Thoughts on these past three years

From September to mid January we seem to have a lot of anniversaries. Some more recent than others, some shared and some more private, they all mark steps in our lives. Jacqui has a couple of medical anniversaries for example, having dodged the bullets of cancer and heart attacks in the past years. For some reason we always seem to move in December so our personal anniversary is December 1st, when we moved together to Somerset. Then we upped sticks for Cleveland five years later, also in December. Our most recent move was three years ago when we made the major shift across the Irish Sea. We arrived in fearful weather, exhausted and with most of our possessions locked down 10 kilometers away, on December 9th. This, all mingling with Christmas, New Year and Jacqui’s birthday.

A little birthday dinner

It is now almost three years since we moved into our present house, now well on the way to being transformed into a home. A lot has changed since then, not least as we are getting older and suddenly things that were easy become a bit more problematic. The pattern of our lives has changed over this time and I was struck this week by the tasks we undertake routinely that we never gave a thought to in England. We love the house and the land around it but it is demanding in time and effort. With no central services the responsibility for everything from fuel to rubbish collection rests on us. We have main electricity (most of the time) but nothing else. In fact as I write Storm Isha is gearing up around us and we’ve had three small power-outs already. So happy I have a laptop now!

As our land borders a public road we have a responsibility to maintain the trees and keep it clear and safe. Not that you’d think it was a proper road. Barely ten feet wide and covered in mud from all the farm traffic, even most locals think it is a farm track. Still, we take it seriously and our arborist, Fergus, called a while back to advise us. He was finally able to come back and do the work last week. This is the second big trim in our three years and there were six unsafe trees in all. Three were inside the wood – tall growing poplars that had developed quite a severe lean. They, along with the three along the roadside were removed properly and the wood is now piled up to start drying.

The next season’s logs

Fergus will be back in the autumn to split the logs and help us rebuild the woodpile. One of our new jobs is bringing in the wood for the fire, about twice a week at this time of year. Getting the logs down is interesting at present as the pile is still tall but we’ve used a lot of the front so we have to pull some down, preferably without causing an avalanche. It takes at least two cart loads to fill the bin in the front porch and then the wood is stacked in batches around the stove to remove any lingering damp. There is an old adage – logs keep you warm three times. Once when you cut them, once when you stack and bring them in and once when you burn them. It’s quite physical work but the warmth generated by the stove is wonderful. The snug certainly lives up to its name!

Cold January sunrise

We wanted to mark our first three years in Ireland and so last night had a few local friends over for dinner. It was a delight and such a pleasure to have good company and good food. I can’t claim any credit for the food – Jacqui did wonders in the kitchen over the previous week. We were actually quite glad it has been so wintery as the fridge soon filled up. The back room, a grooming room and utility space, is very cold in January. I put a thermometer on the bench and found it was the same temperature as the fridge so for the last couple of days we could keep items from the chiller cabinets out there quite safely. It was a delight to sit around the table, talking, sipping wine and nibbling on leftovers again.

Life is different here and there are a lot of things we need to do that other people did in England, especially in relation to essential services. Next week we have our scheduled bin and recycling run – a 32 kilometer round trip. I’m still looking for a routine that fits in with writing again and that is one of my main aims this year. Despite the challenges however we are happy here. It has been an adventurous and interesting three years despite the steep learning curve and occasional mishaps. As they say round here, “Every day is a school day”. Well, new challenges help keep you young. I only wish my joints knew that!

Thank you for reading. Keep safe and warm and I hope to be back in a couple of weeks.