Greetings from a muddy, grey England. Since informing you of our big news, I thought I’d update you on our search for the simple life in the UK. Maybe you think we’ve been idling away our days pining for Crete, hoping for an opportunity to fall in our laps? Not a chance. Over the last few weeks we’ve been viewing plots of land in the UK and throwing around ideas. Keep reading to find out about the opportunities we’ve stumbled across so far, midnight feasts, and how to make homemade runny yoghurt.
It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. I’m writing this whilst sipping hot milk and refraining from eating a whole packet of digestive biscuits. The old clock in my parents house hasn’t been wound up, so it chimes erratically, it’s confused, it can’t remember what the correct time is. I can empathise with the old clock, I too feel that I can’t retain or remember a thing. It’s a strange side effect of pregnancy. Has the blood supply to my brain been reduced? Is it to test the patience of husbands with fully functioning brains? I ask Mr SN the same question 103 times a day, and so far he’s been very understanding in a eye-rolling, tutting-whilst-smirking kind of way.
…and pregnancy symptoms…
This pregnancy memory loss malarky is mostly a hinderance, but maybe it’s a matter of perspective. I try to see the advantages in all situations. At present, I would make a fantastic criminal. It’s not been a viable career choice for me in the past, but nowadays I’m starting to wonder. I could sail through a lie detector test, whilst sipping Gaviscon to relieve my pregnancy-induced heartburn and making frequent visits to the loo.
The way I view it, the creators of the board game Cluedo overlooked a very viable suspect in their quest to catch the killer. We’re all familiar with Miss Peacock, Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum, but what about ‘pregnant women’? She can commit the perfect crime. Her weapon is of little importance, instead, her ability to forget will see her through. Murder? What murder? She’d say innocently.
Where was I? Oh yes…The beauty of living in an annexe attached to your parents house is that you have a back-up food cupboard. At 3 o’clock in the morning it’s definitely possible to sneak into the main house and rummage around in their food stash. I’m not saying that I’ve done that. I just mean it’s possible in theory.
Opportunities we’ve found so far…
Enough of the drivel. Time to get serious. Let me run you through the plots of land and opportunities we’ve found so far since arriving back in the UK.
1) 3/4 of an acre in stunning location:
This was our favourite plot, and although we were hopeful of buying it, it’s not looking very likely now. Located in the seaside town of Saltdean, with a backdrop of the Sussex South Downs, it’s perfectly situated. The 3/4 acre plot is covered with trees, except for a clearing at the top. Originally there was a hunting cabin on the site, and later, a little bungalow. Sadly the bungalow was burned down 30 years ago, however that means that there’s a high probability of getting planning permission. A few years back the plot was incorporated into the South Downs National Park, a protected area of outstanding natural beauty, so the planners are very strict with what gets approved. Our hope was to buy the plot and put a natural building of some sort, i.e a wood cabin or cob house, that’s respectful of nature and the surroundings.
It’s owned by one of my dad’s best friends and he’s keen to sell, but there’s another buyer who’s already invested time and money into trying to get his plans approved. We thought that the other buyer had exhausted his attempts of trying to build a traditional house on the site, but he’s already invested a lot of money, and wants to try again. It’s possible that this plot could become available again at some point, but we’re not going to get our hopes up. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo to show you.
2) 1/2 an acre of woodland:
This woodland plot is located on the outskirts of Bolney, just a 10 minute drive from all our friends and family. It was advertised as ‘strategic land’ and was described by the estate agent as ‘speculative land’. This basically means that due to it’s location, there’s the potential for it to gain planning permission at some point in the future. It initially sounded promising as it’s tucked down a rural countrified lane and backs onto vineyards and fields, but on further investigation, it turns out that the chances of getting planning permission for any kind of dwelling, even just a little off-grid cabin, is very slim. Although we loved the close proximity to our friends and family, and the countrified location, this plot would probably end up being a dead end.
3) Urban plot:
We found out about this plot through a friend of a friend. It’s the most unlikely bit of land in the most unlikely location, and most people wouldn’t even know it’s there. Situated in the middle of Burgess Hill, it’s only a few minutes walk to our friends and family, which is a huge advantage. Although we love the thought of being in the countryside, the ability to walk everywhere is a compromise we’d be willing to make.
It’s bordered on all sides by houses, and is currently attached to a large period property, but we hoped to buy it as a separate entity. This would have been possible as there is access through an alley-way down one of the adjoining side streets. We loved the fact that this little hidden alley opened up onto a large open space with tons of potential to make it into something amazing. There would have been plenty of room to put a little cabin, grow vegetables, keep chickens and have fruit trees etc. The chances of getting planning permission would have been much greater due to it’s urban location. We loved the idea of making a little sanctuary in the middle of our hometown.
“There would have been plenty of room to put a little cabin, grow vegetables, keep chickens and have fruit trees”
We never got to the point of discussing if we could buy the plot as a separate entity to the large house. Unfortunately, the developers viewed this plot a few hours before us, and we can’t compete with them. They are able to throw endless amounts of money at a project. I would assume that they will build several homes on this site and make a large profit.
4) Old Coach House:
This old coach house reminded us of something we’d find in Crete. It’s rare to stumble across a property needing so much work here in the UK. It has planning permission to be ripped down and a two bedroom house built in it’s place. We viewed it, but it was slightly out of our price range, and came with a tiny garden, which is useless for us. It looks romantic and ramshackle, but it wasn’t really a contender.
We’re always open to unusual options, and we thought about the possibility of living full time in a large motorhome. If we could also buy a bit of land, then we could have the best of both worlds, a moveable home, and a permanent plot to grow food and live simply. Unfortunately, even if you own a bit of land, you aren’t legally allowed to build or park anything on it (long term) without planning permission, which is almost impossible to gain without a huge uphill struggle. We still love this idea, we’ve found people that are living full-time with children and animals aboard motorhomes. It might not be most people’s cup of tea, but we’re not most people!
We’re still waiting for our perfect set-up…
We’re on the look out all the time, and we’ve only been back in the UK for a few months. I’m pleasantly surprised by what is available in the South of England if you really start searching. The thing that’s holding us back is our budget. We’re starting to wonder if we should look at business opportunities in order to increase our budget, and thus give us a wider availability of options. Perhaps thinking outside the box is the answer, rather than accepting the constraints of our bank balance.
Making homemade yoghurt:
There are aspects of living in Crete that we miss, but we’re confident that with a little determination we can achieve most of our lifestyle here. One thing we are committed to simulating, is the delicious food we ate. As a little nod to Greece, I decided to try and make my own homemade yoghurt. I dream of one day having a few sheep/goats and having fresh milk. Until that dream is a reality I better learn how to make things such as yoghurt and cheese.
Runny yoghurt recipe…
The recipe sounded so simple. You add some live yoghurt with the necessary bacteria, to some unhomogenised milk (milk that hasn’t had all of the bacteria killed off in the treatment process) and then wait for 8 hours. Voila, you now have yoghurt. What could possibly go wrong? This homemade yoghurt can then be used as a starter for the next batch of yoghurt. So easy.
As with most things I undertake, I don’t concentrate much and tend to improvise. My attention to accuracy is dismal, and in slap-dash style I usually end up with something far from the result I expected. This unique method has resulted in some interesting culinary concoctions. Let me run you through the process, perhaps you can see where I went wrong.
Step by step…
- Obtain live yoghurt and unhomogenised milk – Check.
- Heat two litres of milk until it’s almost boiling (85c) – I don’t have a thermometer, so I guessed the temperature bit. Shouldn’t be a problem.
- Let the milk cool down to 46c – Again I guessed the temperature, It did cross my mind if using a thermometer was integral to successful results, but the only thermometer I could find was in Mr SN’s tropical fish tank, and although I questioned removing it and washing it thoroughly, you’ll be glad to know I decided against it.
- Add 46c milk to some of the live yoghurt – Yep, did that.
- Put the milk in a warm place with an even consistent temperature for 8 hours – I put it in the airing cupboard wrapped in a towel. The only problem is that the temperature fluctuates in the airing cupboard. I’m sure that didn’t make much difference.
- After 8 hours, remove the milk and put it in the fridge – I put the yoghurt in the airing cupboard at 6pm…slight oversight…that meant the yoghurt was ready at 2am in the morning…not so much of a problem as I coincided it with a midnight feast.
So as you can see, I strictly adhered to the recipe and didn’t deviate at all. That’s why it was such a shock to find that my yoghurt was an unusual consistency. I was aiming for thick Greek-like yoghurt. Instead, I achieved runny, slightly curdled yoghurt. On the upside it tastes great, so not all is lost. Mr SN was very complimentary and said it was like those expensive yoghurt-drinks you can buy. We enjoyed the results with walnuts (brought back from our tree in Crete) and local honey.
It’s that part again, where I try and round off the blog post with a few random thoughts. Here we go: In reflection, I’ve learned that a) there are definitely opportunities to live alternatively in the UK, they are just hard to pin down, b) Making yoghurt requires a little more accuracy than first thought, and c) When sneaking into your parents house to steal food, it’s best to wash-up the evidence.
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