With midsummer here at last, I’ve been wondering if we have been touched by a bit of that good old midsummer magic of late. Don’t worry we weren’t last seen dancing naked at dawn around a stone circle or joining a load of druids on a pilgrimage to mark the summer solstice. (Although, Jerry swears he was on the 18:23 from Waterloo with Druid Arthur Uther Pendragon on Friday night). No, nothing all ‘Glasto’ drastic as that. However, trundling along the parish boundaries in an ancient village church tradition to bless the fields and the beauty of our little patch of countryside, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Jerry and I had gone native, dear Reader. In a month or two, it will be the anniversary of our first year here and it is difficult to imagine us anywhere else these days. Continue reading
Dear Reader, I can only apologise for the wall of silence from me of late. It has been one thing after another lately! Water coming through the ceiling, trees coming down making roads impassable, escaping chickens, 3 cracked windscreens (twice on my car, would you believe it?), 2 flat tyres, 1 pair of favourite trousers ripped and the week from hell when Poppy caught the norovirus and was very ill indeed, resulting in our first trip to a countryside hospital! I wish spring would really take hold, dear Reader. The four of us are sick of the rain as I am sure so many of you are too. Our school run route is under water and we can see sandbags are out, water is being pumped on to country roads and carpets have been taken up. Farmland is awash with water and the landscape is more brown sludge than green with flecks of white snowdrops and yellow daffodils. Still, we must be thankful we are not in Somerset. My thoughts go out to those poor people.
I found myself ever grateful for the wonderful nature of country folk around here a week ago. Trying to get home after dropping Primrose off one morning, I found myself face to face with rather a lot of water.
Luckily for me, a very nice chap in a tractor (Poppy still hasn’t got over that a tractor stopped to talk to us) stopped me before I went any further. The road was in the process of being closed (no guesses as to why…) and there was even more water further down – only really just passable with a 4×4 and certainly not with a puny school run car. The ‘very nice chap’ looked me up and down and asked if I had any wellies in the back. I replied that I hadn’t but I did have a rather smart working cocker spaniel who enjoyed a swim. Judging by the bemused look I was given, it would appear, dear Reader, that Monty on this occasion would be of no use….and wellingtons would have been a more sensible addition to the boot that morning. Said very nice man then told me to follow him through the water and I proceeded to drive through the wake of a tractor until I reached a dry track again. I also received a very much needed lecture of the list of countryside must-haves for the boot of the car should I find myself in a similar pickle in the future. To the ‘very nice chap’ – you are my hero of the day!
I’m afraid it didn’t stop with watery incidents either that day. Jerry’s supposedly trusty Lanny giant got a flat battery and Jerry and I spent half an hour in the dark trying to extract the enormous thing from the car in the freezing cold before attempting to recharge it in the laundry room. I am sure that this sort of stuff only happens to us. It just hasn’t been our month. Still, as someone said to me this week, we must count our blessings and looking at all the flood water in the surrounding countryside, I have to say, our lot could be far far worse. There was even a hint of a rainbow this morning so that has to be a sign that things are on the up, wouldn’t say, dear Reader?
In all the recounting of chaos, I forgot to tell you dear Reader, that Monty, our gorgeous spaniel boy, turned 1. Any excuse for cake. He even got a feathery birthday treat when Henny, our little brown hen tried her special ‘escape from chicken Alcatraz’ number and shimmied under the fence. The birthday hound saw an opportunity to embarrass me further chasing her all round the garden whilst I ran after him in my dressing gown, pyjamas and wellies, yelling “Leave”. I imagine that our neighbours had a good old giggle at my expense that morning.
My silver lining finally appeared though……a couple of nominations in the Mad Blog Awards for Most Entertaining blog, Best Blog Writer and MAD Blog of the Year. Whoever you are – I could kiss you for nominating me. I got the tweets just as I thought the week was a complete dead loss! I hold no hopes out for winning but the nominations have cheered me up no end. So….THANK YOU! I raise a gin to you!
1st February marked St Brigid’s feast day (patron saint of cattle, chicken farmers and dairy maids to name a few) and the beginnings of early spring. Time to leave winter behind and embrace the coming of a new season. Rain gods – hope you are listening up there? 1st February was also a milestone for us: six months of living in the countryside, dear Reader. Strange to think that it has been six months since we shut the door of our tiny railway worker’s cottage with a SW postcode and left the Big Smoke. London seems a distant memory these days and it is difficult to imagine that we could live anywhere else now. Visiting our dear friends Minty and Tree up in Oxfordshire made me realise how much time it can take to settle into the ways of village life. Sometimes it can be very hard to get used to. Minty is an out and outright townie and misses the wandering of high streets and the buzz of city life, whereas Tree seems quite at home. Perhaps it is because the one at home has to work so much harder to fit in to a new way of life and establish new friends? I almost envied Jerry’s commute in the beginning, so I can sympathise with the serious amount of energy required and having to summon up the effort to join in and find one’s niche in the local community. Embracing it wholeheartedly is the thing, dear Reader and I can report that village life is never dull here with people always popping in to say hello. I am still getting used to the fact that a knock at the door is usually followed by the visitor coming in and yelling up the stairs for me if I am not in the kitchen!
With shooting season over, our little corner of Hampshire is beginning to show signs of spring appearing – that St Brigid must definitely have something to do with that. Pockets of snowdrops have appeared and villagers have insisted on us visiting nearby woodland to see the snowy white flowers appear in a patch planted up in a guerrilla gardening raid by one of the village elders some years ago. Gardening is well and truly on the agenda for Jerry and I too and we have begun the mammoth task of transforming our own cottage garden. Trees have been cut down, shrubs removed and now, the garden looks more like a building site than a tranquil plant haven. Years of jungle growth had left the dear old cottage will little light coming through its windows and a garden that Primrose and Poppy couldn’t run around in. So continue to dig we must. I am not sure I have ever seen myself as filthy as when digging in the flowerbeds. Jerry talked of hiring a rotivator…..but to be honest, dear Reader, can you imagine that machine in the hands of townies like Jerry and I? Bet the village would turn out to see us getting it all wrong! As it is, our neighbours have had to replace a dilapidated fence along our boundary because Monty has been hopping over to relieve himself on their lawn. There can’t be a household in the village that hasn’t giggled at the chaos that has descended on the old cottage in the village in the last six months.
Marking our six months of rural living was a wonderful and long overdue visit from the fabulous Tom and Barbara with our darling godson. There was wine, wine and more wine followed by talk of their smallholding and new business ventures. I admire their spirit of adventure! Tom and Barbara have well and truly embraced all things country with 4 hens, 2 pigs, a new business, 2 dogs, renovating a farmhouse and plans for so much more. I’m not sure Jerry and I are ready for that much of the good life quite yet but I think that we are a long way from the townies that arrived all those months ago. Barbara’s description of our village still has me in stitches, thinking of it even now: “It’s like Midsomer, without the murders!” I suppose it is in some ways but then I always did like a bit of drama.
Despite all our calamities, we continue to welcome in our own version of country living here and have even been invited to join the Parish council! The vicar triumphantly bellowing something about inviting the young people to give their tuppence worth. I am not sure that the dear Reverend has any idea what he is letting himself in for….Margot….on the PARISH council….oh dear. They’ll be asking me to become a church warden next…..now that would never sit with my gin soak reputation, would it dear Reader?!
Only mad dogs (Monty) and mad Englishwomen (clearly Margot) would leave the house just after 6am for a trek through a muddy wasteland. A full moon this morning made me feel even more crazy than the villagers already think I am. Mud mud mud everywhere. I do promise dear Reader that I won’t bang on about the weather but we are beginning to feel as though we ought to have bought an ark rather than an old cottage leaking under the pressure of days (weeks….months…..need I say more) of torrential rain. Our sitting room ceiling has had a soaking and the bay window has the added glamour of being covered in a tasteful blue tarpaulin to allow for some drying out. Fat chance! With yet more rain on the cards, the wet dog and I have been forced to venture out for early morning walks as these days, Poppy (a demon of terrible twos), has taken to refusing to walk for more than 100 yards before sitting in the middle of the road, screaming to be carried. All efforts to sit in a backpack have fallen by the wayside as she is now far too big for it and before you suggest it, dear Reader, getting her to hitch a ride in the buggy is a battle of wills which only the steeliest of grown ups could face. I have more than a handful of times carried her on my hip for a mile whilst Monty pulls us along but quite frankly, that idea has now been binned as completely impractical too. So walking in the dark before dawn is the only option the poor hound and I have left for now. Donned in my finest garb (muddy boots, black beanie hat, one of Jerry’s old jumpers and even muddier jeans), I look a magnificent sight first thing in the morning, I can tell you. The headlamp strapped to my head is an added style bonus (thanks Juniper for that Christmas pressie). Usually I am up to the woods and round the village before being spotted. However, not this morning. A voice called out good morning from a muddy field (another mad Englishwoman with headlamp on tending to her horses in the field across the road) and I was forced to hold a conversation with no make up on and looking the picture of country glamour. Note to self: Do not scare locals first thing with your ‘just got out of bed’ look. Some things are better left unseen.
I seem to spend my life looking like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards since we moved from town to country. Gone are the days when I used to look into the wardrobe and find a pair of shoes and matching handbag for every outfit. Footwear of choice these days? The ever practical WELLINGTON BOOT. Can be worn for any occasion I don’t doubt, dear Reader. Lordy……just realised that I might just be morphing into Barbara – can’t remember the last time I wore a pair of heels (or shoes come to think of it) that weren’t covered in mud.
Jerry and I even trek to dinner parties in wellies – I say trek, more like stumbling on and off roadside verges yelling at the sight of headlights along the lane or wading across fields in the dark with a dodgy torch panicking about being eaten by foxes, badgers or the mythical village mountain lion. (We still haven’t got the hang of not being able to call a taxi to get us home. Why are there NO taxis in the countryside?) Perhaps my new wardrobe saviour will be these little beauties from Rollasole? Love the idea of having a pair of stylish flats curled up in my handbag (more likely the pocket of Jerry’s Barbour) ready to wear when I reach my destination! How did I not know these existed? Maybe I can persuade Jerry to buy me a pair in every colour…….
It seems so fitting to be sitting here writing this post in the first days of January after our first countryside Christmas, dear Reader. 2013 was such an eventful year: swapping kaftans for tweed and heels for wellies, leaving behind the Big Smoke for rural Hampshire, getting a gundog pup, Primrose learning to live with mud, Poppy learning not to eat it, Jerry living out his dream of driving his own Lanny, CHICKENS……I could go on. Not to mention the beginnings of Margot Tries the Good Life world domination in written form. So one couldn’t blame me dear Reader, for half expecting Christmas to be a bit of let down after all that! Amazingly, it wasn’t. However, most of December was rather bumpy with Poppy succumbing to a hideous bout of the hand, foot and mouth virus and the four of us having to live in quarantine with the sign of the plague daubed on the door. After two weeks of illness, followed by Poppy turning 2 and then the mad dash to prepare for Christmas, we were all looking forward to a bit of festive peace and quiet.
Luckily for us, the week of Christmas proved less fraught. Never have we felt more at home than here in our little old country cottage. Rather spectacularly, the village seems to have well and truly embraced us and the whole of the festive period felt as if it had been stolen from The Archers’ airwaves. My contribution to the church flowers was infinitely better than my first attempt at Harvest time, Poppy and Primrose dressed as angels to form part of a tableau around the crib with some dear little village shepherds and everyone roared with laughter when a grumpy Poppy yelled (rather loudly I might add) in the middle of the prayers “I don’t love you Mummy” when I ran out of sweeties to bribe her silence. I turned my hand to Christmas wreaths and even managed a bit of countryside recycling when my dear Pa turned up with this……
and I fashioned it into one of these!
Jerry’s family – I do promise (truly) that I did not feed you what was left of the pheasant when you came to lunch….thought I had better declare that……just in case, anyone was worried….!
Moving on… We enjoyed the hospitality of several villagers and settled in to the swing of all things Christmas. I was accosted to form an impromptu choir for the service – only to find that there were quite a number of villagers who have been hiding their musical lights under a bushel. One even turned out to be a recorded artist and entered the choir practice in full voice, trilling vocal warm ups. Amazing, the things one doesn’t know about one’s neighbours. Christmas Eve proved to be a wonderful evening with Ma and Pa in tow, children snug in their beds, stockings hung by the fire and a magical walk along the starlit lanes to Midnight Mass. A goose from our local farm shop went without hitch and I even managed to churn out a cake with the girls.
Say nothing about Robin Pinkbreast, dear Reader – Primrose was utterly delighted and I spent the whole time telling Christmas guests that it was all the children’s work…
With 2014 ushered through the cottage door, I have had time to think on resolutions and wishes for the new year. More tweed is certainly on the agenda, learning to shoot a gamebird is well and truly up there and tackling the awful jungle of a garden has to be priority number one. Meeting one of the organisers of the New Forest Show over lunch, I was almost persuaded to enter and ‘show’ my chickens. Oh and the vicar already tried to twist my arm to join the Parish Council to represent the young people. Not quite sure that I am ready for the challenges of either of those yet!! Apparently, Jerry says we have to start sorting out the cottage and redecorating too. Perhaps now would be a good time to lock myself away in the study and pretend to pen a little chapter of a book or two? Sounds like 2014 is going to be just as hectic as 2013…. Dear Reader, I do wish you and yours a very happy and prosperous 2014. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading, supporting and telling others about my little blog. Without you, 2013 really wouldn’t have been half as brilliant!