30 June 2022

I do like to be beside the seaside

I've just been away. On holiday. By the seaside. I managed to escape my cage for a short break with my best friend of 53 years. I even went abroad - if you can count The Isle of Wight as abroad!

Holidays these days seem to be a rare option for me. Being a widow, with no siblings and with friends who are either married and have their own plans or live a million miles away so not geographically or socially close to arrange such things with me, means that I either contemplate a holiday alone or just don't go anywhere at all. When my recently-widowed best friend of 53 years (we met as 18-year-olds on our first day at uni at the hall of residence when we came out of our rooms to use the bathroom) suggested we go away somewhere together, I leapt at the chance. She lives about 80 miles from me, so all arrangements were done by phone or text.

When Kay was little,  my husband and I used to take her camping in the New Forest. The campsite there was run by the Forestry Commission and we had wild ponies wandering around our tent which was a real joy for a five-year-old. We visited the New Forest many times after that and came to love Hampshire and particularly Lymington by the coast. For that reason I yearned to return one day and my friend agreed  that was a lovely spot to centre our holiday.

Lymington is a lovely town full of Georgian houses built around the late 1700s or early 1800s. You half expect a heroine from a Jane Austen novel to come out of one of its front doors. Its long High Street leads downhill to a cobbled harbourside, where yachts and swans jostle for space and the lamp posts are decorated with brown-headed gulls or egrets resting their legs. I have always loved being close to water - be it sea or river or lake - as I always find it very calming for the soul. Sitting on the harbourside eating an ice cream was my idea of heaven. Of course, girls need to shop and Lymington did not disappoint with a variety of unique shops (and not the usual chain stores that you find in every High Street  just about everywhere). We ventured into the New Forest and saw expanses of heathland and grazing wild ponies who wander onto the road at a split second as you pass. You have to have your eyes on stalks to be prepared for them!

Lymington harbour

Lymington Harbour

Yachts galore at Lymington

One day we caught the Isle of Wight ferry to do a day-trip as foot passengers and went over from Lymington to Yarmouth, a quaint little "town" comprising of about two short streets of shops/pubs and no more. The ferry ride was again very relaxing and I seriously felt I was going "abroad". The weather was very sunny and balmy.

For our last day/night, we moved on to Christchurch in Dorset and again enjoyed walks by the river, seeing many yachts and hundreds of swans. The Priory and Priory gardens were amazing - mentioned in the Domesday book, the Priory is an amazing piece of architecture and as we wandered around we were treated to an organ demonstration being put on for some A-level music students who were visiting.

Christchurch Priory

Norman Hall of the Priory

Ship-shape town houses on the Christchurch waterfront. Price £1.3m.

Old ducking stool in Christchurch

As I had gone down by train and the trains drivers were striking that week, I was anxious whether my return journey would be affected, but in the event, the journey was not as ghastly as I had feared and I was home in the usual time. All in all just the break I needed to dust away some long mental cobwebs. 

10 June 2022

Things are going at a snail's pace.

Kay and her fiance's hunt for an affordable house in London continues. First of all most of the prices are completely unaffordable.  But that is not the only problem.  There just aren't enough properties for sale in the region they are looking at to be commutable to both their workplaces. In fact last weekend when she and her fiance went along the high street to introduce themselves to estate agents and see what was available, the agents just laughed and said they were one of thousands doing the same. Too many looking at too few properties. Which can mean only one thing - it is a seller's market!  The recent stamp duty moratorium has caused a rush and thus exhausted the stock for sale. Plus the fear of rising prices generally has now made people cautious to move at all.  Kay and her fiance are having to move to London to start new jobs as part of their training, so need to find something and as yet have never been able to stay in one place long enough to even contemplate buying, so have only ever rented.  As they are in their 30s now, they see this as their next proper home to settle down and raise a family. 

One very run-down three-bed terraced house needing lots of modernisation and hardly any garden was on offer in excess of £800,000. It's in a labyrinth of workers' houses built around the turn of the century - rows and rows and rows of them,  back to back. There is no way a young couple on the bottom of the housing ladder can afford that. Even the 10% deposit is out of most people's reach. Their search continues in the hope that more properties will come on the market. Meanwhile it is looking like they might both move in with me in August, when they start their new jobs, and put their furniture in storage until a house in their price-range miraculously appears. That or the bank of Mum will have to help them get on the housing ladder at all.