So we’ve been living in the house for a few months now and I still haven’t taken many photos or even really announced it as such. It’s not our home, yet we have made it ours for the time being: it is filled with us and our stuff.
I am grateful every. single. day. to not be living in the mobile homes any more.
We had such great plans with those trailers: despite the disappointment Jude in particular felt about losing his barn, our aim was to live off the land as cheaply as possible in order to save money for the new build, which Jude estimated would take about three years to do by himself. He would need to continue finding outside work to pay for materials and keep us fed, and after the work was completed we could sell up and move on, either further south or to the west coast, perhaps to the south of Brittany, where we would find our own crumbling farm to renovate.
Not to be. We discovered, after having lived in the trailers for a year and a half, that should we sell the finished house within four years of completing the build we would be charged an astronomical fee which would knock out such a chunk of the sale price that it seemed pointless to continue. Having lived for so long without mains water to run the washing machine or a proper flushing loo or working shower, I for one couldn’t bear to continue any longer as we were and started pushing for us to find a house to rent. The land may have been free for us to live on, but the price we were paying in stress and exhaustion was not worth it.
In the end it was Chrissie who finally suggested we move into the house. I don’t know whether Jude’s dad had finally convinced her or whether she just realised how crazy it was for the six of us to be living as we were, with all of our stuff mouldering away in the leaky marquee and no further along with our plans, but however it came to be, I am intensely grateful.
Now there is a desk for Jude to do his paperwork. I have a desk to create – I can leave things out without worrying about them being eaten (I’m not even joking) by Elodie. The girls have real beds to sleep in and space to play. The washing machine works! We can have hot baths and showers any time at all. Best of all, no more outdoor compost loo.
And, inevitably, us being us, we have started tidying up the land. Left unloved for so many years, gardening not a high priority for Jude while he was renovating the building nor for anyone who made the trip out for a holiday, there is much to be done. Whilst it certainly benefits us during our stay to make it more practical and useful, the fact also remains that the house is still up for sale and whatever we do will probably increase the chance that it actually will sell. Jude has to resist his natural urge to build, even though these lovely, languishing barns call out to him every time he stands in the yard.
We haven’t finished moving our stuff out of the marquee, but it’s getting harder to work up the energy to go over and sort through it all. So much of it is water-damaged and mouldy. I’m thinking we just need to chuck the whole lot into a trailer and put it in landfill. Do I really need to keep all the stuff we brought over from England all that time ago? Things I packed away whilst still pregnant with Elodie? How much will our girls really miss their baby photos and drawings, all those lost objects from a life they have already started to forget – or in the younger two’s memory never even existed at all. We all cart this kind of stuff around with us our whole lives but how much of it do we really need to keep? I cannot separate my attachment to stuff from my need for attachment to stuff: it is my only connection to my past; my life pre-children, pre-France. But do I need it? Here now, is surely all that matters. Who knows where we will be six months, a year from now. Will I miss it in the future? When my girls have all gone down their own separate paths and left me far behind in their daily lives as I have my own family. I’m scared of letting go, but I’m also aware that the stuff itself – the jetsam that drags me back – may be all I am left with one day, and by then be more precious than air.