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.