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.

Shooting, Swearing and Wild Wees…

Well that’s it, we’re into October and after worrying what the effects of Covid would be, thank god there’s actually something of the shooting season to enjoy! Yay!

After a summer consisting of at least 100 hours of training for Trigger and I, we were ready and raring with apparently nowhere to go. Then, thankfully, I got an invitation last week to pick up on a walked up day of shooting. We were on!

I put the call into work, “can I have the day off to do a bit of life admin (which, to be fair I had lots to do in the afternoon) and oh, you know, justgoandpickupsomedeadbirdswithtrigger”…if I say it quickly they don’t tend to hear it properly or question my “crazy idea” of a fun day off.

I got the green light, so it was all systems go and I crammed in a bit of last minute/emergency/“don’t make a bloody tit out of yourself now Amy” training after a couple of quiet weeks since I’d been back working in London.

Having sharpened up again, the day came and off little Triggs and I went full of joy and excitement. Obviously I spent the whole car journey telling myself “don’t f**k it up, don’t f**k it up!” We’d not done a walked up day before and as steady as my boy is, this type of shoot is a very intense day with lots going on.

So, we get started and I send Trigger after a very easy retrieve in a straight line to pick up a duck on the edge of a pen. “Boom, we’ve got this” I think to myself, so I give Trigger the command, confident as you like…we already know this isn’t going to work out well.

For some reason that I still just cannot fathom, I watched my dog in almost slow motion, out of nowhere, dart sharply off to the left, plough through a patch of nettles, charge down a bank and fling himself with utter abandon into the river below for ABSOLUTELY NO F**KING REASON WHATSOEVER!! Mortified. 🤦🏼‍♀️

For the townies reading this who don’t quite understand, this is the equivalent of Messi missing an open goal, Nadal smashing the ball over the roof of centre court on a match point, Usain Bolt actively running in the wrong direction…it’s THAT much of a ridiculous overreaction to a sporting formality. Of course I cringed, of course I swore *very* loudly, but sadly the ground did not open up and swallow me.

Once we’d had a quiet word with ourselves, an “internal monologue” (as my colleague says) if you will, we got our sh*t together and the day was going smoothly. That is until some sharp shooting tit of a gun decides to take down a partridge behind us in the next field over and I don’t have a scoobydo where this thing landed.

I stand there, close my eyes momentarily *please don’t be me, please don’t be me*…and I hear the call, “madam, that’s yours”…BALLS. It took all my might not to flip this guy the bird as I walk past all smiles, “good shot sir! Any idea where it landed?”

Of course it was the other side of a maize crop taller than me and 60 metres into a ploughed sodding field. Where else would it be?

So off we traipse, wrestling my way through the bloody maize jungle and into a rusty barbed wire fence that’s too rickety for me to climb over. So I send my boy, and (after a false start where he retrieved a partridge that looked like it had shuffled off this mortal coil a good few weeks ago) he’s off like a bullet and bringing the bird back without any assistance from me. Why are there never any witnesses when it goes well?!

So I thought to myself, “well, whilst I’m here and no-one can see me I’ll have a little wild wee” – my second ever, and something I’ve finally learnt to do in my mid-thirties thanks to my recent time in Devon.

Side note: my mother is utterly appalled by this apparently degrading act of nature. I, on the other hand, am somewhat proud of my newfound bumpkin ability to conduct my ablutions in the open air. It’s really rather liberating!

Anyway, what then ensues is the longest seven and a half minutes of my life as I manage to get not only my jacket but also the back of my trousers entangled in the barbed wire fence as the rest of the shoot disappear off into the distance.

“Right ok, don’t panic, this is easily rectified” I tell myself as I then get my hair, swiftly followed by my left sleeve equally stuck whilst trying to release my jacket, so now I’m trussed up like some ridiculous Christmas Turkey with, quite literally, nowhere to go.

There’s only one thing for it…I’m going to have to just unfree myself from the jacket, wriggle out and it will all be fine. Tell me something, have you ever tried unzipping a jacket one handed whilst a barbed wire fence is mere millimetres from piercing your bare backside? No? Didn’t think so, and I don’t expect there are many others who have equally found themselves in the same precarious position, but here we are.

Luckily I managed to channel my inner Houdini but all I could think to myself was “they’re going to think it took me f’ing forever to find this bloody bird,” that I’m now unceremoniously stuffing in my pocket, “it better be bloody worth it”, as Trigger proudly trots alongside me and we make a mad dash to rejoin the line, hoping no-one had noticed how long I’d been.

Apart from one remark that I looked like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards (if only they knew!!) thankfully no one muttered a word and Trigger was praised for his wonderful work. I, on the other hand, spent the rest of the day looking like the wild woman of Borneo whilst trying to surreptitiously check the seams of my trousers for any holes that had gone unnoticed during my endeavours.

But never mind, we move on and we live to fight another day, or another inanimate object it appears, either one.

Until next time…!

@CitygirlCountrylife_

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_

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…