Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, we are moving Up North

I go quiet when I'm making big decisions. And this is one of the biggest decisions I've ever made. Me and M have joined Lancaster Cohousing*. We will be moving to a new eco-house in an intentional community on the banks of the River Lune, just outside Lancaster, sometime in 2012.


A. There was a confluence. Last winter was SO COLD. We could get warm, but it wasn't the natural state of affairs. The price of gas in recent years has really freaked me out. It suddenly feels like a finite resource. We are all going to have to live differently in the future, and our houses were built for the past. Our house is better than most - it's not damp, it's well-ventilated, it's well-built, it's cool in the summer. It's a lovely house. And it could be retro-upgraded - double glazing, external insulation, sheep's wool under the floorboards, wood-burner, new boiler.

But we can't afford to do that and still live there. True fact. Meanwhile, ex-housemate S and her Young Man are buildng an eco-house in Kennington. They are using phrases like 'passive solar', 'ground source heat pump', 'rainwater harvesting' and 'folding sliding doors'. Now, having seen how insanely stressful it is to self-build, especially when you're not doing standard things, and also having lived in Kennington, I didn't have any interest in following suit. I did realise, though, that I was getting major house envy. And I spend a lot of time in my house. The pub is only my second-favourite place.
One lunchtime at NGO X I was idly Googling for eco-housing in Oxford. Nothing. So then I widened it to Oxfordshire. Nothing remotely affordable. And then I thought 'but I don't even *like* Oxfordshire' (I like Oxford very much, but have never had much time for its environs). So I did a search for eco-housing in Lancashire, that being a county I do like. And there was Lancaster Cohousing. Hmm, I thought, it has communal stuff as well. I should tell M (who has long yearned to live communally. He doesn't see why we should all have our own lawnmowers).
So I emailed him the link and got on with my day. When I got home, he gave me his 'serious look'**, and said 'we have to go and meet them'.
For real? I said. But it's Up North! Yes, he said. I think I want to do this.
I left him to it, thinking it would be like the time he wanted to go and live at Gram Vikas, or the time he wanted to open a breakfast cafe in our front room -- both excellent ideas in their way, but entirely unfeasible. But before I knew it, he had called up the lovely L, had a chat with her, and agreed that we would go up for one of their monthly vegetarian-brunch-and-site-visit Sundays. We asked Tim and Beth if we could stay with them, they said we could, and off we went.
We were early for brunch at the Whale Tail that Sunday, and we were a bit nervous. It was all quite strange, though it's hard to imagine how it could be otherwise. Tim and Beth walked us there, and withdrew to a safe distance, and the co-housers started to appear. We ordered our veggie breakfasts and started talking to people. After a while, a man walked in bearing three giant (and clearly allotment-grown) courgettes. I thought 'he looks like he lives in East Oxford!'. I got talking to him, and it turned out he used to live in East Oxford. We had a conversation about plumbing.
Then we headed out to the site, in Halton, for a site tour. I stood on the riverside path (not far from where the photo above was taken two months later), with a weir to the left of me and a hidden garden built over a filled-in mill pond to the right, and some deep, slow-moving cog inside of me clicked round a gear. And I knew then that I wanted to do this too.
There are more questions, and I have answers to some of them. But the decision was made for us both on a totally different level, like an accident waiting to happen. So I will stop there for now, and come back to the detail...


* The website is about to get better, because there is now a web team. And it's us.
** A slightly set jaw and a hard stare. Makes me giggle.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations to you both.

Say hi to Polly:

"My favourite books have surprise mirror endings and my favourite food is sage and marjoram sausages."

(is that allowed?)


7:40 am  
Blogger Jo said...

The sausages? Yes, there is a minority omnivore contingent. (Although they may be veggie sausages, I have not yet ascertained Polly's views on this issue).

12:36 pm  
Blogger Jeremy Dennis said...

Wooohooooo! Congratumalations :D

7:27 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

Why are we moving north? Because last winter was so cold ... Okay, once I'm past that minor discontinuity, this sounds fantastic. You're an inspiration to us all. (I live in a building >100 years old, so not remotely ecological in its own right, but then I live in a flat on the middle floor which is beautifully insulated by my kind neighbours above and below.)

8:59 am  
Anonymous Helen said...

Never having ever thought of uttering the question: 'why are you moving north?', all I can say is 'fabulous, fabulous!'

10:45 pm  
Anonymous jonathan said...

I know this is a belated comment but I can't not comment on this momentous news. Congratulations and welcome home to The North and to the brave new world of shared lawnmowers (which I think M is quite right about by the way, and I would add to the list a number of other natural 'one per street' household items, such as jump-leads for freezing cars and those steamers for taking old wallpaper off walls. I also harbour a romantic attachment towards launderettes, and experience a sense of loss every time one of South Manchester's ones closes and is replaced by a kebab shop).

11:40 pm  

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