June marks our anniversary of moving to the country, after we made the big leap from London to Suffolk seven years ago.
(I always know when it’s coming round to moving date, because we get landed with a massive bill for home insurance)
Reflecting on the last 12 months, it’s been a funny old year, hasn’t it?
We’re incredibly fortunate that we haven’t suffered any family tragedies due to Covid. Instead, it’s been like time suspended, as we’ve slipped in and out of assorted lockdowns.
Lots of the things I thought of as happening in the last year – getting Otto the dog, acquiring three chickens, switching to Zoom for most of our social life – actually happened the year before.
We’ve been marking time, waiting for the pandemic to end. It’s all merged into one. Even the dodgy spring weather has delayed the roses coming into flower.
If I was gutted last year that familiar milestones disappeared, such as the Hadleigh Show, the Hidden Gardens of Hadleigh and the Duck and Raft Race, I’ve been gutted all over again when they were cancelled once more.
In particular I’ve been gutted for our children, as loads of things they were excited about were cancelled. No scout camps. No school trip to France. My 11-year-old is in his last year at primary school, but there won’t be any school play, school camp or sports day, with parents to cheer them on. The activity week away, which has already been rearranged three times, has just been cancelled due to the latest lockdown delays. It’s not looking good for the leavers disco. It’s been strange attempting online Open Days for secondary schools, watching talking heads rather than visiting classrooms and meeting staff and pupils in person.
So what have we done since last June?
We remain very grateful for the extra space and actual garden since moving to Suffolk. Lockdown has made us even more appreciative of the benefits of a market town, with the nearby amenities, country walks and sense of community.
My husband has continued with his new job, fundraising for Suffolk Wildlife Trust. The kids survived home schooling, more or less, although it hit my oldest particularly hard. They are both very glad to be back with their friends at actual school, with actual school dinners. The lack of hot lunches with pudding was apparently a major drawback to remote learning.
We’ve explored more places nearby, heading out for walks round Mersea Island and following the Mayflower trail in Harwich. Christmas went from hosting seven to hosting six to just the four of us, hunkered round a massive Lego set.
Our holidays were distinctly closer to home, quite literally when we stayed in Suffolk for a few days in a safari tent in Hintlesham and then a week in a yurt near Clare. After so much time restricted to the house, staying anywhere different was a bonus.
More on yurt living: What it’s like staying in a yurt
The furthest we went was a week in Yorkshire, pottering around from Bridlington to Bempton Cliffs, scoffing ice creams at Scarborough Castle and Hornsea, and exploring the abandoned village at Wharram Percy.
More about our Yorkshire trip: Tips for a coronavirus staycation
Last October, I finally accepted that we wouldn’t be heading off on a big family trip to Japan at Easter, for my big birthday. Instead, I booked a break all of 10 minutes up the road, back to one of the safari tents at The Lost Garden Retreat.
Thankfully it turned out to be the first weekend after self-catering accommodation re-opened, and the sun even shone. We celebrated with assorted ‘maximum of 6’ get togethers for a barbecue, lunch, afternoon tea and drinks. (Feel compelled to point out these did all take place on different days).
Closer to home, the big deal was finally acquiring a bit of extra garden at the back of our house.
It was owned by a local developer, who had put in several planning applications to build a house. We knew we’d wanted to buy it, even before moving. However, it took until the first lockdown to agree a price and even longer to grind through the transaction. So as of June 26, we became owners of a patch packed with nettles and brambles, and continue trying to clear it. Right now, it’s pretty much a large open plan chicken coop until we can come up with a decent garden plan. And do more weeding.
On the work front, it’s been a surprisingly successful year. My career has not ground to a halt despite moving to the country and, more recently, coronavirus.
After the initial panic last March, when several projects were cancelled or postponed, work has picked up.
I’m still writing my column each month for Woman&Home, doing occasional pieces for the Sunday Times and Times Money Mentor and working with PensionBee. I’ve done a bunch of content for a new Compare the Market website, from money lessons learnt from Animal Crossing to funding fertility and negotiating payrises. Remember to wear ear plugs if you catch the Compare The Market Open Banking videos filmed in Colchester just before Christmas.
Here at home, the ironing board has been pressed into action as a laptop stand when recording videos, podcasts and radio appearances. I was delighted to win Best Investment Blog and Best Frugal and Thrift Blog at the 2020 UK Money Bloggers SHOMO awards. I’m also – news flash – just starting a new role as personal finance expert for Woman magazine, answering a reader question each week. The first issue hits newsagents on 5 July. So if you have any burning questions about money you’d like answered in 100 to 150 words, let me know!
Overall, there is a certain irony when writing a frugal blog brings in so much work you don’t have to be so frugal any more.
I’ve been banging on about moving to Suffolk for seven years now, and suddenly people want to hear about it. Moving to the country is all the rage, as lockdown encouraged movers to flee cities in search of more space, bigger gardens and fewer people.
Covid has also accelerated the trend towards flexible working, freeing many people to live further from the office.
My article for Times Money Mentor: Should I move to the country?
Just in the last couple of weeks I’ve survived an early morning of back-to-back radio interviews (hello BBC Merseyside/ Devon/ Lincolnshire/ Shropshire/ Cumbria), had a ‘How To Change Your Life’ feature published in Woman&Home and been asked to do some filming for ‘Escape to the Country’.
(Don’t worry, it only involves me filming myself on my mobile, nothing glamorous)
We’re still very glad we made the move. I’m also glad that as the rules loosened recently, I could nip up to London for a couple of day trips, seeing friends and fellow bloggers. Nice to visit. Good to come home to Hadleigh.
Now – over to you. Anything you’d like to know about moving to the country? Any tips to share? Do say in the comments, I’d love to hear!
For more pictures of our life here in Suffolk, do follow me over on Instagram.