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 ......
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