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.

Yorkshire Day

One of the main things I’ve enjoyed since moving to the Dales has to be the food. In London, locally-grown produce is unsurprisingly in short supply – a quick trip to Spitalfields City Farm was our best bet.

Up here, though, we’ve been enjoying the proud dairy tradition, as well as growing our own produce. There’s an excellent farm shop in Skipton that pulls together a mixture of locally-grown fruit and veg, as well as providing an outlet for excess allotment produce to be sold. They also sell local meat and, where minced steak from the supermarket is a bland affair, making a burger from Keelham’s mince makes you completely reconsider how good it can taste.

As an old git in training, I was used to thinking that food always had more flavour when I was a child, and put it down to nostalgia and the rose-tinted specs of memory. Now, I’m more inclined to trust my memory and instead turn from supermarket meat to the better quality local meat from the farm shop, which is also very reasonably priced.

Lunch today was simple but full of flavour. Bright, peppery radishes, sumptuous figs, local vine tomatoes, and two Yorkshire cheeses: Wensleydale and a mild, citrussy sheep’s cheese, Yorkshire Fettle.

And as I sat there after, looking out over the garden, I realised there was nowhere I’d rather be. I will probably always sound like a southerner. But in Yorkshire I’ve found my home.

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.