The time after we moved here was, you might say, the start of the rest of my life. I had remained ambivalent about our decision – I had always lived near the water, either the sea or Oulton Broad, and I thought I would miss this badly. I expected to feel homesick.
In fact, I never glanced back and loved it here straightaway. Although we had had a large garden before, we had been very overlooked – our big square garden was edged on two sides by other houses’ long narrow strip, and on the third side was the Rectory. We had about 8 next-door neighbours. I’d not been bothered about this, but here we were alone. A field on every side, but with houses only a couple of hundred yards away, so we were not isolated. But I can’t say this was the reason, it was, simply and instantly, home.
A few days after moving in, my husband said, on the Sunday morning, that he was going to church. Better show his face…..
I was gardening and didn’t want to stop and change, so I said I’d carry on and he could go without me. An hour later he reappeared. “We’re invited to coffee at the Rectory” he said. “I can’t go” I said, startled, “I didn’t go to church.” “Yes, they particularly invited you, come on.” I felt shy and embarrassed, but it would have been worse to refuse, so off we went together.
There had been a christening that morning and the young couple and their baby* were there, with the rest of the congregation. Everyone was cheerful and friendly and when it was seen that I had a toddler (Ro was just 2), a young woman with two small boys came over and invited me to her house, where she was giving a coffee morning to raise funds for the about-to-be-started Mothers and Toddlers group. “Next Tuesday” she said cheerfully, describing where her house was.
On Tuesday I plucked up all my courage (I was still quite shy in those days) and set off. It was not for years that I told her that I’d taken her to mean that Tuesday, when she’d meant Tuesday week!
The next week, off I went again, and found out that there was a group of women of about my age with children of Ro’s age, all wanting to be friends with me. This was quite a heady sensation in itself, as I wasn’t the most outgoing person and had expected it to take some time to know any one. We met for a morning each week in the village hall or, in the summer, in each other’s houses or gardens. We used to go off to the seaside, the zoo or a similarly child-friendly but fairly inexpensive attraction once in a while. We had all taken a work break to bring up our children until at least school age, so we didn’t have much money but had time to spare for our own and our children’s friendships.
*This baby girl has just completed her second year at Cambridge University, reading Law.