Tag Archives: villagers

Embracing it all


The first signs of spring

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.

Phase 1 in operation: jungle demolition.

Phase 1 in operation: jungle demolition.

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?!

Embracing it all

I’d say these wellies were pretty at home here.

Always have biscuits



Well, dear Reader, I do apologise for my tardiness in posting but things have been blissful chaos here of late!  Last week was the first week of Jerry’s daily commute back to the Big Smoke and the first week for the girls and I to brave it in the sticks alone.  Quite surprisingly, the house, children, puppy and pussycats were all intact at the end of the week.  I, however, needed a rather large gin!  Trying to get things done in the house has been nigh on impossible, not least because the girls and I have been very distracted by all the sights and sounds around our new digs.  Primrose, Poppy and I watched with glee as the combines rattled up the farm track and the fields of rapeseed disappeared.  The farmer (a stereotypically grumpy farmer as described by his wife!) must have been rather bemused watching us staring at him at the edge of his field as he carried on with his harvest routine.  An incredible thing for two small girls who are used to the hustle and bustle of city living.  I still haven’t tired of hearing Poppy whoop with delight and yell “Tractor” from her bird’s eye view of the countryside in the backpack, every time we greet farmland at the top of the bridleway!  Pure magic.

Our secret passageway towards glorious fields of wheat.

Our secret passageway towards glorious fields of wheat.

I know you are dying to hear all about the village, dear Reader and believe me, it really hasn’t disappointed.  I feel like I have walked into a scene from a Jilly Cooper novel most days.  Gifts of vegetables continue to flood in from the villagers, offers on cut price game birds and invitations to tea, lunch and drinks parties.  I feel more sociable here than I ever did in London.  Still waiting to spot Rupert Campbell Black on a sizeable stallion though….!

The slow gin looked very impressive...shame no tastings on offer.

The sloe gin looked very impressive…shame no tastings on offer.

The local village flower show proved a delight. The entries were suitably charming and the comments were hilarious……clearly a leaf taken from Paul Hollywood’s (Great British Bake Off) textbook of harsh judging.  A seriously competitive business and some impressively polished silverware for the mantelpiece at stake.  I hear, over the garden gate, that one year, pots of jam were marked down for lacking a doily.  I stuffed a rules and regulations handbook into my ridiculously townie-sized tote to give myself necessary ammunition for next year’s show.  I am determined to prove that Margot can give the bumpkins a run for their money in the jam stakes.

Monty pup has settled in well but has caused quite a stir with local dogs, landowners and has only just narrowly missed a run in with the gamekeeper.  Turns out that he is rather interested in the fat little partridge who taunt him at every turn on our walks.  Back to training for us and walks on a long lead for the foreseeable future.  God help us when the gamekeeper releases the pheasants….  In the meantime, Monty is happily decimating local wildlife on the doorstep and devoured a live toad last week.  WHOLE.  I leapt in to intervene but it was too late as I watched it still wriggling as it went down.  Deeply distressing but all part of nature as Jerry said when he returned from London to a wailing woman in the kitchen, worrying about karma and whether or not it might have been a prince in disguise.

As if butter wouldn't melt....

As if butter wouldn’t melt….

The house is starting to take shape now and finally we unpacked a few boxes of books and it felt more like home.  Dear Anthony Powell was quite right when he said “Books do furnish a room”.   Jerry and I really can’t wait to light our first fire and spend our evenings curled up in its warm glow.  Our life in the countryside so far seems to suit us well.

Most importantly, I have learned a few lessons in our first couple of weeks here:

1) Monty is not to be trusted off the lead here, no matter how much he gives me his best soppy spaniel face.  Farmers, gamekeepers and villagers with large fields and horses do not appreciate a cheeky spaniel.

2) Expect flurries of expectant villagers all dying for a look round the house and….

3) Most importantly, always have biscuits!  Seriously.  With a hamlet full of folk bearing welcome gifts, biscuits and cups of tea are a necessity here.

Good Lord, I really wish I had taken some baking lessons.  I seem to be constantly rushing to the next door village and will be soon know as the shortbread queen by the owners of the shop at this rate!