Moving to Scotland (in a pandemic) – Episode 3

The last time I posted was 7 months ago, and it simultaneously feels like nothing and everything has happened. Episode 2 of “Moving to Scotland in a pandemic” ended with me about to start my new job but struggling to get the whole house selling and buying process started. So a quick recap of June-December:

Leaving your job in a lockdown situation is really weird. I generally don’t like being hugged by random co-workers who you briefly worked with once on a project years ago, but having a farewell on Teams was just… really weird. My team got me an amazing leaving gift – a Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser and a Tatty Devine gift voucher – and I spent the day getting a bit teary-eyed at the lovely emails arriving in my inbox.

We also put our house up for sale as the lockdown eased and we started having viewings that we had to do ourselves. A very enlightening experience. One of the viewers criticised Husband for not “getting on the roof” to clear the moss. Enlightening.

If leaving your job in lockdown is weird, starting a new job in lockdown is even weirder. Especially as we still hadn’t moved to Scotland so everything was done online. Honestly, it was really hard, and I had pretty much no idea what I was doing for the first two months but I’m still there 6 months later so I must be doing something right!

July was also the month of my first post-lockdown hair cut. Never have I felt so relieved.

August went in a blur of packing up our house – we had secured a rental property in Scotland so the countdown to our big move was on. Both Husband and I had our pandemic birthdays – we just went out to lunch at our former local pub and continued packing. This feels like a long time ago now!

On the morning we moved, we woke up early to say goodbye to Fleet Pond – I had spent most of lockdown walking around it and the weather was beautiful on that last morning. We followed the removal van up through England and arrived at the rental shortly before midnight. We were both exhausted and slightly delirious from the drive so we pretty much went straight to bed, but not before wondering whether we’d made the right decision by renting somewhere without seeing it first. Scotland was still under stricter restrictions, so we didn’t get an opportunity to see anything before signing the contract. The previous tenants had left the place in such a state, and the house hasn’t been decorated in maybe 20 years.

After paying for a professional to come in and throughly disinfect the place, we have grown to love it – well, perhaps not love it but we have amazing views from the front and back of the Trossachs, the Campsies, Ben Ledi, (the photo at the top of this post) so it’s worth putting up with the freezing cold rooms and dilapidated wallpaper. We know it’s only temporary.

I started working on campus pretty much as soon as we moved, and have continued to be in the office since then. There are only 5 of us in the big office, but even though we’re all distancing from each other and keeping safe, it still feels odd being there. We also bought a brand new car – a cute little Audi A1 called Jonas who is 100% a boy racer car

Probably the most incredible thing that happened in October was seeing the Northern Lights for two consecutive nights above our house. It was incredible, especially considering it was only minor solar activity so the potential is there for it to be even more epic in future.

We went on many walks in the Trossachs which is only 20 minutes away from our house – we still need to find quiet loch walks as they can be oddly busy, but Lendrick Hill is definitely one of our favourites.

Trump lost. I cheered for many hours upon end.

I also found a new hair stylist who gave me the grey hair of my dreams. Yes, it took 10 hours, but I have never been happier with a hair colour.

Which brings us to the end of of this deeply unsettling year. We were put back into lockdown, temporarily released from lockdown, only to go back into lockdown on Boxing Day. As for Christmas, Husband and I stayed in Scotland and I cooked a fantastic lunch, if I do say so myself. We had our very first real Christmas tree which has been much less hassle than I was led to believe, and I spent quite a lot of the vacation worrying about my poor students who were unable to get home for the holidays. It certainly wasn’t how I expected to spend Christmas 2020.

But the biggest miracle is that we may have sold the house. We’ve had a fairly steady stream of viewings since it’s been on the market, but it’s an awkward property to sell – a small first time buyers house in an expensive location. But just before Christmas, we had two offers so hopefully we can start 2021 with a finalised sale.

I can’t wait to get back to some kind of normality for 2021, start searching for a house, and exploring this country that we now call home. And hopefully kickstarting the blog with some actual interesting content.

Moving to Scotland (in a pandemic) – Episode 2

Almost 2 months ago, I resigned from my job in order to move 450 miles north to Scotland. A reasonable person might have assumed we’d be a quite a significant way through selling our house, that we’d have put a bid in for our dream house, or that we’d be surrounded by our worldly possessions in boxes.

Sadly, the UK lockdown has prevented all of this from happening and we have made next to no progress. This week continued to be complicated albeit in a slightly different way – it’s now possible to sell our house in England, but the housing market in Scotland has yet to re-start. It’s kind of irrelevant anyway as it appears as though our original estate agent has furloughed their entire staff. I’m hoping they’ll be back soon as we really liked them!

There are a few houses in Scotland still on Rightmove to consider but you do have to ask yourself why they’ve been on for a long time (one in particular looks like it was the site of a couple of gruesome murders). I have found one spectacular Gothic mansion but it’s way above our budget – we might still put in a stupidly low bid but it’s doubtful they’ll accept.

We’ve accepted that we’re going to have to rent for a bit which neither Husband nor I have ever done before so that’ll be the next task to figure out. There does seem to be plenty of apartments around, but I’m not entirely sure if we’re allowed to move into them. It’s all so very confusing but I’m hoping for some clarity from Nichola Sturgeon this week.

On the plus side, the household waste recycling centres are now open, which is lucky as we don’t want to take very much with us.

And my local Starbucks has re-opened, so when it all gets too much, I can queue for an hour to get a frappuchino. Yes, it is worth it.

Moving to Scotland (in a pandemic)

Part of the reason why I haven’t posted on here this year is because I haven’t been able to share what’s been happening in my life. It’s quite hard to know what to write when I haven’t wanted to give away the huge plans that Husband and I have. Yep, we’re moving 400 miles from the south of England to the middle of Scotland. In a global pandemic.

About a year ago, we were on a trip in the New Forest with our Texan friends. They told us about all the different states and cities they lived as their children grew up, and we told them about our plans to retire to Scotland – somewhere rural, in a much bigger house than our tiny two-bedroom place, maybe with lots of land. Ooo, and an epic view.

Our trip was constantly interrupted with emails and texts from people at work – my team had just found out that a huge number of people were going to be made redundant, and I had started to worry about my own job security. As I became more and more stressed, Jack asked me if the job was worth it, and why don’t we just move to Scotland now instead of waiting for retirement. We didn’t have an answer for him.

Fast forward to Jan 2020 – I’d been making a half-hearted attempt at looking for a job in Scotland, but nothing had really caught my eye. I didn’t want to take a step backwards in my career and as I’m in quite a niche area, there hadn’t been that much to apply for. And then a job advert caught my eye – right salary, right skillset, slightly different type of employer. I sent in my application and crossed my fingers.

A couple of weeks later, I was invited to interview. Husband and I decided to make a mini-break of it – we’d both fly up after work and spend a few days in Edinburgh, one of our favourite cities. The night before my interview, I checked us in to our flight online, BBC News 24 on the TV in the background. I had just sent the boarding passes to the printer and told Husband to download the Flybe app when I heard the news reporter mention Flybe.

Yeah, they’d just gone under. After about 20 minutes staring in shock at the TV, hoping that there had been a terrible mistake, we gave up hope and started looking at alternatives – BA flights were crazy expensive, with the train just slightly cheaper. We booked two seats on LNER, and just hoped we’d get a refund for the original flights (we booked the flights through Virgin Atlantic. Over a month later, and we’re still waiting for that refund…). It meant we had significantly less time in Edinburgh which was a shame, but we did secure an upgrade to first class using Seat Frog which was a blessing as the train was packed with other Flybe passengers.

This was also the very start of the Covid-19 crisis, so my mind was all over the place during the interview. I was convinced that I had done terribly, giving messy, scattered answers. The interview took place north of Edinburgh, so I made my way back to the hotel we were staying at, looking forward to the commiseration kanelbullar that Husband had just bought me from the Soderberg nearby. Just before I got to the room, my phone rang with the call that would change my life – I had got the job. I got back to the room, told Husband, and burst into tears of relief.

That evening, we went to Bread Meats Bread on Lothian Road for the most incredible celebratory burgers, maple bacon sweet potato fries, and poutine). In a couple of months time, we’d be moving to Scotland, and my dreams of a proper grown-up house with an epic view would come true.

Well, I’m sure you can see where this is going. The day we were due to put our house on the market, the Covid-19 lockdown started in the UK and we’re a bit stuck. The job is still on, the move is still on, but I just don’t know when the new house is going to happen. We may need to rent for a while if we can’t buy (or sell!) but we still want to take that risk. I don’t want to get this close to living my best life only to lose it, so although it’s going to be hard, we’re going for it.

The photo at the top of this post is where I’ll be working. How could I say no to that?