This is Alan & Yvonne – in the Seven Sisters Country park, Sussex where we used to live. Here, we’re out early in the morning before the hordes arrive….May 2020 as lockdown 1 just starts to ease.
We were both professional people. Alan, a senior manager working in a London based retailer; Yvonne, a senior teacher responsible for years 10 & 11 as well as teaching Food. Both of us working long hours, spending too much time commuting, not enough time with friends, family, let alone for each other.
Early 2020, at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, Alan finds himself without a job and it’s impossible to find another similar role. Yvonne’s teaching is becoming even more relentless with constant government u-turns on school processes as well as extra workload due to managing the virus risks.
With new grandchildren here or about to arrive and Yvonne’s parents needing more support, we questioned what are we doing and what were we going to do with our lives. In early lockdown, Yvonne was teaching from home and we had more time together than we ever had. This was really amazing and confirmed what we had always thought…we’re a great team. We were asking ourselves how can we live and get more quality time for those that matter to us.
Seeds were growing that perhaps we should change our lives…while we were young enough. We had cancelled our holiday as thousands of others had and decided to go to Scotland and rent a camper van. This gave us something to look forwards to and later was to be more than that. Whilst counting the days down to our holiday, we went on lots of walks, often on the South Downs. On this walk in July, Yvonne suddenly became terribly upset…what was the matter?
Alan asked what was wrong? Yvonne said that in a few weeks we would never be able to go back to doing these walks…once she went back to work after the summer holidays it would be relentless for weeks on end and she would be too exhausted to do this and was so upset at missing it. How could we be together more? One Friday evening after a glass of wine, we looked at a property online on the west coast of Scotland that had an established holiday lodge business – could we do this? Could Yvonne’s mother come with us?
We booked a viewing of the property and worked it into our itinerary. Awesome, we were even more excited about our holiday. We had an amazing time heading up from Loch Lomond to near Oban where we met a family friend who had moved from England to Scotland to get his take on it. Then, we continued to Poolewe where we viewed the property. It was decent, well set up….but, didn’t feel quite right and we couldn’t put our finger on it.
Our camper journey continued….so many glorious places to see. We headed up to the north west corner and then along the top of Scotland to Thurso where we met some really good friends who live there and became part of their social bubble for a few days. Lots of soul searching and brainstorming over a few glasses of wine, prosecco and beer. We decided that if we were to do this, we had to find a property that had the potential to be our business – not a ready made one. Oo-er, we needed to be brave. We did lots of thinking about where this should be and had a shortlist.
We went back home and had lots of family debate…Ruth, Yvonne’s mum, didn’t really want to go to Scotland. Alan kept looking on property websites…and saved a special looking place in the heart of Sutherland. But, he kept it secret – for now. We decided to see if we could do our dream in Sussex – spending hours on the road scoping out properties that might have potential for Ruth to be with us. But, what about work? These properties were just so expensive. We even looked as far as Devon and the West Country – online of course!
Alan says to Yvonne – just shared a property with you….what do you think? She says, where did this come from? Alan says he saved it a while ago, but the Sussex search was underway. Anyway, we arranged a viewing. The owners did a fab job of showing us around….virtually. We came off a WhatsApp video call…the property we had just viewed had been a B&B with good accommodation for Ruth & us, it looked special, 4G signal was excellent, wifi was excellent, it was pretty remote – but, Tesco delivered. This was all too good.
After doing a lot of searching online, checking out photos from guests, we put in an offer. It was refused. 2 or 3 days later, we had a heart to heart. We worked out the max we could go to and rang the estate agent. They said, so you want a deadline? Yep…so how about 2pm? OK, we said – expecting a little longer.
2:01 pm and the phone rang. We had a deal. It felt like a classic Kirsty & Phil moment. OMG, we had just agreed to buy a 5 bedroom detached immaculate looking house 650 miles away unseen! This
was the end of August. It looked like we would be in for end October. We had better get our Sussex house on the market then!
We told friends and family…they were ‘amazed’ that we were buying this unseen. One of our friends in Thurso said they wouldn’t even buy a new mobile phone unseen! There was amazement from many especially as it was so far away. But, excitement from many….especially us. Sadness from some – Yvonne’s boys especially. But, they got that this was a future promise of quality over quantity for the grandchildren with the promise of brilliant summer (and other) holidays.
We came up with plans – how were we going to manage this? When would Yvonne finish work, how long would the cash last, when would the cats go up? When would the cash run out if our Sussex house didn’t sell quickly enough, what were plans B & C. Well, there really was only plan A. It had to work.
Just a week before we got the keys, Yvonne read a Tweet from a business at John O’Groats and then our life got even more surreal. You’re going to have wait until Spring 2022 for part 2 of this blog – it’s going to take some writing.