Tag Archives: Country Living

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.

Mad as a March hare

Spring in the air

Spring in the air

March, March, March.  The months seem to be flying by.  Spring is in the air and I felt on top of the world as my winter worn body took in a massive dose of vitamin D last week.  I strolled by the river full of the joys of….well….spring….obviously!  I  planned all the things I was going to do now that winter seemed to be on its way out.  Everyone else seemed to be busy making plans too.  Barbara was finally getting her chickens, Minty was almost at the end of her pregnancy and counting down the weeks, Primrose finally had her place at school confirmed and there had been a flurry of news on weddings, births and new jobs.  The sale of the cottage was moving forward and structural surveys were carried out as we frantically prepared necessary paperwork.  On a blissfully sunny morning, even the future appeared to  to have a ‘spring’ in its step too.

Thoughts of spring bring to mind newborn lambs bouncing in fields, garish daffodils peeking up from the soil, the scent of hyacinths, nature opening its sleepy eyes once more after a long hibernation and the ability to leave the house in just a jacket without need for scarf, hat, gloves or in Poppy’s case, a Michelin man snowsuit which restricts movement but comes in handy when one falls over!   Possibly my favourite(and Jerry’s least) part of spring is the slight (!) craziness it brings out in me – the saying “Mad as a March Hare” doesn’t exist for nothing, dear Reader!

Primrose's Bo Peep outfit would be ideal...not sure I could squeeze into it though

Primrose’s Bo Peep outfit would be ideal…although might be tricky to squeeze into it

Sneaking a brief moment of peace and armed with a delicious glass of red, I settled down to read the latest copy of Country Living.  “Fancy yourself as a farmer?” read an article on the magazine’s Keep Britain Farming campaign.  Maybe this was the job opportunity I had been looking for?  I pictured myself milking cows, shearing sheep and tending to the herd on my own mini farm in a shepherdess’ outfit a la Marie Antoinette!  What could be more Good Life than that?  I have always quite liked the idea of being a farmer and growing my own meat.  Glued to the television watching Channel 4’s First Time Farmers a few weeks ago, I had scoffed “How difficult can it be to look after a few cows?”  Thus speaks the ultimate townie!  The answer arrived with lightning bolt speed and was blatantly obvious as I watched with the wide-eyed realisation that REAL farming was jolly hard work.  I have saluted farmers ever since for their endless daily grind.  Not at all like the River Cottage life I had envisaged.  I certainly wasn’t too sure about putting my hand up a cow’s bottom or giving a newborn lamb mouth to mouth, not to mention collecting dead animals from the pasture at dawn.  Where was the cute and cuddly side of farming?  Delicate little ducklings, reviving lambs by the AGA, bucolic scenes of harvesting and listening to The Wurzles (all together now “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester…).  Hugh FW had made it all look like a dream!  Thank goodness, Jerry arrived home from work before red wine masked any sensible decision making skills and I had had a chance to apply!  Dear Reader, that was my first March hare moment of the week!

Leaving alternative career paths behind me, I decided to steep myself in some further countryside lore instead.  Despite what BBC Weather tells us, spring is not official until the Vernal Equinox.  Marking the halfway point between winter and summer, the equinox occurs on 20th March this year.  Dear Reader, one might wonder what on earth this has to do with hares.  Indeed!  Well, hares and spring have long been entertwined, since pagan times.  The hare was said to be a symbol for regeneration, femininity and love and sightings of them heralded the return of spring.  Ostara (Eostre), the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility was often said to take the form of a hare or would be pictured alongside a white hare.  Wonderfully mythical creatures, there are even tales of brokenhearted girls turning into hares and roaming the countryside haunting their unfaithful lovers.  The phrase ‘Mad as a March hare’ is believed to have arisen as a result of how hares behave during the mating season.  Solitary animals, they come together in the spring, displaying rather aggressive mating rituals as females ‘box’ away the unwanted attentions of a male they have no interest in breeding with.  Who would have thought that those fluffy long-eared cousins of the bunny would be the feisty females of the animal world?  Thankfully for Jerry, I can’t claim to be as feisty as a doe!  I am more of a Mad Hatter’s tea party version of a March hare – a ‘say it like it is’ sort of feisty!

Photo: The Complete Ilustrated Works of Lewis Carroll, Chancellor Press

Photo: The Complete Ilustrated Works of Lewis Carroll, Chancellor Press

“Have some wine”, the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.  Alice looked all around the table but there was nothing on it but tea.  “I don’t see any wine”, she remarked. “There isn’t any”, said the March Hare.  “Then it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it”, said Alice, angrily.  “It wasn’t very civil of you to sit down without being invited”, said the March Hare. 

(Chapter VII, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

Pouring myself another glass of wine (well all the best plans, spring or otherwise, have been made with a tipple or two), I focused on my second (and BEST) ‘hare’brained idea of the week, dear Reader.  I think that Jerry, Primrose, Poppy and I might be even more excited about this one than we are about leaving London and moving to the countryside.  Well, how could I complete no.11 on this list (11. Walk MY OWN dog) without one of these.

Well, how could one resist such a sweet face, dear Reader?!

How could one resist such a sweet face, dear Reader?!

Desperately trying to be crafty


Beset by technical difficulties this week and resorting to my little phone for its internet capabilities, I had to suspend my annual Christmas web buying extravaganza. I can honestly say that I don’t know how one could live without that wonderfully whizzy invention, the internet. It is one thing that troubles me about moving to the countryside as broadband seems to be pretty patchy in deepest darkest Hampshire! Not being able to get my daily fix of browsing luxury or Country Life mag tweets had left me grumpy and in need of entertainment. With Christmas literally around the corner, I had to resort to some old-fashioned craftiness. I can honestly say dear Reader, that Margot and crafting are not a good mix. Noticing that the lovely and very crafty Barbara had already made a start with her homemade Christmas goodies (and not wanting to be outdone yet again!), I set about recreating my very own White Company Christmas.
I had the brilliant idea of making my own wrapping paper. Paint at the ready and armed with my darling crafty Primrose, I made a little robin template and some stars and we set to work. It was a messy business but I was quite enjoying it until Primrose announced that I wasn’t much cop as a painter. She then ditched me for some serious artwork of her own (see below).

20121203-073357.jpg As you can see, Primrose is heaps better at art. It hurt my pride to admit it but a 4 year old seriously CAN do better! I have now relegated the wrapping paper to under the dresser, only to be used in dire circumstances…. Jerry came home, took one look and said “Did you make that or did the children?” I should have lied at that point.

Moving on….I did have some success with my teacup candles. Easy peasy when you follow good old Country Living’s vast source of crafty online ‘how tos’. Provided one searches for the perfect cup (I have now befriended most of the old ladies in our local charity shops), it is remarkably straight forward and doesn’t look too homemade. Taking pity on me, Jerry treated me to a wreath making course and I managed to produce something which did look like a grown up had made it! I think he felt a tiny bit guilty about his wrapping paper comments.


Realising that I was never going to make it as a kitchen table entrepreneur and with a heavy heart, I sought solace in the village and rediscovered some wonderful local shops. Let’s hope the cottage gets its Internet back soon or I dread to think what I will have to conjure up to give the family on Christmas Day!

For now at least, the front door looks glorious and you never know, with 20 or so days until stockings are opened, I might just manage to conjure up some homemade White Company magic! Well one can hope, dear Reader…