Saturday, 2 November 2013

What is your ideal place to live?

When I was eighteen I was desperate to leave home and to live in London.  A city, a great big city, buzzing and alight all night long, was clearly the only place to be.  Now I live in the country and in between times I have had all sorts of houses but until now they all shared one thing:  whether close to the centre or farther out into suburbia, they were somehow or other in cities.  I didn't really mean to live in cities after that first determined flight from the nest, it just happened.  Cities were where the work was so London, Birmingham and Manchester all became, at various times, home.

Eight years ago we moved here.  That was a very determined move too, a deliberate choice to live in the country and to undertake a big move while we still had the energy both to make it happen and to live it when it had happened.  Is this my ideal house?  Well in some ways it is and in some ways it isn't but it is a very good house and I love lots of things about it so I thought I would count the ways and ask you about your house.  What do you love?  Is there anything you would change?  What makes an ideal place to live for you?

The first thing I love about our house is where it is.  We wanted a house in the country, rural but not so isolated that you have to drive for miles for a pint of milk.  Our house is couple of minutes away from the nearest village by car or fifteen minutes from our local market town.  You need to be more organised to live here than I used to be when I lived round the corner from a local deli but you can pop into Caerwys for a paper and be back in ten minutes.  And despite the fact that when you are here it feels utterly peaceful and hidden away there are train services to Manchester and Chester and Crewe and London from half an hour away and a motorway network which lets you connect to the rest of the world when or if you want to.  I like that.  I like the balance between how rural and isolated it feels tucked into the side of our valley and how accessible we can be if we want to be.  I have friends who live on the coast in west Wales and although I love it, love the beaches and the mountains and the far awayness of it all, I like living here, where I can slip back into the world if I want to or stay in my hidden hillside, as I mostly do.


And the other thing I like about where we are is the view.  I have never lived in a house with a view before. In cities and in suburbs the view is invariably of your neighbours' houses and gardens.  That isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I like the roofscapes of cities and I like the patchwork of gardens and streets of suburbia.  But our view is a wonderful thing.  It changes all the time.  The seasons change the colour of the fields, the trees, the hedges.  Morning is full of the sun, rising over the eastern end of the far side of the valley.  The shadows move and change as the sun moves westward.  I love it.  I may never have such a view again but having had it I don't think I could live without some similar sense of space around me now.

So that is the place.  But what about the house?


It is a modest house.  I like that about it.  Three rooms and a kitchen downstairs, three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, laid out side by side in the traditional longhouse pattern.  I have never lived in a house as old as this before.  We have always liked older houses but they have in the past been Edwardian or Victorian houses.  This house has been here since about 1600, although the original structure would not have looked like this.  It would have been single storey.  The upper storey and the porch are most likely to have been added in the  18th and 19th century as the farm prospered.

Inside the house is simple too.


I love the doors with their hinges and handles and locks.




I love the beams and the woodburning stove in the sitting room.


It is a house for shelter and warmth, a house which encloses you in the winter and keeps you snug against the weather.  The walls are thick, the windowsills are deep.

My favourite room is probably the kitchen although I also love the sitting room.  I love the big kitchen table and the range cooker.  When the bread is cooking and the cat is snoozing on the windowseat it feels like a kitchen from the books of my childhood.





In the summer the best place to be for me is outside, gardening, weeding, planting, pottering in the greenhouses or reading in the shepherd's hut.  In the winter the best place is the kitchen or knitting by the fire.

Are there things I would change?  I don't think so.  In a newer house I would like large windows which opened the house up to the view but you couldn't make that sort of change to a house like this without losing its soul.  I would quite like to have a study and a sewing room (and the moon on a stick please) but I do have the shepherd's hut for writing in and a corner of a spare bedroom for sewing in so I know I am a lucky woman.
What about your house?  What do you love?  What would you like to have that you don't, or are you content?

51 comments:

  1. ah, what we'd like is to move this house, and this garden, to False Bay. We pore over plans of the next house, and garden. Tweak and fiddle and reinvent.

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    1. Ah now I do understand that! This house should ideally be 300 miles further south and west near my parents.

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  2. Beautiful place to cherish every day

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    1. It is beautiful. We try not to take it for granted.

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  3. After a huge Victorian flat in London we moved to a 1615 cottage with a large garden in Hertfordshire and from there to a relatively modern house in a village in Shropshire. I am still not entirely happy; I want access to fast roads and shops and maybe a smaller house.
    We may have to move some time but for now, home is very pleasant, away from the village, yet in it. The garden is manageable, with help, as is the house.

    I found myself dreaming of an open fire this morning, the sort I had in the cottage, a large one with a little bench on the sides and a salt oven at the back. But when I had it I moaned because I was forever cleaning it.

    Like you I love the current views here. I have roof scapes and beyond them open fields, hills and woods. I find the idea of having to live on an estate of modern houses unbearable.

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    1. I too would really struggle with an estate. I have got far too used to living without near neighbours. I also like the distinctiveness of our house although I don't suppose the big Victorian semis we lived in before we came here were distinctive and I loved them too. But space, that is a big thing.

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  4. Our house's strongest point is also its weakest; perched on the very edge of the land overlooking the sea, we're very isolated here. It's an 18 mile round trip to the GP and a very small Tesco, an hour away from a train station and for anything like a choice of shops it means driving the one and a half journey to Swansea. For now, I feel very privileged to live in this very special part of the world, but one day we'll almost certainly have to move. For someone who's moved around a lot, I don't feel any particular fear about this - I've learned that home is where the heart is.
    Thank you for taking us into the heart of your home - I very much enjoyed looking around!

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    1. I agree totally that moving is not such a big deal. It is the people who make it home. Perhaps that is one of the advantages of having moved around quite a bit. You do learn how to recreate home.

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  5. As I get older I find myself hankering aftr city opportunities. I would love to be within an hour of galleries and fine shops, just for once in my life! What I'm not so sure about though, is whether I could cope with the noise. I'm country bred, and live on the edge of a market town. We have a large, private garden, so lots of space and air, and beaches within easy travelling.
    Two very small homes, perhaps that's my ideal!

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    1. I think I would struggle with living in a city now although I love cities and visit often. It is the noise and the dirt which would get me down if I were there all the time. When I am visiting I can ignore it.

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  6. I think more and more that I would like three houses: one in rural France, another here or in east Anglia and a flat in London. But then I wouldn't like the bother of three houses and never remembering where I have left my Wellingtons - or reading glasses come to that. What I love about this house is that it has modern central heating and a roof that doesn't leak. The drains block sometimes as they have done in every house I have ever lived in but - hey - you can't have everything. This house is on the very edge of town and within a couple of minutes I can be in the middle of nowhere snaking my way through the countryside on a disused railway line. In fact within a quarter of an hour I can walk to a medeaval castle, a fortified church, a theatre, a ford, Waitrose, shops of every kind, a museum, coffee shops, the site of a battle, a lovely climbable hill, an excellent fish restaurant, a medieval herb garden (we have lots medieval here, a park, a river, a children's playground, two mills (defunct), umpteen pubs and a nature reserve. The same time in a car takes you to the sea or to the mountains or to various neolithic burial chambers.

    I seem to have gone on a bit - I guess I like living here.

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    1. Your town sounds to have it all. Maybe the very edge of a good market town is the answer.

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  7. I was born in the depths of the country in the fenland of Lincolnshire and lived there until I married and moved about twenty miles away and slightly more remote. Them we moved to the small Cathedral city of Lichfield - nice move, not too drastic. Then to the outskirts of Wolverhampton but luckily with a very large garden. Now in retirement I am back in deep country, on a farm, in a large house that I love and only a mile from a lovely little market town. I never go into town without seeing folk I know to chat to. Perfect

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    1. You sound very content with your lot. That is perfect.

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  8. Yours and Mark C's recent posts (and a conversation with him when we last met up) are poking me in the ribs re lots of thoughts I've been having on this subject lately. I've spent most of my life feeling I don't belong where I live. I'm not sure I can compromise for much longer.

    It's too long a thought process for a comment here - I may blog about it soon...

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    1. Maybe you need to live round here! I do know what you mean about a sense of not belonging and do think it is important to feel happy with where you live, wherever it is.

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  9. Fascinating to read about why you live where you live. I love the character and history in your house, and the views are wonderful It wouldn't work for me as the ME means there are too many days when I can't drive. When we started looking for out next home - our current home - we wanted proximity to the sea for boating adventures when health permits and views and smells when it doesn't. I had to have a garden big enough to play in but small enough to not be a disaster on bad days/weeks. The house had to be large enough to feel OK for the two of us when we were housebound and also to accommodate visitors. We found Cemaes via Google Street View attracted by the presence of a doctors, pharmacy, butchers, bakers, no candlestick makers but plenty of other little shops that said "lively community". Add in two beaches and a harbour, a thriving gardening community, and close enough to Holyhead and Bangor to get out if necessary (with bus service) but far enough away to be affordable and you have our version of heaven. I was lucky in that we had already lived on the Island, and I grew up holidaying here, the house fits us perectly, we have fabulous neighbours. The only thing I would change is that healthcare in rural Wales sucks, endless terrible tales from neighbours about too-log waits for diagnosis and treatment when things go wrong. But sitting here on my lounge sofa I can glance sideways and see the sea, roiling and boiling away. Heaven.

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    1. Your house sounds perfect for you! I am sorry your experience of the health service has not been good. By contrast our experience has been very good. Our local gp practice is excellent. My father in law who lives with us now has had wonderful treatment, in sharp contrast to some of the care in England where he lived before. Perhaps it is a bit of a lottery and depends on exactly where you are!

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  10. yours looks and feels ideal! I'm dislocated in the big city though have been a long time washed up here. Used to think I wanted a detached place in the middle of nowhere but with age realise I need access to civlisation. Think I've got the ideal place now - on the move before next year but none of it would matter without a loved one to share it with

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly about having someone to share it with. When either of us is away the other finds life very dull!

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  11. Hello Elizabeth, I have just discovered your blog and this seems a perfect piece as an introduction! You do indeed have a beautiful house and view and I can understand your love for it. I love my strange tall, thin terrace house but I would so love to have an orchard....

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    1. I do love our orchard. It is still a young orchard but recognisably an orchard now, as opposed to a gathering of sticks!

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  12. I can easily imagine settling down where you are -- ticks all my boxes. I also love where we are now, on waterfront on a tiny little island. We're a 5-minute bike ride and a 10-minute ferry ride from town and groceries (the ferry only goes once an hour, so one must plan). There is no pavement (only 4 kilometres of dirt road, over half the vehicles here are golf carts, by special permission), so that it feels rural. The logistics do get wearing, especially in the winter when I'm biking the dirt road in rain or ice or snow, but it's generally worth it.
    And we also like our tiny apartment in the city, a base when my husband worked there (and I stayed back on the island close to my own work) and now a base for visiting all four of our young families. I like the balance between the two worlds, although I do sometimes feel, as I age, that the wear and tear of back and forth may become too much. For now, though, it suits. . . .Fun post and lovely to read all the comments.

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    1. We had a spell of having two places but I agree that at some point that can lose its lustre. It does answer the two sides of me though!

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  13. We live in a subdivision of 100 homes, most on an acre or so and we're about 8 miles from a small town. Our house is on a lagoon and we're next to a river. Love the location, love the house except for all the stairs.

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    1. I like the idea of being on a lagoon, how cool!

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  14. Your post has got me thinking and I may well have to write a blog about this subject. I know that nothing is perfect, there is always something missing wherever one is. And needs change as one gets older/children leave home etc. But like Friko I would probably not settle well in a modern estate. Your house is gorgeous and the views too.

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    1. I suspect from all of your writing that you would like this house Cait, as I probably would yours!

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  15. Thoroughly enjoyed seeing more of your house Elizabeth. It looks beautiful. When we moved here it was for similar reasons, having both stopped working and yearning for a more rural retreat. But I still wanted to do 'something' whilst we are young enough and so this house is a 'project', inside and out. I love the location. I just wonder if we've actually bitten off more than we can chew..

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    1. Outside was a project, inside less so although we have replaced the kitchen and bathroom and had the roof redone. I know what you mean about biting off more than you can chew. Sometimes it feels like that here too! But it is perhaps the only way you ever do something really exciting!

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  16. Your location does sound perfect and I love those beautiful views. I'm not sure that I could live somewhere very remote either, although I do sometimes daydream about it! Your house looks lovely, too - it's about the same age as mine. I recognise those doors! I used to live in a city as well (London) when I was in my twenties but I could never live in one again. I'm no longer so tolerant of noise and crowds.

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    1. I did love the city and I still love to visit, just not to stay. Often if we go away we go to cities now that we live in countryside so beautiful that people come here on holiday!

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  17. I think your house, it's location and the interior is perfect - very an "Elizabeth" house. I would love it, wouldn't change a thing. I would LOVE a view and the fact that I could take off across the hills, lanes and valleys would suit me, to then come home to a kitty and a log burner would be heaven, the sky at night must be amazing too and you don't get that show in town. Oh and I almost forgot, the books and the shelves - perfect!

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    1. You are quite right about the darkness at night. It is truly dark here and I love that.

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  18. How funny, just last night, EG and I had an exchange of ideas about that. I love all what you showed and told about your house. Those doors and windows are beautiful and they talk to me. We are at the stage of reaching achievement after 13 years of building, transforming, creating and maintaining. This house is 'only' from 1738, not as old as yours but I guess it has the same sound and good feeling to it. Plenty of land, plenty of views, proxy airports, towns, motorways, countries. But huge to maintain. And our heart beats for the UK. Like Fennie, we would love to have several homes and of course, would have wellies and reading glasses in each, lol. The dream for the next is a sea view. But if ever we do move again or not, the freedom of dreaming, of being able to realise a next move, is essential. In the meantime, I enjoy every day the gardens and own crop, the fireplaces, the many rooms (I have a sewing room and a crafting room and EG has several garages for all the vintage cars) and as we were missing light and air, we transformed the piggery and have now a wonderful 'modern' place inside the house. I have discovered 'my' place (because we don't feel like being the owners of this house, the house owns us) only, since I don't work for money anymore. Before, I had no time for appreciating to the utmost all what surrounds us. I love all your posts, Elizabeth - so many things which I feel in the same way but would never be able to describe so perfectly. Thanks for always sharing and making me smile.

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    1. What a lovely comment, bayou, thank you. I think you are very right that you need to spend a lot of time in a place to attach to it properly. I used to hate to leave when I worked away and the intensity of that feeling was one of the things that drove me to give up my job. I am impressed with your having a sewing room! That would be on my wishlist for any new house.

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  19. Well, I do love my cottage, and the fact that I live near the sea. But if I could live anywhere? That's easy. SCOTLAND.

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    1. There is no doubt that if you love Scotland you would also love Wales. You will have to come and see sometime!

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    2. I would love to, so long as you don't mind my bringing along a handsome husband. 8-)

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  20. Your home and its surroundings are indeed lovely and very special, and you sound very contented where you are. And contentment is hard to come by... I too live in a beautiful part of the country and there is much to love about where I am. But I have no roots here and that is a problem as I continue to try and establish my network. At the same time, my roots in Kent are much weakened by my move to East Anglia. To stay or to go is a question we ponder endlessly. The children would prefer us to go back as they all have roots in Kent, old school friends, familiar places and people and it would be easier for them, but going back is never easy, nor is it a given that it will live up to its promise. So, we continue to ponder and to try and make the most of what we have now. Which is a lot! What I would change about this house - it is a dark house and I need sunlight, oh and I do so miss my orchard. Dream on.

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    1. How interesting. I do think that going somewhere else new might well be more successful than going back anywhere. Things change, you change, your stage of life changes. The experience will be very different. Maybe you can find another, nearer place that is not Kent?

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  21. I'd like to live somewhere else but don't know where. Your house and location seem perfection. Maybe I'll model my dreams on them! I'd like not to have plastic windows but wooden ones instead. I'd like a bigger garden. We're on a train route but on the slow bit of it. I'd like quicker access to things like plays and orchestras. I like hills and mountains and the sea. I used to think I'd have to head town-wards as I grew older but internet deliveries mean 'remote' is more practical than it used to be - and Kindles make libraries less relevant (sorry!). Daily milk deliveries are a necessity if there's no corner shop. I hope to move one day. When local responsibilities permit, we will. But where? Don't yet know.

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    1. I do agree about the impact of the internet on those of us who live in more out of the way places. It is a rare day when little practical parcel doesn't arrive but it all very easy!

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  22. Elizabeth, as I read your words and viewed the beauty of the photographs, I kept thinking that your home seems truly perfect. I have also very much enjoyed reading the prior comments about many places folks call home.

    It's a funny convention that many of my fellow NYC apartment dwellers refer to our present little dwellings as our houses. They are far from houses. Most of us have no access to any outside garden space of our own (thank goodness for parks!) We make all sorts of continuing housing compromises in order to have our daily feasting on the other aspects of city living.

    For some years, I have been having my country dreams, and as you know, that forms a theme to my own blogs. As the speed of passing years seems to increase, I do begin to wonder if some version of my own dreams will ever become reality. How can I make them real?

    Ahh, now I am even more sorry that I was not able to figure out how to connect with you in person during my recent UK visit. I would have had so many questions for you!

    Meanwhile, thank you again for this post. It spoke directly to my heart.

    xo

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    1. I do hope you can realise your country dreams Frances and yes, I wish you had been able to make it up here on your last visit to the UK. Next time!

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  23. As I explained on my blog, we have a nice 1928 house within two blocks of our grandchildren. Not my ideal location, but this is what is available at his point in life. I'd much prefer coniferous forest and rivers and precambrian rock to this tame urban scene.

    You have a lovely place. I hope you keep enjoying it every day.

    Blessings and Bear hugs, Elizabeth!

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    1. Coniferous forests and rivers and rock sound very appealing! But I am glad you have compensations in the shape of your grandchildren.

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  24. Your home is delightful! You are so lucky to live your dream. I never thought a small college town in Maine would be right for me since I grew up in NYC, but now I love it. We bought a 1920's Colonial revival about the same size as your house and my brother, an architect, helped us remodel it. It's the perfect family home in walking distance to town for the city person in me and right on campus for my husband the professor. Out back are the woods. If I could change anything, I'd move the college dorm next door. It can be noisy on weekends but it makes for good people watching. Sometimes I dream of a house on the water, an island you can drive to, but day to day it would be too remote, I think.

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    1. Sometimes I dream about a house on the water too. I love the fact that there is always coming and going and things to see. But you can't have that and this too, so this it will have to be!

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  25. I love the old doors and beams in your house, and the quirky angles.
    There is a lot that's just right about my house:
    - Great family links (the house is well over a hundred years old and was probably a communally built structure, put up over-night to claim the land), my ancestors have lived here since it was built. My auntie lives next door and my parents next door to her.
    - We are within walking distance of shops, church, P.O., school, pub and a castle.
    - It's a characterful cottage in the heart of the old part of the village with a traditional long, strip of a garden on the opposite side of the road and an ancient Well, that used to serve the whole road, in the bank opposite.
    Things I'd like to change:
    - It would be nice if our rooms were a little bigger/higher.
    - A little more space around the house itself would be nice too.
    - A little more distance between our house and the dual carriageway behind would be preferable.
    - and I'd be happier if the developers hadn't been allowed to build a huge, great, out-of-character house (4 x the size of ours on ground 5 feet higher) right next to us.
    Teresa x

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  26. Your house looks lovely and that very old door with it's huge lock and key, very like mine at Spring Cottage. Ideally, I'd like to combine both London and Somerset somehow so that I could be at peace in just one place but I'm not sure that's possible, or even desirable. What would I have left to yearn for?

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Comments are the best thing and the conversations they produce are the whole purpose of blogging for me. Do tell me what you think!