Would we abandon this dream? It’s a question worth contemplating. Because what would that mean? It might mean this Pyrenean Foothills Writers’ Retreat dream wasn’t the right dream for us. That there was something more enticingly exciting to that yearning inside us to lock onto a destination and fly towards it, as if the dream itself was a rocket and we were hanging on by our fingertips.
If we had a real choice, that is if we could afford to do anything, would we make the same decision? I actually think we would.
The criteria for the dream would be unchanged. Our personal needs and versions of the good life would be the same. Ben would want to write full time, in a peaceful and inspirational place. He would want to give our children a life of choice, freedom and connection with the real, not just nature, but working for love, life without the chaff of arbitrary standards and comparisons.
I would want a life where we could all be together, all of the time. I would want our lives and home to comfortably accommodate four children, my parents, animals, and to be able to open our home to a wider circle of friends, family, artists, dreamers. I would want to be hands on and create the atmosphere, host and cook for our family and our guests. I would want to write with Ben and write for myself too. I would want us to travel as a family, and I’d want us to open the horizons for our loved ones, helping them to see the world and to get closer to their dreams.
The concept would be the same. But what about the location? I’ve never been particularly drawn to mountains. I am scared of heights and the one time I went hill walking in the Lake District, I clung to the grass when it became too steep, in terror. I have similar memories of the Peak District and atop castle walls in Wales. I’d rather miss out on a great view than climb. And then there’s the ‘oh babe’ driving off a cliff nightmare (a story for another time). I love water. Streams and rivers, not oceans. I love waterfalls and forests.
Ben loves vistas. He loves the sensation of a town coming into view in a valley below as you crest a hill or turn a bend. He loves a sense of space and freedom. He loves ruins and abandoned places, curios. We want the kids to be able to run through our garden into woodland, along streams, over rocks, up hills into the wilderness, in safety. We want unspoilt countryside, we want to be inland. Yes. France is the best fit for us – the landscape, the history and culture. And it has to be somewhere fairly remote, relatively undiscovered.
Yes. We’re looking in the perfect place. Apart from the mountains…
If things pan out the way we hope, we’ll be moving feeling like millionaires anyway, because it’s all relative. So we won’t be settling for a pokey house, and we won’t be suffering years more of achingly slow DIY. We’ll be rich in time, and energy, and we’ll have some cash too. A swimming pool is non-negotiable. A setting that inspires other writers is a must. So the bar is set high, and we will enjoy all the luxuries we must furnish for our guests to make the business viable.
A lottery win wouldn’t change our dream. It might mean a nicer bigger house out there; a feeling of security having money in the bank to lean on rather than writing or retreat income; travelling, shopping and eating out more; the ability to buy the kids better snow gear, horses, bikes, boats; and to help out family. But it wouldn’t change our dream. The plan and even the timescale for the move would be the same. That’s really good to know. But knowing that we’d still leave Jam Jar House. That we’d still gladly give up this first dream home, dream life in the Cotswolds, that hurts.