THE SUFFOLK SECTION
I can't be bothered to change the name. I didn't bother changing my surname for eleven years after I was married ("just in case" but also as I liked my maiden name and also because it seemed like a faff) so as I've only been in Suffolk for four weeks it seems entirely premature to choose a new name so I shall just number them from now on and add the above sub-heading. It will do.
I have been thinking of writing so often to let everyone know how we are getting on but I have never, ever been so busy. Ever. I now wonder why I was such a major wimp about being pregnant with Cybs as I had nothing to do but look after three children and clean a house. I can't think what the fuss was about. Now I have no choice but to get on with being heavily pregnant whilst the house is being renovated, boxes are unpacked, children are ferried to various schools and clubs and friends and six lives are transplanted in to a new place. However, the worst thing of all is my big swollen fingers and feet (actually worse than the huge stomach). It makes gripping things tricky, walking uncomfortable and both are constantly irritating. It also makes touch typing trickier than usual. Anyway, we are in, I am alive, the children are happy. All is well. Read on for a brief (I hope) summation of the good and bad of our new country life.
DAB radio signal is shit. I hadn't thought much about this in the grand scheme of the move, but my daily joy of Radio 2 is being seriously hampered by this problem. We are only four miles from a major town so we're hardly in the flipping sticks. I don't understand why it isn't a crystal clear reception. I had assumed that there must be an easy fix for this but the woman at Currys didn't seem to think there was any solution whatsoever which was very disheartening. So I either go back to FM or somehow rig up a very obvious aerial in my kitchen and keep the stereo at a particular angle in order to hear Chris Evans, Simon Mayo and Jeremy Vine etc without interference. If anyone knows what to do to solve this problem, do let me know post haste.
The broadband took a while to get set up and the speed is quite slow, but Bea is still able to watch her programmes on her ipad and the boys can still link up to play on each other's minecraft worlds (and then fight to the death in real and virtual life about anything that goes on in the virtual world) and K is able to access Netflix on our new and flashy 'smart' TV (smart for us, btw not for the world at large) so it is entirely fine and within the next few years we will hopefully be getting this new superfast broadband BT are rolling out so it is very liveable with for the moment. Amusingly, my niece had a sleepover with Bea last weekend and before she agreed to come and stay she checked if a. we had broadband and b. if it still worked in Bea's room. I have never before been vetted for my broadband but I am happy to report it met her expectations so it is obviously entirely adequate and I shall have to adjust.
The schools are all full/or not full but not good. This has caused me quite a headache and a lot of heartache and stress. The very lovely local school which was a big 'PLUS' when we wanted to buy the house had spaces for newcomers but in years 2, 4 and 6. I needed spaces in Reception, year 3 and year 5. Luckily one space became available for year 3 which I quickly applied for and got confirmed for G but that left two more to house. I found another amazingly good school ten minutes away from the house (in the opposite direction to the local school) which had a space for Ted but that wasn't accepting years 5 and 6 until next year. Which left Bea school less. I refused to send her to yet another school so decided to appeal to the local school to admit one extra child in to year 5, making it a class of 31. The problem was that the appeal date was last week, two weeks after term started so she had nowhere to go to school at the beginning of term. The first day we dropped G off and they showed us around the school, Bea was incredibly upset. She was just desperate to get in to school after the Easter holidays and make friends and have some structure and order to her life. Without formal education, I was in charge of 'schooling'. I home schooled her for three days. We did well for two days but then Bea became so upset at bedtime on day two because she missed her friends, I took her on a 'school trip' in to town the following day for shopping and lunch therapy. It worked and she cheered up, but then the absolutely amazingly wondrous head teacher at Ted's school (who must remain anonymous) said Bea could secretly join their year 4 class until she had somewhere permanent arranged. This truly saved the day. I think the last few weeks would have been hellish without this intervention - Bea has been so happy just to go to a school and have friends again, even if they are the year below, she loves the school and the teacher and has been incredibly happy there.
Luckily, I can now report that Bea does have a permanent place at the local school and will start tomorrow after some form of divine intervention caused a child from year 5 to defect to our 'back up' school for Bea (to a school in town that is closing in just over a year so it really is quite bizarre) and gave in her notice the afternoon before our appeal. K and I still had to attend the appeal and put across our points just in case the local authority had a child in greater need of the place but we found out that they do not and as we won the appeal anyway, there is now nothing stopping her! The relief is quite magnificent. The alternative was a 45 minute and about a ten mile round car trip in the morning and similar in the evening as well as trying to juggle three different schools/uniforms/rules/sports days etc. Plus I really, really, REALLY wanted the local school for Bea. It is small, lovely, has its own heated outside pool and she already has a fabulous friend in her year who we found during the first week of term through mutual friends. I only wish we hadn't had to wait three weeks for her to get in there.
The midwives are hideously Fatist. I went to my first appointment without expecting too much 'ado'. As you may have guessed, I am a bit of an old pro when it comes to the whole birth thing - in that I pretty much know the form, know what to expect etc (obviously it still hurts and I never, ever emerge looking like Kate Middleton ten hours after birth, I just mean I am fairly well acquainted with the lay of the land when it comes to pregnancy and labour). However, the lovely young midwife I met seemed to take my relatively high BMI and run with it. Within minutes I was being advised to take daily injections to stop blood clots, to attend antenatal classes with 'gentle exercise' included, to see a nutritionist, to take daily aspirin tablets and to be scanned regularly at the hospital (in case the baby was as enormous as me) and put under consultant led care. This was a shock to me. My BP had reduced in the move, not increased. My weight gain with this pregnancy is far less than my gain with Cybs (although my BMI was far less at the beginning of that pregnancy which meant no one gave a shit). It will come as little surprise to know that I politely declined the exercise/antenatal classes. I also refused the daily injections. I promised to take aspirin as a compromise (I lied). I laughed at the idea of a nutritionist but said I would be scanned at least once to prove that I was not having a gigantic baby just because I am gigantic. (I am actually smaller than I was with Ted but my previous experiences of giving birth unharmed seems to fall on deaf ears). I went to the scan. Shockingly, the baby is entirely normal. I am now not attending any further appointments until medical evidence necessitates it. I very much wish I had a sedentary lifestyle but that is just not the case and therefore my risk of deep vein thrombosis or blood clotting is unlikely. There is more risk that I will be unable to stop bleeding after the birth as the uterus can apparently get a bit lazy after the fourth and might not contract efficiently. I feel awful being so mean as she is a very lovely midwife, but really, it is a little tiresome. I do not need extra appointments to attend as I am quite busy with lots of other stuff and I also don't believe I am the 'high risk' fatty bum bum they seem to think I am. I have freaked her out totally by insisting on a home birth. Luckily it is entirely my right to insist upon it but clearly they are very keen to advise a hospital birth. I am enjoying freaking them out though.
I thought having money and shopping for lots of house stuff would be fun, and don't misunderstand, it is WAY more fun than having absolutely no money and needing to get essential stuff, but after the initial excitement of choosing a lovely fridge, TV and sofa, the daily decision making over every little thing - chairs, wallpaper, light fittings, table, chest of drawers, curtains, wall colours etc etc. has actually become a chore. I had no idea this was possible. Ideally, I would like someone else to know what I like and want and go and buy it all and then organise its implementation at the house (for free). And sometimes, when it is a really expensive decision like a vast expanse of carpet, I would like someone else to tell me what to do without having any input whatsoever. I hate being entirely responsible for such vast outgoings. Obviously K is a very useful second opinion but he tends to just agree with me (it makes his life a lot easier) unless he absolutely hates my suggestion (or it's way more expensive than he was expecting). I am VERY much looking forward to the house being finished so I don't have to make any more interior design decisions.
Oh and lack of mobile signal in the house - although this is being rectified shortly with the arrival of our signal booster so it seems churlish to complain but it has been slightly irritating when you are used to using your mobile for everything. We have had to rely on our landline which seems very old school.
Where to begin.
Space. Space cannot be overestimated for what it does it to one's state of mind. The house isn't enormous but it is noticeably bigger than our old house and the garden is at least ten times as big. And it's not just the space in the house and garden, it is the vast expanse of open fields and skies that surround the house that make me feel so much better. I can't actually express why it helps but it really and truly does. The children just love the garden and K seems to be having a love affair with his double garage. Bea even has her own en suite bathroom which makes her feel like she's living in her own flat and she can disappear for hours up to her room (it is a loft conversion without a dorma or proper stairs so doesn't officially count as an extra bedroom but it is surprisingly large and the fact that she has steep steps up to her room means she doesn't get bothered by anyone very often so she absolutely loves it). Cybs' new room is three times the size of her old one (she will probably have to share it at some point so that's not all hers forever) and the boys still have to share a room which will have to be rectified at some point, especially when they get big enough to do serious harm to each other, but all in all everyone is very happy with their new living space. I am writing in our 'grown up' room. On my new duck egg blue sofa. K has his own new chair to my left so this sofa is JUST for me and I am very protective of it. This room is only used in the evening. I LOVE it. And it has an open fire which we have used a lot already. The children are allowed in here, but not for long. And most certainly not with food. They have a big playroom, complete with our old large sofa and Sky TV which leads off the kitchen and so far the segregation is working a treat.
Garden. We are now the proud owners of a decent sized, south facing back garden, and thanks to me it has an extremely large climbing frame. And thanks to K who agreed to my crazy purchase and then spent three exceedingly long days putting it together. On two of the days he had my lovely Godmother's husband helping him as well. It was a particularly epic build. But it is now up and extremely well loved and it means that the children spend an awful lot of time outside. At the moment. Mother is very quick to point out that no one will use it in a few weeks' time once the novelty wears off. Still, that is not an issue as we are also having a pool put it in! It is EXCEEDINGLY exciting. I am hoping that this will 'do' for an entire summer's entertainment whilst I am busy breast feeding the newbie. Now, it is by no means a full sized, proper pool. It is being converted from the site of the old pond that was here and should make a really decent children's pool - like the shallow end of a normal pool. No one uses the deep end anyway. As long as no one tries to dive in or use it for professional swimming training, we should be ok. I am just desperate for work to start so it will be ready in time for the summer.
Schools. I am a massive fan of both schools so far. They were almost tailor made for my boys. The week after Ted started at his school the theme in Ted's class was spiders. I couldn't actually believe it. He was even asked to bring a live one in to class. Luckily the house is covered with them (they are taking a while to adjust to the fact that the house is now inhabited after a long time vacant). There is also a forest school which he loves and a great playground. All children are amazed by the expanse of grass they get to play on every day - particularly G. Most of the after school clubs are free - and quite cool - G is starting Gardening club on Thursday, K is quite jealous. And you can chop and choose whether you want packed lunch or school dinners on the day without having to pre-book. This sounds like a crap thing to be excited about but when you have to make three lunches every morning during the chaos of breakfast and pre-school shenanigans, the fact that there are some days the children will stomach the school offerings instead, means a lot to me. Also Bea came home from her first day as a pretend year 4 pupil and told me she was amazed because the head teacher knew everyone's names and didn't just point at them and say 'You', like the dragon Head she had at her London school - this kind of thing makes me very happy. And they get given instruments to learn like the violin for FREE (I used to learn the violin so I am particularly excited about that). Oh and obviously there's the academic side of stuff. But to be honest I care less about that than I do about all the extra stuff like nice parents, nice buildings, good playground, great after school clubs and the outdoor swimming pool. We even get to use the school pool during the summer holidays. Again, we are new to all of this so it might all turn out to be crap but as a wide-eyed ex-Londoner this all seems totally amazing. OH OH OH and the very best bit of it all is that at Bea and G's school there is a car door opener. You literally pull in to a lay by at the gate, the door-opener opens the doors and helps the children out and you say your goodbyes, the doors are shut and you drive off. IMAGINE. K likes to call it the Concierge service. I am thrilled that this means after the baby is out I could sometimes do the school run in my pyjamas without anyone realising. Awesome.
People. They are SO NICE. So far. Potentially they may turn out to be intensely annoying in the future but for now I have collected lots of numbers from people who seem to be desperate to help me with school pick ups/drop offs and one generous soul who offered to unpack boxes for me whilst I sat on the sofa. What could potentially be a negative in some ways has turned out to be a rather fabulous positive for us as everyone seems to know our business. We are known as the family who have just moved with lots of children who couldn't get them all in to the local school. News of Bea's school place spread like wildfire and G was told at lunch time at his school before Bea even knew about it. It is quite amazing. Not only this but people seem to genuinely want to help. Like the lovely headmistress who wanted to make Bea happy and my life easier by allowing her to illegally join year 4. G has already been over for a playdate with his new best friend and Bea met her new friend because I rang the mother, explained our situation and asked if she would bring her daughter over to play with Bea, and she did. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers and relative strangers. The morning I arrived at the house I discovered a beautifully decorated box waiting for us with home made flapjacks, a Suffolk magazine, tea towel, loo roll, tea bags etc and a card from an old school friend I hadn't seen for years and years. She lives in the next door village and had tracked down the house from Right Move and left us the lovely welcome. Not that there weren't amazingly lovely people in London, it just took me longer to find them when we moved in there.
Car. I am a huge fan of driving. Every morning I get to do the school run in the car I am a grateful bunny. Especially at this size. The baby is basically ready to go (I am 37 weeks) and what with my hurty swollen feet as well I am so happy not to be walking the school run. It also means I get to listen to my new CDs which is the best bit of all. Meghan Trainor and Taylor Swift are my new bestest buds. Also as K is still at home (mercifully he is not yet gainfully employed which I couldn't be happier about), he quite often takes Cybs to do G's school run which means I get a beautiful ten minute journey (longer if I decided to find a circuitous route) home after dropping off Ted to myself with my favourite new music. This is pretty much the best thing ever.
Waitrose. Enough said.
We are all much happier. K and G in particular. It is so noticeable it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Bea and I were pretty distressed as we said goodbye to our old house and we pulled away in the car. We had said a heartbreaking goodbye to the old folks over the road who were there to see us off and to the house. I kept running back in to the house for things I thought I had forgotten, unable to believe we wouldn't be going back there ever again and taking a last look at every room, knowing that we couldn't forget anything as the removals men were about to pack it all up and bring it all to us. The boys were just keen to leave and had their heads buried in Kindles in the back of the car and Cybs just wanted to get on the road to see her Grandma and obviously didn't quite comprehend the enormity of the goodbye she was saying, but Bea and I really felt it. And it was so very hard. BUT, that was the very worst bit of the whole process. The last four and a bit weeks have been some of the happiest we have ever known. It feels like we are on holiday and yet it's real life. Obviously it helps that the sun has shone most days, that K is off work and that there is some slush fund money for fun things like shopping trips and cinema visits and meals out etc. Who knows what it will be like when there is another child (who I am incredibly hopeful will be far less trouble than Cybs but could actually turn out to be far worse) to look after and pay for and it has rained every day for a month and K is at work all day long and we have had to go to Aldi not Waitrose for our evening meal and the children are telling me that they are REALLY BORED. It will clearly not feel like a holiday for ever but for now life is good, Suffolk is good and once the house is finished I will be even happier with it than I am already. Although leaving was hard and we miss our friends and the lovely Honor Oak, we have definitely made the right decision for our family. As far as I can tell.
Until the next time lovely ones, when hopefully I shall report on the safe arrival of No. 5. The final delivery. I hope. xxxxxxxxxxxxxx