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It was exactly the RightMove!

17 August 2023

It was exactly the RightMove!

We only went and bought a house in Devon. London chums raised their eyebrows and reminded us that it was very hard to make new connections in a new place, at our age. But sitting in bed with my laptop listening to the shrieking of the hyperactive seagulls, checking the Teignmouth tides website for the best time to go for a dip in the sea, that was the last thing on my mind. Swimming is my new drug of choice. The sensation of sinking into the silky waves is utterly addictive. A rebirth, a baptism, call it what you like, but it’s doing me the world of good - as is the padding around in flip-flops and sarongs with sea-hair and no make-up, sand in the bed despite multiple daily showers, and the sudden and welcome detachment from shopping and all things material. I don’t care what I look like. How liberating is that? Well as it turns out I possibly should have cared a bit more. Six weeks after buying the house we still had no friends. It was getting embarrassing.

Will and I are party machines, we thrive on the company of other people, and yet we had spent over a month living this strangely isolated existence. Then one evening while he was working away, I spotted two ladies in the street behind my house enjoying a wine and a cheeky cigarette, whereupon I burst out of the back gate with my own glass of rosé, minty roll-up and burning question – ‘Are you my neighbours? I hope so!’ They weren’t but they were pretty local, and tipsy enough to give me their phone numbers so that was a start. From there grew the idea of having a housewarming gathering. I went through Facebook looking for friends of friends, while Will invited the dog walker, the estate agent and some guys he’d met on the beach playing chess, but still there were more no-shows than shows on the big day. My cheeky ciggy ladies messaged later to say they’d completely forgotten about it, and I sent a jolly text back saying no worries, next time… but secretly devastated. Thankfully Will’s family were down for the weekend to make up the numbers so the canapés got hoovered up eventually, but there was no escaping it. We needed to make more of an effort. 

Over the next few weeks we went to our local carnival, joined more Facebook community groups than you could shake a stick at, and I even took myself off to drumming club in the local village hall. Will chatted up some grannies in the pub and made friends with the local hardware store owner, but neither of us came home with any more phone numbers. Think Oliver Twist reporting back to Fagin empty handed. London chums were right. It wasn’t going to be easy.

Ask the universe for what you want, don’t they say? I mentioned the issue to one neighbour who suggested joining U3A which sent me into paroxysms of despair – what happened to my second age? How did we get to being pensioners all of a sudden? But needs must and we completed the online form for the old-people’s university before deciding to take the ferry to Shaldon and drown our sorrows in the pub.

This is where the universe steps in. ‘Sorry this is the last ferry over there today’, says the captain of the tiny boat that tos and fros across the estuary. Oh well, let’s go back to our local, we decide, and sit down with our pints to contemplate the sunset. Just then, Will jumps out of his skin as I spot a familiar face and yell ‘Sarah at the top of my voice. The woman who sat next to me at drumming club turns round in surprise. ‘Lucy?’ She brings her husband over, they sit down and next thing I know I’m in her book club (that is surely the ultimate honour) and she’s inviting us to a fire-pit gathering on the beach that starts in ten minutes. We go along, just to say hello, then we’re accepting drinks and putting the world to rights. And guess who’s also there – one of my cheeky ciggy ladies – we are finally reunited.

So now all I need is for those sceptical Londoners to come on down and join the non-stop merriment that is south Devon. No need to wait for your third age to make the move, and I have a whole gang I can bring along to your housewarming…

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