Tag Archives: dogs

A New Chapter

It’s Midsummer’s Eve and instead of saluting the sun’s last hurrah on the longest day, I’ve finally sat down to pen all my news to you at the kitchen table, dear Reader.  Except the kitchen table isn’t where it used to be.  To be honest, the kitchen isn’t the same kitchen I penned the last post from either.  You’ll have to bear with me, dear Reader.  I realise you haven’t heard from me in a little while.  It isn’t that I’ve dropped off the planet or heaven forbid, moved back to the Big Smoke.  No fear of that, I promise.  It’s just that everything on the writing front has had to take a bit of a back seat in the last few months as life required rather more input from me on the organisational front than I’d hoped for.  Let’s just say that there is a very long winded version of the whole saga that has been selling and buying a house but I thought you might enjoy the tale a whole lot more if I opted for a more succinct retelling. After all, it might take me all year to fill you in on the nitty gritty (really it was quite a rollercoaster ride) and I’m sure you’ve got better things to be doing like finding the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset with a large gin and a good book.  Trust me, dear Reader, it’s time to turn the page and begin a new chapter.

So you will have gathered by now that we are no longer living in the cottage.  In fact, we bid farewell to our beloved old timbered friend a couple of weeks ago.  Saying goodbye to the village and house we’d come to love was no easy task especially as Poppy can only remember life in the country – memories of London are few and far between for her even when Primrose and I tell tales of Richmond Park and Monty the pup.  It has seen many firsts for her as well as for us and out of all of us, I feel she is the most at home amongst fields rather than bustling streets.  To be honest, we’ve all changed.  I hardly recognise the Margot that left London four years ago these days.  Country life has been the making of us.

With barely any time to reminisce on memories made in our first foray into country living, the cottage was sold and new owners were chomping at the bit to move in.  Cue the first problem dear Reader…..  Nowhere to move to.   We’d already ruled out a fair few houses and buying was fast looking like it wasn’t going to happen.  “Rent”, all our friends exclaimed.  However, the prospect of trying to find somewhere to rent with the more boisterous half of Noah’s ark (yes, you, spaniels) needing a roof over their heads was enough to send me hiding in the under stairs cupboard with a bottle of gin.  Why was finding somewhere to live proving so difficult you might ask, dear Reader?  You see the problem was that we’d already fallen in love, dear Reader.  Hook, line and sinker.

A little house left for years tucked away down a farm track with 3.5 acres of knee high grass surrounding it.  A house which the girls and I passed every day on our drive to school, wondering who lived there and why no one wanted to buy it.  I can’t lie to you dear Reader.  When we finally decided to go and see it, it was love at first viewing.  The house had Jerry and I giggling like school children – the wood panelling, the leadlight windows, the beech trees, the original Edwardian taps.  I could go on.  It was like that magical moment when you know you just click with someone and you are rendered deaf and blind to the world around you.  In our case, it wasn’t someone, it was something.  The problem or should I say problems…?  We couldn’t afford it and it was a wreck……(and I do really mean that – the house had been shut up for nearly 5 years).  Oh and let’s not forget the final fly in the ointment, the vendor wouldn’t accept our meagre offer.  In the end after so much toing and froing with the agent, there was nothing to do but walk away.  So we did, despite some awful soul searching, gut wrenching conversations at 3am over nearly three months to see if somehow we could make it all work and trying everything in a desperate attempt to appeal to the vendor’s better nature.  I can’t tell you how much I cried.

However it seems that Fate had other plans.  Nearly four months after our final offer had been rejected, just at the point when we’d almost given up hope of finding anywhere to live, the house came back to us.  In fact, the timing could not have been better – that day we’d lost out on sealed bids on another wreck nearby (well you wouldn’t expect Jerry and I to be interested in anything habitable, would you?).  Utterly despondent when the agent rang, it took me a little while to realise she wasn’t joking!  The saying ‘When one door closes, another opens’ couldn’t have been more true for us. In this case, the door that opened was rather a pink one.  The rest, as they say, is history, dear Reader.

So that’s where Jerry, the girls and I find ourselves.  Sometimes you stumble upon mad things in life and sometimes there are the mad things that seem to gravitate towards you screaming “Do it, do it, do it”, dear Reader.  Well that certainly seems to have a habit of happening to Jerry and I…  Selling a perfectly lovely home to buy another isn’t particularly mad in itself, that is unless the house you are buying has no working kitchen, wet walls, leaky roof, dry rot, bathrooms unchanged from the Edwardian era, a condemned boiler, oil tank and gas hob. It’s amazing what you can easily gloss over when you fall in love, isn’t it dear Reader?

Jerry and I knew that the house needed a lot of work but we weren’t expecting a lack of running water for the first few days after we moved in.  I lived in fear of needing the loo!  We’re not even on mains water, dear Reader.  There’s a borehole and the water comes from the nearby farm. To add to the long list of things to fix, said water tested positive for E.Coli so it’s bottled only for the time being.  Never mind the fact that we’ve nothing but a camping stove and a gas barbecue to cook on.  Getting to sleep proved rather challenging on the first night too as visitors with hob nailed boots were jigging in the attic. Squirrels I prayed thought.  Only squirrels.  When the plumber arrived to fix the water tank the next morning, it turned out to be more of the other sort of rodents leaping about up there – you know, the ones with long tails, dear Reader.  Still, it seems that Poppy’s dreams of living in a caravan are coming true finally – it’s just that this caravan is not the shiny VW one she was imagining, it’s a large static one with brick and flint walls.

You’re probably thinking that we are entirely mad and you’d be right but bizarrely none of this seems to bother Jerry and I that much.  We have found home.  The girls are blissfully happy.  I watch them building dens in the new garden, making houses for faerie queens, climbing trees, taking turns in the wheelbarrow chariot and I feel so blessed that we have been able to make this happen for them.  It will take more than a lot of our blood (I’ve already been attacked by brambles just trying to free the windows that were stuck fast), sweat and tears to get the house working again and we’ll have to do much of it ourselves but it is all worth it when I see Poppy and Primrose enjoying their new surroundings.  As for the Monty and Dora, the cats and hens?  Well they have died and gone to heaven.  Not literally of course.  It’s all new to them too.  None of them have ever known such space from just outside the back door.

To be honest, I know it sounds awfully twee but we simply couldn’t be happier, dear Reader.  So you’ll have to forgive me for taking so long to pen this post but I’ve been waylaid by my new surroundings.  Each time we uncover something new from under thick layers of dust, peeling wallpaper or overgrown shrubbery, I feel the same way I felt when I walked into our new hallway for the first time and I just can’t stop pinching myself.  Lucky, just doesn’t even cover it.

So it’s time for a new chapter for Margot and Jerry.  Time to really turn our hands to the good life with all this lovely land we’ve now acquired.  I hope you’ll follow us as we attempt to graduate from haphazard bumpkins to full scale smallholders. Well, that’s the plan, at any rate, dear Reader….  Wish us luck!

Mad dogs and Englishwomen

moonOnly 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.

Wet dog

Is it true that dogs look like their owners?

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…….

More mud anyone?

More mud anyone?

Piddles, poodles and pups

Primrose getting some practice in!

Primrose getting some practice in with Poppy’s furry friend!

 “DAWWWWWGGGGGGIIIIIIIEEEEEESSSSSS” (doggies!) as a very dear friend of mine from the wilds of Scotland would say!  It is impossible to describe the excitement that has hit Margot and Jerry headquarters! Dear Reader, as you may have already gleaned from last week’s snippet, we are soon to be joined by a new family member, one of the furry kind.  Undoubtedly, this will add yet more madness to a household inhabited by a batty townie attempting the good life, her absurdly patient husband, a teenage 4 year old, 1 fearless toddler, a bi-polar cat who can run sideways and another rescue who is distantly related to raccoons and hides under duvets.  I am not even sure if ‘Mad as a March Hare’ cuts it…..perhaps certifiably insane would be more appropriate?  Before the animal rights activists come after me, I KNOW a dog is for life and not just because one is moving to the countryside…  Yes yes I am aware that having a pup in the house is extremely hard work and yes yes I also know that training takes time…..  I know all of this, really I do, dear Reader.  I am not a dog in a handbag kind of girl….my handbags are FAR too precious!  It is amazing how many people rolled eyes, drew sharp intakes of breath and mumbled that we were in for a year of disaster when Jerry and I shared our little announcement.  Perhaps our friends were worried having seen our parenting skills in action and were not sure that we should attempt to use them on a poor defenceless animal?  Almost everyone seemed worried about my ability to cope with toddler, 4 year old and wee puppy.  Other suggestions followed from dear Mamma that I should potty train Poppy at the same time as housetraining the dear pup to kill two birds with one stone.  Now that really would raise eyebrows amongst the yummy mummies in leafy suburbia at coffee mornings as I ushered Poppy with pot in one hand and dog on a lead in the other, out to the garden “Just popping out to take toddler and pup for a wee.  Do help yourselves to coffee.”  Brushing warnings aside (mostly through sticking my fingers in my ears), little puddles await the cottage’s wooden floors and on this occasion, not from the leaky roof.  However, anyone who knows me well, knows that I love a challenge……I am attempting the good life after all!

With no house hunting on the cards last week and the sale on the cottage in temporary limbo, I decided to put my idleness to good use and watch Crufts to pick up some doggie tips.  I was staggered to hear that over 20,000 dogs take part each year and that some even travel from far flung corners of the world.  The pampering and hairspraying of dogs reduced me to giggles but I have to admit to enjoying watching the gundogs.  Primrose and Poppy found the whole spectacle quite amusing too and Poppy practised shouting her best ‘Floof’ at the television with every doggie close-up.  Pom-pom bottoms and pooches – who could ask for more?  We dodged the use of the ‘b’ word a few times (such an unattractive word for a lady hound) and somehow in the process of watching dogs strutting their stuff, Primrose developed a staunch liking of poodles, trying to persuade us that it was the only dog worth owning.  Jerry put his foot down on the subject and said that if Primrose were to ever own a poodle, he might have to disinherit her…  Oh no, dear Reader, we are NOT poodle owners.  Nor would I be able to consider the prospect of having to identify myself as the owner of a cockapoo, labradoodle, shizhapoo, chihuaranian or any other ridiculously named dog mash up.  (Apologies dear Reader if you own any of the aforementioned doggies – I am sure they are a delight to own but I really can’t say their names with even a hint of seriousness).  Jerry was not quite so polite on the subject of dogs with silly names.  His priceless comment on labradoodles: “Surely the two different breeds can’t be interested in mating – wouldn’t they be offended by each other?”  I soon realised that forcing Jerry to watch Crufts was not going to result in him taking to the idea of ‘flyball’ or ‘agility’ seriously, as he was too busy vocalising his disgust of silly show titles (Jerry might have had a point….Nosferatu featured in one long kennel name) and laughing at dogs dancing to music.  I confess to tittering a little during Best In Show when the commentators were describing the dogs: “alert, full of character”, “Look at that swagger, he certainly owns the ring…”  In the end, I had to switch off as Jerry’s sardonic commentary was too much to bear!  Breed finally agreed upon, Jerry and I spent some time researching Kennel Club registered breeders (I say Jerry and I…..) and reading up on whether or not our puppy would be a good match for us.  With priorities well and truly organised, I then started making a list of all the extra country items I might need to go with the dog: wellibobs for quick garden dashes in the rain, coat with hood or alternatively a few headscarves (a la Her Majesty), further tweed items, floral lanyard for whistle and the list went on.  Jerry was soon regretting his decision…

My latest bedtime reading!

Bedtime reading!

Armed with puppy owner’s bible, The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey, I have now developed an unhealthy obsession with tweed dog beds, crates and gundog training.  Mothers’ Day even included an inaugural family trip to Pets at Home to make a puppy shopping list.   So without further ado, he is our boy…….A SPANIEL, a working cocker to be exact.  Temperament: Lively, perky and lovable, pleasant, gentle, playful and affectionate.    I know what you are thinking dear Reader, I have missed out the crucial part on the temperament front.  Spaniels are known for being a little loopy……….well they do say that dogs often take after their owners!

Our boy.  Just a few days old here.

Our boy. Just a few days old here.