Whilst at Conkers this season, aside from thinking about next summer season, we had to also give some thought as to what we’d do for the winter. The last two winters, as you know, have been spent travelling France and Spain – and our property has been rented out during all this time. We agreed that it was time to go home for the winter, to re-group, think about our future, save some money, and maybe even sell our property. Thankfully, this has been in the forefront of our minds, pushing back our worries and concerns about the next summer season.
We notified our tenants in the summer that we wouldn’t be renewing the tenancy agreement in January. Fortunately for us, this prompted them to find a property before then, so they gave us notice that they would be leaving early October. This fitted perfectly into our timescales, giving us 1 week after our season at Conkers where we could take a holiday, before moving back in.
Pete & Dawn let us go a bit early as things were so quiet on site, so we trundled back to Worthing and dumped all our camping stuff before scooting off on our well needed holiday. We visited our lovely friends Wendy & Nigel on the CCC site at Salisbury, stopped off to see the CCC site at Devizes (where Pete and Dawn are moving to as new Managers) and returned to one of our favourite campsites Sumners Ponds so that Si could do some fishing. The weather wasn’t all that, but the break was fabulous.
Another catch for Simon at Sumners Ponds
Home Sweet Home
So.. the day has finally come for us to go and pick our keys up from the letting agency. They have closed down their Worthing office so we had to go into Arundel to pick up the key. Knowing the area quite well, we knew there was a car park we could fit Bessie into. When we pulled into it, we looked at the coach bays and considered parking there, but thought we’d get into trouble, so pulled into a space which was in fact 2 car parking spaces. As such, we thought we’d better pay more for the ticket – so we doubled it, knowing we would only be 30 minutes.
Our meeting at the agency went reasonably well, with them pointing out some areas of the bungalow which they felt hadn’t been taken care of and discussions on how best to proceed. Primarily, redecorating of rooms (which we’d allowed) but that hadn’t been finished off, inadequate cleaning of our cooker and a couple of other minor points. We agreed to call the agency once we’d had a chance to look ourselves.
We returned to Bessie.. and guess what? We arrived just as a ‘security officer’ was placing a £60 parking ticket on our beloved Bessie!!!! Despite our protestations and explanation that we had paid over the odds for 2 bays, he wasn’t budging an inch (surprise surprise). So Simon refrained from driving over him and we left.
We’ve travelled some 5000 miles in our Bessie since we left home two and a half years ago without any parking issues – until we get back home! Let’s hope this isn’t a sign of how things are going to be now we’re back !!!
The good news is that Jools appealed against the ticket and was successful. Simon was very tempted to go back to the gentlemen parking attendant in question and have another chat – but accepted it wasn’t one of his best ideas !!!
So…. We pulled Bessie back into our driveway and were finally home! We had very mixed feelings at this point…. excitement at seeing our home again and the thought of having a bath, fears as to what we might find once we opened that door, and of course the knowledge that we had a lot to do getting everything out of storage and back into some kind of order. How would Sadie & Stella settle back in? Would they remember it?
In summary, the condition of the bungalow was disappointing. There was the wear and tear that you would expect from a family of five living there, but it wasn’t clean, their attempts at covering wear and tear had made it look worse, and there were some things which had clearly been neglected (for example, over 2 years’ worth of grass cuttings dumped down the side of the shed instead of disposed of properly!). The agency should never have signed it off in that condition. To be honest, it could have been a lot worse, but it should also have been a lot better. When we left home and people offered their concerns about us renting out our home, we said that as long as all it needed when we got home was a lick of paint, we’d be happy. It took just a little more than that, but with some compensation from the tenants’ deposit we were eventually reasonably satisfied. Of course, when you think about how much we’ve received in rental monies over two and a half years, the stress of the repairs do fade away !!
Our advice if you do consider renting, is to rent out a property that you don’t have any emotional attachment to. We would rent again, but not ‘our home’.
We didn’t go and get our items out of storage immediately, but just moved our camping furniture into the bungalow and lived on that for a couple of weeks whilst we decorated. That was fun, camping indoors !
So, what’s it like being back? Well, the dogs seemed to find it harder to settle back in than we did – they would pace about at night, and guard our bedroom door. It must be very strange for them having been with us pretty much 24/7 for such a long time…. Leaving them alone in the bungalow has been a bit odd, almost like when they were puppies again. But, they seem to have adjusted OK. They weren’t particularly happy when Jools nipped off to Spain for a few days and left them and Simon here! There was a bit of destruction in the house, but they soon settled again once the ‘pack’ was back to four!
As for us… it’s definitely mixed feelings – which have varied over the 3 months we’ve been home and led us to making some important decisions.
We have really really missed our campsite life since being back home, and found ourselves being couch/telly potatoes more than we ever were ! We have times when we feel like we’ve come ‘home’ and times when we feel we really don’t belong here any more.
On our good days, we’ve had time to reflect, taking long walks at a slow pace. We’ve felt thankful and fortunate that we have come back to a really lovely home and our belongings, and also how little we need to be happy. We do know how fortunate we are that we’ve truly lived our dreams over the last couple of years, on very little money, but are still not on the breadline. It didn’t take Simon all that long to pick up a bit of tiling work again – not that he wants to, but needs must.
On the bad days… well having to sign on for Job Seekers Allowance was a laugh!! Thankfully, we didn’t have to for too long once Simon was back up and running. Jools has a little cleaning job in a school which is a bit of extra dosh, and had a bit of full time temping work before Christmas. We’ve learned how to live on less money but it didn’t take long before we were signing up to direct debits again. That was one of the feelings that was so liberating when we left, and kind of makes us feel trapped again. We spend a lot of time wondering which direction we are now going in.
But we reflect on those moments, realising that those are the ones that put people off doing what we did. Would we change it? Not for the world. What we’ve done over these last couple of years is truly follow our hearts, and we wouldn’t change that. It’s changed us both – for the better, and changed our focus in life. We’ve been in our own little happiness bubble whilst the world has been in a deep recession.
We’ve not been particularly good at getting back into the social scene with people, perhaps because we are feeling a little burdened down with the return to ‘normal’ life – but those we have seen can’t believe it’s been two and a half years since we left. Of course, for most people, life has trundled along in the same manner and perhaps that’s when you don’t have that sense of time. We spend a lot of time remembering how much we’ve done in the last couple of years, how many GREAT people we’ve met and how much we’ve stretched out of our comfort zones. Being back home is almost uncomfortable sometimes. People are rushing about, fast drivers, madness at rush hour – we’ve not missed that ! We also can’t believe how much Worthing has changed since we’ve been gone. We head off to shops to find out they are no longer there – but that’s probably the same everywhere. We’ve seen for ourselves how difficult the job situation is, and how tough it must be for people to survive in the current climate – the benefits are simply not enough for people to live on. Apparently the law says we only need £102 per week to survive. We’d love to know how they work that out, and how on earth families with no or very low income can manage.
We’ve got used to it being just us. We’ve lived a more peaceful life, at a slower pace, valuing every day, every new place we see and every new friendship we make. Life on site feels like you have so much more freedom. Being back in a house feels like a heavy commitment. Somewhere we have to find a balance. Now that we have tasted a better life, we know for sure we don’t want to return to the old rat race. We have loved constantly having new challenges in our lives, loved stretching ourselves and embracing change – and we want to continue living that way – it makes you feel really alive.
So, the New Year has started well for us. We’ve had various interviews for camp site jobs, all of which have been very positive – and boosted our confidence enormously, much needed after the way we feel about the entire CCC experience.