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Column: Failure is not an option

PUBLISHED: 10:09 25 February 2016 | UPDATED: 10:09 25 February 2016

Sybilla Hart with her four children

Sybilla Hart with her four children

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From Capital to Country: Sybilla Hart reflects on her new life in Essex after leaving London

I remember a friend quizzing me on what I was going to do with my time in the countryside once we had decided to make the great move out of London. I felt distinctly uncomfortable at her question: I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do, ‘with all my time’ in the countryside.

To be honest I didn’t have much of it in London and given that my children weren’t going to suddenly grow up overnight I couldn’t see that things would change a great deal. In fact, I was pretty sure I would not be lying prostrate on a chaise longue overlooking great swathes of countryside filing my nails.

As a mother of lots of small children, is your routine any different in a city than in the countryside? There are still copious loads of washing to put on, constant food shopping and endless clearing up to do wherever you live. In my experience, domestic life is no different in London than in Essex. Did my friend mean something else? Was she saying that the countryside was devoid of any life and basically boring? Being optimistic I was pretty sure I would be able to seek out some frivolity. I was right. The people of Essex are terrific.

This friend was of the opinion that other than turning into Mary Berry and discovering my inner cook, there wouldn’t be anything else to keep me busy.

I disagreed then and I disagree now. I have fairly mixed views on cooking at the best of times. I would say it is akin to looking after children in that the more effort you put in, the more you get out of it. I find if I prepare well, everyone ends up eating a more or less healthy diet. But keep up this show of shopping and cooking for a few weeks and I am ready for the family to exist solely on white bread and takeaways. On that note, I do wish that I had paid more attention in home economics lessons at school. I could have done with a bit more insider knowledge. My younger sister Natasha runs Beulah London, an ethical fashion label, and is a very capable lady, but I will never forget the time she once tried to mash an uncooked potato!

I can’t top that one, but I have had plenty of food disasters. At school, I turned up a little tipsy for my cookery exam (yes, we actually were tested on this subject). I had just been celebrating with a friend who had finished her A Levels and one glass of Lambrusco turned into four. The examiner passed me on the basis that when everything went wrong (the chicken didn’t roast and the soufflé didn’t rise) I remained calm.

Food disasters continue 18 years on: I have been known to substitute Nesquik for cocoa (result: foaming cakes) and use a cookie base for a cupcake recipe. A certain local Essex MP was very polite as he munched on his rose yoghurt cupcake. Strangely enough, he didn’t take me up on my offer of a second. My sister-in-law, Tasmia, is an amazing cook and adamant that all good chefs learn through disaster. This wise nugget can be applied to virtually anything in life (even driving tests). It doesn’t matter how often you fail, failure is only certain if you give up. So on that note, I hope to learn how to cook roast beef, make a cheesecake and raise well-adjusted children in 2016. I will not fail!

Sybilla Hart

Sybilla Hart is a freelance writer and mother of four. She has contributed to The Telegraph and The Lady magazine among other titles. She recently moved to North Essex from Fulham and she shares her experiences of this change of lifestyle in Essex Life. She has just passed her driving test and tries to stay on top of things with four children under the age of eight.

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