TOASTED CRUMPET OR BAKEWELL TART?

Thoughts of moving house are becoming more pressing, for various reasons I won’t be sharing on here – for the moment, at least. It’s constantly on our minds. What we can afford, what we will need to compromise on and, most importantly of all, where we are going to end up…

We socially-distanced met a very nice man the other day. He and his wife recently moved to a detached bungalow set in three acres on the outskirts of a pretty town in Kent. They can walk one way into town (with the all-important good transport links) and walk straight out into deep countryside the other – it sounds like bliss to me. They also have three dogs. All in good time, Cooper, all in good time…

Anyway. Their land backs on to a popular path which leads from town to country and, during lockdown, they saw just a small handful of walkers a day.  The first day  restrictions were lifted, they counted nearer 200! I guess you can’t have everything and, although I know I wouldn’t like that many people trooping past my home, at least, in this case, there is some distance between their bungalow and the public path. Perhaps a nice screen of fast-growing trees is in order…

Now, all my life, pretty much, I have lived in places other people like to visit (we will draw a veil over Tooting, where I lived in a student hostel while studying at what used to be known as the London College Of Printing (now Communications) in the Elephant and Castle).  I was born in Henley on Thames and also lived in Salisbury. I now live in Hampton Court.

Perhaps it’s my age, but, suddenly, I have grown rather sick of living somewhere that’s always so damn busy!  Doesn’t matter what time of year it is. Or is it that, since lockdown began, I have come to appreciate the quieter roads and fewer people, while out and about? (Of course, they’re all coming back, more’s the pity.) Now, I’m yearning to live in the sort of place where people nod and smile and say hello, whether they know you or not (they’re not like that around here, with the odd exception, despite a load of talk online about community spirit, blah blah blah). The sort of place where it’s only other locals you will see tramping around the streets or fields or woods, or wherever.

We have always said we’d love to live near the sea but we’ve been re-thinking that one, recently, as well. Our favourite places, in Devon and Cornwall, are hoaching with tourists year-round. OK, it makes for a “lively” scene and is great for the local economy, of course, but I’m not sure I’m prepared to share my precious personal space any more.

During lockdown, for our daily exercise walk, we’ve been avoiding the main towpath down to the river nearby, but even our newly-discovered local walk alongside a different, not-quite-so-busy part of the river is no longer the peaceful haven it was. The other day, on our brief foray out during the OH’s lunch-break, we encountered plenty of naked flesh – ie, sunbathers – lying broiling in the direct sunshine. Our joint idea of hell. I jokingly mentioned something along the lines of toasting crumpet, but the OH came up with something much better: “Bakewell tart.” Bake-well. Geddit??

Moving swiftly on, we returned home via a small local cafe, where we ordered takeaway coffee for the OH and two paninis for our lunch. The owner has very kindly been giving us free food with our orders – one day, it was small custard tarts and on another, it was a chocolate wafer biscuit each. Very kind – and very good for business! We will continue to support them, in any case; free treats or not. Next door, the Indian restaurant’s menu in the window proudly boasts: Lamb cooked in a way as you have never seen before (sic).

In the meantime, our quest for a fairly local, uncrowded and relatively peaceful oasis to get away from it all for an hour or so, often takes us to The Medicine Garden, in nearby Cobham. Once part of the estate belonging to a huge old house across the road, it’s a very large, walled garden, with outbuildings occupied by a number of small independent businesses and a couple of cafes. The garden borders themselves are full of inspiration. Alas, the place has now been sold, although you can still go there for the time being to have a look around, grab a takeaway coffee and cake and maybe buy one or two of the many artefacts currently being sold off.

The owners of the small businesses are sad to be leaving, and all are keen to stay together in some capacity, so they are looking for alternative accommodation: a barn or some other building large enough to take them all, preferably not a million miles from where they are now. If anyone reading this can help them, do let me know!

Apparently, instead of the housing estate full of “luxury executive” homes I was dreading, it’s going to be turned into a day spa for the WAGS of the many rich footballers who live in the area. Sigh.

You have until the end of July, when it closes to the likes of the rest of us forever, to see why I love it so much. On your marks…

 

Author: Hampton Caught

The rants and ramblings of an ex Deputy Fiction Editor of Woman's Weekly magazine.

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