My love for Italy and a trip to Sicily

Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea: the backdrop to pretty much every summer holiday I’ve ever taken

I’m a long term Italophile.

I was first seduced by the charms of Rome at the age of 23, visiting on a long weekend. I was on my own – the first break I’d ever taken solo – which felt both risky, alarming and hopelessly cool at the time.

I fell head over heels for everything: the food, the language, the beauty of the city, the vespas, the fruit market on Campo dei Fiori, the shouting… …and perhaps most of all, Maurizio, the silver fox who owned the apartment in which I was renting a room.

On my last day, he took me out for an alternative tour of the city on the back of his motorbike. We visited the abattoir, set off up Monte Gianicolo and he took me out to supper at one of his favourite restaurants.

As dusk fell, we took a walk through the centro storico and wandered upon a piazza where an open air tango class was taking place. We stood and watched for a while, leaning up against an archway. I started to feel a little nervous as Maurizio leaned closer towards me, butterflies in my stomach telling me that, oh god, perhaps this outrageously hot man 20 years older than me was about to try and kiss me.

Panicked, at the last moment, I walked off, suddenly keen to explore something else on the other side of the square, and the moment passed.

But though I spent the following four months regretting my fear and wondering what might have been (an Italian wedding! Hordes of Italian children! Learning to make pasta from the hands of a master! Etc etc) my love for Italy was well and truly sparked.

A few weeks later, I quit my job in London, and moved to Rome for six months, attending Italian language school in the mornings and wandering galleries, museums, parks and piazzas in the afternoons. *

Balcony in Siracusa
Can you spot the dog on the balcony?
The island of Ortygia in Siracusa
The island of Ortygia in Siracusa
Siracusa
Locals grab even the tiniest spots for a bit of sunbathing

Ever since, I’ve taken any opportunity I can to visit Italy, the most recent trip a fortnight in Sicily, from where we’ve just returned.

Our last Italian jaunt, to Puglia on honeymoon, was rather stressful with the sproglet at a tricky age for travelling, so I’m pleased to report that this trip was – if not relaxing, for what is relaxing with two toddlers – definitely more successful.

This time round, the boys were delighted by the proliferation of pasta, pizza and ice cream, and just as happy to wander round museums, art galleries and ancient ruins as they were playing at the beach. I also dragged them to a fair few gardens, with the promise of playgrounds that rarely materialised. (Not, I hasten to add, a cunning parenting ploy on my part, just an inaccuracy in the guidebooks…)

Cactus
Taormina public gardens

Taormina public gardens

The landscape of Southern Sicily
The landscape of Southern Sicily

They were an absolute fricking nightmare at mealtimes, smashing up tables in the time it would take the food to arrive, but we soon learnt to eat only at restaurants on piazzas where they could run around or at their preferred café on the beach. (“Mum, please can we go to the place where the nice man talks Italian to us and gives us free chupa chups lollies?”)

But, overall, an enjoyable jaunt, marred only by a middle-of-the-night trip to hospital to get four stitches in the sproglet’s chin after he fell out of bed onto the tiled floor one evening.

I took my brand new, incredibly expensive camera lens with me, thinking I was going to get a selection of amazing photos. But on uploading them to my computer at home, I see that almost all are out of focus. So, perhaps luckily for you, I only have these to share with you. They are pretty representative of the whole area we were staying in: bougainvillea dripping over every wall, huge fields of bronzed grass and tall pines, every building a statuesque if crumbling beauty, and the backdrop of the turquoise sea wherever you look.

Taormina
The view from Taormina, Mount Etna in the background
Taormina greek theatre
Ancient Greek theatre in Taormina

Italy: my love for you continues…

*I met up with Maurizio once for lunch – let slip that I had since accrued an English boyfriend and never heard from him again, ha ha. A good lesson about the desires of Italian silver foxes, I suspect…

My kids killed my love of cooking

When I was growing up, as one of four children, being fussy wasn’t an option.

I don’t think it ever really occurred to any of us that we might not eat a meal – we were normally too busy fighting over the seconds. Sure, there was certain food I wasn’t as keen on as other things, but that just meant I didn’t ask for a double portion.

Friends of my parents used to comment on just how much we consumed and I think my Mum was driven slightly insane by the huge supermarket shops and endless requests, Oliver style, for “a bit more, please…”

So I always assumed that my own children would repeat this behaviour. In those pre-spawning days when you’re an absolute expert on childcare, I scoffed at the idea of fussy eating children. Clearly, clearly, it was simply the parents’ fault in one way or other. Giving them alternatives to foods, or allowing them not to eat certain things or perhaps, conversely, getting into a fight about eating certain things. In my house, mealtimes were going to run smoothly. I’d cook something. I’d put it in front of the kids. They’d devour it and ask for more.

I also used to find it amusing that though my sisters and I all love cooking – a skill we all picked up in our Uni years and onwards – my Mum never shared that passion. I didn’t really question why someone might not love cooking after, what, a solid 25 years of preparing meals for all or some of her four children, I just thought it was something in the genes. A little quirky oddity, that meant the love of cooking skipped a generation to land – fresh from Masterchef heaven – in our hearts.

In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that, pre-spawning, I actually thought cooking the evening meal for my children would be one of the highlights of my day. You know, I’d be standing, Nigella-esque, at the oven, whipping up some healthy, organic, delicious piece de resistance while the children – well, I don’t even know what I thought the children would be doing while I happily cooked in the kitchen. Cheerfully helping me, without making a mess? Getting on with some brilliant independent play all on their own? Perhaps writing a great novel, or composing an opera, or working on a cure for cancer. Probably something like that.

And, actually, in the first year of the sproglet’s life, all did go according to plan. I was one of those bloody annoying mothers who did the baby led weaning with the organic vegetables from the weekly Abel and Cole box. Snacks were apples or roasted butternut squash chunks or rice cakes. And everything – everything – for that blissful period between six months and a year, was consumed without question by the pliable sprog. He’d got the memo! I was delighted. And, perhaps, even a little smug.

Corridor to the kitchen
As close as I like to get to the kitchen these days

On his first birthday, I cooked the sproglet his first ever cake. Cupcakes. I thought that – since he hadn’t really had any sugar until that point – he might take it or leave it. I was wrong. He hoovered up three cupcakes within a minute. The next day, we had another party to go to. He refused to eat anything but cupcakes.

And, from that point on, it’s been a steady decline.

Nowadays, at mealtimes, the sproglet will eat three things only: pasta, potatoes and “red sauce.” (Do not ever make the mistake of referring to it as “tomato sauce” or it will not be consumed for some weeks…)

On a really good day, a morsel of broccoli might pass by his lips.

But a hearty, lovingly-prepared chicken stew? Home-cooked steak and kidney pie? Even (and I can never quite wrap my head round this one, since it was a favourite from my childhood) bubble and squeak? No, no, no thank you. Not eating that, thanks, Mum, I don’t like it, can I have something else instead?

And the littlest, who used to be a really excellent eater, has taken to copying his big brother, and developed extreme fussiness of his own.

So, after two years of having everything I ever cook pushed around a plate, shunned and, frequently, thrown to the floor, I somehow find that “genetic” love of cooking has vanished into the ether.

Now I’m that Mum who thinks a cheese sandwich and a bag of crisps is a perfectly acceptable lunch, who is delighted when the littlest eats handfuls of baked beans (beans! They’re vegetables you know!) and who grudgingly re-heats the leftovers from lunch and plonks it back down in front of the kids for supper later on…

So, I’m pretty certain that when they hit 20, my boys will suddenly discover a great zest for cooking and look back at their poor old Mum’s sorry efforts in their childhood with wonder and despair. In the finals of Masterchef 2033, they’ll recreate a “memory of childhood” with a pasta and red sauce vapourised air and joke with a white-haired John and heavily-wrinkled Greg that it was the only dish their Mum could ever cook. As they hold the trophy aloft – the first sibling duo to ever win joint first – they’ll smile with pride and say how they learnt everything they ever knew from the internet.

And then they’ll have kids of their own and a tin of baked beans will, once again, seem like a gourmet delight.

In the garden: May

Apple blossom in the garden | Wolves in London

Oh May! Such a fabulous month in the garden. Blossom dripping off trees, new buds emerging in the beds, bees drowsily buzzing. May is probably my favourite month, horticulturally. Summer is almost upon us, but the greens are still fresh and green and the dew glistens on the grass in the mornings.

Acer palmatum | Wolves in London

Bee in apple blossomforget-me-notEuphorbia

Erigeron karvinskianus | Wolves in London

In the last month, the back garden has really been taken over by the chickens and the kids. We bought two news chooks to add to the flock, which was brilliant but also necessitated buying a spare coop in case they all decided to peck each other to death. Luckily, they didn’t, but the empty coop now sits squeezed between the vegetable beds and the original chicken run and its orange-stained wooden frame is in direct line of sight at almost every point in the garden. At the end of April, the littlest had his second birthday and was the happy recipient of a brand new, bright blue plastic slide, that takes up almost all of our tiny lawn space. But, away from the blue plastic and orangina wood, the fruit trees are all in blossom and the flower beds are going great guns, with all our new plants growing well, if a little surrounded by weeds at the moment….

In the evening, the sinking sun sets right behind the fabulous acer and its leaves glow bright bronze. It’s one of my favourite sights at this time of year (and one of the few plants we kept from the previous owners…) And I’m delighted with my new bright lime green eupborbia, which is just as stunning as I’d hoped it might be. I had meant to plant some ruby red aquilegias around it, but instead it seems to be surrounded by weeds at the moment. Ah well.

London front garden in Spring

In our front garden, the morello cherry tree has been in spectacular bloom, the rock roses covered in white flowers and the Sicilan honey garlic (Nectaroscordum siculum) just starting to peep out above the rest. I can see the first long shoot of the perennial sweet pea starting to make its way up the obelisk, promising a profusion of bright pink blooms later in the year.

Yes, life in sweet in May – the only obstacle to my garden utopia that we’re about to go on holiday to Sicily for a couple of weeks and I’ve not got anybody lined up to do any watering in case of no rain here. Still, the weeds, at least will survive our absence, I’m sure.

New baby; new knitting.

Waffles baby blanket | Wolves in LondonWhen I first started writing this blog, 3.5 years ago, the sproglet was just three months old and none of my siblings had any children.

In the time since, there’s been the arrival of another six babies in our family: my next sister down has had a son and a daughter, my brother a son, and, of course, I’ve had the littlest as well. And last month, my youngest sister had her very first baby, an unbelievably adorable little girl.

This is brilliant for all sorts of reasons. I’ve got lots of lovely nephews and nieces to enjoy, the sprogs have lots of cousins the same age as them for sprogging around with and, on top of all that, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to indulge my love of newborn knitting.

It’s turned into a bit of a tradition that I knit a blanket for the first born in each family (this grey one for my first nephew and this stripy one for my second). So I turned, once again, to that enjoyable pastime of browsing baby blanket patterns on Ravelry.

This time round I went for a solid coloured blanket in a waffle knit pattern. The appropriately named waffles blanket from Tin Can Knits.

Once again, I’m delighted with the finished result. It’s a lovely squishy blanket, that will be really soft and especially good for colder months. And though I do love to knit a lace pattern, I think it’s probably quite good that there are no holes for tiny fingers to get stuck in.

waffles baby blanket: hand knit blanket | Wolves in London

I gave it to my sister a few weeks ago, (erm, yes, quite a bit late, I’m ashamed to say) and she was delighted with it. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s a more pleasing present to give in the world than a hand-knitted item for a newborn.

NB, I’m sorry for the lack of decent photos here. I only finished blocking the blanket the morning of giving it away, so just grabbed a few quick ones while I could…

A few pattern notes for anyone interested in more info…

waffles baby blanket: hand knit blanket | Wolves in London

Pattern: Waffles from Nine months of knitting by Tin Can Knits. Download available for $6.

My Ravelry page is here: new baby blanket.

The pattern was straightforward and simple to follow. No need to re-read the pattern after the first repeat, and an easy, relatively quick knit. I didn’t alter it in any way and just kept going until the blanket looked about the size I was after.

After blocking, it stretched considerably, mostly width-ways, but more lengthways than I had anticipated as well.

Wool: I used a yarn that I’d tried before and knew lasted and washed well. (It’s essential to be able to wash a baby blanket in a washing machine, I think. The chances of it getting fairly frequently covered in either poo or sick are pretty high in those early months.) It’s the cashmerino aran by Debbie Bliss. Not the cheapest, at around £5 for 50g, but a really lovely wool that feels soft and wears well. I used a total of 5.5 skeins, so it cost me just under £30.

The colour is called “peacock” and it’s a lovely rich teal, which I thought was pleasingly gender-neutral when I chose it. Actually, after I’d knitted it up, I thought the blanket looked very blue, but my sister shares my opinions on the ridiculousness of gender stereotyping small babies, so she’s perfectly happy for her baby girl to be encased in a blueish blanket.

Now, what to put on my needles next?

Back! And an update

Blossom

Hello chickens! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? That short break turned into a slightly longer break, but now here I am once again, assignments handed in and all the other bits and pieces that had been keeping me busy are more or less sorted out.

So, what’s been going down round these parts while I’ve been away?

Well, firstly, the long-awaited move. We have, quite literally, been round the houses since I last mentioned all our grand plans for an escape to the country. After all that umming and ahhing about what to do, we decided to put our house on the market and take the leap, buy the dream house in the country and just give it a go and see how it worked out.

But… …no sooner had we accepted an offer on our house than a few changes in circumstances hit us all at the same time, which meant that, actually, it made infinitely more sense to stay in London for another couple of years and we would (hopefully!) be in a good situation to move in time for the littlest to start school in 2018, rather than the sproglet this September. The sprog himself, incidentally, also just got a school place at the absolutely brilliant primary at the end of our road and his nursery is already being amazing about helping make his transition there as easy as possible (he’s a bit shy, bless him), so we feel as if we’ve made the right decision.

So, rather than take the easy option and just stay where we are, we decided to give ourselves loads more work and buy a fixer upper round the corner from us for a bit of extra space, vast amounts of extra money, months spent renting a flat later this year while we do the work and, oh, you know, all the associated hassle of moving house and doing somewhere up. Honestly, it’s the sensible option really. Really.

So we’ve been in the throes of mortgage agreements and booking surveys and replying to solicitors accusations about “wood boring insect infestations” in our current house and all sorts of fun things like that.

In more enjoyable activities, the littlest turned two last week. We had a family trip to the transport museum on the day itself and a family party at the weekend, last Sunday, on what must have been the first truly hot day of the year. It was utter bliss, sitting outside, the sun beating down, the bees bumbling around the flower beds and listening to all the toddlers shrieking in delight at they played with the water table and took endless turns on the brand new slide.

My garden design course continues a(very speedy)pace with endless assignments and deadlines that I struggle to meet. Yesterday I gave a presentation on the incredible Jacques Wirtz, who is best known for his amazing cloud pruned hedges. Here’s a picture for you in case you’re into that sort of thing:

Jacques Wirtz's family garden
© Wirtz International

If you are, do look him up, his work is brilliant and has aspired me anew on the whole garden design career.

We’ve finally bought a couple more chickens to make up for the loss of darling Nero a few months back. So Blanco and Ginger have now been joined by Polka and Dot and the settling in period seems to be fine, so far…

Oh and finally, I’ve really been debating about whether to ever mention this here, but do you remember when I took a trip to Wiltshire last year to look for houses? One thing I didn’t say is that we were actually filming for a TV show, and, ahem, it was on TV last week. Yes, we were some of the hapless non-buyers in Escape to the Country. I have actually been dreading it coming onto TV, convinced that I would be portrayed as a terrible human being, but in fact, it was really fine. Yes, I seem to have a cut glass accent so strong that dogs surely wince when they hear me talking (something I genuinely wasn’t really aware of!) but other than that, I don’t think I came off as a massive douche. And the kids are adorable, of course, in their little spot at the beginning.

I’m not going to go as far as give you a direct link here (I’m a little too embarrassed for that), but if you are interested, we’re in series 16 and it’s the one where Jules Hudson goes to Wiltshire with a “young family”…

Apologies for the serious lack of photos in this post. I’ve really been on a break from everything: blogging, social media, even picking up my camera, so the past month has been completely undocumented. I have to say, it’s been refreshing not reaching for my phone or my camera the minute anything happens. The photo right up at the top is of the morello cherry tree in our front garden, which is stunning at this time of year, heaving with blossom.

Right, phew, that’s about it. Normal blogging service to resume from now on, with more focused and much shorter posts! I hope you’ve all been well in the past few weeks. Roll on summer, roll on more warm weather.

Hiatus

Tulip | Wolves in LondonYou may have noticed I’ve been having a little (unintentional) blogging hiatus recently… A combo of me being unwell, the kids being unwell and then a lot of work for my garden design course has meant I’ve had very little free time on my hands.

And instead of feeling constantly guilty that I should really crack on and get a new blog post up here, I’ve decided to make it an official and just take a little break until things are back to normal.

So, tara for now, but I’ll be back soon once we’re all better rested and I’ve met a few course deadlines…

Til then, enjoy the start of Spring!

In the garden: March

So, after 3.5 years living here, we’ve finally – finally – landscaped and planted the garden. Hurrah! I’ll show you proper photos next month as it’s still all looking a bit bare and unimpressive while the plants establish, but in the meantime, here’s a little look at some of the recent additions to our little patch of turf.

On a sunny Friday at the end of Feb, we hired a van and drove to a plant nursery in Surrey. I’m still beside myself with excitement about the brilliant trade prices I’m now eligible for as a trainee garden designer, and wandering round a nursery stuffed full of plants, feeling the first of the Spring sunshine on my face, was pretty much my idea of heaven.

Lots of what I bought is nothing more than a small mound of leaves at the moment, but these are the ones with something to show right now…

corkscrew hazelcatkin

I’ve been obsessed with corkscrew hazels (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) for a good few years now and couldn’t pass up the chance to have one in my own garden. The twisting stems look rather Tim Burton-esque to me (in a good way) and then there’s the delights of all the catkins in Spring and hazelnuts in Autumn.

Euphorbia myrsinitesEuphorbia myrsinitesEuphorbia myrsinitesEuphorbia myrsinites

Also a huge obsession, though a more recent one, since my visit to Beth Chatto’s garden last year, is this incredible Euphorbia myrsinites. Those grey spiky leaves, lime green flowers and flowing stems are just quite spectacular as far as I’m concerned. I’ve planted a couple of other euphorbias, too, which will hopefully be in full flower by next month.

Chionodoxa forbesii

The famous wallflower is still going strong (no photos this month, since I’ve shared them a gazillion times) and clustered around its base, a flurry of bright blue bulbs have come up: Chionodoxa forbesii, that I planted last year and I had completely forgotten about. There is something magical about bulbs, the way they pop up and down, year after year, and you can never quite remember what is going to come up where. (Or is that just me?!) These blue beauties are a welcome sight, though I think the slugs and snails agree with me, since their leaves (as you can see) are almost always bitten off, and I often find whole flowers disappear overnight.

ipheion alberto castillo ipheion alberto castillo

I’m hoping these new ipheion (‘Alberto Castillo’) will do just as well. I grabbed them from the nursery on an impulse as they were looking so stunning, and I was pleased to then find them recommended by Dan Pearson as one of his all time top plants in Gardens Illustrated later in the month. They’re very beautiful, with their long stems and white star-shaped flowers, striped down the middle with a faint line.

Stachys byzantina

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I can’t resist plants with fluffy leaves. So it is, the garden is heaving with Salvia argentea (which is a bit ratty looking to show you at the moment) and the lamb’s ear above (Stachys byzantina), which looks especially fantastic when it catches dew in the morning.

Stipa tenuissimaMiscanthus sinensis

I’ve also added a few grasses. The beautiful Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), above top, which glows in the sunlight and waves around in the wind in a most fantastic way. I might have to try and take a video sometime. And some brilliant miscanthus, to provide huge seed heads throughout the winter.

Blossom

Finally, a blossom shot, hooray! Not, actually, a tree in my garden, but from my neighbour’s. Spring is so very, very nearly here.

Joining in, as ever, with Annie and How does your garden grow.

Currently reading: Marie Kondo

Currently reading Marie Kondo | Wolves in LondonSo February was the month in which I read that unavoidable book of the moment: Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.

Are you guys fans? It wasn’t something that had wildly appealed to me but I’d seen so many glowing reviews and “this changed my life”s that I bought it on impulse from the shelf next to the counter in the lovely bookshop in Corsham a few weeks ago.

As I was reading it, three prevailing thoughts entered my head time and again:

  1. The person who has written this book might, quite possibly, be insane.
  2. I can’t believe anyone agreed to publish this book.
  3. I can’t believe that this book has become a runaway success, bought by so many people… …and that one of those people is me!

In case you haven’t read it, you might be wondering how on earth someone could write an entire book about tidying. The answer is: she hasn’t. She’s written a (very short) book about why you should throw away almost everything you own (any possession, in fact, that doesn’t “spark joy”) and then repeated each paragraph about six times throughout the book and then printed it in really really large text.

I don’t think there is much I could tell you about my thoughts on the book that wouldn’t be better illustrated by some actual genuine quotes from the book itself. I was so astonished by so much that I read that I turned down the pages in order to return to these particularly bizarre passages again.

“Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type and therefore organising them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.”

“If you are a woman, wear something feminine or elegant as nightwear.”

Have you ever had the experience where you thought what you were doing was a good thing but later learnt it hurt someone? […] This is somewhat similar to the way many of us treat our socks.

“Not long ago, 90 per cent of my thoughts were focused solely on storage. I began thinking seriously about this issue from the time I was five.”

“What do the things in our homes that don’t spark joy actually feel? I think they simply want to leave.”

So, no, it’s safe to say I’m not a fan. I just can’t buy into this whole possessions-have-feelings-too stuff (at one point, she actually tells a story about how her mobile phone, that had been replaced, stopped working after she texted it to thank it for all its hard work in the past, as if it knew it had completed its purpose and decided never to turn on again…) Further, if I followed this method of “tidying” to the letter I would certainly be wandering around semi-naked*.

But, I have to admit that my attitude to my possessions actually has changed since reading this. I’ve started to question why I store so many things “just in case” of x situation arising, when if x situation really arose I would never remember where the thing is and would have to just go out and buy it again.  I do, gulp, intend to apply some of her logic to sorting through all my possessions and having a major de-clutter.

So, insane, yes, ridiculously sexist, yes, but effective? Quite possibly.

*I can genuinely tell you that I not only do not own a single pair of trousers that give me a “spark of joy” but that I positively hate every single pair I do own, since putting on a fair bit of weight in the last year and feeling massively lardy in the leg department. Following Kondo’s orders, I would have to throw out every single pair of trousers and, what? I guess the unspoken suggestion is that I go out and buy a load more. If you’re not swimming in cash that doesn’t seem like a terribly practical way of living…

In the garden: February

Magnolia stellata | Wolves in LondonSlipping in, just in time, on this fabulous extra day of the year to share some photos of the February garden, taken throughout this month.

If you were to look at a year in gardening, February would be the month of planning. Reading the seed catalogues, choosing the fruit and veg for the year ahead, deciding about changes to make in the garden and – above all – checking the air for signs of imminent Spring.

In the garden itself, not much is new in February. And this is especially true this year with the unseasonably warm Winter meaning that all my Spring plants put their heads above soil last month in January. But everything is looking that little bit more wonderful.

magnolia flower

The magnolia flowers are almost all fully unfurled, their petals luxuriating in the odd day of sunshine. The daffodils are bobbing about in the windowboxes, shaking off early morning raindrops and enjoying the lighter evenings.

Daffodil bud daffodil flower water on daffodil water sroplet

Buds are everywhere: on the cherry tree in the front garden and the apple and pear in the back. The acer is showing signs of bursting into leaf any time soon. And the catkins from next door are drooping over the fence…

Catkins

Spring, we’re ready and waiting for you.

A-hunting we will go

Lacock bakeryRiver in LacockI’m just back from a long weekend in Wiltshire, once again looking at our dream house to try and force us into a decision about whether we’re really going to sell up in London and head for the countryside…

We seem to be almost chronically unable to finally make the decision – torn between the idea of raising the kids in a bucolic idyll (there really is land for that alpaca herd that I’ve been dreaming of all these years) and the convenience, culture and fabulous diversity that is life in London.

On the one hand, we’re already a bit cramped where we are now. Every day when I walk out of the front door with the pram, I crash into one or other child, or the walls, or a pair of shoes that’s been left lying around, and swear under my breath, desperate to go somewhere with more space for two active boys to run around.

My husband and I both grew up in the countryside and always had the tacit understanding that we wanted to raise our kids the same way. Fields, cows and grubby knees, not tower blocks, exhaust fumes and savvy five-year-old tube aficionados.

But every time we think “”That’s it! We’re definitely going to go now!” I remember all the really great stuff about London and get terrified about leaving it behind.

House in LacockPub in Lacock

Where we live now, we’re a two minute walk from an amazing park, five minutes on the bus from the fantastic Horniman museum (where we go every week) and within a mile from our house are three great primary schools, probably 50 good cafés, an arthouse cinema, endless excellent independent shops, another amazing London park and… … oh, you get the picture, the list goes on.

Our local school is a brief stroll from our house and I’m already friends with people I just happen to see when they’re doing the school run every morning. I worry about giving that up for a drive to school each day, wrangling the kids into their car seats, never getting any fresh air or bumping into people.

My sister and her family live ten minutes from us now, my other sister in the centre of London and my brother an hour or so south. Does the promise of a bigger house and garden make up for the lack of family close by?

And – far more importantly – would I change the name of this blog if I no longer live in London?!

These, my friends, are just some of the endless debates that keep me awake at night, my brain ticking over and over, treading the same paths and reaching no conclusion.

Ford in Lacock

But our visit this weekend was the third to our dream house, already strung out over a couple of months. It’s time to bite the bullet and make a decision.

I’ll let you know what we decide.

(All pics here are not from the actual place we’re planning on buying, nor of the house itself because, y’know, this is the internet, but of the nearby and very beautiful Lacock that we had a good mooch around on a drizzly Sunday…)

PS. I had another post written for posting later this week to introduce you to our chickens. But *gulps and tries not to sob* a fox came and snatched Nero yesterday and ran off with her before I could catch up with it. I am feeling rather ridiculously traumatised by the whole thing and want to cry every time I see the other two chickens wandering around calling for her. (The sproglet, however, has taken it very much in his stride and said to them, “she’s gone, girls, she’s not coming back. The fox took her and eated her all up…” so I guess that’s one good thing at least!) Anyway, I will have to re-write it to, sniff sniff, only introduce you to the two still living, but look out for a lot of chicken chat in the next week or so.