Where is that cornify button?? Because that is what this trip to Winchester has been....
This is a picture of the River Itchen than runs through Winchester, to Twyford, then Eastleigh, and right down to Southampton where it flows into the ocean. Apparently you can walk along a path that runs alongside it all the way down to the sea (or until you hit the industrial complex in Southampton, anyway;).... The section in Winchester that we walked down on Sunday, from the city center to Wolvesey Castle, was gorgeous and the day was perfection.
Our first day of looking at houses was .... um .... disheartening, but not unexpected. I knew that all of the places we looked at under a certain amount of £'s were going to be either run down (or "tired" as the letting agents liked to say) or poorly situated (as in right next to a major thoroughfare) and, in some instance, BOTH! That night Daddy-007 and I had a heart to heart about money that turned into a fight and then went from a fight to a legitimate airing of grievances which then progressed to an understanding of each other that had not been present before.
For him this experience of moving to England is about the life experience for all of us and the education and training he will get at the university. I support him on that, but I know my limitations and knew that for me the most important thing was finding a house that I could be happy in with the children. I love being home. I like traveling fine, I adore going out for dinner, drinks or dancing,.... but I love being home, where I feel in my element, the most. And wrongly or rightly, I have a lot of my identity wrapped up in my house. I'm not talking about how big it is or how fancy or how much crap I can stuff it with. I am talking about a home with character. A house that has something different. One that you would never mistake for another if you had been there once before. I need to know that if I don't make friends easily over here or am feeling isolated and lonely when 007 is off at school for hours every day, that I can retreat to my house, to my kitchen, and feel better by just being there.
Without getting into too much compromising detail, this was my motivation for instigating the talk with my husband about the possibility of raising our house budget by, ahem, a lot. He thought I was coming from somewhere else completely. It was the one low spot of our time there but it ended with us being in a better place, so it was totally worth it. :) And our seeing eye to eye meant that I could feel easier about adding those two extra houses that were considerably out of our price range into the already busy Tuesday schedule.
So Tuesday was filled with just about every four bedroom house in the market of Winchester and its surrounding countryside. Here are some of the ones that we opted NOT to get (bearing in mind that I am only showing you the best of the best- I immediately erased the dumps off my camera after seeing the first country place:
I am TOTALLY kidding about that last one with the daffodils ;-): that is the Bishop's Palace next to Wolvesey Castle! But those other one's.... Well, the first one was too modern and didn't seem to be in a family friendly location. The second lovely country cottage one was fabulous (you would truly die if I showed you all the pictures from the inside, I know I did), character and charm in every nook and cranny, all exposed beams and AGA stove and just spectacular) but seriously in the middle of nowhere and 20 minutes from the nearest train station which my husband is hoping to take into Southampton every day for school. The white, thatched roof one was only 10 minutes away from the Winchester train station, but seemed like a lot of yard work (acres! and no included lawn mower! eek!) and WAY too expensive, especially for how crummy the kitchen was.
And then we headed to the LAST place on all our lists. The very last one, but the one I had been most anxious to see since I found it two weeks ago. It was only £50 over our original budget and I had talked to the rural primary school near it and the teacher there was so kind and really talked me into thinking that maybe a little school (less than 100 kids age 4-11) was the best place for C.C. to get a new perspective on school and for Destructo to get the extra help he needs for his ADHD. Smaller classes, more runaround time, and a tighter-knit community because the parents have to be involved to make it the school work. All good things.
And then we saw the house:
Check out the yard that goes on and on. The property backs up to a dense public woodlands, as well, so the kids can walk out a little gate in the back and be deep in the forest in less than a minute.
And then we went IN the house, a mud room with a washer and dryer (that dryer is a BIG deal over here), lovely living room, great size rooms and a gorgeous master bedroom with exposed beams:
And here, my lovelies, is where after seeing the kitchen, I burst into tears, turned to my husband, and said, "THIS is it. This is the one.":
This kitchen will be my headquarters for the time that we are there. I will cook, blog, bake, and mother my little darlings from every corner of this unbelievable dream kitchen. I will watch my boys turn into little men and explorers from my vantage point here, with windows looking out over every part of the yard. I will be in my element, even while out of my country. I will be thankful and embrace this experience for everything it can be for us.
Thanks for being with me on this incredibly emotional roller-coaster that I have been riding and thank you so much to everyone who pointed out that the most important thing for our kids is that we all stay together, no matter where that is. :) It seems so simple... now that all the pieces have finally started to come together.