I've been to Nottingham to visit Emily and Clare. I enjoyed catching up with all their news about jobs and Nottingham and knitting. It was great to see them both wearing knits that Emily had made during their year in Sydney - in a little more than a day I saw Clare in at least three different wonderful jumpers all made by Emily. And Clare's now spinning - beautifully!
Then, of course, there's the new house. Work on the very major renovations are due to start in a week or two and they're hoping to move in by around August.
The house has a great deal of charm, and it's much larger than I anticipated. Originally it was a coach house for a great house nearby, but over time it's been converted to a house through a series of not so attractive and very environmentally unsound additions. Emily and Clare's changes will make it warmer, lighter, more open and more sustainable. A significant part of its charm is the worked stone from which the lower floor is built, and the wonderful stone fence that integrates the property with the neighbourhood.
The garden is steep and terraced and I suspect will induce both Clare and Emily to learn at least a modicum of gardening. When I visited it was carpeted with snowdrops
and yes, that is frost you can see surrounding the flowers. It was bitterly cold.
And here, proud and hopeful home owner Emily outside her current front door - soon to be replaced. Don't be deceived - that's really plywood behind those so olde iron hinges and door fittings.
I'd never been to Nottingham before, and enjoyed my visit. It's the kind of middle-sized city of which I have little experience. I've lived in very small towns and villages, and very large cities, but nothing in between. I suspect living in such cities, and Nottingham in particular - has a lot to recommend it - less traffic and consequently greater convenience than a large city like London, cheaper house prices, and a wide range of amenities and entertainment - galleries, plays, good cinemas, restaurants. Nottingham also has two universities which I imagine adds to the vibrancy of its street life and entertainment.
[If you're wondering how I achieved this photo, we rode on the big wheel, currently in Nottingham town centre, just before sunset. Wonderful views of the city and surrounds].
Another advantage of smaller cities is their relatively easy access to the countryside. Emily and I visited Wollaton Hall just outside Nottingham. It was a brilliantly sunny Sunday, even though it was bone-chillingly cold, and there were lots of people walking through the grounds and around the nearby lake.
The house dates from Elizabethan times and is now partly exhibited as an historic house, and partly as a charmingly old-fashioned natural history museum. It's the kind of museum that has lots of taxidermy of large animals (even a gorilla) and dioramas in glass cases of small animals and birds. The children (and adults) poring over the exhibits seemed to love it.
Visiting Nottingham was fun.