Sunday, 26 November 2017

Border This Now

Last week was the worst of the trip so far. No difficulties, no challenges, no unpleasantness from anybody or anything outside of my head. Just my mood. 

Pathetic, isn't it? As Philip Norman said of Jagger's persona, it is the insufferable ennui of being handed everything. I have no work to do, no bills to pay, no deadlines to meet. I have all I want and need right with me and can choose where I want to buy a house at my leisure. And last week it was really getting on my tits. 

My birthday was probably the low point, perhaps because I'd expected something to have materialised in the property search by this landmark date, or 'cos I'd always assumed there would be some record-shaped celebration when I reached Halfway To Ninety. We've visited lovely towns, crossed our first national border into a breathtaking landscape, and all I've been able to do is moan that we're not getting anywhere, every town is starting to look like the last, and I'm not getting my own way.

M says she has been feeling the pressure that she knew sharing one small room with her family for most of every day was sure to bring, but we don't actually argue. We don't even quietly seethe. We just seem to start feeling unhappy, and are probably blaming each other subconsciously even if we don't articulate it. The boys start picking up on the frustration and ask infuriating questions about what is going to happen and when, and we get more and more exasperated with them asking for answers we really don't have.

I found a house I wanted. M seemed to quite like it too, but wasn't as confident she'd be happy living there as I was. The vendor was good enough to spell out exactly how little she would accept, and M licensed me to offer her fifteen grand less. This was rejected, of course, and after a while I became convinced that it wasn't about freeing up cash for paint and plant pots, but about making an intentionally inadequate offer because she didn't really want to buy the house but didn't want to be honest with me either. So I spent the next few days visiting towns and thinking 'Yeah this place is great but what is the point of liking it? If I decide I want to live here, M will just decide she doesn't.' This, of course, is my problem and only existed briefly in a small space on the inside of my skull. I am over it now and would be better off not sharing it with anybody. Whoops.

Shropshire and the Brecon Beacons have been very pleasant places to visit, like everywhere else we have been. The tour has been a success in terms of teaching us there are a great many places to enjoy outside of London, but a total failure (so far) in terms of narrowing things down. In Ludlow, a man running a micropub and bottle shop (that seemed to exist in complete isolation from the big changes in the beer market of the last decade) told us of a number of advantages of living on the other side of the border, principally the free prescriptions and support with tuition fees. He also spoke knowledgeably about the beauty of the Welsh landscape and the cheaper property prices, before saying that the only drawback is that there are a lot of people with very nationalistic views. 'What, like in England?' I wondered-out-loud, but his point was that it is the English that a Welsh nationalist is most likely to despise. 'It makes no difference to me though really,' he continued, 'I'm a Brummie, so I'm used to being hated by everyone.'

Armed with this wisdom, I crossed the border ready to keep my Englishness in check. The first person I met who wanted to speak about this divide was an English chef with that commonplace angry-bitter-controversial chef's sense of humour, who was talking about having a red dragon tattooed on his arse.

Both E and H are dyslexic and are only beginning to recognise reading and writing as useful forms of communication, rather than the stuff of day-to-day slog and chore that is schoolwork. And that's in English. I don't think that returning to school to find there is another, much more difficult, language to read and write in, would go down too well. If we were to set up home on the other side of a border, it might work better for it to be In Scotland, but that's a long way away and one thing we are not struggling with is a lack of options. We need to narrow things down really, before the money runs out or the weather turns too cold to make this viable.

Hay on Wye was a great little town, once the chef stopped trying to talk to me. We enjoyed some tremendous beers at Beer Revolution and some pretty damn good Chinese food ('we just call it "food",' a Chinese bloke said to me once) and revelled in the town's more understanding approach to car park signage - the text above says something like "no caravan or motorhome may stay for more than one night in seven," which seemed very civilised to me, but wasn't accommodating enough for the man who had obviously been there with his car and caravan for a while, feet down, TV aerial up and noisy little genny chugging away into the night.

There was no such crafty beer place in Abergavenny - a huge hotel called The Angel dominates, but within, the traveller discovers a handsome bar with a disastrously poor beer offering. It occurred to me once again that there are still opportunities in the beer market in certain towns. I'd really like to be able to offer the sort of beer that M and I like to drink in a town where there aren't any other places to drink it. There was a great food festival on in the town hall though, with all sorts of options and excellent atmosphere, but H wasn't really able to enjoy his burger.

He had toothache every time he ate for a few days back there, so we needed to get him to the tooth doctor, as well as getting Vanny to the van doctor (the skylight leak is fixed - hurrah - but we had to wait for them to order the tap, so they'll fit that after Christmas. It's not exactly a long walk to the bathroom tap though.) We couldn't just take him to the dentist like you do when you're living at your home address. Finding a dentist who would give him an appointment took several days - in fact it's difficult enough just to find a practice that will take on new NHS patients even if they do live locally. So we went back to M's mum's place to sort this out. H 
now has a very nice young dentist who cares enough about him to tell his mum he should never have any sugar. Since then, he's managed to lay off for the most part, even during a visit to see his very bestest friends on the South coast. We've stopped off in Southampton and checked my penultimate English Brewdog bar off the list (very nice it was too) and narrowly avoided paying TWENTY-FIVE QUID to drive Vanny across a toll bridge. Now it's time to head for Cornwall, which we missed on our first journey to the Southwest for reasons I can no longer remember. 

When we have been there to our Satisfaction, we will have driven through every county in England, and I think we should be ready to make a serious move on a place that has caught our collective eye. The boys have been amazing together, and so positive about the whole thing, but they probably need to start spending more time in the company of other children their own age. They're not bumping into kids in playgrounds and places as often as they did when the weather was 

While watching Blue Planet II, E expressed genuine concern that we were not recycling enough. It's very difficult to organise recycling when you are in a small space and have no bins of your own, so we do it when we can, but have thrown away a hillock of glass and plastic on this trip. We would all much prefer to put this guilt behind us as soon as possible. In stark contrast to how we lived, skint and time-starved in London, we've been huge consumers too, as much so as the muscly
 bulging young men we saw in Worcester, nearly bursting out of the ripped skinny jeans that go so badly with their Fred Astaire hairdos. Eating out virtually every day is expensive, fattening (when you hoover-up everybody else's lefties) and does something to my soul. Every oversize, open-top refrigerator and freezer exhaling dry-ice fog into the air, every bright red lamp heating an empty outdoors causes me insane amounts of worry. I need to get somewhere to live so I can hide away from all these smoking guns at the scenes of our suicide. I hate feeling like I am being bought and sold in the marketplace, and I hate being the trader too.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you’ve cheered up you old git! All power to H and E they are Kids and have the resilience of A Mancunian in a rainstorm. . Sending hugs and bearskins in these icy times and only one word of advice : listen to your missus, for she is a goddess and the font of all wisdom. Well , several words actually but you get the gist.