Chocolate retort(e)

I knew we would be changing our lives. Even moving to the Wye would require a total shift in the way we live and the days we have – on the surface level, no more walking the kids to the park from our front door, convenient trips to the shop or that sense of a world being just out there in grasping distance, but in a deeper fashion no sense of belonging to a busy location, of being in the countryside but still connected to a bigger picture or of being somewhere… as pretentious as it feels, no connection to somewhere upmarket, special, luxurious. The Cotswolds is a convenient countryside, a rural dream with high standards both of living and of presentation. I’ve always called the Forest and the Wye ‘modest’, and as euphemistic as that might be it’s a reality that I’d managed to comprehend that a move away from the Cotswolds would similarly move us into a more modest existence. But this was always a positive, because modesty could equal mortgage free. Ventnor was a big step from this – not least because of the requirement for debt and work – but I was relishing the change from working 9to5 full time in an all-encompassing role into a part-time casual income with more room to breathe and less intellectual demand. The French leap had its own exciting changes to our lives, particularly the six to 12 months we though we might spend renting a flat in Cheltenham and just living it up. So I always knew we would be changing our lives and I’ll welcome the change when it eventually comes. But when we make this move I can’t live with us losing the one thing we, actually, do have right now – stability. With me in a newly permanent job, Jen’s work rolling in and Moms in a good position locally we are, in the short to medium term at least, pretty damn secure. The mortgage is paid, the bills are covered, we eat well. The long term looks less doable, which is why we’re pursuing these dreams, but none of our escape routes from banal conventional life will ever fulfil my need for freedom, for insulation if we cannot be secure. Insulation, to me, is not merely taking ourselves out of the system that normally governs so many lives – the mortgage rate, the success or failure of the economy, government policy, working for someone else – it’s about putting the power of our future in our own hands. Doing this house was insulating ourselves because we chose a path different to the now defunct property ladder. Getting a business in the Wye would be insulating ourselves because our own understanding of taste and attraction will draw in bookings. Being mortgage free will insulate us from a great many fluctuating, out-of-control variables that otherwise could threaten our happiness. Granted, these things also have some outside reliance but in these situations our own efforts, our own actions are crucial to our own success. But while growing our own food can insulate us, relying on growing food in order to free money to pay bills is just another form of reliance. This is how the France scenario might have worked out possible, but it would be just trading one reliance for another, and leaving us in just as precarious a position if the weather turned and a year’s harvest was ruined in a single bout of weather. I need a move that frees us from reliance, that empowers us. I can’t ever see myself being happy to have escaped economic pressure only to put ourselves under the sort of historic pressure people toiled through for hundreds of years.



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