Oh, those Runkels We can hear you saying it.

Last year it was the World’s Longest Book Tour (WLBT) promoting Scone by Scone. Now What?  Oh, those Runkels we can hear you saying it.

Well, if you actually read the book (and it’s still available from our website), you may recall that the final chapter had us calling for a sunset on our career as innkeepers. Yup, after now seventeen years, we have in fact made it a fact that we are done with inn keeping as a career choice.

Launching our newest career

But, you wonder, what’s become of the inn? We thought you were living there.  The truth is, we were living there. But in the meantime, many of our former guests were booking the whole house, no amenities from June to October. So we left without a trace a minute or so before those guests checked in.  Our peripatetic skills meanwhile shifted into high gear and off we went to Seal Rock, Oregon for the month. Then we indulged our daughter (or maybe it was vice versa?) and house sat for some of July for her in Grants Pass, Oregon. There was gardening and watering and David’s favorite cigars involved here. Then we visited the Neffs in Kingston, Washington.

For the last few days, we’ve been back in our own bed because the inn wasn’t rented and it’s given us ample time to launch our newest career.

Wokingham, England – Here We Come!

As of August 2nd, we will become international house-sitters under the aegis of Trusted Housesitters.com. For the month of August, we’ll be in Wokingham, England taking good care of Emmy, a golden retriever who became three-legged a few years ago in a mishap with a car. There will also be some chickens to care for. And a five-bedroom house. And a Citroen 936 to drive about, hopefully on the right side of the road. Thankfully, we’ll be insured. And Emmy will point us in the right direction.

September was supposed to be on the northeast seacoast of Scotland, but that gig entered into five months ago went awry yesterday, so we are working on alternatives and hoping for something Scottish.  Deedie’s McFarquhar and Donnan ancestors left in the mid-1700s and we’d like to find some evidence of the clans’ existence pre-America.

Now you know as much as we know. We hereby promise to keep you posted on the latest from the UK, according to the Runkels. Brexit will not be at the top of the list for our reportage, and we hope that doesn’t disappoint you. Rather, you’ll hear firsthand of our experiences as they accrue, with lads and lassies, pups and chicks and the unforgettable human beings with whom we come in contact at Rotary Clubs, bridge tables and probably a pub or two.

Read on, dear friends. And hail to those who launch new careers at 78 — we think we know who they are!

Map of Wokingham, UK and surrounding area.

It’s almost enough to make you want to pack up, move to a Berkshire market town and take your chances. According to a new report published by Public Health England, Wokingham has the lowest premature mortality rates of all local authorities in England, with 200 deaths under the age of 75 per 100,000 (Manchester, which came out worst, had 455).

Wokingham is the best place to bring up a family

Oh, those Runkels We can hear you saying itResidents of Wokingham – not just the town itself, but the local authority area that covers part of Berkshire – are used to coming top in these sorts of quality-of-life surveys. According to a 2007 study by Halifax, the town was named best in Britain; average earnings of £744 a week put Wokingham residents in the top 5% earners in the country, and 84% owned their own homes, despite house prices being higher even than the south-east average. Last year, another survey named Wokingham as the best place to bring up a family, citing low crime rates and good schools.

What makes an area healthier than any other? “It’s the social, cultural and economic conditions in which people are born, live, work and age, across a whole life course,” says Dr Jessica Allen, deputy director of University College London’s Institute of Health Equity (this latest report wasn’t the IHE’s, but it is similar to its previous findings). “The fact Wokingham is prosperous, has high rates of employment and good schools will all have a dramatic impact.” It’s a cumulative effect, she says, and includes a wide range of factors from good housing and social services, to a sense of community and opportunities for social contact. “This also shows there are plenty of things that can be done locally that really make a difference.”

The Wokingham Festival

Kate Lole, who organises the Wokingham festival, an annual food and arts event, suggests that, aside from the affluence of the area, the strong sense of community has played a big role in local health and happiness. “For those who want to be involved, there really is something for everyone. There are music, arts, leisure groups and lots of free local events that bring the community together and get people talking to each other. I think the council really caught on to the idea about five or six years ago that these were all things that improved wellbeing.”

Michael Lawrence, an entrepreneur and chair of governors at a Wokingham primary school, cites the proximity to both London and the countryside as being the best of both worlds. “You have the possibility of a career in London, as well as lovely countryside nearby and lots of active things to do outdoors,” he says. “It can be stressful jumping on the commuter train, but you feel less stressed when you’re here.”

Quite a high number of vegetarians in the town

“It’s quite a wealthy place,” says Martin Gibbs, who runs the Vitality health food shop in the town. He says the fact that his shop has been going for 28 years, while others around him have closed, shows that “people are interested in their health, and have more money to spend on it. There are people who come in and don’t mind spending £50 in one go [on supplements and vitamins].” He also thinks there are quite a high number of vegetarians in the town, given the amount of vegetarian food he sells. “There are a few fast-food places in the town, but not that many – it’s more coffee shops,” he says.

John Harrison, a bellringer and semi-retired engineer, who has lived in the town since 1967, sounds a more cautious note. “It’s probably partly the regional benefits – it has affluent people, and we know the south-east is favoured in terms of investment,” he says. “But my suspicion is it’s also probably about the statistics – the Wokingham district is a slice of rural Berkshire that conveniently avoids the deprived areas of places like Reading and Slough.” He adds that although it’s a generally peaceful and happy place to live, it has its downsides: “Too many cars, and housing development pressure.” Which suggests Wokingham may be becoming a victim of its own success.

Read the entire Guardian article.