Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Settling in (I): Home and work

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With everything in Cambridge closed out and all of the household things moved and re-distributed, I’m ready to settle into the next phase of things.  My temptation, as ever, is to get back on track towards  long-term goals, re-affirm things that matter in life, and make the most of the abundant opportunities at hand in Dorset. 

But over coffee or beers, friends have counselled that this is a time to take a break from all of that.   It would be better to relax, live differently, experience the people and places, and focus on this moment rather than past or future ones.

My home and office are on the third floor of a mansion in Poole, a block from the beach.  I think the home must be worth several million gbp: it has an electric gate, expansive woods,  DSC00449and a green belt behind it.  The living areas are huge and well-appointed, a bit more towards American styles even though the family is very British.

The family is warm and friendly, there’s active social and school life rushing through the house and I get included in coffee conversations when neighbours drop by and occasionally pick up the kids from school.   The refurnished the bedroom for me, it’s quiet and comfortable, and my office has relocated up the hall to the children’s craft room.  It’s a comfortable clutter with a bird clock that chirps the half hours, an aerie above the household bustle downstairs.

DSC00448 (1200x900)I’ve been settling in, making choices about how to live, what to have here, and how to arrange my time.  I’m trying to keep to the Dutch principles that ’work’ and ‘not-work’ times and places should be separate.  The ‘office’ is open from 9-5, and I have put all my computers, coffeemakers, and papers away in there.  Rewiring with multiplier outlets and organizing shelf space is complete, and the days have started to become productive, less empty than “Office days” felt like in Cambridge.

DSC00444 (1200x885)At the other end of the hall, I’ve got the bedroom functional, but am still figuring out the living / dining arrangements. The family gathers in the living room every evening for TV, computer work, and conversation, and its becoming a comfortable routine.  I do a bit of study or writing, flip articles back and forth with them, or join in the planning for quiz night or New Year’s Eve.  I’ve gradually expanded into the kitchen and laundry, just breakfast, lunch, and linens so far with a dedicated corner of the refrigerator and a clothes hamper.  I’m making sure to contribute back into shared milk and fruits that everyone uses: (‘not the typical life approaching 60!). 

The neighbours dropping by, the occasional trips to town to do school pickups, the store errands all have a lovely normalcy to them.   I’m listening to the mP3 player a lot less and learning about ‘sixth form’ and netball more.  I still wake a 4 am with too many running thoughts, but the wind in the trees is good balm for the spirit.

DSC00451 (1200x882)It’s a cross between family life and college life, and will work well for the next few months. My friends are right: the plans and goals can wait.

I worry a bit that it’s too detached a life: work is apart from people and meetings in Cambridge, the car and the days are my own, the family is good company but makes no demands.  There is the opportunity to slide into a lot of bad habits amidst this peaceful life.

I’ve disciplined myself to travel less, keep work in bounds, sit down for coffee and conversation, make time to get off the third floor and into the community and onto the beaches every day.  A month of just living in this moment, taking it all in and arranging a quieter life around me, seems like what I need. 

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