My daughter was a year old when I got obsessed with the idea of moving to the country. We lived in Camberwell, south London, at the time and even though I loved the house, with its pocket-handkerchief garden and scruffy Georgian facade, I hated the traffic and noise.
In the space of a few weeks, one neighbour was mugged in the next alley-way and another had her bag snatched while her two small children looked on. One night I glanced out of the back window to see flames soaring 20 feet into the night sky. Joyriders had stolen a car down the road and set it on fire next to our fence.
Then out of the blue my husband was offered a new job in Blackpool. Within weeks we’d let our house and rented a farmhouse in the wilds of rural Lancashire. Our friends thought we’d gone completely mad. The way most of them reacted you’d have thought we were emigrating to Siberia, not 200 miles up the M6.
But it turned out to be the very best thing. Downham is one of the loveliest villages in the country. It looks like something out of a picture book – complete with pub, church, post office, stream with ducks, even a nursery school. What more could you ask for? We were entranced by the clear air, stunning views and hearty walks up majestic Pendle Hill.
My son was born in Lancashire (and still supports Blackburn Rovers in fact) and I’m sure the lifestyle there, playing on his bike and swinging on a rubber tyre hanging from a huge oak tree near the house, gave him a lifelong passion for outdoor pursuits. When a friend came up from Manchester with her young son she marvelled at the way he hared off down the field. “I’ve never seen him run that far before,” she said. “At home I always have his hand clamped in mine. I’m terrified to let him out of my sight.”
But sadly, after a few years of living up north, we had to move south for work. With the children growing up fast, the idea of living round the corner from schools and shops seemed oddly appealing. So we decided to have a change and moved to Oxford – where even now, the novelty of being able to walk out of the house at all hours to buy bread, coffee and a bottle of Pinot Grigio still hasn’t quite worn off.
PS: My husband’s finally succombed to the inevitable and bought reading glasses. I helped him choose a chic tortoiseshell pair in David Clulow and texted a picture to our daughter. “Are you trying to make him look like Bill Nighy?” she texted back. Hmm, she’s got a point. Since Bill Nighy’s my number one pin-up, I think I probably am.
Picture of Downham: Lancashire County Council