An Ode to Wiltshire

Well, you could certainly say that my time in Wiltshire has been a game of two halves. There’s no denying the joy this beautiful place has brought me over the last 6 years, but it would be remiss not to acknowledge the tougher times too.

Both have equally helped cement my identity further as “unapologetically Amy” (those who know me may wish to replace that with “stubborn b*tch”) as well as highlight an absolutely exceptional bunch of friends who have been there to share with me both the good times and the bad.

Despite desperately missing London like some sort of highly addictive drug during my time here, I will miss certain elements bumpkin life. Belonging to a group of people who passionately care about being stewards of our Great British countryside being one of them, but I can’t deny the struggle I had with the small community culture when I arrived.

Everybody knowing everyone’s life and seemingly feeling entitled to discuss it, even without invitation felt very alien to me. Coming from the big smoke where you can be working in the same building as someone for 5 years and still have never met them, this lifestyle came as quite a shock to the system for me and I regularly felt irritated at being the subject of gossip. I know us townies are a rare species out here but I’m really not that exciting or worth talking about!

What I can say though, is that the community spirit shown here – where people with the same values, passions and goals work together to achieve something greater than the sum of its parts – is unrivalled and admirable, and I’ll certainly struggle to find that outside of the agricultural way of life I have come to deeply respect.

What I have witnessed time and time again is people rallying around those in need in a way that city folk could learn something from. If you need a hand then someone will always be there no matter what you need, whatever the time of day. Horses stuck in a flood? Someone will have a patch of land you can borrow. All your winter feed that you’ve spent all summer growing, harvesting and storing burnt down in a vicious arson attack? Give the community 48 hours and you’ll have enough stock donated to see you through until you can get yourself back on your feet, no matter what hard times they’re also going through.

My values haven’t always aligned with those of the more traditional ways of life, let’s be honest. When I told people that I wasn’t giving up my career or my job in London when I moved here or when I dropped the (apparently controversial) bombshell that I didn’t want children, their reactions ranged from surprise and admiration to sheer abhorrence and disgust. I used to love saying things just to see the look on their faces for my own amusement sometimes. Me, a wind up? Never…😉

What I struggled with the most though was the constant assumptions of what I’d do with my uterus after I got married and the very casual approach everyone took to discussing it as an open subject. I’ll never forget making small talk at a ball with people I barely knew when someone said to me “so when are you having children?”…a) “when” is a very bold assumption to make, and b) plural?! My dear, you’d sooner see me sh*t in my hands and clap than push multiple humans out of my body.

My response, as I’m sure you can all imagine by now, was somewhat inflammatory: “good question, so tell me, how small is your penis?” Cue a look of utter horror fall across his face…”oh so THAT’S the inappropriate question! Of course, sorry – naturally we’re allowed to talk about my reproductive system but yours is TOTALLY off-limits. Absolutely. I get it now. Sorry, what was your question again?” Quickest way to get rid of irritating company you’ll ever come across, that’s for sure.

The other part of Wiltshire that I’ll seriously miss is a group of likeminded lunatics that I came across after moving into a flat last year and living on my own for the first time. These people seemed to revel in physical challenges and managed to have a laugh at the same time just as much as me, so I thought I’d give Bootcamp a go and join them in this mad version of (what we call) exercise.

It was daunting at first turning up, not knowing anyone or really what to do. But the support and encouragement I received from the crazy bunch at Chippenham, the sense of community I encountered after feeling fairly alone for quite sometime, was honestly so uplifting. I felt at home almost right away.

We’re all of different fitness levels, ages, shapes and sizes but there is ZERO judgement. If you get stuck in and give it a go, then you’re as good as anyone else there. Whether it’s lashing down with rain and your rolling around on your back in mud or whether it’s 25 degrees and your taking a running leap at a slip and slide set up by the amazing instructors, I can honestly say I’ve never come away from one of those sessions feeling better, more positive or without a smile on my face. They’re a bunch of people collectively nuttier than squirrel bo**ocks and I’ll miss them dearly.

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When you truly embed yourself in country living and experience everything it has to offer – the incredible beauty, the crashing lows unfairly dealt to the agricultural industry by the media or Mother Nature, the community and all its good and bad parts, the joys of newborn animals, the scenery each season brings – you can’t help but forge a strong connection to your surroundings.

Thanks to Wiltshire I’ve discovered some incredible loves in my life: raising animals, gundog working, witnessing nature; and my life would certainly be poorer without these experiences. Had I not moved here I might never have had Trigger and I certainly would never have found Rusty or Dotty pig.

Had I stuck to my roots near London I wouldn’t have indulged in all of these rural passions. As much as I bemoaned the lack of variety, what I lacked in they way of cocktails I gained in the way of cheese festivals…(!) and I thank my lucky stars for it.

And so, as one chapter ends, the next one starts with all the promise and excitement of any good story. And, of course, I promise to take you all with me.

Until next time, Wiltshire, it’s been a mighty fine adventure.

It’s All Gone A Little Too Far Now

So we’re 2 weeks into lockdown and to be quite frank, this sh*t isn’t funny anymore…Mum is baking a lemon drizzle cake every fourth hour, dad is swearing at the constant drivel on the telly and there isn’t nearly enough alcohol for me to get through living with my parents again!

I jest, in reality I am actually SO relieved and grateful that my amazing parents invited me to hot-foot it down to Devon to live with them during the apocalypse. Not least because living in a flat without a garden would have been less than ideal for a certain ginger labrador who would have ended up eating the walls by week three.

I’m still doing my day job, working in my parents office/small spare room whilst the Irish genes are coming into full effect in my mother and she checks whether I need a drink or something to eat roughly every 23 minutes in between baking cakes. If I come out of this only 2 stone heavier, I’ll be doing f**king well.

Now, I know I should be grateful, and I am happy to have job security and all that. But I’m not sure I’ve entirely got the best deal here when a lot of my colleagues are on furlough being paid to sit on their arses, whilst I’m working away like a woman possessed in order to get sh*t done. I know I’d moan of boredom before a week was through, but I’d at least like the chance to try and prove myself wrong!

Anyway, on my days off I’m volunteering at the farm next door to my parents’ house. Ever the realist, I am more than happy to admit that, yes, they really must be scraping the barrel for ‘skilled workers’ if they are reduced to accepting help from a townie who lived on a farm for a bit, whilst their usual staff are self isolating. Either way, I’m having an absolute blast!

For any of you that have read about Dotty pig, this is where she lives now and I am DELIGHTED to be seeing her so frequently again. Plus…and you won’t believe this…I actually went into a field full – and I mean FULL – of at least 100 chickens.

So proud, I managed to resist every urge to drop kick the things and run in the other direction but, good news, I didn’t sh*t myself (that could have been awkward) or scream once! Video evidence below, because I know you won’t believe me.

Other jobs have included: rescuing a goose from my stupid dog who thought it needed picking up, prizing my fingers from a micro-pig’s jaws, weeding an enclosure for a raccoon (WTF?!), convincing a Shetland pony who I have renamed Bastard (actually called Custard, but I misheard this) that he can walk through a wide open gate, and fitting a harness to a slinky rat, otherwise known as a ferret – you can take the girl out of the town…

Mika, my beautiful quarantine buddy

Speaking of the stupid mutt, he is proving to be equally as much of a townie as his mother and can’t possibly run in front of the Gator like a real dog, he has to ride in it and embarrass me in front of the farm people and their proper dogs…*facepalm*

Luckily, the farm people (aka Tim and Tina) seem to tolerate us well enough, even when I do look for the date stamp on a fresh egg 🙈 (see reference regarding extracting townie from girl above). They didn’t even mind when Trigger took a running jump into the duck pond or tried to hump their poor 4 year old son, Jake (who we managed to convince that Trigger just wanted a piggyback from).

Speaking of their adorable children, Annabelle drew me a portrait today complete with my green wellies, black gloves, red jacket and brown hair with a blonde ponytail…! Evidently others are starting to notice my appalling roots* and I feel that a trip to Tesco for a box of hair dye would most definitely now be considered essential…

The incriminating portrait…

*read as: half my head

Until next time, I hope you are all keeping well and safe x

2020 Vision

Yes, yes I know…it has been close to a year (again!) since I last posted 🙈 but I hope you can forgive me as life has changed a fair bit for me in that time.

Over those months of radio silence I’ve been doing a lot of observing & reflecting, collecting a few thoughts I’ve had along the way which I wanted to finally share with you. So I hope you can please indulge me in this slight change of direction just this once and read the following 10 points:

1) Life is bloody unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a god-given right, don’t waste a day or take one for granted. You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do…act accordingly.

2) Following on from that, if something is making you miserable, you do have the power to change it – in work or love or whatever it may be. Just have the guts to change. You don’t know how much time you’ve got on this earth so don’t waste it being miserable, and you never know what is waiting for you around the corner.

3) Stop bloody moaning! (And I mean this in a loving way) You are not as hard up as you imagine. So your limbs might be aching, at least you have them. So there’s traffic in your way, at least you can see it. However bad public transport is for you, you’re not in a wheelchair.

Never underestimate or take for granted the luxury of being physically able to do whatever it is you want. You are infinitely more advantaged than so many other incredible people out there who’s (dis)ABILITIES will put you to shame. Perspective is an incredible medicine. Appreciate your healthy and functioning body even if it isn’t quite the size you want to be.

Which leads me onto this:

4) You are worth more than a waistline. You are no less valuable as a size 16 than a size 6. For god sake eat the f**king cake, and with zero guilt! I’ll admit, this is the one I struggle with the most, but remember these points and it will start to help.

5) GIVE. The amount of people who have said to me recently that homeless people are there on purpose…really?? I can promise you, no one chooses that life. Of all the truly homeless people I have stopped and spoken to, none of them intended to be on the streets and they are all decent HUMAN beings. So you don’t want to give them money? Buy the guy a coffee and a sausage roll, give someone an unwanted dog coat for their companion, set up a food bank donation box at work. Just do SOMETHING. I promise you, it will make a difference.

5) Stop buying sh*t. Use your money on making memories. Go and visit that friend across the country, buy a nice steak for dinner. You do not need another iPhone or another £10 dress from a sh**ty online retailer. Some of the best jumpers I own were ones I bought when I was 18. I’m now almost 34 and I still wear them (whilst making memories that last a lifetime).

6) Always, ALWAYS cuddle the dog. I’ve never had a bad hug from a dog.

7) stop apologising after saying no to something. It’s a terrible habit.

8) Do what makes you happy, you don’t need to mimic what other people believe in or do to have a fulfilling life. I have no desire to travel abroad for 6 months and “find myself” on a beach in Thailand, and that’s ok! But whatever it is you want to do, do it and excel at it. None of this half-hearted sh*t.

Which brings me to:

9) Always strive to be the best version of yourself. Why bother doing something half-arsed? My favourite motto is “Go Hard or Go Home”. Live by it and you will always aspire to live the best version of your life, and hopefully along the way inspire others to do the same.

And finally,

10) Keep f**king going. No matter how crappy life is right now, just keep wading on through. One thing I can promise you is that it absolutely can get worse, but it will also get a whole lot better at some point. Don’t be that person who makes your friend stand up and give a eulogy at your funeral because you gave up. NEVER quit, just don’t. End of.

I’ve Got A Confession…

So it’s been longer than I’d like (as per usual) since I last wrote a blog post but in my defence, I’ve been wrestling with a moral dilemma about whether or not I should share something with you.

I’d feel like I was living a lie if I didn’t confess it, but it’s so embarrassing that I’m afraid you’ll judge me if I did. But I’ve decided to be brave, so, here it goes…

My name is Amy and I’m afraid of chickens.

Utterly petrified in fact, to the point where I tried to climb up a fully grown adult (sorry Fiona) in the petting farm at London Zoo because they were loose and one “cock-a-doodle-do’d” at me. Full on nearly crapped my pants. *Classy*

It’s caused no end of troubles in my life, I’m even questioning my status as a “true country girl” as I speak.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat the buggers, that’s my revenge! But all the money in the world couldn’t convince me to keep live ones at home. My excuse is that the Labradors would likely try and constantly pick the damn things up and bring them to me, and that’s just animal cruelty. In truth, I find the concept completely horrifying!

“Where did this phobia come from?” I here you ask. Well, interesting story, let me share it with you. I was at a BBQ at a stables where a number of friends kept their horses and on the yard was this, frankly hideous, giant chicken (some rare breed apparently) called Kellogg. Put me off the cereal for life.

Anyway, this thing had the evilest beady eyes and scaly dinosaur legs that, quite honestly, totally freaked me out. I stupidly aired this concern amongst my piers and a certain someone who shall remain nameless (Tim Taylor) decided to PICK the damn thing up and SIT it on my shoulder when I had my head turned.

I s**t you not, I covered that yard in about four and a half strides at a pace that would have made Linford Christie (1990’s Usain Bolt to you millennials) proud, I tell you.

And thus, scarred for life! So you can imagine the joy I felt when I moved my horse up to Wiltshire and found only after we’d settled into the yard that they had a flock of chickens…f**king smashing!

The little bastards then naturally chose to roost in my stable, obviously. They can sense the fear I’m sure. But I did eventually get brave enough to pick them up with a shavings fork (mucking out tool for you townies) and tip them out the door.

At least the eggs tasted nice, I coined them “little butt nugget peace offerings.”

I’m not sure that I really feel like I’ve got a load off my chest, but at least I no longer feel like I’m deceiving you all into thinking I’ve fully embraced this country life lark and forgotten my true city roots.

Anyway, judge away…just try to be a little sympathetic!

Until next time!

New Year, New Me…Blah, Blah, Blah!

Oh man it’s the 2nd of January and I’m already SO done with the whole “New Year, New Me” (along with a whole host of unimaginative emojis) crap!

Is it me becoming an even bigger cynic as I race towards my mid thirties at a rate I’m feeling less than comfortable with? Or is it just literally everywhere and on an even larger scale than usual this year?

Come on people, let’s own who we are or at least find a more creative way of jumping on the “personal development” bandwagon. Pleeeease!!

Not only that, but it seems like every other TV advert is for a holiday company at the moment…What’s all that about?!?! We’re all legit-poor after the exorbitant costs of Christmas (don’t even get me started on that one!) and I don’t know about you, but I am DEFFO not in bikini body shape after living on a diet solidly consisting of pâté, cheese, cold meats, Christmas tree chocolates and stocking sweets for the last 2.4 weeks!

(She says as she has absolutely no plans to get her fat ass out on a run in the next week)

But I do have a New Years resolution (aside from kicking my arse into gear and actually writing more than one blog post a month, of course)… I vow to remain the same sarcastic, loud-mouthed, opinionated gobsh*te with the grade A resting bitch face that you all have grown to know and adore…! If it ain’t broke, why fix it eh?! 😂

Until next time!

Who’re You Picking Up?!

So it’s been a long enough time since my last blog that it’s now got a little bit awkward and I figured it was time enough I just bit the bullet and got back into it, but I just couldn’t think of what to write…

Then thanks to the joys of “bumpkin language” once again providing a suitable sized opportunity for misinterpretation, I found the inspiration once more.

Stuck waiting round the coffee machine in the office, I decided to break that typical awkward silence with one of my less familiar colleagues and we defaulted to the usual back up convo of weekend plans.

Forgetting I was talking to an utter townie who has little to no background knowledge of my lifestyle, when he asked “what are you up to then?” I simply said, “oh just the usual now it’s winter, picking up on Saturday and mucking out the pig on Sunday.”

Queue the bemused look illuminate his face as he tried to work out a diplomatic way of asking if I was either into casual swinging or openly cheating on my husband…”Erm, aren’t you married?” He asked.

“Yeah but we don’t always spend the whole weekend together and he’s working both days anyway”, I said, blissfully unaware of the even larger hole I was digging myself.

“Riiiight, ok. I mean it’s great that you have such an open relationship, but that’s not the conventional type of activity I’d expected from a farmers wife, I have to say.”

Now queue the bemused look slowly creep over my face. “What on earth are you going on about?!” The penny suddenly dropped…”ohhhh you thought I meant picking up men!! Good god no, I’m not a tramp!”

My colleague looked visibly relieved that I hadn’t just massively over-shared to break an awkward coffee silence with a guy I barely knew. But the bemusement quickly appeared again, “so, sorry, but what do you mean then?”

Suddenly I found myself having to break down the set up of a day’s pheasant shooting and then got into the equally awkward conversation about what I have to do with the birds that are still alive when Trigger brings them back to me after picking them up.

He looked so appalled at the thought of me bopping a half dead pheasant on the head that, quite frankly, I’d rather have continued the conversation about extra-marital coital activities! At least he’d have stopped staring at me as if I was a murderous lunatic that he needed to hide both sharp and blunt objects from immediately.

I admit, only 3 years ago I myself balked at the idea of “people shooting something in the face for fun”, but it’s been an engrained part of culture in the farming community for over a hundred years, forming and renewing friendships that have been neglected over a busy summer & harvest and traditionally supplying them with a source of food over the leaner months, and learning more about it has given me a better understanding.

I like to uphold this tradition of using the birds for consumption as my attempt to justify the sport to myself (still unsure how successful this ploy is) and will always make sure to take home any birds my husband shoots, offering them to friends and colleagues who wouldn’t necessarily otherwise have access to eating pheasant.

So basically, what I’m getting at is, unless you want to be fed game bird and possibly chow down on a piece of lead, I’d advise not coming round to mine for dinner from now until about April…but if you don’t mind giving yourself an expensive dentist bill then come on over, there’s plenty to go round!

Until next time…