Just when I thought I couldn’t love Yorkshire more…

…autumn happened. As the months have gone by up here, I hadn’t become immune to the beauty of the place, but I had become accustomed to the stunning landscape that surrounds us. Every now and then, I’d have to stop the car to appreciate how the hills looked in a certain light, or when there was mist, or indeed any other variable that might make me look again, but I’d at least reached the point where I could drive without distraction from the view.

So I was perhaps a little complacent about it as we moved almost overnight from summer into autumn. There had been little hints as some leaves yellowed, but then suddenly autumn was there, in my face, jumping up and down like a toddler who needs you to look right now at what they drew. It’s just that the results here were a little more spectacular (I’m still trying to forget the time S let H play with a bag of flour while I was working, so that doesn’t count.)

I could write pages and pages about autumn. It’s my favourite season, where the prospect of being able to light the fire and choose how warm I get is available, instead of wondering how on earth I can cool down. Everything is colourful and pretty: a bit like London Fashion Week for the tree community, where each tree tries to outdo the next for sheer colour and style. I get to make stews again, and soups are suddenly deeply appealing and one of the best perks of working from home. An occasional slice of cake feels permissible to ward against the cold, and fruit tea replaces cordial as my daytime tipple.

Despite all that, and all the muttering about how autumn couldn’t come soon enough during the heatwave even Yorkshire saw this year, it felt very much like it had snuck up on me, waiting to flip the light switch and yell “Surprise!” I was driving down the valley towards Grassington and suddenly it felt like a different place. I realised I’d slowed down to something like ten miles per hour as I looked at the trees and the hills and tried to take it all in, eventually conceding and pulling in to a lay by in order to just get out of the car, breathe, and look. Nature one, Melanie nil.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here nine months. There is no doubt that we chose to come here, but I would never have believed we would feel so strongly that we belonged in such a short space of time. It’s no longer an experiment but a choice, one made all the easier by new friends and kind neighbours who have welcomed us all into our new community. At today’s Christmas craft fair in the village hall, I went in and recognised – and knew by name – the first three adults and both children we met and greeted and chatted to others as we continued around the stalls.

Kettlewell is a special place, and its people are creative, imaginative and entrepreneurial. They’re also supportive of each other and of our shared home, determined to prevent a rural community withering away. We’ve come home with a Christmas card holder craft project sold by Caroline in her Giggle Squiggle craft shop under the village shop, all set for H to decorate it and create part of our new family Christmas tradition. We also bought some Christmas cards made in the village by Laura, who also sews lovely things for sale. A crocheted bookmark from another stall so that I can spare my books, now I’ve started reading again. And H’s choice of one of the cat collars made by Rhona, that he felt eminently appropriate for our no-longer-so-feral Gwinny.

Other stalls carried ceramic items, home-made hair bows, home-made blankets and other wonderful things, as well as the usual excellent range of home-made cakes at the refreshment stall. Home-made everything, with skill and care in every item. As we wandered home, H suggested I should start planning my own stall for next year, that I dig out my beading materials and play.

This makes me pause, and I realise I’m looking for an excuse even before I’ve considered it: too little time, no energy, not creative enough, no brain space to be creative… all the traditional reasons why I would rule something out without further thought. I stop myself, because this has been a year where I’ve had to be open to new things, to doing things differently for fear of always making the same mistakes. Fail better, that’s the thing, and it’s served me well. I have a year until the next one and no idea what will happen in that time. And so the afternoon ends on a maybe: it’s perfect.

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.