We made a plan…the movers (Alness Removals & Storage) were sorted and half of the house was packed up so Alan could have some furniture and homely stuff in Scotland. Also, just as importantly, Yvonne could still live in Pease Pottage. The first load was packed and put into storage 2 weeks before we got the keys so that we could get a good price benefiting from an otherwise empty lorry returning north.
A week before we were to head up and get the keys, Yvonne spotted an interesting Social media post. This was Puffin Croft in Caithness who had been on Channel 5 for their move from London to John O’Groats. Channel 5 were looking for people to take part in the next series of Ben Fogle, Making a New Life in the Country. Yvonne reckoned that this was us. So Alan wrote an email 6 days before we were heading north to get the keys – with just a carload of stuff including sleeping bags and a blow-up mattress. On the way up, the production company called us – could they film us getting the keys and seeing our new house for the first time. Well, of course!
We picked up the keys and made off to our new house full of excitement and a bit of trepidation. After a few days of getting our bearings, Yvonne had to go back to work, so we went back down south. Then, there was great sadness for us then as Alan headed back to Scotland and Yvonne stayed down in Sussex to complete the academic year at school and look after her parents.
Alan was down just a few days early December and then again in the height of the second lockdown for Christmas. Just after Christmas, we both headed back to Scotland taking Max and Smeagol with us – an essential move as our movers were due to empty the rest of our house early January. The house sale was progressing, albeit slowly and Yvonne had booked into an AirBnB for a few weeks.
Early January – our Scottish drive is covered in ice and a constant concern for Alan. Firstly, could Alness Removals get down our driver with the rest of our gear? They were certainly fretting about it. Secondly, with Alan’s rear wheel drive car – often left at the top so I could get out as we didn’t have salt at that time. Both were totally fine. One due to a short break in the snow and ice and the other with winter tyres that are brilliant.
For Alan, it was a lonely existence in Scotland. Trying to make new friends in the neighbourhood with a lockdown on and doing what could be done to get our Ceol Mor Highland Lodge business set up without spending any money. Many days were spent with just the cats for company. Every day Alan & Yvonne would do breakfast and say goodnight to each other on video calls.
There was quite a lot of filming going on though that kept Alan on his toes – even Ben Fogle came up to discover what we were doing. Unfortunately for Yvonne, she had to make do with a video call!
For Yvonne, while surrounded by people at work, it was a huge adjustment living in an AirBnB room. These were really tough times. Cash was running out and the house sale down south was progressing painfully slowly. Tough times – although our twice per day catch up on video calls just kept us going. The dog, Roxy, at the AirBnB really took to Yvonne – he must have sensed her sadness and often looked for her for cuddles.
How do you make friends during such a tight lockdown? OMG, it was hard. However, Alan had 2 very lucky breaks. Firstly, Tracey and Ash Smith in nearby Rosehall invited Alan to be part of their extended household. This worked really well – for all of us. We went exploring lots of places and Alan was introduced to so so much wildlife. It was great walking their dogs too. Also, Alan’s immediate neighbours were brilliant. Robert & Day swapped the occasional lunch for essential technical help to keep them going through this tough period. Both couples are truly amazing people.
March was busy and a real mix of highs and lows. The house sale completed but we were apart for Yvonne’s birthday which was very sad. Alan got some of her friends to provide a short video that were all pulled together into a bigger video. At this point, Sandy, her father was showing signs of becoming more unwell. Also, Yvonne was getting ready to move out her AirBnB into a flat at the school. Alan was working hard on the business and the branding was sorted, with planning permission underway.
Then, in April, Yvonne moved into the school flat which made things easier for her. However, Sandy was deteriorating.
As lockdown eased, we had some visitors. Hilary would do a quick visit when Yvonne was here for school holidays – a good friend of Yvonne’s since school days. We looked forward to the school holidays so much so we could actually see each other for real. We spent loads of time exploring our local area during the holidays – it was amazing and a real tonic. Alan’s parents visited in May too which was brilliant – their first time away since being locked down.
In June Sandy, Yvonne’s father became very ill and was admitted to a hospice. With Alan travelling down for a few days, we had a little time as a family – to enjoy the grand children and to say goodbye to Sandy. Then later that month Sandy passed. Alan travelled back down for the funeral for the sad occasion.
Then, in July Yvonne finishes school for the last time. After a week spent with Ruth getting things ready for the trip north, she is heading to be reunited with Alan and the cats at long last. Ruth is in tow – not convinced that she wants to go to Scotland. Well, too late for that now – these wheels were solidly put in motion a year previously.
A week later Alan starts a job working from home in his career specialty – managing large supply chains and Yvonne throws herself into getting Ruth settled as well as taking the reins on setting up Ceol Mor Highland Lodges from Alan. Busy times….in a glorious setting.