Oh for a sign

Snooping round other people’s homes. That’s what I’ve been doing lately. I’m not going to apologise because most of the time they knew I was there and even told me to have a good look. I tried not to be too nosey. I didn’t open too many cupboards or peep into their drawers, but I did look in the bathrooms and checked out the neatly piled towels and noted their reading material beside the bed and in the toilets! I breathed a sigh of relief at a jumbled food cupboard and nodded understandingly at a room of partly packed boxes and paintings with nowhere to hang.

House hunting. It’s a time consuming business – especially for the seller. All that rapid hoovering and tidying up, after the phone call saying someone wants to view. Put the kettle on in case they want a tea – although the scent of coffee will make them feel more welcome… We’ve enjoyed tea a couple of times with friendly owners – what is it about a mug of tea that makes us relax? We clasp the steaming brew and sigh… You can’t beat a mug of tea towards the end of a day of house viewings and even better if you can hover in a warm kitchen smelling of freshly baked bread or gaze out from a terrace across unending hills and valleys. That was one view I wanted to fold up and take home in my pocket to unwrap another day.

We’ve met some very interesting and friendly people in the past few weeks. Of course they’re bound to be friendly because they want us to buy their house! Still, some of them went the extra mile… Like venturing out in the rain across a slippery lawn to show us the garden, despite a recent hip operation, or taking time to educate us about lichen on trees (a sign of pure air – don’t you know?) …and ground source heating systems… and the best route to the pub…

Picking the right house isn’t easy though, however pleasant the owners are. I had the idea that when we saw it, or walked in we’d know… that there’d be a sign or something. I talked about this with my fellow decision maker. Had there been any signs so far? Well, apart from him hitting his head on the doorway, I meant. There were connections – surprising ones at a rather stunning property where tea was also served. Then there was the rainbow. A complete rainbow which stretched from one side of the river to the other like an arch over the house and garden. Oh, yes… I remembered the rainbow. I’d admired it and thought how pretty it looked after the shower had soaked the grass. Should we see that as a sign? Do I believe in omens? Does God speak through signs like this?

Really I’m not sure.

So back to scrolling down Rightmove. I’m hoping we’ll know the right house when we see it – or perhaps it will know us? Maybe God will send a sign, only it better be bigger than a rainbow!

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Blackberries and a beach

What makes you smile, even when things go wrong? For me, this weekend, it was unending hedgerows of blackberries and a beautiful beach.

Moving house and moving countries was always going to have its moments. We’d anticipated some of the problems including parting with the wrong stuff for 6 weeks going by container ship, collecting the cat from Heathrow, buying a new car and sorting out phones and internet. It turns out there was more…

No sooner had we set off on the journey south, in a packed car to our new island home, when the phone call we all dread came saying our daughter had been in A&E after miraculously surviving being hit by a bus. Still, it was an emotional call as everyone was in shock and suddenly life felt very fragile and the worries of removal vans and packing boxes seemed less significant. What you need most in those situations is just to be able to give someone a hug – distance and circumstances have meant the hugs will have to wait till this weekend. Just before we left for our flight back to the UK we also heard the sad news that a friend who had been ill had died quite suddenly. It made me realise our lives are in God’s hands and each day is precious – none of us know what’s around the corner or what the next day will hold.

And just as we were settling in, amassing our list of ‘army quarter’ deficiencies – from a faulty cooker to windows that don’t close – the next little hiccup occurred. The cat, who has already survived being abandoned as a kitten, being hit by a car and now flying 5 hours from Cyprus to Heathrow with other orphaned pets, worked out how to unlock the newly installed cat-flap. Our plan to keep him in at night had failed and he was on the prowl in the dark in a strange new country. We thought he had worked out how to find his way back to the house after his first night escapade on Thursday, but the next day he didn’t appear or the next. A weekend that should have involved relaxing and exploring with the family became a search and rescue mission. Search parties were dispatched from dawn to dusk, armed with cat treats and torches. ‘Missing’ posters were printed and distributed door to door. On Sunday afternoon we were beginning to feel as if something bad had happened and we might have to adjust to life without our strange sandy cat. So we headed for the beach around the corner on paths lined with blackberry bushes and I thought about baking a crumble on a happier day and basked in the sun in the shelter of the sand dunes.

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A little while later there was an urgent call that a sandy cat had been spotted near the road by a wood. We raced to the spot and tramped through undergrowth spotting a pair of wary eyes and a sandy tail hidden in the long grass. Was it Simba? We couldn’t be sure. The cat didn’t respond to our calls and moved further away. We couldn’t get close enough to be absolutely sure it wasn’t him and wondered what had made him so frightened. We tried to approach from the other side of the wood and as I crunched through deep undergrowth and trampled down waist high nettles, I thought about snakes and what might be underfoot. But this is England now – not Cyprus! The abandoned cat eventually disappeared deep into the undergrowth and we had to abandon the quest. We decided to leave food and water and a box… just in case and return the next day. At dusk we made a final sortie along the beachside path, through the boatyard and back by some large houses at the edge of the airfield. Our voices were growing hoarse with calling out and listening in case he was trapped somewhere. Just as we were about to cross the road back to our house we heard a faint cry. A fluffy bundle appeared from the bushes and the cat that was lost was now found.

We’re not sure what has happened to the cat in the woods, but people say he lives in a nearby barn. So we’ve retrieved our food bowls and box and left him to it. I’m hoping our dramas are over for a few days. Our cat is sleeping safely on a chair by the window and apart from nursing some giant mosquito bites we’re all in one piece. This weekend the whole family arrive, our ‘walking miracle/accident victim’ included. We’re looking forward to blackberry picking and I’ve even found an old apple tree nearby so blackberry and apple crumble is on the menu. That’s something to make me smile.

a turtle for company

It was 6am and the sun was creeping up the horizon with a smudge of pink appearing behind the trees lining the bay. Yesterday, I was the lone swimmer crossing the calm waters to the far side… well I thought I was. As I peered down to the ripples of sand on the sea bed I was very happy to spot a friendly turtle munching his way along just below me and a few moments later I watched him pop his head up for air as he checked out my front crawl style. Ploughing on from one salmon pink buoy to another it was comforting to think that there was someone or some thing out there with me.
   
 It’s that time of year again, when a few mad swimmers prepare for the island’s Bay2Bay swim. Friday morning will be a 4am start for those of us travelling from the other side of Cyprus for the open water swim of 1 nautical mile around from one cliff lined bay to another. We’ve been told to take breakfast and a pillow. I’m worried I will be even slower than last year, despite mastering front crawl, I find myself needing to break into breast stroke to calm my breathing… so ‘mastered’ probably isn’t the right word. But whatever my ‘time’ I’m determined to enjoy it – it will definitely be a lot warmer than swimming in the English channel or even the Solent. Something I will have to adjust to very soon.
The imminence of our move back to the UK this September was brought home today as I passed the first set of folded packing boxes at the top of the stairs along with some giant reels of sellotape. I remember this well – my life of ‘packing boxes’ – which is exactly where this blog began more than two years ago. Now the next adventure begins.
It’s not quite as exciting as a foreign posting, but I am looking forward to coming ‘home’ to be nearer friends and family and moving to our very own small Island… which we will share with a few hundred other army families and personnel!

As much as I love the UK I know I’m going to miss:

  • looking up at the stars while floating in a sun-warmed pool
  • never worrying about the weather for a BBQ
  • clothes – not wearing many
  • living life outside
  • mediterranean food – especially bags of free oranges and grapefruits
  • palm trees in the garden and crystal blue waters in the sandy bays
  • our view of the mountains
  • the sound of crickets buzzing day and night
  • visits to the numerous cafes, bars and restaurants we love
  • But more than all this I’ll miss the friends we’ve made, some of whom are moving on too, but others who we hope will give us the perfect excuse to return and visit in the future.

So packing boxes can wait a few more days because the sun is shining, the crickets are singing and there’s swim training to be done!