Thursday 26 April 2007

Thinking outside the box

February 2007

We’re trying to think outside the box. Trying to break out of the routine and, by heck, do I love a routine (typical Capricorn for you!). So, when we looked out the window and the snow was still there we asked James which he’d rather do – go to football as normal, or bunk off and go sledging. Much to our huge relief he elected to go sledging (which meant we got to slob around and drink coffee and read the papers while watching small child hurtle down our hill). There are many times we curse living on a serious slope but, when the snow comes, it really comes into its own and skiing friends look longingly at it (though you’d have to be kamikaze to ski down it). But it’s a perfect sledging hill - steep enough to get up serious speed; with enough bumps to add the ‘Ow!’ factor, and a levelling off that allows you to stop before barrelling into the river. James prefers, however, to fling himself off at strategic points and lies, without movement, just long enough to give my heart a lurch, before picking himself up and giving a cheery thumbs up.
So that was all very satisfying and we had a leisurely lunch and then headed off to Tiverton to drop him off for a pool party (the hectic social life of today’s young eh?). I was pleased to be able to return various rugby socks and school shirts to their various owners (not sure how it happens, but it always does).

Adrian had suggested (well, OK, lobbied hard) we do the gym but I demurred and said I reckoned we ought to check out New Potential Living Places. Having lost our dream house we are realising we have to be more pragmatic and investigate other possibilities. So we headed out towards Witheridge. Now (and I seriously hope nobody reading this comes from Witheridge) our health visitor when I had James always warned us about this place.
‘Oh, don’t go to Witheridge,’ she’d say, shaking her head and widening her eyes. ‘Awful place. All in-bred and oh, the drugs, the violence, the degradation, the spitting!’
She was a terrible snob (she told me I should eschew the local toddler groups as the Brushford one had a ‘nicer type of mother’) so I didn’t take a lot of notice at the time, but it’s funny how these things take hold in a remote primal part of the brain and won’t dislodge. And, truth to tell, the Brushford toddler group was indeed a friendlier affair than the rather brutish local one where the children used to ignore the toys and simply wrestle for two hours.
So anyway, we thought it was time to shed prejudices.
‘It could be lovely,’ I said. ‘And you get a lot more house and land for your money.’
‘There’s a reason for that,’ said Adrian gloomily.
And I fear he was right. As we drove on, the countryside spread out and, instead of our lovely hills and combes, we seemed to enter a rather bleak hinterland of huge fields and green-tinged bungalows. It didn’t help that it was raining a pace.
We reached Nomansland (which should be a warning in itself) and whisked through it in a second, passing a single horse and rider (with a jutting jaw and wall eyes – and that was just the rider).
‘Bit of a one horse town, eh?’ said Adrian. Groan.
Witheridge wasn’t actually that bad – the town centre looked pretty but pretty dead. Nobody spat. In fact, there was nobody around to spit. Adrian said it was the kind of place where it was always Sunday, and not in a good way.
We turned round and went back the way we came, stopping in a sort of mud layby to read the map to figure a new route. A huge sign hung lopsidedly from the gate with ‘KEEP OUT!’ in wobbly blood red letters.
‘It’s a sign,’ I said, ‘This isn’t the place for us. I’m sure it is great for some people, but not us.’
As we drove back to Exmoor I realised why I moved here in the first place. It is just SO beautiful. A small herd of red deer leaped onto the road (a common hazard at twilight) and stood watching us through the trees for a moment before heading down to the river.
When we got home James laid the fire while I cooked. Yes, this is a very unusual scenario. But I thoroughly enjoyed myself, making the black pudding pie from an autumn CL, with a large glass of Fleurie and Roddy Frame accompanying me.
We rolled to bed – it’s not a light dish – and went to sleep listening to the tawnies calling to each other. I’m not sure I can leave Exmoor.

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