October 7, 2006

A Year In Cornwall: Blog On Extended Leave


If you’ve come here looking for our blog A Year In Cornwall, you’ve come to right place. While we’re no longer in Cornwall, the blog is still here, with photos and stories of the almost two years we spent there. It was a time that was both wonderful and difficult, and like many thing in life, if we were to do it again we would do it quite differently…but that will have to wait for a future posting.

In the meantime we’re back in Northern California. Nathaniel is in 2nd grade. Sebastian is in pre-school. Rosie (the dog) flew back in February, after we bought a new house. I am currently working as Director of Engineering at a startup in Silicon Valley, and Rachel is starting a new career as a life coach. In other words we’re smack dab back into the life we left behind.

I don’t know when we’ll have a chance to live overseas again, but I’m sure we will. I think I’d like to live for a year in the Alps – somewhere where we can put the kids in school, ski for a season, and meet some interesting people. I’ve heard that Canazei, Italy might be a good place – if you think that’s true, or if you know other places we should be looking at in France, Switzerland or Italy, please let us know.

Until then, I have a couple of more Cornwall stories to tell…look for them soon.

With kindest regards,
– Frank and Rachel

My Favorite Stories

  1. Starting At The Beginning
  2. Where Are We?
  3. Train Riding As Sport
  4. It’s Not About Me Anymore
  5. Going To The Doctor For A Gunky Eye
  6. Do Pigs Poop Hamburgers Out?
  7. Am I Hitch Hiking Or Driving?
  8. The Stars Are Brighter In Cornwall
  9. What Are We Doing in Cornwall?
  10. Apples and Blackberries From The Garden
  11. Time As A Luxury Item
  12. Remembering The Things They Say And Do
  13. Currency Games
  14. Hovering Somewhere Over The Atlantic
  15. Driving On The Wrong Side Of My Brain
  16. A Present Giving Kind Of Day
  17. Wet And Windy In Port Isaac
  18. Learning To Crawl By Crawling Backwards
  19. The Land That Stop Signs Forgot
  20. Thanks For Your Feedback
  21. Close Encounters Of The Cornwall Kind
  22. Blogus Interruptus – Off To Florence
  23. Welcome to Pisa: “No War, Yankee Go Home”
  24. If It’s Monday It Must Be Perugia
  25. Some Things Right And Wrong With Italy
  26. Italy Wrapup
  27. Remembering My Father, 1930 - 1999
  28. Food As A Motor Control Incentive
  29. First Impressions & Too Many Degrees Of Freedom
  30. They Called It New England For A Reason
  31. The Brits Are A Bit Nuts When It Comes To The Beach
  32. Did I Really Go Surfing In November?
  33. Our Very Own Christopher Robins
  34. Trip To Southern France
  35. Happy Thanksgiving To Our Family, Friends and Readers
  36. How Old Is It Anyway? [Guest Entry]
  37. Best Wishes For A Happy, Healthy And Peaceful New Year
  38. Getting Our Pets To England
  39. Playing Music Again
  40. Settling In To Cornwall
  41. To My Valentine
  42. Life Reboot
  43. Frank’s Wood - Bluebells, Communion and Stepping Stones
  44. The Extraordinary In Our Lives
  45. Making Life Simpler – Part I: No Forwarding Address
  46. Welcome To Surrey, Just Keep Your Dog At Home
  47. And What About Those Two Boys Of Yours?
  48. The 7-11-ification of Politics In America
  49. The Power of Language
  50. Moving To England – What Do I Bring?
  51. The Price of Gasoline
  52. Year 1: An Emotional Rollercoaster
  53. Moving To England – Getting Stuff There
  54. Status Update: January 7, 2005
  55. Questions About Cornwall Life
  56. On Missing England
  57. Things I Like About England - I
  58. Things I Like About England - II
Posted by: Frank @ 10:02 pm — Filed under: Comments (3)

January 2, 2006

Daddy, Are We Going To Move Again?

Yes, Nathaniel, I’m sorry to tell you, but we’re moving again. (But then again maybe I’m not so sorry, because we’re doing it for you!)

Where do I begin this story? It’s long, and a bit convoluted, so maybe the best place to start is at some random beginning, say, exactly one year ago today.

A year ago we were still living outside of London. And on that second day of 2005, Rachel and I were drinking a glass of wine, trying to decide whether to stay in Leatherhead (outside of London), or move back down to Cornwall. For a variety of reasons…house, schools, peace and quiet (ahhhh)…we chose Cornwall.

Fast forward to July, 2005. The Cornwall house we were staying in was built in the 1860’s, purchased by Rachel’s father in the 1960’s, and given to his children – Rachel, her sister Kate, and brother Jonathan – upon his death seven years ago. They rent it during the summer to pay for the upkeep and the taxes, and so we had to be out for most of July and all of August. We considered renting a caravan and living in the bottom garden, but Rachel really wanted to spend some time in the U.S., and so we decided to move back to San Francisco for the summer.

We’d taken what had turned out to be an extended two year sabbatical, and while we hadn’t run out of money, there’d been a lot more coming out of the bank account than going in, and so I decided to look for a job, preferably one that would let me work remotely, i.e. in Cornwall. During an early 2005 trip back to San Francisco for some meetings related to Web Photos Pro I met with a company who was interested in having me do a photo product for them, and so I returned in mid-April to help design the product. They seemed pleased with the design document, and we started negotiations on a long term contract, one that would, I hoped, allow us to return to Cornwall.

While I was back in the U.S. on that April trip, I stopped by a friend who lived on a houseboat, and went to an open house on the next dock over. To make a long story just a little bit shorter, we decided to put some money back in the US housing market, and bought that houseboat. We figured we’d use it for the summer, fix it up a bit, and then rent it when we left. (The best part about buying the houseboat is that we did it all via phone and the internet. Yep, the whole thing. Our agent, Paul Bergeron, sent us PDFs via email, we printed them, signed them, and faxed them back. The only thing we had to do in person was show up for the close of escrow, which we did the day after we landed. A fantastically easy process, thanks to Paul, the lender, and our escrow officer.)

And that’s when the first bump in the road appeared. Just after we closed on the houseboat, the company I’d been consulting with decided to lose a cool $100 million in their 2nd quarter, and they cancelled the project. “Wow” I thought, “that sure puts a damper on on things doesn’t it?” After getting ourselves unpacked, I got in touch with old friends, and found that two had new startups. After a couple of interviews I took a job at one of the startups, in San Mateo, and while it doesn’t have anything to do with photos (unfortunately), it’s interesting work, with nice people, including some old friends from Apple.

So, we’re back in the U.S. We live on a houseboat. I have a job at a startup. And then September rolls around, and it’s time to put Nathaniel in school. And here’s where the part of the story entitled “why we’re moving” really begins.

It’s funny, but when we started our trip, and this “A Year In Cornwall” blog, Nathaniel had just turned four, and Sebastian was a babe in arms at three months, and schools weren’t even in the equation of what we were going to do, and where we going to live. But then we put Nathaniel in the little local Cornwall school – St. Minver – so that he (and we) would have some friends. And then we moved up to London and he attended two different schools: first, New Lodge, a private school in Dorking ("public school” to those reading this in the UK) where he wore a tie a jacket to reception (kindergarden to those reading this in the US) – cute beyond belief – and then to the sweet local church school, St. Michael’s in Mickleham, which was just as delightful.

Now it may seem that I’ve gotten off the track here, onto schools, but one of the things we learned from those three schools, is that a school is most definitely defined by the headmaster/headmistress (principal for those of you in the US). How the head meets you that very first time. Whether they take time to show you around, or are “too busy” to give you more than a couple of minutes. How proud they are to introduce you to everyone you walk by. All of these things are a good indicator of how well they run the school, and treat those within it – teachers and students alike. Nick Lane at St. Minver is a great case in point…he spent 45 minutes with us that first time, showed us every classroom, introduced us to everyone who walked by, asked anyone who wanted to talk with him if he couldn’t meet with them later, and showed a level of enthusiasm and excitement for his job that we found later bubbled over onto the teachers and children in equal measure.

But back to Sausalito and schools. It’s common knowledge that Sausalito has some of the lowest scores in the state. This is primarily because most of the kids are from Marin City, snuggled against the hillside between Sausalito and Mill Valley, home to a lot of poor folks who live in the projects ("Council estates” to those of you reading this in the UK). And this is where I cringe a bit because it’s also common knowledge that there’s a lot of “white flight” going on in Sausalito, and all the rich folks either move out of Sausalito when it comes time to send their kids to school, or they send them to private school. Unfortunate, but true.

So with that in mind, and the fact that I grew up going to public schoolsl (US public, not UK public), we looked around. We looked at the local public schools. We looked at private schools. We weighed the cost of sending one, and then two (once Sebastian comes of age), to private school. And then I did the math. Let’s see…$12,000 a year…that’s a $250,000 mortage. $24,000 a year…that’s a $500,000 mortgage. Hmmm, maybe it’s time to look a little closer at the local schools.

So after a lot of discussion and a couple of teary sessions, we decided to send Nathaniel to the local charter school. Turns out it’s a very nice school. They have a nice new building, a new playground, and the class sizes are small – just 18 in first grade (though with 4 boys and 14 girls it’s a little bit lopsided). So we took the plunge and placed Nathaniel there. And I’m happy to report that he’s done very well. He has a fantastic first grade teacher in Ms. Lurie. The children are mostly well behaved by US standards (which are, unfortunately, a bit lower than UK standards). He’s learning to read and do math by leaps and bounds. And they have some fun extras in his classroom, like naturalists from the nearby conservation center, yoga twice a month, and music once a week. But that’s where it seems to stop. There’s no sense of where the school is going next, how it’s going to improve, how it’s going to find more room as it grows, and most importantly how it’s going to attract the Sausalito children who currently go to private school.

I called my aunt Cayo the other day. She’s lives on Cape Cod, is in her 70’s, and spent 35 years teaching high school in Newton, Massachusetts. I told her about our problem, and mentioned that we weren’t sure whether we should get involved, or simply move. Maybe one of us should run for school board I said. Maybe we should be meeting with the headmistress regularly. Maybe we should be, well, I don’t know what. Cayo’s unexpected response was “If good leadership isn’t in place already, you’ll spend the rest of his elementary school time trying to make that happen, when you could be spending time making a good situation better. You should move.”

Sound advice we decided. And so with some of that unspent private school fees burning a hole in our pocket we found ourselves a very nice house above Tam High school in Mill Valley. It’s not our forever house, but it’s got good bones, has been nicely finished, and best of all – given my penchant for projects – has a couple of things that can be upgraded in the future, but don’t need to be right away.

We’re both excited and nervous about the move. Nervous that it’s a big step up financially. Excited that we’ll have room for the kids to run around, for Rosie to join us (she’s still in Cornwall…but that’s another story), enough extra room for friends and families to come stay with us (please do!), and best of all we’ll be able to send Nathaniel to Mill Valley schools, which are purported to be some of the best in the state.

Well, gotta go now, because I’ve got a couple of bathrooms to redo before we put this houseboat on the market. And if you know anyone who wants a really nice two-bedroom houseboat, let us know.

Happy New Year all!

Love from Frank and Rachel

Posted by: Frank @ 7:04 am — Filed under: Comments (2)

September 2, 2005

Where Are We Now?

Two years ago we left California and headed to England. A month later we landed in Cornwall, and I began this blog.

I did a reasonable job of writing in it for the first six months or so, and I found it a great way to record what we’d done, as well as try to make sense of what we were doing. Unfortunately as my photography programming project took more of my time, I found it harder and harder to find the time, or the inclination, to write.

It’s too bad too, because we had a lot of great experiences during the last 18 months that I could have, and should have, written about. I did keep a list of writing topics here on my computer though, and so I’ve decided to see if I can’t get back into the swing of writing by switching between writing about here (Sausalito) and there (Cornwall).

So, look for a series of shorter vignettes about our lives which are split mentally, if no longer physically, between Sausalito and Cornwall.

With kindest regards,
– Frank

Posted by: Frank @ 5:15 am — Filed under: Comments (0)

March 13, 2005

Daymer Lane House For Rent

To rent this house please use the John Bray website for bookings.

Take that long weekend you’ve been putting off…no more excuses…bring your laptop, plug in to our broadband connection, and keep in touch with the office in between walks on the beach, surfing at Polzeath, golf at St. Enodoc, or dinner at Rick Stein’s.

House on Daymer Lane. Lovely old Cornish ship captain's house, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, sleeps 8 comfortably.
House and garden
The Garden. Large garden with room for badminton and football.
Garden
View towards Stepper Point (across from Polzeath). From the cliffs at Daymer Beach.
View towards Stepper Point (beyond Polzeath)
Daymer Beach towards Rock and Padstow. Fantastic beach for swimming, rock pooling, wind surfing, and walking.
Daymer Beach towards Rock and Padstow

Master bedroom with bath

View of St. Enodoc Church from Master bedroom

2nd bedroom with separate bath
(3rd bedroom with single bed and bunk-beds not shown)

Living room

Eat in kitchen

Eat in kitchen

Daymer Lane House For Rent

A traditional Cornish house, built in the 1860s, stands in its own large secluded, sheltered garden, very close to the sea.which is just 200 yards down a beautiful lane at Daymer Bay; where youll find a stunning sandy beach at the mouth of an estuary, thats ideal for swimming, sandcastles and rock pooling adventures.

From there, it is just a mile across low grassy cliffs to Polzeath with its famous surfing; then on to the traditional fishing cove of Port Isaac over high craggy cliffs.

Or, walk a mile and a half in the other direction to Rock, with its great sailing and challenging links golf course. From there, take a ferry to Padstow, for easy cycling along the camel estuary and its magnificent birdlife; then back to dinner at Rick Steins famous seafood restaurants and great value fish & chip shop.

From the upstairs windows you can see Daymer Bay and the estuary on one side, and St. Enodoc Church and the golf course on the other.

The house has four bedrooms, and sleeps eight (8) comfortably. It includes two double bedrooms (one with ensuite bathroom), a single bedroom, and a bunk bedroom that sleeps 3. There is also a travel cot for infants and lots of childrens books. There are two bathrooms upstairs, and a downstairs loo.

Other rooms downstairs include:

  • Kitchen/dining room, with woodburning stove, gas cooker, electric oven, microwave, dishwasher, fridge, large selection of plates and serving dishes, and many other cooking utensils.
  • Sitting room with open fire, sofa chairs, colour TV, VCR/DVD, stereo CD player, upright piano and board games.
  • Study with single sofa bed, chairs, telephone/broadband internet connection and a wide selection of books.
  • Rear hall/utility room with washing machine, tumble dryer and high chair.

Pillows, blankets and duvets are provided. Linen and towels are not.

Posted by: Frank @ 8:43 am — Filed under: Comments (13)

February 12, 2005

Questions About Cornwall Life

One of the things I love about writing a blog are the comments and emails I get. I’m always amazed by people who have found this blog for some unexpected reason. Not so unexpectedly I’ve received a number of emails since the US election, from people asking about moving to England. And the other day I received this email from someone thinking of moving from Ireland to Cornwall. Here is her email and my response back to her:

Hi,
 
Just stumbled across your website and found it really interesting re your move to Cornwall.
 
I used to live in the UK till I was 13 and then my parents took me to Australia to live where I lived for the last 19 years so I used to be a Brit (well, still am really!). Anyway, my husband is Irish and Feb last year we moved to Ireland to live. I like it here but prefer to live back in the UK and have many fond memories of Cornwall from my holidays there as a child. My husband is about 60% convinced by me that it would be nice to live there but we obviously need to plan/think about it some more as we are starting to get set up in Ireland.
 
My question to you is: I’ve heard that the Cornish community is a bit insular and that it’s hard to meet people - is this true? I know it helps if you have children and we have just had a baby so that would help but he isn’t anywhere near school age. Also, I’m curious re meeting people our own age (we are both 33 this year) as I’ve found this a bit of a problem where we live in Ireland (everybody seems to be either under 13 or over 50!) - how is Cornwall for this? Also, are there any areas in Cornwall you would recommend/not recommend to live? In Australia we lived near an artsy community that was into health shops and easy living etc.. and I’ve always thought of Cornwall as that sort of place.
 
Any advice you can give me would be great.
 
thanks

Stephanie

Hi Stephanie,

Let’s just say it’s not like California where everyone wanted to know where you were from, what you did, and did you want to take a hike next weekend. No, it’s quite a bit more insular.

We had an unfortunate experience when we first moved down where we invited a Cornish couple over for dinner, and the response was a very clear “no thank you". But since then we have made some good friends, and we’ve made them through our son’s school. They’ve been almost exclusively transplants like ourselves who have moved down from London looking for a different lifestyle. Nathaniel’s five, and I can’t imagine how we would have met anyone if he hadn’t been at a school where we dropped him off in the classroom, and waited outside with the other parents in the afternoon. If he’d been in high school for example, it would have been much harder to meet anyone.

If we’d been near Truro or Penzance or St. Ives, we might have met people through going to the theater or music, but there isn’t much of that near us here, unless you play the violin or guitar and sit in on music nights at places like The Trewarmett Inn up near Tintagel. I got involved with the St. Minver Parish Plan planning group, but had to drop out when we moved up to Leatherhead (though now that we’re back down I will get involved again).

In terms of easy living and health food shops, you might find some of that in the larger cities – again Truro, Penzance, St. Ives. There is one health food shop in Wadebridge, and a couple of funky-ish cafes in Bodmin, but I wouldn’t characterize either of them as centers of easy living. In the villages you’re lucky to have a Spar or a CostCutter (neither of which is known for its health food selection or alternative lifestyle patrons), and maybe a local farmer who sells seasonal vegetables.

Rachel got involved with a group interested in starting a Waldorf school in Cornwall, but the parents were so spread out they couldn’t agree on where it could be built so that most of them wouldn’t have to drive 40 minutes each way (amongst other issues). And I keep threatening to play my violin more, but haven’t had the chance since we’ve been back down.

I don’t mean to turn you off of Cornwall, because it is an amazing place. But for those considering being here fulltime – who aren’t retired and looking for nothing more than peace and quiet – a lot of internal fortitude is required to wait out the gray days of winter until the flowers of spring arrive, followed by the warm winds of summer.

All the best with your decision,
– Frank

Posted by: Frank @ 12:29 pm — Filed under: Comments (47)