First Night in the Country

I am sitting on the 18:20 out of Paddington, packed with commuters heading home to Reading and Oxford. My destination, Kingham, is further west still. My hand luggage, two pillows sitting loose on my lap and a rolling suitcase stuffed with sheets and towels, jostles for space in the sea of laptop bags and briefcases. I am on my way to spend my first night in our new cottage in the Cotswolds, carrying a makeshift bed.

The only real explanation I have for why my husband and I have bought this cottage is to get a good night’s sleep. In London we have an upstairs neighbour in our Victorian conversion who keeps us up late at night, hosting what I presume is a midnight furniture rearranging league. The logical choice for spending the modest inheritance husband came into earlier this year would have been to upgrade our London flat to something larger and quieter. And I like to think husband and I are rational people. We have nine to five jobs and retirement funds and exercise regularly. But the truth is this is not the first time we’ve applied an overly complex solution to one of life’s problems — moving to England from L.A. because I didn’t like my boss springs to mind, but that’s a story for later. And so we chose instead a flooded, two hundred-year old cottage without central heating located a mere ninety miles from where we work. There was lots of time to change our mind while the place was drying out. But here I am, three stops away from crossing the threshold of our very own rural idyll.

The cottage is still rough around the edges. The living room floor is stripped back to cement — a result of the floods — and there are unwelcome remnants of the previous owner’s taste like lavender polyester floral curtains. But there is also a wood burning stove, an elm window seat, and church bells that chime each hour. In the morning, birds will join the bells.

I’ll be back on a train to Paddington in less than twelve hours. Husband and I leave for Florida for Christmas vacation tomorrow, and this brief visit to our new Cotswolds cottage was the only chance before we are back in January. It’s worth it already.

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