Let’s talk about socks

I want to talk about socks. I’ve spent years of my life considering them a necessary evil, or silently cursing as I end up with a rash around my ankles courtesy of my allergy to elastic. They’ve been interchangeable, almost disposable, as the sock monster collects his tithe and leaves them bereft,  forced into settling for a lesser mate from dogged pragmatism, or just plain fear of the bin.

It would be fair to say that socks are not a favourite garment of mine,  or weren’t until the last pair of shop-bought, allegedly hypoallergenic socks had me itching within minutes and I realised I was going to be stuck with tights and knee highs forever. Well, unless I did something about it.

I came to yarn crafts comparatively late in life, when asked to buy a book as a gift for a friend’s daughter so they could learn crochet. My hugely talented granny had tried on numerous occasions to teach me and my best efforts looked like I’d given the yarn to one of my cats, so I was doubtful a mere book could teach anyone in isolation. I bought one book called ‘Kids Learn to Crochet’, and figured that if it could teach me, I would buy a copy as a gift, along with some starting supplies.

Years have passed since then, and I love to crochet for the colours, the textures, and the calming action that can help me deal with moments of mental health crisis in the way baking used to. And when one day I spotted a sale on sock yarn, I wondered whether I might be able to overcome my sock problem by learning to knit my own.  The worst case scenario was having more lovely yarn to crochet with. so I bought it and hoped it wouldn’t just end up as a shawl.

I took almost a year before trying. Part of that was lack of time, part lack of mental space to learn and concentrate on a new skill, let alone understand a pattern. And partly an inability to prioritise my own needs when determining how best to use my time.

Today, another pair of socks has come off the needles, and I love wearing them, especially against my rather sober navy dress and black tights combo that is my go-to comfort outfit for those days where migraine lurks in the back of my skull, threatening to come out and play with the least misstep of food, drink or activity. They feel like they’re giving two fingers to the migraine, as well as cheering me with their colour. And should I be forced to hide in the dark later, my socks are no longer an irritant, but a friend providing warmth and comfort.

So now my socks are some of my favourite clothes and have become a process in themselves, from seeing a beautiful yarn – and giving it a squish and a stroke – to watching the pattern develop as the rows progress. The much-feared Kitchener stitch that I was convinced would defeat me is now an ally signalling the readiness of my socks. A new sock day is a celebration, like meeting someone you instinctively know will become a friend. And here they are, fresh on my feet. Happy sock day to me.

Coming home from Hawes

A week since we moved, and it feels like a month. H has started his new school and seems to think it’s the best thing ever. That may have something to do with him having less homework to do than at his previous school, but mostly it’s that the kids here have been so very friendly. His teachers seem to be nice, too, although he’s a bit put out at having to catch up a term and a half of German. If he’s got the right genes from me, that should be absolutely fine, but if he’s his father’s linguistic ability, it’s going to be an uphill struggle. We shall see.

Having spent so much time shifting and emptying boxes, I’m quite tired and decided I needed a rest. I was aided in this by a friend who’s been staying nearby. We don’t see each other often, but we get on so well when we do manage to meet up, it makes me wish we lived nearer.  It was a lovely surprise to find she was visiting the Dales with her sons during their half term, and even better that there was the opportunity to meet up, even briefly, in Hawes for a cuppa.

We chose the cafe at the Wensleydale Creamery, because I’d never been there and am starting to learn about my new home’s culinary tradition, and because pretty much everywhere has novelty value for me.

The drive up was frustratingly slow for the distance, and the route was sufficiently unfamiliar and winding that it demanded all my concentration. The route back, on the other hand, made me cry. It’s not that there’s anything wrong, or that I’m sad. I’m mourning and not mourning. I miss my shop, I miss our customers, I miss our neighbours and friends, and getting used to the scarcity of small Tescos that oil the wheels of London life has led to some slightly strange meals this last week. Life is irrevocably different.

But different isn’t always bad.

Since arriving in Kettlewell I’ve been trying. Trying very hard at a lot of things. Trying very hard to keep it together for H so he doesn’t have to worry, and so that he has someone to share his own concerns with, without fearing making my load heavier. I’ve not had a chance for an emotional adjustment to the move yet. Hell, I’m also missing my husband because our first couple of months are going to involve only sporadic trips north from him, and being a single parent in a time of major upheaval is hard. And I suppose this afternoon it all came out.

There is a very real sense of loss that I feel. This isn’t one of those happy blogs where someone ditches the shitty old city life and is suddenly at one with nature, getting chickens and goats and weaving their own home-grown lentils. This is a big move and a big change. I know nobody, literally nobody, up here. And I live in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. This is not Peter Mayle setting up in Provence and finding the natives oh-so-quaint-and-amusing.

This is me saying goodbye to some of the dreams and most of the life I had, and setting up somewhere it will take effort to fit in and create a new life, new connections, a new way of being and running the household. And I’m disabled and not able to get about very easily, so it’s not going to be easy. And I’m OK with that and I will get there. But this afternoon I had to say goodbye to some of that stuff, or at least acknowledge it with kindness before tidying it away. I’m not sure I can Marie Kondo my brain, but maybe.

But there is also a whopping great ‘hello’ out there. Wherever I go, Yorkshire is there waiting. Beautiful, wild, drawing me in. Making me wish I had a clue how to paint, but in a very real way reaching in and settling in me. Telling me that my home is now here, and that there is much out there for me to discover, if I’m only open to it. Wherever I go, the distant landscape seems hidden by successive layers of translucent veil, revealing itself only as I approach, drawing me further down the road to see what may lie beyond.

Most of all, living in the Dales, the scenery has barely changed for centuries, the local stone of the buildings blending and occasionally punctuating the landscape. It could be 2018. It could very well be 1818. And possibly in 2218, visitors to the area will see what I see, minus perhaps a few telegraph poles.  There is a permanence, here, and a freedom that comes from knowing that, if I can just stop tripping over my own brain.

TL;DR we moved house

It’s been a very busy time, as you would expect when you’re moving half way up the country and have to move three people and their associated pets, paraphernalia and other necessaries to a new home. It’s been hard work, and I’ve had so little time to think that my blog has had to take a back seat.

While I was writing longhand posts for later transfer from time to time, my fibromyalgia has simply got the better of me, and I’ve found myself too exhausted for all but the essentials. I’m hoping that having actually moved, I will eventually have more time. But I look at the sea of boxes and that starts seeming unlikely.

I could show you the size of the problem that awaits, but it feels more positive to show you instead the sunrise that greeted me as I woke for the first time in my new bedroom. I’ve often wondered whether I was maybe a bit mad for doing this and trying to completely change our lives in this way, but I think the results are going to be good, and at least we have better scenery if we actually are going to make mistakes!

A picture of a sunrise through a window with a silhouetted tree and golden light catching the undersides of the clouds
Sunrise viewed from my bedroom window

And yes, I know we’ll make mistakes. Whether it’s underestimating the weather as we get used to our new micro-climate, or running out of heating oil because we’re not used to that kind of heating, or whatever else we may end up making a mess of, more or less everything is fixable, and I’m trying to be a little kind to myself.

H starts his new school on Monday, so I have lots to do on the uniform front between now and then, and we need a functioning house if he’s to be able to concentrate properly on settling into school, instead of stressing out about his home. So it’s off to set up furniture and start our unpacking that I go.

The plan

We didn’t make our decision to close the shop with any particular plan in mind. We just knew it had to happen, because I couldn’t keep going, and trying to do so out of a sense of duty to other people wasn’t a good reason to damage my health any further. The bigger issue, we knew, was that we were going to lose our home when we decided to do so, since subletting the shop and staying in the flat wasn’t going to be possible.

We certainly considered staying in London, since our son had only started Y7 in September, and moving schools again in such a short time frame wasn’t ideal. On the other hand, London rents within the area we’d have had to be in to keep him at his school would have needed for me to pick up a high-paying full-time job almost immediately, and that wouldn’t happen. While I haven’t always made food or designed recipes for a living, I didn’t have much recent work experience for anyone other than myself to show. My chance of finding a job that kept me challenged or an employer who ‘got’ what I had to offer was virtually nil in the short term. We needed a plan B.

Plan B, of course, would mean finding somewhere less expensive to live. In London, that didn’t leave many options. Which had us thinking, what’s keeping us in London anyway? In reality, just my husband’s business, and it would be possible, in time, for him to reduce the amount of time he needed to be in London. As for me and H, we didn’t need to be anywhere in particular: we needed a good school for him, and somewhere I could heal. Ideally, we’d find somewhere with an active community, where I could set down roots and make wherever we moved to a real home.

That’s how I found myself in Yorkshire. While I’ve lived north of Watford in my life, I’ve certainly never lived north of Milton Keynes, but visits to Cumbria revealed a disappointing lack of dragons – or other monsters – in the northern reaches of England, and S had spent a chunk of his childhood in the Dales to no obvious ill effect, so I thought it was worth considering, at the very least.

At very little notice, after contacting a couple of estate agents – and having found a good school that happened to have a space available for our son, should he pass the entrance exams – I booked a hotel room near Skipton and planned my journey north. There were two houses to look at, and the possibility of a school tour while I was there, as well as a chance for me to have a first look at the area we were considering calling home.

On the day I first went to Kettlewell, I was full of fear, as well as anger at myself that I hadn’t physically been able to make the shop work. I was hurting in more ways than my morphine prescription could ever fix, and blaming myself for everything. I got lost on my way back to Skipton, having tried to detour via Grassington to get a feel for the area, and it was all just too much. And I had to stop the car because I couldn’t see clearly through the tears. I eventually stopped crying, wiped my face clean and took a few deep breaths before opening my eyes. When I did, I saw the bridge across the Wharfe at Burnsall.

The weather was grim. I’d stopped randomly. I was at my most vulnerable, tears barely dry. I wasn’t prepared for that much beauty and felt almost winded. Despite having driven a couple of hundred miles up from London, I somehow hadn’t taken in where I was, or allowed what I was looking at to filter in. In every direction, the beauty of the Dales finally managed to break through all that pain. I couldn’t change the past, but I could make this place our future.