After almost thirty years in London, author Mark Piggott and his family have moved to a tiny village in Suffolk. So have they done the right thing or made the biggest mistake of their lives?
One of the main reasons we left our beloved London for a tiny village no-one's ever heard of is the local primary school, which is tiny, with its own little swimming pool and straight As all down its Ofsted report. Unfortunately, although there's a place for Sean there isn't one for Emma and rather than try elsewhere we're keeping the kids home.
It's probably fair to say that the kids adapt to the new routine quicker than we do: playing Minecraft whilst eating toast (still cooker-less), watching The Simpsons on a loop as Lynda and I wash up in the bath, wash clothes in the bath - do everything in the bath, in fact, except bathe. We have yet to work out how to get oil delivered and as the water is "heated" by candles stepping into the tub is like stepping into Lake Michigan during a particularly inclement vortex.
The kids will love the village school, we tell them. The kids beg to differ. Can't we, they suggest, educate them at home? We'd love to, we explain, except (a), we don't know anything; (b), we have jobs; and (c), they need to meet other kids. Also, we don't add, (d), so we can enjoy walks to country pubs without being regaled with complaints about the mud, the cold, and the sheep.
I sense we'll be doing a lot of walking here. Admittedly the house isn't in the most convenient location: six miles from a train station and two from a shop, which after 28 years in London is something of a shock - even though it really shouldn't be. As Armando Iannucci pointed out - people move to the country and moan there are no shops and no restaurants. That's because it's the country.
However what our village does have - apart from pond complete with heron, and a castle, and shaggy black things in the field opposite which are almost certainly sheep or cows - is a pub, whose website promises fine Spanish cuisine and a warm welcome even to people whose lineage in the village isn't traceable to Boadicea. On realising I have yet to venture inside I mutter something about looking for a phone signal and toddle up the lane, waving around my flash - and useless - new HTC like some sort of divining rod. Sadly, even standing outside the enticing little pub I'm unable to get a reception. Sadder still, the pub appears to be closed. Morosely I wander home, tip-toeing past the window of our noise-hating neighbour, Dead Bob Willis.
Back at the house, I hear Sean screaming and find him locked in a walk-in wardrobe from which, like everywhere else, the handles have inexplicably been removed by the former tenant. There's only so much of this we can take; to cheer ourselves up and because walking is already losing its allure we decide to go car-shopping.
Shopping for cars with children is fraught with difficulty; kids tend to make purchasing decisions based on colour and whether there are cup-holders, rather than engine size, mileage or, my own preferred system, price (low to high). When we explain to Emma we're plumping for the old silver Stilo from the cowboy garage in Haverhill rather than the blue, cup-accommodating Picasso from the nice man in Bury St Edmunds she throws a gigantic wobbler and refuses to get in for hours.
Grimly, we drive home.
"Honest Kev" - still burly, still middle-aged, same gold chain round his neck - returns with an equally burly mate and they fill Kev's unpredictable van with the last of the previous tenant's meagre wares. Honest Kev turns out to be thoroughly decent; we chat about the whole city v country thing and he says no matter what state this place is in, we got the better deal: because we're out of London.
"But watch out for snakes," his mate advises, "everywhere, they are. My mate came home the other day to find one curled up in his bed."
As my wife has an almost pathological phobia of snakes (our pre-kid trip to India was tense, at best) I try to change the subject - to no avail.
"I came across an adder the other day," says Honest Kev grimly, "down in the woods. Naaasty buggerzzz. Get 'em everywhere."
Two realisations arise at this point:
1. The back door is open and my wife can hear every word;
2. These men's accents are the accents my children will acquire.
As the men leave, one of them points at the little shed, where I'd hoped to make nice wooden things and/or write my Great English Novel.
"I'd watch that roof mate. Pure asbestos, thaaaat is."Suggest a correction