As I wrote in my last post, I've been rather distracted as of late. I have spent a considerable amount of time and energy these past few months contemplating a move back to England with my family. You see, during our visit to London last December, we made arrangements to view a house - twice - that was listed for sale. The property, situated in a small rural village two hours north of London, ticked all the right boxes, or so we thought. Mellow Georgian brick facade, a substantial plot of land, sash windows with original internal shutters, crunchy gravel driveway, mature specimen trees, intact period outbuilding ...you get the idea. There's even an Aga in the kitchen although that appeals to me more than it does my husband. I suppose everything one knows about cooking would have to be relearned if one were to actually make use of this most British of country house kitchen contraptions. Aside from the cooking, the Aga would most certainly come in handy during the cold winter months. Those drafty country houses have earned their reputation for good reason, don't you know?
My husband has lived in California all of his life and I have had the privilege of living here for the past twenty-six years. Moving anywhere, let alone half way across the world, is an enormous decision. Our daughter Patience would dearly love the chance to live in the same country as many of her cousins, uncles, and aunts, whom she knows intimately well. I believe she's traveled to the UK at least fifteen times already, not bad considering her young age. Patience views England as her second home.
Although we have occasionally toyed with the idea of such a move, the handsome Georgian house we viewed, together with the recent favorable dollar-to-pound currency exchange rate, were our main
motivating factors to make it happen. A move across the pond suddenly became far more feasible than at any other time in recent memory. Of course, arrangements would have to be made to sell our house too, but with property around these parts flying off the market within weeks of it being listed, and in some cases days, we feel that would not pose too great an obstacle. By contrast, the house in the English village has languished on the market for well over a year; the selling price having been reduced twice thus far. With a motivated seller, the carrot is tantalizingly within our reach.
As you can imagine, packing up one's entire household - lock, stock and barrel - and shipping it half way across the globe comes at a hefty price tag, a financial burden worth considering when contemplating any move, particularly one so distant. Sifting through the handful of estimates we have obtained from various shipping outfits, we have discovered that the cost alone of insuring one's furniture for safe transit is akin to a king's ransom! Then, of course, there's the question of what to do with our old and trusty Volvo wagon, so handy for carting people, pets, and large household items around. It's almost a member of our family. Do we ship that too, or sell it? Would it ever feel "right" driving a left-hand drive on the left-hand side of the road? And, there's that other little matter of taxes. Do you know that it is the responsibility of every US Citizen living abroad to file taxes annually in both their adopted country and at home? This rule will apply to Patience too when she eventually joins the UK workforce, regardless of the fact that she has never earned a cent here. And, talking of paperwork, let's address the reams of forms required, along with the hefty fees, for successfully navigating one's way through the maze of UK entry requirements. It's enough to make one's head spin! Although I consider my English skills to be somewhat proficient, it boggles the mind how anyone who lacks a law degree can make head or tail of some of these forms. And, of course, we come to Norton, our beloved pet cat. I believe his pile of paperwork, when stacked, might just be taller than him!
Looking past the financial and practical issues of transplanting our household half way across the globe, when all is said and done would we ever fully adjust to life in a rural British village where attending the local pub and church form the main pastimes of the local villagers? Personally, I would have absolutely no trouble adjusting, having already resided in both town and country during my time living in England. If I crave the trappings of big city life there's always London, a mere two-hour car journey south.
It is our young daughter Patience we worry about. What opportunities would she be missing out on if we bit the bullet and made the move? How about schooling? Would she find herself lagging behind the other students having been tutored in an entirely different educational system? Would she be missing out on the benefits of living in a culturally diverse area, such as is the case with San Francisco or any other major city, where opportunities for employment, among other things, are abundant? Agricultural jobs abound in the area of the village. Beyond that, there's really little else.
For now, here we remain. Although the cons outstripped the pros with this particular Georgian village property, we feel we've earned ourselves quite an education in the minutia of a global move. We are now far better prepared, both emotionally and factually, were a similar opportunity to present itself in the future. In the meantime, I am very happy to return to this rather neglected blog, and to you my loyal readers.
Of course, the silver lining to this tale is that we still get to happily live our lives in our beloved 1920's house, enjoying the benefits of a thriving local economy, excellent weather, remarkable scenery, and the pleasurable companionship of close friends and good neighbors. We have much for which to be thankful.