some townlands would have a larger number of houses than others.  It is impossible trying to explain this to Dubliners never mind anyone outside the country and trying to order anything on line where they insist you enter a postcode is a huge problem.  I usually get away with NONE in capitals or XXXX.

Now when the kids have left home people ask me would I not be better off to move back to the city.  But when I sit in traffic in Dublin at any time of the day fuming and wondering how long it can take to move a couple of miles; I think not.  At least I know when I have to be in the local town at a particular time that it will take me 10 minutes - unless I get stuck behind a tractor.  I know that I can open my patio doors and lie naked in my garden and not be overlooked by anyone.  I have acres around the house that can't be built on and is available for my use if I so wish.  And I have a lovely garden where I can grow my own vegetables.  So why change all this for a suburban house with a postage stamp garden? 


A typical village house
View of the village a good few years ago judging by the cars!

My house