For three months after I move to the country, I am told, I am going to be in the most almighty panic.
I will ask myself repeatedly what on earth I have done. I will have sleepless nights worrying that I should never have left London. I will wake in a sweat in the early hours gripped by the idea that I cannot possibly survive now I am not ten minutes’ walk from the Northcote Road.
And then, magically, one day, about three months in, I will wake up in my country cottage and look out of my bedroom window at the sea of green and say, ‘This is the best decision I have ever made.’
I’m really glad a few friends who have done this move have talked me through it, because I panic at the best of times. So the scale of the panic I will have after selling my flat to move to a cottage near the horses is likely to be monumental, cataclysmic, thermonuclear.
Never mind that I have been contemplating this move for an age. The idea is now a reality. I have a cash buyer, and my offer has been accepted on the dream cottage. It is happening.
And so with the major negotiations over, some finishing touches of research are vital. Because in my experience of being me, it is always the most unlikely, the most unusual, the most ridiculous and bizarre eventualities that put a spanner in my works.
Therefore, I must knock on the door of the house next door to my dream cottage and find out who lives there. It is just my luck that the only green-haired leftie in Surrey answers the door and reveals, during a conversation about the right of way round the back of her house to my garden, that she is a card-carrying member of Momentum just back from Calais where she has been helping Lily Allen adopt 38-year-old child refugees.
‘Lovely to meet you,’ she might say. ‘I’m so glad you managed to get your house sale through what with all this terrible Brexit nonsense. They don’t know what they’ve done, do they? Those stupid Brexit voters.’ And she would spit, slightly, as she said the B-word.
The other thing I must check, before I leave London, is that I’m not moving to either the Village of the Damned or the sort of place where they put a stranger in a giant wicker structure and set it on fire.
I’ve no real evidence, thus far, that the village of Ripley is anything like the village of Midwich, from The Midwich Cuckoos. No more glazed looks than in most villages you find. By and large, not an inordinate number of blonde children marching down the high street that I’ve noticed.
However, I am slightly alarmed by the size of the annual Ripley Bonfire. They’re building it this week, almost directly in front of the house I’m buying, which is on the green.
When I went there the other day to have another look at the place, to reassure myself, perhaps, to knock on next door to find out if a Corbynista lived there (but I didn’t dare), I stopped short and gasped at the sheer scale of it.
It’s really not just any old bonfire. It’s nothing like any bonfire I’ve ever seen. It’s the size of an office building, and has been constructed with as much architectural skill. The main structure appears to be so intricate as to require planning permission to pull it down. But of course it won’t be pulled down, it will be set on fire as people shriek with delight. I shuddered at the thought as I stood gazing up at it.
A notice at the entrance to the green said: ‘We do not need any more material for the bonfire.’
So the villagers have been enthusiastically bringing what they want to be burned and putting it on there, have they? Material. That word hides a multitude of sins. Shudder. I stared and stared, transfixed.
Maybe it was just my imagination, but the bonfire looked slatted, like it was hollow inside. Shudder.
As I was standing there, the trucks and lorries of a forthcoming fairground began to arrive and park up. Clearly, this bonfire event was going to be an enormous celebration. A fête. A ritual? Shudder.
Suddenly, I was possessed by the mental picture of a ghastly parade. To a banging drum beat, a blindfolded Brexiteer was frogmarched to the bonfire by green-haired women, along with a small herd of goats and a cow.
A sacrificial offering to the gods to reverse the falling house prices of Middle England? All I’m saying is, it’s as well to go to the worst-case scenario and work back from there.
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