The Day I Fell into the River

A long time ago I went punting in Cambridge with some friends and a dog.

We took a picnic  and decided to moor up when we reached a quiet spot on the river. I was the most experienced punter and guided us with ease through crowds of tourists  being punted expertly by young students or whirling in giggling circles as their punt poles got stuck in the mud.

We saw a lovely place under a weeping willow and,handing the punting pole over to one of my friends, I grabbed the metal spike that would secure us to the bank and then did something really stupid.

I stepped onto the grassy bank with one foot while the other still stood on the punt.  You can imagine what happened next.

You are supposed to jump!

I was thinking this morning that my situation here in Catalunya has some similarities with that thoughtless action. Everything has been going  so well, I was confident and steering my course happily through life until,  suddenly and without warning my survival instinct deserted me and I tried to stand in two places at once, not realising that moving from one home to another requires that you make a leap of faith.

And here I am now, not at home in either place. I let go of all that was familiar and supportive in Cornwall and yet kept a firm grasp on my home there.  I still have that house even though someone else rents it.  My mind is partly there at all times, worrying about damp and storms, hoping the grass is cut and the roof is in place.  We go every summer and work hard doing what we can in a few short months only to leave it again and travel south.

Today here I am in Catalunya.   I have a home here  but it was never my own as I moved into my partner’s house when we began our relationship.  It has been in his family for generations.  How could it ever be mine?  Really I am like a long term lodger.  I worry endlessly about how to create a home here in Catalunya but am daunted by the idea of another place to take care of.

How much energy do I want to spend on maintaining houses?

Two of everything but not a home to call my own

Work, friendships, cars, home – I have two sets of each.  Endless keys, two mobile phones, two purses with different money and credit cards for each country.   Two doctors, two hairdressers, two beauticians for god’s sake!   My family are all in the UK but I have friends in both places.  In Britain I feel confident and strong – I know where to find an electrician,  I go to the doctor and it is easy to explain all my vague mid-life symptoms.  In Catalunya my daily life  is great and I enjoy it.  But there is the constant sensation that my feet are not on the ground.

Isn’t it a lovely dream?  New lover, a chance to learn two languages in another culture, Mediterranean food, sunshine, exciting places to explore.  Yes, it is a lovely dream

On the other side it has been a constant challenge. When I look back to my first years here I see how many ‘new’ things  I tried to assimilate in one big bite.

  • New relationship
  • Living with a man for the first time in ages
  • New family – being step mother to an adolescent was never on my fantasy list
  • Two new languages
  • New culture

Writing it like this makes it seem like a small thing.  I hear you say ‘hey, I could do that if I had the chance

But the reality for me was that it totally overwhelmed me.  I have had to lean hard on all my support systems.  I have never before used so much Skype, email, telephone.   This blog is part of my survival package.  Everything seemed so hard and yet I couldn’t decide if it was normal, or my fault, or that I was just in the wrong place.  And also I was happy so how could it be wrong?

It’s the indecision that creates the wobble

I stayed and tried harder, looking for every way possible to make myself a more flexible and accepting and patient person.   In the end I can see how much I have changed and matured in this process. I do feel stronger and brighter and happier and wiser.

But still I find myself hovering in this strange contorted position with one foot on the bank and the other on a moving object. I have certainly learned how to balance but it is not an easy place to be.

I have been here for five years now.  Isn’t it time that both my feet were together in one place.

There is a strange time warp just before you fall

Imagine that moment in the punt – that long moment when I realised I was in two places but fully committed to neither and that as the boat started to move away from the bank there was only one way to go.   It was a very long moment, one that seemed eternal as my mind took in the inevitable consequence that was about to take place. Arms flailing, throat letting out a visceral AHHHHHH,  on that day I fell in slow motion into the river.

And then surfaced again, laughing and laughing.

If it is time to fall then I am ready. My legs can’t hold out much longer!

Why do I write this here?

I am interested in the process of change in people’s lives and how they survive the stress and what they bring out of the experience.   I want to be as honest as possible about what has happened to me after moving to Catalunya.  In many ways I feel I have failed to thrive as I wanted to.   And yet I have gained things I never imagined were possible.  It has been much harder than I expected, much more challenging and I have felt insecure and anxious much of the time. Yet also much happier than I ever thought possible. Strange isn’t it?

If my experience is normal  then I want to write about it in case someone else finds it reassuring. And if in the end it is ‘just me’ then why hide it?

I made a list this morning of all the people I know who are incomers, foreigners, immigrants.  It was interesting to see that many of them arrived with an pre-existing partner or family.  They brought their own community.  Most of them created a new home  from scratch whether owned or rented.  Others who came alone often had a specific job to do or arrived with no intention of making this country a permanent home.

I only know one other person who moved country, changed language, started a new relationship, entered a step family situation and also lives in someone else’s home.  I know we have a lot of struggles in common.

My advice to anyone would be – if possible migrate in families or at least in pairs.  Prioritise your actual home and make sure it is at least half your own.  In this way you have solid ground under your feet and a safe place to gather strength when the inevitable challenges arise.




We arrived home in Granollers last night. So good to be here and after all the work and worrying it is wonderful to be able to stop at last.

Yesterday we set off in more rain from Cahors – it seemed to chase us ever south. But after a couple of hours we felt the change – that feeling of crossing a line between north and south. There is a temperature change but it is something more – a different light, something in the air, an easing of the bones.

I am sure the dogs felt it too.

We stopped in an Aire and walked up through some pines into a beam of sunlight

Blue’s tail was wagging – it was so good to see as I struggle with guilt about bringing her so far from Cornwall. She managed the hill more easily,  started to sniff around with interest instead of hanging her head despondently and I felt myself begin to relax at last.

When you live in the UK this feeling is wonderful when you arrive in a warmer country – those first steps off an airplane into a rush of hot scented air.  This time I realised it didn’t feel like a holiday – it felt like I was coming back to a place I belong. You couldn’t find someone who looks more northern than me but somewhere inside there is a mediterranean gene, there must be!


Hello I am Blue and I am writing a guest post for Kate’s blog. I don’t know where I am exactly but it is a long way from home. I slept most of the day in my cage which is where I feel safest when travelling. I was glad to be with Kate and Marta and Bonnie – for weeks I have been worried because it looked like a big change was afoot and I hoped I would be part of it and not left behind. So here I am in a big hotel and it looks like we are all going somewhere new which is a big adventure and quite interesting. We stopped a lot along the way and I used my new ramp – always with a biscuit appearing when I went in and out. I ate my dinner in a car park where it was very windy and a bit wet but it was good to know the food had been packed. Then we went in a lift – my first one ever – it was better than the ramp and so much easier than climbing stairs with my old knees.
Then – wonder of wonders – a tray of food arrived in the room – there was fish and chips!  Lovely!
I think I will sleep well in here although Bonnie doesn’t want to share the blanket with me so Kate got another bed for me and there are also the big beds of course. Perhaps she will go and get the ramp so I can get up!
We just went outside again and there were so many new smells that I didn’t want to walk far but suddenly there were cheesey biscuits again in front of my nose so I ran in the wind and the rain to a grassy area and then back inside to the warmth of the lift and back upstairs to bed.
When I know where I am – I will write more.

Thank you all for thinking about me – I am fine!

A mixture

My furniture arrived.


It took several hours to unload as they had only sent ONE MAN!   Luckily we were able to supply another!

2011-7 remouvals 003

The police were also in evidence due to traffic control. When all was unpacked the van wouldn’t start and the first police had to call for back up to come with jump leads!  Tea was served. And now the piano is sitting in place waiting to be retuned. What a change from the damp atmosphere of Cornwall.

2011-7 remouvals 004
Meanwhile here is a picture of the walk I took with Bonnie yesterday in the beautiful sunshine down by Lamorna Cove. It was a great distraction from all the worries of moving house.

……..and another of the cows crossing the road from dairy to field on my way down to Lamorna.  Never forget the life of these dairy cattle – their fully stretched udders from over production of milk and their lameness as they slowly and painfully walk the short distance from the yard to the grass. This herd is very well looked after – the farmers don’t shout or hit them, they walk beside them with a gentle hand resting on the back of the last and most crippled one to cross the road. But it is not an easy life for these animals as they provide us with our milk.
I always watch with sadness at the same time as pleasure at the old fashioned scene.

Duna the seasoned traveller

Duna has left Cornwall and is much missed by me, less so by Blue and not at all by Bonnie!
She arrived safely in Roscoff early this morning after sailing across from Plymouth and she would like to say that it was not the best way to travel. Brittany Ferries have several options for dogs going abroad – kennels, cabin or car. It depends which route you take and as the Plymouth – Santander route stops at the end of October, Duna went to Roscoff on the night ferry. She passed through the check-in easily with only a quick scan of her microchip, and then had to spend the ten hour trip in the car on the car deck. She could have slept through most of it except for the idiots who had forgotten to switch off their car alarms so the night was one long neek-neek, bee-bah bee-bah, nyang nyang nyang nyang.
But she is a seasoned traveller now and emerged this morning to have a pee and a potter on French soil before setting off on the long trip south.

Meanwhile back in Dolphin Cottage – floors and windows to varnish, boxes to pack, things to sort and furniture to move. Hoping that the log book of the van will come back in time for us to set off well before Christmas. The house still looks pretty full of STUFF !
I am missing my companions and now must seriously get on with the move.