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 not 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.

Ginger Makes Everything Better

How? How could I have gotten almost two years into this blog and not written a post dedicated to the most important man in my life?! I know, I’m disgusted with myself too.

For those of you unfamiliar with him, he has the most heart melting (different coloured) brown eyes, beautiful auburn hair, soft ears, a wet nose and four legs…and goes by the name of Trigger. Or Ginge. Or Doofus.

So let me tell you how he came to enter my life a little over four years ago. I started my love affair with fox red Labradors when I was at Burghley Horse Trials in the September of 2015 and bumped into a lady called Ali with a gorgeous bitch called Finch. We started talking and before she could leave I already had my name down for one of her pups that Finch was hopefully having the following year.

Fast forward to the 2nd April 2016 and along came my 30th birthday present…one of seven adorable fox red slugs, I mean puppies 🧡

I was extremely fortunate to have pick of the litter and eventually, after much deliberation, chose Trigger. I tell a lie, he actually picked me – as every good doggo does. I couldn’t decide between him and one of his brothers, but when I held him in front of my face, this little ginger bundle licked my nose and I was sold. BFF’s forever.

I know everyone likes to tell you how amazing their dog is, but my god was that puppy an arsehole. A cute one, but an arsehole nonetheless.

He chewed EVERYTHING. I was constantly getting pictures from his dog walker of the devastation the little sh*t had wreaked in the small matter of hours he’d been left to his own devices. I can’t tell you the amount of dog beds/blankets/toys/bowls he got through in the first year of his life. But look at him!!

A year in and he was almost 30kg of overly-familiar canine who loved to greet everybody somewhat enthusiastically, whether they liked it or not. Having aced puppy classes I figured it was about time we took it up a notch and went to gun dog training to try and gain some sort of control over the unruly sod.

Needless to say, all the instinct was there for Trigger to become a cracking gun dog and I was the one that required most of the training. Twelve months down the line, we had progressed from a lazy, good for nothing Labrador with an absolutely useless handler, to a decent enough team to start working on a shoot.

This is where I might loose one or two of the townies amongst you so I’ll gloss over the whole pheasant shooting thing to avoid another “who are you picking up?” debacle. But what you can all relate to is just how much a single ginger doggo can change your life for the better.

This soppy, adorable, love sponge of a Labrador entered my world at a time when I was trying to settle into a new life in the countryside and, in retrospect, felt incredibly lonely. He’s since wiped away my tears – sometimes willingly, other times unknowingly – on countless occasions and I honestly don’t think I would have had the strength to get up and carry on going on certain tough days if it weren’t for him.

But the tears of sadness have also been counterbalanced by tears of sheer laughter at my beautiful boy. From carrying around his favourite pair of socks (including insistently joining me for a pee with them), to flinging himself with utter abandon into any form of water source or trying to stuff as many cuddly toys into his gob as possible when he greets me – even if I only stepped outside to put the bin out.

I certainly never thought my soulmate would come in the form of a canine, but boy, do I thank god every day that he did 🧡

Until next time, follow me on Instagram at @Citygirlcountrylife_

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

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!

Profile of a Murderer

  • Piercing black eyes
  • Short blonde hair
  • Ears slightly too big for their head
  • Always looks like they’re plotting their next move
  • Visibly pleased with their devastating actions
  • 60cm high
  • Wet black nose…

Mugshot

Yes, that’s right. There is a murderer in our midst. Rusty the one year old Labrador (who, coincidently isn’t rusty coloured at all, even though we thought we were buying a fox-red lab. But that’s another story altogether).

So far this cold blooded murderer has killed a hare, a mole (although eye witnesses can neither confirm nor deny the health status of the mole before she delivered it to them, we have our suspicions), countless flies & spiders and now worst of all…her brother Trigger’s favourite toy, Doggie.

Trigger is the chalk to Rusty’s cheese – couldn’t hurt a fly even if he wanted to as he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, let’s say. They aren’t coined Dick and Dork without reason, after all.

So when my darling ginger dork (who is very rusty coloured, by the way) was presented with Doggie as a birthday present in April, he was utterly delighted – paraded him around for all to see, laid resting his chin on his faithful friend during the day and slept with him at night. Just too cute for words.

So one quiet Wednesday evening I had a friend round for dinner and as we were chatting, I suddenly noticed it had gone extremely quiet and neither Labrador was hovering around my ankles in the kitchen as I prepared dinner. Like children, the ominous combination of silence and labradors is a foreboding prospect, especially when food is present.

Prompted by this suspicious circumstance, I started to wander into the sitting room, “what are you two up – OH.MY.GOD!!” Doggie was dead. Not just dead, ruthlessly decapitated and disembowelled with his innards strewn across the floor.

Trigger, lying there holding Doggie’s limp, lifeless body came running to me with a look of pleading to save his most favourite toy. Whimpering, begging me to help his bestest friend.

The suspect tried to flee from the scene but was swiftly apprehended by Giovanna and upon questioning, quickly confessed. Her lack of guilt was evident, a look of delight convinced me that only a psychopath could possibly have committed such a heinous crime.

Poor Trigger was inconsolable, I tried to prize the tattered, floppy Doggie from his mouth but he clung to him, desperately trying to protect his buddy from any further harm.

After a thorough post-mortem, it was evident that there was no bringing Doggie back from the dead. The murderer was temporarily imprisoned in her crate whilst I tried to comfort Trigger and break the news that Doggie was indeed deceased. RIP Doggie.

I must admit, his grieving process was rather quicker than I had anticipated. It only took a couple of days in fact before he seemed to have processed the traumatic experience and moved on. Aided, of course, by the fact that Grandma had scoured the shops of Seaton to find Doggie Mark II for her favourite boy and successfully found a replacement.

Not quite the same model, I admit, but Trigger clearly relates to Doggie Mark II’s Orange body and look, beauty is in the eye of the beholder anyway, right?

He certainly looks pleased at least and I can confirm that no lasting psychological damage has been identified – in him at least, not quite sure I can say the same for “Rusty the Shredder”…

Until next time!