Scrupulous

The little girl ran to the first beanbag, turned and threw it to her friend who was sitting by the bucket. She turned again and ran on to the next one. Her aim was good. Straight to her friend and into the bucket. The last one went off course a little bit, but it was close enough. She crossed the line, well ahead of the other children. The ones who ran back to the bucket each time. A ten year old child, old and mature by primary standards shrugged and awarded her the “1st” sticker. A beaming parent lifted her off her ground, planted a kiss on her plump cheek, effusive with their congratulations.

I guess it’s human instinct. The aim is to win so humans find ways to win. The aim is not to play fair, stick to the rules and still win. Not really. Not when it comes to it. Maybe a sticker isn’t enough to compromise your integrity for. I wonder what would be.

It’s so ugly. That’s the closest word I can think of. And it’s everywhere. How do we preserve the innocence, the cleanness of those other children? With seriousness and focus they picked up their beanbags and ran with them to the bucket. Their intensity and gravity seems comical in an activity so inane yet here is a tiny piece of beauty. It is about to be challenged. There were enough children and parents watching, the cheating was so apparent and so generously rewarded, the conclusion is hard to avoid. If you want to win, be audacious. Cheat. It might be worth it.

It was a tiny piece of beauty. At the end of each of the races on sport’s day there was a slight sense of bewilderment. So this is what they had been practicing for, and now it’s done. It didn’t seem to matter much after all. A slight shrug. Did I win? Should I care if I didn’t? Or if I did? Why did I have to put that hat on and then step over that rope? Is it important to be able to jump whist in a bag? These are small children, mostly their loveliness still intact. This is something to hold on to. Tomorrow is the Key Stage 2 Sport’s Day. I wonder if there will be any left.

I am not sure everyone we are dealing with in our project is demonstrating the beautiful integrity small children show. It’s nothing major. Mostly in the handling of the wood pile. Perhaps in pondering if they can make money from us, without having to run back with the beanbag.

Still waiting for the beneficiaries to sign so we can buy the land. Maybe next week. That’s ok.

Time to turn, with a small shrug, and keep waiting. It doesn’t matter. I’m looking for beauty, not stickers.

Monotony and Contentment

Someone once said (to me) that they crave monotony and so they would hate to do what we are doing. This has played on my mind a bit, and led me on to thinking about contentment.

On the spectrum of monotony vs novelty (I spent some time wondering what the opposite of monotony was. This is my best guess so far.) I reckon I fall on the side of novelty, but not near the extreme end. Change can be good, it can be fun to try new things. But if life is in a comfortable place it can be a change for the worse. Hard to know until the change happens. I would say, I like my novelty in bite sizes portions. When we discovered we were having Birch we both thought of all the changes this would bring, including moving house. It was much more manageable in terms of brain power to decide to manage one change at a time. Turns out we were right about all the changes that would follow, but one at a time is enough.

It is probably a good thing that Ben loves novelty and change. When I told him about the monotony conversation he was pretty much aghast. Crave stability, certainty, consistency, but not monotony! Another word for boring. Music without tune or harmony. Not really music at all.

I think what change brings, and what not changing protects against, is not knowing how you’re going to get through the day. One of the biggest challenges when I had Red as a new baby was not knowing when he would sleep (not really ever), when it would be possible to both boil a kettle and drink a cup of tea. There was nothing predictable in our day so it was really hard to pace myself, navigate a route from beginning to end. Before a big change, it’s a bit the same, you don’t know the shape of your day so it’s hard to envisage getting safely through it. However, since having Red we have moved house four times so far. What you learn is that there is no escaping monotony. There’s no running away from it. Whatever place you’re in, there will be the same jobs to do, the same routine. It takes a few weeks of heavy sat nav use to find your way around and then the roads are familiar, the coffee tastes the same.

There is importance in noticing these things. If we were doing this to escape monotony we will fail to escape. If we think this path in and of itself leads to contentment we will find we are wrong. This is excellent news. Contentment is a decision which can be taken at any point. We don’t need to finish in order to get there. If we wait until then, it will elude us. If we can achieve it now, it will travel the road with us.

For contentment to travel at our side we need to accept the monotonous and provide the harmony for ourselves. This is something Ben is really great at. It is something to strive for and to enjoy as a choice.

The news I most wanted to hear

We are still waiting on the land. The trustees met on Thursday, but they are in no hurry to let us know that we can now buy the land. Assuming we can. What’s the hurry eh?

On the other hand, the thing that has had me must worried has zoomed through today and I am really glad of it. We applied for school places for Red and Myrtle on Wednesday, knowing that at the village school there is space for Myrtle but not for Red. I sent the letter on Wednesday and got a call today. They have a space for Red too, they can start at their new school together. And they didn’t leave us hanging on. I was on a run when the call came in. I could run really fast after I’d had the news!

We had found another school not too far away that we also really liked that had space for Red, but it wasn’t the nearest school. We also didn’t get quite the same feeling. The village school is small and not as well resourced but in each classroom the teachers were smiling, the room was calm and they all had time to say hello. I’ve worked in a lot of schools. I think the total is 16, all on a regular basis. Teachers are under a lot of strain, they can’t hide it when they are stressed and not quite in control when visitors come in. My work means I’m often the visitor, though rarely to directly observe the teacher. There’s so little time in teaching now to enjoy the children but with the teachers at our children’s new school the teachers gave a sense that they do enjoy the children and the opportunity to teach them how to spread their wings. This is a good place for them to go.

This is an enormous relief. Their current school is lovely. The teachers care and work together. The head teacher is on the play ground after school selling ice creams. Our children have not always been happy there but they have supported them through that to a place where they are as happy as our quiet, reserved, don’t like the crowd children can be. Moving them has worried me. I was always terrified of moving schools.

Feeling like we’ve found the right place, and that they can go together feels great. One mum I talked to moved a lot in her childhood and said it gave her confidence. To know you can walk into a room and leave it a few hours later having made a couple of connections is a good feeling. It needs to be the right room though. Now I think it will be the right room in the right school. And they knew I was worried so they let us know as quickly as they could. This is a good beginning.

And if the land falls through we will move anyway, rent for a good while, wait for an opportunity that seems like a good one. All is well. I hope it doesn’t fall through.

No news is.. no news

This is a waiting time for the most part. No news is no news. And then two (small) pieces of news at once. I think there’s meant to be a third? We can hope so. The news we are waiting for still hasn’t come. Which is to say we still don’t own the land. The trustees don’t seem to meet very often. We need them to confirm that we won’t trigger the overage if we build out buildings in addition to the house. It shouldn’t because the overage is a legal clause designed to prevent the building of more than one dwelling. If we did that, we’d have to pay the previous person the increase in value if the land. I have no idea how you’d calculate that if it counted the building of a garage. We just want to build one house. Plus a few useful bits and pieces like a garage. There is no incentive for the trustees to agree this in that they wouldn’t get the money either way so we just have to wait for them to get around to it.

This isn’t really that much of a problem. To live on the land in a caravan we’d need water and electricity, which will take up to three months to get installed so we are already tight for getting in by September. That’s the deadline because the children will start their new school (or schools, if they don’t get places at the same one) in September. Assuming that’s not going to happen we’ve started looking out for a suitable rental. Six months rental would take us through the winter which is a definite plus, and maybe we’d stick with it until the house is done or maybe we will go for the caravan plan in the spring. It’s a great feeling, that we can wait, we can go with it, it’ll be fine. We are applying for the school places from our current address so our rental address wouldn’t make a difference for that. And if the whole thing falls through we will just do some renting for a while, settle in, cross the next bridge when it comes.

The news we did get, was that the DNA test to detect Great Crested Newts came back positive. Kind of bad news in that it makes things more complicated, but sort of good in that it shows the land is not particularly polluted and the ecosystem is doing well. And we might find newts,which would be exciting. It might delay the demolition and building, but if we aren’t living in a caravan that’s not such a big deal.

This undertaking is all about patience and so far we have a little more than I expected. That feels great. This is good. All is well.

The other news is that I think we are going to build a bungalow. The planners are being quite rigid about size; they are focusing on volume rather than footprint and we can increase only by the 35% permitted development rights that all buildings have. By building on one storey we save the footprint and volume of a staircase which is not insignificant. We used to live in a bungalow. I loved it. No twisty tree spiral staircase though which we were both excited about. Worth the sacrifice though. And I did love that bungalow.