Sunday, October 30

I always forget

Needless to say I forgot to turn the clock back, relinquishing my extra hour in bed. I won’t deny our new residence requires far more input than the barn. ‘Active’ seems insufficient when describing the change in my routine – and I don’t mean escaping to the moor. I prefer not to dwell on what happens when the real work begins. Of an evening it’s all I can do to throw a log on the fire and reach for a bottle. Opening long-sealed packing cases has been something of a revelation. Five boxes are already winging their way to the local charity shop, leaving a decade’s worth of reading material stacked against the office wall. I’m reading a Dick Francis novel for old time’s sake. Outside the gold and russet of autumn predominates. Wood pigeons breakfast in the yard, critters scurry in all directions. The ponies do what ponies do: they endure.

Wednesday, October 26

Hours in the day

I seized upon a break in our monsoon-like weather to shin up the drain pipes and check out the guttering. Given my history of falling from ladders I remain shy of scrambling about at roof level but it has to be done. I think we look in reasonable shape for the winter, albeit there’s plenty to schedule for next year’s dry season. Have completed a second coat of emulsion on the store room, and if white-van-man turns up, I might actually get around to outfitting it with the shiny industrial shelving I ordered. Storage remains a problem.

Thanks to the flood, local roads were proving difficult to negotiate yesterday. After a couple of runs to garages and to Ike Godsey’s, and having dropped off Mrs G. for her monthly session with Mr Teasy-Weasy, I adjourned to try another of our nearby hostelries. The range and quality of beer hereabouts is very good, thanks in part (I suspect) to the relatively high turnover. This one contained the usual late-afternoon assortment, including a number who’d obviously been there since lunchtime. Discovered an Asian restaurant on our way home that serves passable stuff – it’s been a while.

Sunday, October 23

Taxi!

Today was my first and possibly last walk to the nearest ‘local’. Whilst the distance is less than two miles the return is all uphill. Not just uphill but an almost continuous 1 in 5. Even with a mere couple of pints of ale and packet of crisps onboard this was a serious slog for yours truly. It appears a quality establishment, unobtrusive live music, tables fully booked for Sunday lunch, but next time...

Saturday, October 22

The nights draw in

To say the local populace are an eclectic bunch would be putting it mildly; people continue to surprise. Phase one of the drains overhaul is now complete. We’ve a weekend to ourselves, though there are numerous chores that need attending to. My greatest discovery so far has been the log burning stove in the back room. Given the stone walls, the blackout curtains and the blazing tree limbs, I do not expect to freeze this winter. A neighbour assures me it is milder here than at our previous location but I’m taking no chances and will continue to stockpile firewood. Local weather conditions change on an almost hourly basis. One minute overcast, breezy and drizzle, the next blue sky and sunshine. As you reach for the Ray-Bans a thick mist sweeps in, blotting out everything beyond 30 yards. There’s little of anything or anyone you can take for granted.

Wednesday, October 19

Life turns a little cooler

I need more sweaters and waterproof clothing. We’ve been fortunate this last two weeks: squalls aside, there have been some prolonged periods of sunshine. However, the temperature is dropping, ground frost has been forecast. Not that it appears to have affected the moles – be they the subterranean kind that have deposited heaps of spoil at strategic points around the yard, nor the lads who periodically appear above the rim of the holes they’ve dug to accommodate the new drains. (...) The game season is upon us, partridge for supper. After the rushed meals and service station sandwiches of recent weeks it’s nice to return to real food.

Sunday, October 16

A rare burst of sunshine

A glorious day for a change, all the more as it was unexpected (it’s turning out colder and damper in this neck of the woods). We spent the morning in Totnes visiting the Sunday food market. Picked up supplies and ate a half-decent goat curry from the Caribbean stall. Returned home and worked through the afternoon. Managed a late stroll up on the moor – watched a procession of hot air balloons and followed a green woodpecker’s ant safari. Busy week planned. I have to keep reminding myself Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Thursday, October 13

Getting on with the job

It’s surprising how quickly a building deteriorates. After just a few empty days the barn was a damp, fusty shell (it took longer than planned, but we finally returned the keys). Mostly it’s about condensation and a building’s breathability. Even at this time of year, without the ambient heat of occupation and adequate ventilation, it reverts to being a barn. Our new location was little better when we arrived. However, after several days in residence we appear to be winning control. Following the adventures of South London Mansions I swore we would never commit to another period property, that in the future we would always chose to go with a new-build. Yet here we are – and it’s even older than the nightmare on KGS. I’m surprising sanguine at present, but that’s mostly down to this mild patch of weather and the novelty of it all. Wait ’till winter when we are snowed in and the water fails. At present I’m booking roofers and glaziers, and planning to dig up the drains...ordering firewood. Getting on with the job, as our political masters are so fond of saying. There’s a disturbing blue tinge to the water that has me a little worried, though it doesn’t seem to affect the taste of our tea. If I can demolish the mountain of paperwork before me I might actually get outside and begin to enjoy myself.

Monday, October 10

Settling in

On the plus side the temperature remains relatively mild. Indoors I manage with only four layers of clothing. The roar of the wind, the thrashing trees and juddering window panes provides our soundtrack. A day spent clearing fallen leaves from drains and guttering appears misspent, as this morning they’ve returned with a vengeance. The office wall is a series of hastily scribbled lists: essential tasks that need to be accomplished in order of priority. Number one on today’s schedule is a return to the barn, to clean house and hand back the keys. Given the speed we left last week I suspect it will take most of the day. We have begun to meet the neighbours – a reassuringly friendly bunch. Horseback or quad bike appears the favoured mode of transport. I’m thinking of buying a moped. Normality was resumed yesterday with a traditional Sunday roast. Whilst the kitchen comes equipped with an array of German-manufactured wizardry, water has to be pumped from a spring that originates somewhere on the moor; and staying warm this winter requires my chopping lots of wood.

Saturday, October 8

Another chapter begins

Well that went well. Two modest sized vans (to negotiate the narrow lane) and four big lads for the heavy lifting. I wouldn’t like to attempt it (to move house) too often however, and suspect many of the boxes will remain sealed for months if not years to come. For now it’s back to basics; no television, warm clothes indoors and wellies outside. At least the rain’s stopped falling. We’ve caught sight of an occasional figure across the fields, but other than the odd white-van-man our principal company appears to be the ponies. Whilst I’ve a daunting amount of work that needs to be addressed I remain the past master of procrastination; the weekend has been declared a holiday. Afterwards I really do need to pull the finger out.

Sunday, October 2

The last post?

They terminate our phone line tomorrow morning and I’m not sure if/when we will be back in business. If I do resurface it will be on the strength of my being promised a potential 0.5Mbps, though this was very much tongue-in-cheek. We will miss the barn...miss the seclusion, the game birds and fresh (free) vegetables. That said, it is time to move on. On the face of it our new location appears not too different, nor a million miles away – just 55 miles in fact, across the other side of Dartmoor. Chalk and cheese, however; chalk and cheese.

Saturday, October 1

Fingers crossed

Nearly there, I hope; this warm weather is a bonus. The farmers are more than chuffed, just about all their cutting looks done. We must have sat behind five tractors when negotiating our way back to the barn last night. The final push will certainly go more smoothly if it remains dry. Can’t recall when the A30 was so busy; everyone and his granny en route to Cornwall, to bask in the sunshine. Grabbed a final meal at the Dog & Duck – an experience neither of us will miss. I guess we are 90% packed, but then that last 10% is always a problem. I still can’t believe we’ve accumulated so much junk; and promise never buy anything again that I can’t eat, immediately dispose of after use, or which needs insuring.