Cait, whose fabulous blog is at Cait O'Connor kindly agreed to be interviewed for her last blog. So on the basis of pass it along and as the interviewer now is Cait, here are her questions for me and my answers:

How did you end up on the side of a hill in Wales?
Ah, long story. I grew up on the edge of the Pennines and then spent my teenage years in New Zealand. I always intended to live in the country as an adult but somehow found myself in London and Birmingham and then for years in Manchester, constrained by jobs and children and schooling. Ian and I said we would move when the children had left home but it was a sometime/maybe ambition until we went for a weekend to Ludlow, had a great time just wandering about and somehow came home with a crystallised sense of "What are we waiting for?"


We started to search on the internet, wanting an older house and a bit of land, accessible to a train link to London for me and to a motorway to Manchester for Ian. This place wasn't our first choice. We fell in love with a huge Georgian rectory south of Oswestry but our house in Manchester didn't sell and the rectory went to someone else. When we finally came here it was not love at first sight, although the view did blow me away, and continues to over three years on. It was so different from the rectory: older with beams and flagstones, smaller, on a quieter domestic scale. But it had a lovely holiday cottage and stone built pigsties and some land and the happy, bustling feel of a place which has been lived and worked in for generations. And the more I saw it, the more I thought I could be happy here.


So we bought it, in a saga of problems and uncertainties which would have defeated less obstinate people than we are, not so much committed as just bloody minded. The country is not full of places we want to live in (at least affordable ones) and we just put our heads down and battled on, like walking against the wind.


I love it here now, even in winter when the wind and the cold and the mud sometimes seem interminable. Suddenly there will be sunlight on the hill and buzzards wheeling and the hens scratching under the quince tree and I remember why I live here and think that I will not be able to live in cities again, ever.

What is your favourite room?
My favourite room is the sitting room. In the winter especially it is a refuge against the storm. There is a wooden floor, laid we suspect over the stone flags, with a dark red carpet and dull gold curtains. Two big armchairs are drawn up by the woodburner and at night the lamps glow against the pale walls. The walls of the house are two feet thick and the windowsills are warm, polished wood. It is not a large room but it is a place where I feel completely at home.


What is your favourite part of the garden?
That changes with the seasons. In the spring it is our newly planted orchard with tiny native daffodils around the trees. In summer it is the vegetable garden, everything growing and fruiting and burgeoning all over the place, herbs and flowers and vegetables all growing together in a glorious mix. It also tends to be wherever I am planning and thinking about. At the moment I am hoping to rescue the side garden, which has never been a great success, from its recent role as a building site, to widen and deepen the beds, plant out some of the numerous pots that are lined up in the greenhouse and banish the bits of wood, lengths of pipe and plastic and replace with newly seeded lawn and trellis.


Have you always expressed yourself by writing?

I have always liked to write, even reports for work and essays at university. I like the process, the way it slows you and makes you pause, feeling for the word. I have always used writing things down to help me understand what I think about something difficult but writing for the pure pleasure of it is a more recent thing, perhaps I never had the time before.


Which famous person would you like to have dinner with?

That great gardener and fabulously opinionated and acerbic man, Christopher Lloyd. Ideally he would be accompanied by his long time friend Beth Chatto, another of my heroines. Beth might moderate some of Christo's more forcefully expressed opinions and I could just sit at their feet and learn. I would feed them with our own vegetables and local meat and our own raspberries with thick cream. It would be a summer's evening so we could wander around the garden, glass of wine in hand, and they could tell me what to do with my stony, sloping hillside, or not, as they chose. Heaven.


If you would be prepared for me to interview you, let me know and we can pass it on.

Comments

  1. I really did enjoy reading this and learning more about you.
    You were not a country girl as I had imagined! Good to learn that you have made a go of the house & the garden/land. Two feet thick walls...... now that has to be cosy in the winter time and probably cool in the summer.

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  2. I absolutely love hearing how people get to where they are now... thank you for those insights... very encouraging :-)

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  3. Lovely insight into your life, I can picture it all.

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  4. My gardening heroes as well - Lloyd and Chatto. I also love Vita Sackville West,s writing on gardening. It was lovely to hear about you and your house - a lovely idea.

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  5. I enjoyed reading about how you found your house - and the little bits about your garden too. It made me want to go right out and plant daffodils around the saplings in our orchard (how grand that sounds!)

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  6. Absolutely fascinating! You and Ian are clearly determined people and you love your garden. What you have said about writing is very much the way I feel too.

    If you really find no-one more interesting you can interview me

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  7. It is so nice to gather some insights into how you arrived in Wales, however - I enjoyed your answer to "Who would you have for dinner" - oh to sit at the feet of those two great gardeners, how awesome would that have been.

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  8. Super piece - like Kitty I can picture both house and garden and understand why you could never return to the confines of an urban setting. Our journey has been very similar to yours and I would not want to exchange my new surroundings either.

    Would love to join you for dinner with your chosen guests....

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  9. It is a pleasure to become better acquainted with you. Your writing is so enjoyable. I am so happy the internet helps us learn more about the people of our big world.

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  10. I did enjoy reading about you and how you got to where you are! Such vivid writing - I was sitting there with you.

    Winter can be muddy and cold anywhere, but buzzards would make up for a lot of mud!

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  11. Ah, I'd forgotten about your rectory.... This took me right back to my lovely visit to your home.... It is indeed a stunning spot with a view I'd never tire of. Now I MUST do my homework from Cait! Janexxx

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  12. That was beautiful, your writing resonates with contentment (not in a smug way!) about the home and garden you love.

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  13. I am a country girl by upbringing, not living on a farm, just living out of town, so I always found it odd to find myself in a city for so long. Of course, when I left home for university I longed to be in a city and did love London for a while, still like to visit, but not to live there!

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  14. That was fascinating. Lovely to have an insight as to how you found yourself where you are, and to imagine your cosy red carpet and chairs pulled up around the woodburner. Will have to come and experience that view first hand...

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  15. How nice to get to know you just a a little better. Two foot thick walls? How wonderful. Your home sounds like something out of a travel catalogue.

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  16. Sorry I am so late in finding this. It was a wonderful read and I could picture it all because you write so well. Your house and garden sound like perfection to me.
    I recently read Chatto and Lloyd Letters book, I expect you know it.
    Thanks for doing the questions Elizabeth.

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  17. Funnily enough, Gertrude Jekyll would be one of the people I'd be interested to have dinner with.

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  18. Gosh, this was wonderful. Thank you so much.

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  19. OMG I think know who bought that rectory!!!!!
    Lovely interview.

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  20. It is lovely to learn a little more about you and your home Elizabeth - and I hadn't realised you had been there only 3 years. I understand your contentment completely - especially when shafts of light do their magical thing on a damp, grey landscape. I hadn't realised you'd spent so many years in Manchester. Where were your children at school, I wonder, and whereabouts did you live? Nick commutes into Manchester from our side but we specifically wanted to be in the country when we made the move up from London. Otherwise there would have been no point. I don't regret it for a millisecond and Nick loves coming back to it at the end of a long hard day.

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