Friday, 13 November 2009

Coping strategies

It amazes me how people coped in the countryside, years ago. My grandparents lived in a tiny cottage in a tiny village near Salisbury in Wiltshire, and never had a phone or a car, and managed to live perfectly well. My grandmother had a twin-tub, salted her beans, made her own wine and once rowed into the village in the tin bath when the river flooded and burst its banks. She was also terrified of cows.
To bring things up to date: I think there are some items it's essential to have if you're going to survive in the country these days.
The first one is a chest freezer. I make all my own bread, but I don't have a cow, and the thing we are always running out of is milk. Now that it's winter I've stocked up on milk and frozen vegetables, too, as fresh ones don't last very long. The idea is that we'd like to only go food shopping once a month, so I keep a stock of milk powder (which I also use in my bread) just in case.
That leads me to my second essential item: the internet. People fall in love with the idea of living in the countryside, but the real deal is a lot tougher than you think. We've been here a year and I still hardly know anyone. I've had coffee in one person's house, and she hasn't invited me back since. I wonder what I did wrong? Anyway, the joy of the internet, is that I can keep in touch with friends and family at the touch of a button, and this is a massive blessing. We also order a lot of items for the horses and the house on the web, too.
That leads me to my third essential - having things delivered. I have become a master at this. My grandmother had a butcher and a baker that used to call in once a week, and a milklady that delivered every day. I found a woman that came to collect my horse rugs, took them away to clean them, then brought them back again. I've also recently found a new tack shop locally that offers a feed delivery service, so now we don't have to spend half our weekend going to collect it, which is fantastic.
Another thing that my grandmother used to have is a mobile hairdresser. Our time at the weekend is precious, especially in the winter when we have to muck out and ride as well. So anything I can get done during the week is a bonus, and that includes getting my hair done, but as I don't drive I can't drive into town. Imagine my joy when I mentioned this to a neighbour at a party the other week, and pointed out that the nursing home in the village must have a visiting hairdresser. She said it was her colleague's husband, and she would get me his number, which she duly did. Last night I rang him and arranged for him to come next Thursday. I can hardly wait.
Now all I need to learn to do is order my shopping from Tesco online. I've tried it a couple of times and find it very complicated. For some reason my mind goes a complete blank and I can't think what to order, so I've kept the receipt from this week's shopping to remind me. The Worksop Tesco was at the end of our road, so it was like a giant corner shop, especially as it was open twenty-four hours a day. We could never justify the delivery charge when we lived there, but now we are miles away from any supermarket, so having our groceries delivered will be worth more than it would cost us in petrol to go and get it. Plus Tesco have just opened a brand new, vast store which we went to on Wednesday, and if there is ever an incentive to get your shopping delivered, that has to be it. The store is open 24/7 and is above a brightly lit car park. Obviously not too concerned about their carbon footprint, then.
And the thing I could easily live without, strangely, is my mobile phone. I have it with me if anyone wants to ring me, which Mr O sometimes does, but not often. And trying to answer a mobile phone when you're cantering uphill on a white charger is quite a challenge! Missis had just got off her horse last week when her phone rang and the caller turned out to be an extremely important client who offered her the opportunity of a lifetime. Her horse chose that moment to snort derisively down the phone. The man on the other end said, "Well, if you're not interested..."

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