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.

————————————————-

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.

Unapologetically Amy

So I recently set up an Instagram page to go along with this blog (@citygirlcountrylife_) and it prompted me to do a little bit of a more in-depth post about me. It’s something I’ve managed to avoid in the 2+ years I’ve been doing this and, in all honesty, it’s about time I stepped up – if you can’t beat the fear, do it scared!

As those close to me can attest, what you see is very much what you get with me, and one of my little life mottos is to always be “unapologetically Amy” – own who you are and don’t apologise for it. Ever.

I’m not going to lie, it’s not always been the easiest one to live by because, quite frankly, I speak my mind far too often and have a relatively faulty (ok, let’s face it, non-existent) brain to mouth filter that can land me in a bit of hot water on occasion. You’re surprised, I know!

So, yes, occasionally I have had to break my own rule, but apologising for dumb sh*t you say is somewhat different to apologising for your own existence, and the former is the only concession I make! And you know what? Being brave enough to accept accountability for your errors shows a lot about you as a person. I know many people in their 30’s (and older!) who still can’t.

To accept who you are is a tough one – worrying if your mere character is abrasive to others, if you’re “blank” enough (good enough, smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough…) to be in someone’s company – it’s difficult convincing yourself on a daily basis that you are any (or all) of those things and I’m under no illusion it’s a long old path to acceptance. There will be so many times you doubt yourself, I still do occasionally and I have to give myself a proper talking to!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last two years of my life it’s this: if you’re surrounding yourself with people who think you aren’t “blank” enough to be in their presence, then their presence isn’t worth your concern.

These are not the people that are going to be there when the sh*t hits the fan and believe me, you need to find people who will because at some point in your life it’s going to – on a monumental scale – and you will thank god every day for that small group of friends who pick you up off your arse, dust you off and tell you to get ready for round 2 because, “ding ding”, here we go again.

But that crap, that terrible situation you’re facing that seems unbearable, with the right people by your side and with one step at a time, you manage to deal with it. And here you are on the other side with an even clearer picture of who you are and who is important in your life. Invest in those people, they save you time and time again, no questions asked, zero f*cks given.

Last year I read a book called Daring Greatly by an incredible woman called Brené Brown. In it she describes life as a gladiator arena that you have to stand in the middle of and fight your demons, with the pleasure everyone watching. She made me realise that you’re always going to have critics in your life, but the important lesson is that the only opinions that matter are those from others who are (or have been) also in that arena. Essentially, if you’re not down here with me, struggling through the same sh*t and fighting the same battles, your opinion REALLY does not matter.

Of course, these arseholes in the cheap seats at the back pointing at you, telling you how you could be better are always going to have an opinion – and do you notice how they’re always the ones judging you the loudest?! You’ll never stop them and the sooner you accept that and block it out, the better. But as long as you show up and be seen and you get up again and again, you’re already doing better than them. I’ll say it louder for those at the back, their opinions really don’t matter.

Now some may call me arrogant, other common labels are ‘b*tch’ or ‘ballsy’ but I’ll tell you as I tell them: if I had a pair of b*llocks hanging between my legs, we wouldn’t be having this conversation now would we? I’d be told I was confident, assertive, cocky at a push…so I’ll take b*tch as a compliment thanks, and don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out!

Unapologetically Amy…always. 😉

Until next time!

A Letter from Lockdown Me to Future Me.

My god has 2020 thus far been a bag of dicks, and it’s only May. I seriously hope you’re having a better time of it now and are actually allowed to touch other people (not inappropriately though, we’ve spoken about that before).

I decided to write you a letter to remind you of the actual things you learnt during this quasi-apocalyptic crazy world you existed in *hopefully* not that long ago.

And by that I don’t mean learning to play the flute/speak a new language/become a landscape gardener overnight – all laudable, but you’ll be pleased to remember you didn’t jump on that bandwagon of this being a sodding productivity contest.

1. I know we’re only in the middle of this sh*t show – and what a sh*t show it is – but something to takeaway from this is that it’s ok to look for positives and appreciate the small things without being criticised for not taking things seriously. Not only that, it’s actually a lot easier than you think…you learnt to find moments of joy and appreciation when you could have easily sat there feeling mightily sorry for your situation.

Side note: Turns out, you can have good things come out of a pandemic – focusing on what you CAN do & enjoying it, planning for the future – none of it means you are being disrespectful or inconsiderate. I promise you. And if it does, well then you’re in good company, I managed it without (at least knowingly) offending anyone…you’re surprised, miracle! I know.

2. At the moment, when we ask how someone is, we really mean it. Not only that, we feel we’re more able to be honest with our answers when we’re being asked. Continue with that trend please – what an awesome thing to come out of this, people being more caring and open. Imagine!

3. If I’d have told you at the beginning of the year that you’d be living with the parents again, well firstly you wouldn’t have believed me, but secondly I probably wouldn’t have relished the idea that much either.

One of the positives in this (aside from the fact you’ve found a new gin drinking buddy in mum who was equally willing to drink doubles on a Thursday, just because) is the fact that you wouldn’t have ever thought you’d get the opportunity to live with them in a ‘positive’ light again.

No, Corona isn’t positive, what I mean by that is when else would you have lived with them for an extended period of time again in your life? It would have most likely because you f**ked up and something drastic happened, or when they need you to be a carer for them. Yes there are limitations, but currently we’re able to enjoy each other’s company and spend some quality time together. And no, you and dad aren’t getting on each other’s nerves yet!

4. I can’t tell you the amount of time I have said to friends “we should SO do [insert batsh*t crazy/incredible plan here] when all of this is over”…do me a favour and actually make sure that you follow through with all of those plans please. I’ve realised that ‘should’ is where all the fun things in life live, and they need to be turned into ‘will’s’, or better yet ‘did’s’. Don’t be one of those arsehole let-down friends. Ugh, I despise them, and so do you still.

5. You were right when you said last year that you had found out who your true friends are. That bunch have been absolutely legendary. Remind them now how amazing they are and how grateful you are to have them. Organise another meal with everyone, even if you have to plan it for bloody 2022. Just do it, now please, not later.

Cheers.

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.