Decade (Pt I)

Ten long years ago, we made a decision.
It was a tough decision, made after long hours of sitting either side of our kitchen table, reminding ourselves hilariously of Mel Smith and Gryf Rhys Jones, looking at everything (or so we thought) from every angle (or so we thought).
Back then, we lived in a dear little mid terrace cottage, which was 'our own' (that is to say it belonged by and large to the Halifax building society) and we had one little girl, who was two.
She was a sick little girl, on permanent anti biotics, but she was a jolly, chubby little girl, and our pride and joy.
Neil worked as a sales rep for a printing company. Yet another printing company.
We'd been on holiday in France with my parents in law. It was in part to give me some time to get over losing a baby. However, when we got back, we had a few shocks in store.
Neil came home to find a letter on the mat, telling him he'd been made redundant. He'd worked for the company 360 days when they sent the letter, while he was on leave, so they owed him nothing. As a sales rep , his desk was cleared and he was not welcome back without a security guard accompanying him, so that was it. It was all over.
I came back to find that the results of the biopsy following my miscarriage, which I had been assured were always inconclusive, were not in the least inconclusive. I had had a molar pregnancy. The growth which had taken over the placenta could do one of two things, now. Die back, innocently, or turn into a raging cancer, which was most definitely life threatening. Of course, they didn't explain that in the letter. They just asked me to attend the oncology unit. I lost both my parents to an oncology unit, within a year of one another, so that didn't exactly make my day, either.
Neil had quickly got another job, and I had been settled into a routine testing programme for six months with a specialist unit in London.
But life was bitter. The little cottage was unloved, despite being our first and only 'own home' – it was tragically uncared for. We had a lovely neighbour, a lovely church (though we were only on the way to being christians) and a lovely allotment, a fifty yard walk from our door. Looking back now, we know we should have been content, but we weren't, and it's too late to change that now!
So we saw the advert, in Farmers' Weekly, that changed our life.
Neil applied for the job on a Wiltshire dairy farm, which came with a bungalow, a big garden, a chance to get back to the farm skills of his boyhood, and a new life, away from all the people who felt rather sorry for us.
We were amazed when he got an interview, and then offered the job (knowing what we know now, he should have played harder to get!) and we sat either side of our table, and we said, this is it – we'll be giving up all hope of ever buying our own smallholding. But what chance have we anyway? Property is never going to go up in value like it did in the eighties, ever again (ha de ha ha ha. ) We'll just be stuck here, and stuck with the commute, and the crawling city, getting ever closer .... if we go, we'll have a rented 'smallholding' and we'll be able to do those things .... H can grow up in the country, she can have a pony, we can grow all our own food.
The job was part time, nearer to full time in winter, nearer to no time in summer, with very cheap rent on a house, so we knew we'd start up some little rural business, to see us through. We thought, we wrangled, we talked into the night. We decided to go.
Cashing in everything we could find, we bought an old, short wheel base Land Rover. We packed a rented truck, the Land Rover, and my little car. Neil's dad and brothers drove down with us, Neil's mum came in the car with me and H, who was poorly. Again. Her delicate kidneys didn't seem to be getting any better. Time, we'd been told, and antibiotics. It didn't seem to be working.
And then, one September morning, in 1998, we woke up, in a new place. The sun shone, the wind blew across the downs, we looked out of our windows at majestic hills and wild woods (a year later, I was to be told, don't worry, if you go into labour and it's all happening too quickly, we'll Air Ambulance you...!) and everything, everything in the world was different.

It does seem a long time ago. But now and again we need to remind ourselves of why we camehere, and what we set out to do ......

Knitting after baths, with wet hair ...


The dark days of winter. I feel so tied in with this season. We are wading through the dark, through flu, which I had, and then had again and have only just really, really, left behind me.
The girls both had a day in bed, both shake things off quickly. Boo, who has never had an antibiotic, never seen a doctor, only ever drank raw, unpasteurised milk, straight from the goat, never ate half the rubbish the rest of us wasted our immune systems upon, shrugs it off in a day.
On Friday, (Neil's) Mum and Dad came to stay, we went out for a lovely meal - on Saturday, H was supposed to be competing. We made it through the floods, but sadly, no one else did! So there was no competition! She jumped four clear rounds and enjoyed her outing.
Then I collapsed. Then in the evening, we went to Claverton by Candlelight - at the American Museum in Bath - Neil bought us all a drink, including for the girls, organic milk. Boo sniffed it and said it was pasteurised, and she couldn't drink it. We told her not to be silly. She drank a few mouthfuls, then said she really, really couldn't drink it. So we threw it away, grumpily. Ten minutes later, she was violently, terribly, sick. Then she was OK. 'It was the milk' she said cheerily, 'I told you. Pasteurised, homogeonised milk is really, really bad for you.'
Does your nine year old say things like that?!
As her father pointed out, she's right though.
On Sunday, I made it to morning service - then I collapsed! - so everyone else went out to the evening one, and I slept.
On Monday, I missed chapel carols as I was so ill, and finally capitulating, took an evil decongestant, to get me through Guides. Then I collapsed.
Today, praise God, it has gone, well, nearly.
And now Neil's got it! On average, he's sick a couple of days a year - I am so blessed - but tomorrow will be one of them. Unaccustomed, at the helm, with my two brave stalwarts beside me, the weather will come at me, and I - I who should be baking gingerbread and finally sending Christmas cards - will tackle the hills and the flooded troughs, the windblown, unmotivated chickens, the fat pre-destined geese, the tangled headstrong sheep and frowning bearded unwelcoming goats - I will battle with high winds and cold milking pails, I will march undaunted into the rain with hay in my face and a song in my heart. Because I wouldn't ever, ever have it any other way.

This is God's season. This primitive darkness, this cold, this threat - no wonder the celts waited for the solstice, and then celebrated - the turn of the year is something for which I hunger! I long for it, with every fibre. How short the days are, how cold. How deep the mud, how numbing the struggle, to keep everything dry, and warm, and well, and just keep going. God knew. God knew this was the time we should think about the Word made Flesh. This longing, this yearning.
We celebrate the solstice in this home, in the truest sense - oh! that turn of the year! New hope! Spring will come, it will. The days will lengthen, the pain will ease, the endless, dark, pointless days of toil will be over, hauling hay across sodden slopes, slipping and sliding down rutted tracks, crawling up and down stairs with trays and soothing teas, all of them will fade in a shaft of spring sunlight, a snowdrop, a breath of secret, intoxicating spring air, the taste of hope and belief and the unfathomable mystery of new life out of the darkness.

God knew.

Are we there yet?

Dorothy has been talking here about the use and abuse of advent. I'm seriously thinking of joining her next year in her 'keep Christmas at Christmas' approach!
Trouble is, we have rellies coming today who expect all the trimmings, a bag full of gifts to take away, and so on and so forth.
I'm very much reminded of the beginning of my very favourite book, The Christmas Mouse (which must reread again, for the umpteenth time) - when on Christmas Eve the two little girls are buttoned up in their mackintoshes and taken into town on the bus, to go Christmas shopping. This brings back a lot of memories - we used to do all our shopping in the last few days before Christmas - maybe a special present, hand made or carefully squirreled away - took forethought, but by and large, it was very last minute, and well before dot com had any meaning !
Far too late to worry about it this year, but giving it some serious thought for next!
The weather is dire, freezing rain on freezing roads, so though nana and grandad are here with the hope of watching H competing tomorrow, I can see us abandoning the journey. You'd think, having lived here all my life, I'd stop being surprised by our weather. You'd be wrong!


Had to get poor old H to the dentist yesterday, the roof of her mouth erupted in horrid little ulcers/spots - I was assuming that it was to do with the cold/flu whatever it is, but the dentist wanted to be sure, so he said he'd see her at 4pm.

Just getting into town with barely seconds to spare, we spotted blue lights and sirens behind us, not unusual along that stretch, past Police HQ, so pulled over at the side of a roundabout to let them by.

To my horror they pulled ME over and into a side street. They announced I had passed a camera which had identified my car as uninsured. Knowing that the renewal had been done a month or so ago, but also knowing how hopeless both of us are at admin, my heart sank.

I got hold of Neil to ask him to get home and find the details, and please to ring the dentist. They got onto the ABI database, and my insurance broker.

To cut a very long story short (long, long, way over time for the dental appointment long) it turns out that the car was insured, but someone, either broker or underwriter, had not bothered to register the fact with the ABI database.

Moral - carry your insurance certificate with you. Praise God I had my licence, as I used to be a horror for not carrying that, or not having a current address on it, but on this occasion, bingo.

Brickbats - Swintons and/or AXA for leaving me open to public humiliation.

Bouquets - the lovely, LOVELY Ferndale Dental Clinic, who still saw my daughter!
H poorly today, she's finally succumbed to the flu, so spent most of the day in bed - or actually mostly on the sofa in the sitting room, because I am trying to turn her room into a guest room, since Nana and Grandad are due to visit on Friday.
I actually managed to plant out some cauliflower plants, water the salads in the polytunnel, make a steak and kidney pie ... and that's it!
Boo had a jumping class, so she had to go with Daddy, as I had to stay here with H - apparently she did really, really well, so sorry to have missed it.
It's cold and the mornings are lovely
but unfortunately the ground is wet, which makes it impossible for the horses to go out.
I'm not getting ready for Christmas nearly quickly enough, but somehow, it doesn't seem to matter - it just feels like a season, a time of family closeness, a dark, cold season .. and soon the day will be here, and we'll be huddled in the school room of our little chapel, and that will be all that really matters.
Maybe next year will be the year I finally get to entertain, to hand out mince pies and sherry, to have the perfectly decorated house .... it was meant to be this year, but... erm ....

Do you ever have one of those days?!

I've lost the adapter that makes my printer and puter work together. Oh I've found it. Now the printer's broken. Map exercise for Guides tonight relies on printer. It will only print pink. Not good for maps. Unless of British Empire {g}

Open sewing machine to thread up for H to get on with Christmas presents. Cannot find bobbin to fit sewing machine. Attachment compartment contains many bobbins. None of them fit machine. Why is this? Why are they even there? Must have REMOVED one bobbin from machine, must have had yellow thread on it. It has mysteriously disappeared.

List of To Dos for today as yet unstarted, yet have not stopped since6.30am this morning. What am I doing? I mean literally - what am I doing?!

The calm ... erm... after the storm!

Had a lot of tempestuousness going on just lately.
We're once again considering school for the girls .. but I must admit today the panic subsided, and once again we felt like we might just survive, the way we are .. the problems are kind of multi faceted .. the isolation is not good. There are other ways we could address this, but school would be a really nice one ... then there's the time.
I have, over the last few days, discovered the true extent to which I have let my daughters down, in terms of inadequate housekeeping, standards, and training. It's been scary. I can't let it carry on this way.
If they were at school, someone (me) would get chance to monitor the state of their rooms, fore example. As it is, I am responsible for homeschooling, running a business, half running a farm, running Sunday School, running a Guide unit, looking after four horses, trying to grow all our own food .. as anyone who has ever been overcommitted knows, urgent begins to take precedence over important, and then things go wrong.
It is simply not ok that it has taken two days, and will take another, to make my younger daughter's bedroom habitable.
From the isolation point of view .. we just don't seem to make friends with other HEers. Partly, this is because, we are too busy to go to anything - our local christian he sport club is good, but in winter, we can't get there, and be back in time to do barn chores and shut chickens up. We get few enough chances to ride in these dark, inhospitable days, and we can't be playing netball when there might be chance! My daughters make friends at Guides, and Pony Club, with children who go to school - they aren't, and don't want to be, oddball off the wall types! Me? I just don't have any friends. Ali, who I see once in a blue moon, but talk to a lot, is a real friend, other than that, I have no one. No one to invite round for coffee, no one to have lunch with, no one to talk or pray or sew with. That can't be right.
I have a burst of optimism about our chapel, we love it dearly and would love to see it full (your prayers appreciated!) - but really, I'm the youngest by a mile and I'm no spring chicken.
I can do all things, through Christ who strengtheneth me. Which is just as well.
It will work out. I wish I knew how.

Dull Day

Admittedly, we did have some bright sunshine this morning.
But I'm thinking more of the endless pile of paper I am trying to wade through in connection with the setting up of our dairy company.
Honestly, I'd rather just go outside with the goats, or in the garden.
Mind you it is cold and glum out there.
Not as glum as The Companies Act of 1985, I am here to tell you.
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