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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Monday, 11 September 2017

How to 'Escape to the Country'-- when you don't know a soul.

Ever tried moving to a completely new area......where you don't know a single person?

I've recently left a county where I spent half my life working, raising a family and forging close and long-lasting friendships.

But sometimes, your life turns a right angle, for all kinds of reasons. And so suddenly, I'm a hundred miles from a place I once thought I'd never leave. New house. New partner. New life. And neither of us has any connection whatsoever, to where we are.

Some people seem to make a habit of moving. It comes with the job if you're in the forces--I know people who've packed and unpacked their worldly goods and started afresh, dozens of times. Often, though, there's a forces 'family' around them to offer support and friendship and an understanding of their challenges and changes.

Then there are the compulsive house improvers--always looking for a new project, and happy enough to start it in a new area, maybe with a business attached. Or those whose careers require them to move up the ladder in different regions of the country every few years. Meeting new colleagues.

But in our case, we can both work pretty successfully from home. Loads of advantages to that. But no new work buddies to meet, in the canteen queue. Oh, and on top of that, it's a tiny village with a smaller than usual potential pool of friends to get to know. So this really is a case of starting over.

But in spite of the fact that there are just around 820 people in the place we now live, happily, six weeks in, it's all going OK.

Sure, it helps that we're pretty sociable, and curious about the people, and the world around us. But this little village has given us the best kind of welcome. The day after moving in, a lady called Susan popped round with a lemon drizzle cake and a card. 'This is from the village,' she said, 'to welcome you'. Another lady round the corner dropped a card through the letterbox to say hello, and to let us know that she'd call in soon.

The local cafe has turned out to be a real hub. Staff there have lived here a long time, and seem to know everyone, and where to find a builder, or a locksmith, or a taxi firm. The same cafe has pizza and one meal-supper nights. We signed up for those, and within days, found ourselves seated at a table full of people with stories to share. One invited us round for a cuppa and a chat. Working outside our new cottage, people have stopped to introduce themselves, and ask how the unpacking's going. (Slowly, actually...I'm still missing all my fabulous winter boots and a couple of cosy coats...)

So why here? We're lucky that the village is so friendly and has its fair share of social events going on--but we did our research.

We lived 200 miles apart from each other, and so we started looking somewhere in the middle, because our number one priority was to be within reach of our daughters--we have four between us. Each of them is now carving out a life of their own, making us empty nesters, but we were determined that they could all get to us, and vice versa, by car or train, and that we had a good link to London for regular, but not daily work trips and social outings, too. We travel abroad a fair bit for our travel website--we whizzed round the world in just 57 days last year--so airports needed to be within range for us.

Once we'd decided to try and immerse ourselves in a village that had a social life...AND was close to that link to London in just over an hour, the bottom line for whichever house we chose, is that it had to pass the 'pint of milk and a paper' test. Both of those items, in some kind of village general store, had to be within easy walking distance. And of course, a pub was essential--as another means of getting to know people. And the local beer, obviously...!

So welcome to the Cotswolds. To a village that has a great pub, a school, a church, sports clubs, a brilliant cafe with great coffee and those social evenings, and, as a fabulous bonus, a separate, community owned shop selling fresh produce, an incredible array of cheeses, home baked bread, cakes, pies and freshly and locally created 'ready' meals. And although we have a car, there's a regular bus service into a bustling Cotswolds market town just four miles down the road, with its own thriving theatre, and great pubs, shops and restaurants.

Luckily--after enthusiastic, daily sampling of all of that lovely local fare, there are also stunning walks at every turn--with a network of footpaths to try. Also, glorious, historic houses, and more honey-stoned Cotswolds towns and villages to get to know, too.

But above all, there's a great mix: people in marketing, IT, education, publishing, small businesses, and complementary medicine; and people who've retired. People whose families have lived here for generations, and people who, like us, moved in only months ago.

Nigel has a desk and his PC, and soon a new study, for his business calls. I have a newly fitted voiceover studio in the old boot room: state of the art recording gear drilled into 200 year old Cotswold stone walls. Away from our individual workspaces, ideas for , our travel website, get thrashed out over coffee at the kitchen table. The site's growing well, with our next trip, to Sri Lanka, being planned.

We'll definitely feel the winter chill on our return, so need to order logs for the woodburner. Someone at the shop's bound to have a name. And I need to find those piles of winter woollies. They'll be in a box. Somewhere.....

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