Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And so it begins....

I have fallen in love.

No, not with a man. With a house. A cottage to be exact. A cottage with a prosaic name to fit its Jane Austen-worthy location. Lily Batch Cottage on the Mells Park Estate in England.

And for this love, I'm going to uproot my life and leave an America and begin a life as an expatriate.

The word expatriate sounds so cold, as if I'm abandoning my original country for another. I feel instead that I'm taking on an adventure. A big adventure. A big, BIG adventure.

Depending on how far you want to go back, I have to thank 9021o for not bringing me back to the show this year. The LA Film scene has been dead and after the complete crew changeover after last season, I found myself at home, typing....and, for the first time in 3 years, got a taste of what having a social life was like...and I liked it. In the days of working on sets, 60 hour weeks, 14 hour days, 5 days a week, starting at 7AM on Monday and wrapping at 3 AM on Saturday morning, I didn't see friends, boyfriends (when there were boyfriends to be had) and barely got to see my dog. I was lucky to have my backup job working as a transcriber that I'd done on and off for 8 years....yes, I was poorer than I was when I was working on a set, but I got to choose my life. The freedom was, and is, intoxicating.

My expenses though were on a champagne style when I was now on a microbrew budget. Not poor, but no caviar dreams either. With a $2,000/month rent house and $450/month car, something had to give. I told my landlord that I was going to have to move and find a place that was $400 a month less....and he agreed to give me 6 months at $400 off. Huge. But also my health insurance would be running out May 31st, which meant $420 more a month in COBRA. So come June 1st, I'd have $820 in expenses more than I could handle. Something was going to have to change. The question was what?

So leaving 90210, I realized I was tired of script supervising. Not of the industry, but of the job. And where to go from there? Didn't want to direct really. Settled on network/studio development and love the idea of the job, but to get that job in the States means taking a $35,000 a year admin job for a couple years to get groomed for an exec....and even getting that admin job is tough.

Then came the job posting for Aardman Studios in Bristol. On one of the LA joblists it showed up, looking for a Junior Develpment Executive. Aardman, who produces Wallace and Gromit, needed someone to do exactly the job I wanted to do...and it was in Bristol. I could work in the UK - I have dual citizenship because of my mom - she's off the boat from Finland - which allows me to work anywhere in the EU, including England. And we'd spend a glorious week in June out in Porlock for my brother's wedding last June. Porlock is about an hour east of Bristol down tiny windy roads into the British countryside near Exmoor National Park and we played croquet on the lawn, drank wine and looked out at the water toward Cardiff, Wales. It was lovely.

So Aardman started me thinking about living in England. I figured I had nothing to loose, so I sent in my application. And then started looking for places to live....and I stumbled upon my first crush: Church Lodge at Orchardleigh House.

Orchardleigh, a mid-18th Century huge manor house in the countryside, was too far to go to work in Bristol, but I loved the little cottage. No idea what was inside, as no one had pictures, but it was on fantastic grounds. The estate is primarily now used for conferences and weddings and part of the grounds are converted to a golf course.

But this little house got me thinking....what if I just moved there anyway? I could type there as much as could in the States. And maybe I become a writer. Or an artist. Or something. And yes, while the taxes were high in the U.K., I was currently paying California taxes as well as U.S. taxes, so no small number either. And the rent here would be 695£, the equivalent of around $1,130 - $470 less than my current rent in Los Angeles! That's the negotiated rent, mind you. Come June 1st, that would be $970 cheaper! Not to mention "free" health insurance.

I started asking about it but wasn't brave enough to just put in my application....and in the meantime, sadly, someone else rented the house.

But there was another, even greater love on the horizon. I had seen it, but dismissed it as the price was too high, but when Church Lodge was let, the estate agent suggested Lily Batch Cottage. It was in the same neighborhood, generally, though closer to the small town of Mells and a mile farther out from Frome. I told her it was too high for me 850£, but she said the owners would negotiate down to 700£...5£ more than Church Lodge.

Lily Batch, or Lillybatch, sometimes called Lily Batch Lodge....

At first I thought it wasn't as perfect as Church Lodge just because I had had my heart set on that cottage, but the more I looked at it the more I loved it. And loved it. And loved it. This turn of two centuries ago little lodge (1794) was set on the grounds of another estate, but this one wasn't commercial like Orchardleigh. And the house was 2 stories and looked off towards a pond. The crazy part? I haven't seen the inside. I got a general idea of the inside layout when I stumbled upon a post on a Frome Yahoo! group and got in touch with a gentlemen whose mother apparently lived in Lily Batch from 1963 until October!

So many questions I have asked of the very patient estate agent, Amanda, and now, finally, I've asked for an application.

The adventure begins.

Christmas is upon us, so hopefully nothing will change in the meantime, but I am waiting for Amanda to send me the application so I can sign up to get Lily Batch. What do I have to lose? I have to convince my parents to take my dog, Otis, for 6 months until he's clear of the UK rabies quarantine, and my sister, Jennie, to take the cats for the same reason, but then why not? I plan on selling most of my things but even if I put them ALL in storage I could go with nothing on my back and still have lower expenses than here in the States!

I did discover a nasty little thing called Council Tax which you have to pay in the U.K. for the property, even if you're a tenant. It varies depending on the value of the property, but it'll estimate at 700£ to 1,000 £ per annum. That would make my rent go up by an estimated $100 a month (or 70-100£ as it's divided by 10 months), but still...even then less than the house here.

I've looked at other cottages, and while there are plenty out there, cute, quaint and quirky, this location can't be beat. 0.5 miles down the road to the little village of Mells that has shops and some pubs and then 4 miles down to Frome, a rather large town of approximately 27,000 people. 30 minutes to Bath, 45 to Salisbury, 50 to Bristol and 2 hours to London. Southwest England, exactly where I wanted to be. At the worst, if it's hideous, I live there six months and move....we'll just have to see...

Stay tuned....


  1. Kirstie, that is fantastic! I am so very happy for you and really hope it works out beyond your wildest dreams. It will be fun to follow this page as you keep us posted. Warmest wishes, Valerie

  2. Ahhhhh.... yes! Follow your heart, it will never fail you. What have you got to lose but to wallow in regret for not trying. What a beautiful chapter to add in your book of life ; )
    Keep me posted!