What is real and the kindness of strangers…..

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This photo was taken on Wednesday night, from the top of one of the mountains that nestle the valley, where I have chosen to put down roots and make the next chapter of my life. I have found a little apartment in a 17th century converted coach house, on an estate and working farm, in the depths of rural North Wales.

I am aware, as one of life’s ‘cliff leapers’, that I may not always have all my ducks in a neat row, but I have faith and trust in what is meant to be. I was drawn here, (never having been to the area before), and as soon as I drove over the mountain range and saw the valley stretching out before me, with the little medieval town in the middle, my soul spoke the words ‘You are home’.

My new home

With much gratitude to the loving support I have had, I came into land last Saturday and a few things happened in quick succession. My original choice of apartment felt all wrong as I unpacked my car and stood in the middle of the main room. My warm spirited landlord caught on very quickly and I was moved to another apartment on the estate. As I spruced the place up and settled in my laptop died, my phone struggled with any mobile signal at all, the Wifi signal was faint (that is being kind) and nothing electrical in the place worked. I have not collected my belongings from David’s yet, so I had very little that was familiar around me. The care agency work I was assured was a doddle to get into, is anything but, and I awoke the next morning to a cold feeling of ‘Oh what have I done…’.

OK, I thought, this is fear and I will acknowledge it, but not sink into it. I have been stopped in my tracks for a reason, but I am very definately in the right place. The fear is not real, what has gone before is not real, for it is in the past, and my imaginings on what might happen next are not real either.

What is real is what I tell myself and how I tackle this. I am capable and I have my smile..I can climb mountains.

My landlord on various visits has sorted my sparkly clean washing machine, which I can now set the dials on and start with a ball point pen…he’s ordered me a new button. The oven is now functioning (it had a dicky timer) and is sparkly clean. My laptop is fixed and I have made friends with the friendly man in the computer shop in the town and a lovely lady who runs a cafe nearby. Rachel lent me her laptop and let me sit in her cafe for hours on end as I job hunted. I have sussed the water timer and I can have hot, deep soaks in a sparkly clean bath. The sparkly clean theme now runs throughout my whole place and it made my landlord smile when I texted him a friendly warning to wear shades to combat sparkliness when he next visited. He is also buying me a Wifi booster. I am starting to get to know my neighbours, as there are forty odd places all rented out on this estate. Some are in the main hall and others in the coach house, stable block and assorted cottages and farm buildings dotted about.

Midweek, a visit to my Mum and Dad, who now live less than an hour away, was much needed. Mum got my washing done, fed me, sat me down to watch an escapist film and sent me back home with all sorts of goodies. That was real.

The job hunting has clarified something for me and I think it is based on all the blessed forms to be filled in and hoops to be jumped through…I am a self employed lass at heart. So I have created some handmade cards and started advertising myself as a ‘Home Service’…think Mary Poppins. Anything from cleaning to decorating, right through to cooking and baby sitting. I had a think you see and what is real are the things that I can do right here, right now. I can do accounts and finances, but why would anyone let me loose on those when I am in a foreign country and I am an unknown? If I start by being of service; work, smile, gain trust, talk to folk and get to know those in this farming community, then I can expand my services.

With the kindness of strangers; my cards are being handed out, helpful tips are being shared (along with some much needed local knowledge), decorating work is being promised, I was given a yummy piece of chocolate cake lovingly made by a neighbour’s young daughter last night, I have been gifted a beautiful rose bush for my patio, along with a thoughtful lavender plant (they are alongside a pale pink geranium from my Mum), friendly greetings are called out as I go about my daily tasks, invitations are being issued for coffee, dinner, a visit to the top balcony on the coach house (the views are breathtaking), advice for joining local business groups and I have been driven up one of the mountains to see the valley from there. Kindness is flowing….

What is also very real here are the views from several five bar gates. I can see the cows and sheep in the fields, each afternoon I can hear the cows in the wooden barn opposite me, hear the fountain playing through my kitchen window and each evening I watch the swallows flying in formation and calling to each other as they cool off in the evening breeze, just before the bats start to fly in the dusky evening sky.

I am home.

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Last week I was mainly driving tractors, diggers and trailers……love it!

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On the farm last week, the father and son builder team of John and Duncan, creating a huge 90ft barn in a far field, were a gift. Over coffee and cake breaks we perched on stacked timber and forged a friendship with much banter and laughter.

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One evening I looked across at the tractors dotted about and asked who owned them. Duncan said he did as he watched my face light up. For years, and I mean years, I have yearned to be back on a tractor. This is linked to heart memories from my days as a teenager in Africa, way before the days of health and safety, where we really pushed boundaries and had real adventures. Anyway I digress, I whispered to him (it was that important to me), could he take me out on a tractor….pretty please? We arranged it and end of play one early evening I stood welly booted and expectant in the field. Duncan went one better and handed me the keys with the words, ‘I think you can handle this yourself Jane’. He gave me instructions, perched in the cab with me and off we went. The sprung seat bounced and I drove around that field with a massive grin on my face. He had given me the gift of a dream.

A few days later John was unable to come to work on the barn, so I offered to help Duncan and he gave me instructions on how to drive the digger, with it’s many levers! The plan was to put Duncan in the digger bucket with a 16ft wooden beam and I would manoervre him through the steel shell and lift him up to various points to place, drill and then bolt each beam into place.

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The faith and trust he placed in me was immense as I have never driven one of these things and my fear level was high as I applied every atom of concentration to my task. Backwards and forwards we went and we managed to finish a whole section.

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My heart was in my mouth, but gradually I got the hang of it and the banter flowed through facial expressions. We had been using a system of hand signals above the racket of the engine and after a while I knew when to lower this trusting soul to bring him out for the next beam. I had a little fun with him in there. I would catch the flash of a smile as the last fixings went into a beam and I would grin at him from the cab and raise him an inch (steel beams above his head). His expression was priceless and I continued to grin and bring him slowly down again. He didn’t need to hand signal, his facial expression was eloquence enough in itself. He gave me another precious gift that day as my confidence came flooding back. I struggle when I think how long ago I lost it as I have been running on auto-pilot, with regular mental reminders of ‘I can do this’, for months now. His faith in me was uplifting and I must have slowed him down that day, but he gave no hint of it, just gentle encouragement and laughter.

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I left with love and much gratitude to head on up to Cheshire. John was back in the bucket, with Duncan driving the digger, and he looked down and said ‘Will you miss the place Jane?’, I replied ‘I’ll miss you two John, and the animals, I am so grateful for your friendship this week. It has been a special gift’. This roughty, toughty compact man in his special cap looked down and his eyes twinkled. Duncan and I hugged without words.

I am back at Mum and Dad’s and their moving plans are gathering pace. I awoke on my first morning to my Dad, with a familiar look on his face, saying ‘You’ve got a tow bar on your car haven’t you Nane?’, (that’s my old family name). That morning we shifted a huge heap of ordered debris (it’s my Dad after all), that used to be the old roof of Dad’s back workshop. ‘Thirty years ago I hand laminated that with a two inch brush’, said Dad. ”Really?’ I said as I struggled to split the external panels. Now for those of you in the know my Dad does nothing by halves and this is a trailer with a capital ‘T’ and I have never driven while pulling one before. After several trips we finished the job without incident, having befriended a kind young man at the tip who made the whole thing seamless at their end, and was very appreciative of the homemade cake from my Mum.

I think I have found my calling….all I need now is a hard hat.

The ultimate ‘selfie’ – self love, self respect, self worth – all interlinked and vital.

Daisy

There is a herd of Jacob’s sheep here, along with their lambs, and Daisy is the eldest in their group. She is a character and comes to say ‘Hello’ and stands still for as long as her head is stroked and her neck rubbed. We stood at the gate this morning and chatted, as I rubbed her shorn fleece.

Without a shadow of doubt, this farm sit has been my busiest assignment, calling upon skills and dollops of common sense in equal measure.

I started these adventures with the belief that I could earn my living through my telephone work and writing assignments. This would enable me to gift my time and love caring for pets, farm animals and homes, in return for a roof over my head. Again, there have been blessings and challenges in equal measure and a huge life lesson nestled within.

I have ended up skewing my own balance out of whack. I became very involved caring and flowing love into others’ lives and it has left precious little time for me to care for me. I did not value myself enough. The consequences of this lack of care are evident, but repairable. I choose not to travel down the path of blame, recriminations, anger or bitterness, as my own choices took me down this route in the first place and others’ actions are there own responsibility. So there are new choices being made, balance coming into view and as ever, life gifts being acknowledged.

We all give freely of our love, in so many ways, as we go about our daily rounds and I believe this is driven by the desire to be valued, loved, appreciated, respected, or all four, by others. Our own view on how worthy we are of love and respect cannot be sustainable like this.

How often do we pause to flow love to ourselves? For in loving ourselves we create and grow our own self worth and this is self respecting. We owe ourselves that surely?

We can love ourselves for who we are, not what we do, or are seen to do. Self love and appreciation builds sustainable self worth and that shines a light that warms everyone. Ask Daisy, she has a special light.

Golden light

A bad workman always blames his tools…

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I am in the depths of rural Wiltshire on a working farm and loving it. Above we have little Lulu, tuckered out after a day chasing sticks and balls that the builders have been throwing for her. I also have the company of Harry, a beautiful black flat coated Retriever and Bumble, a poodle cross. One thing these dogs all have in common is the sweetest, most loving natures and it is a delight to explore the farm with them by my side.

My first full day here has been an adventure and my reference to the saying ‘A bad workman always blames his tools…’ relates to my experience with the Aga. I had an email from my client saying that I may find builders on the farm building a barn. I did, in a far paddock across the yard working hard on a massive 90 foot barn, so they will be here most of the week. They were very pleased to be offered a hot drink, and unable to find builder type biscuits, I also offered to bake them a cake. Their eyes lit up. The Aga and I had become acquainted at breakfast time and there was no reason to suspect that I could not produce cake using it. Oh me and my eternal optimism. My furry companions were bemused when I took my cake out of the oven this afternoon and burst out laughing. My new builder friends watched me approach with their afternoon refreshments in hand, saying ‘A bad workman always blames his tools…’ To then look relieved when they realised I was referring to my cake. They assured me that it tasted good, because it certainly looked interesting in shape and appearance! I have a week to master the Aga….

There are sheep on this farm (that escape into the rose garden!), retired racehorses, ducks, geese and hens, as well as my furry companions, so it is easy to see why I love it here. The farmhouse is a beautiful country home and my bedroom is en suite with a bath tub that is wide, deep and long. Bliss…..

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Let me introduce you to Harry, who is keeping watch over me while I write this.

There are all manner of roses growing up the front and back of the house, the ducks and hens are so tame you can stroke them, a stone lined stream runs through the grounds like a moat, buildings have been made from soft, honeyed Cotswold stone, there are fields as far as the eye can see, a friendly lodger on the top floor of the farmhouse, many wild birds and a huge five bar gate that I open to drive the car in, the dogs come to greet me and then jump into the car, I drive through, close the gate and then we all travel up to the farm together.

And last but not least, Bumble, who is holidaying here while her Mum is away and whose tail wags in time to the words you say to her.

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A magical light at St. George’s Church, Fordington, Dorchester…..

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Re-tracing the steps of Roman times,
And many centuries past.

Fresh pasties and apple juice,
Savoured in Thomas Hardy land.

Dappled sunlight on a river,
Running through clear and true.

Pure light shining,
Reflected in eyes and smiles.

A time of heart memories,
Of peace for joyful souls.

Discovering Dorset is a delightful surprise…

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I drove across country to reach Dorset on Monday and I feel like I have stepped back in time to discover a place that is unspoilt and true to it’s rich heritage. All these years of travelling and I have never visited this part of England.

As the fields and countryside unfolded in front of my little car, my breathing slowed and the peace of ‘ruralness’ settled within.

The couple I am pet caring for this week got married on Monday and they have now gone, with their lovingly blended extended family, to celebrate with loved ones and to hold another ceremony in France. There was a happy dinner on Monday evening at the ‘newlyweds’ favourite eatery, with Mr’s Mum and his new wife’s daughter and her husband. They kindly included me. There was much laughter, banter and sharing of stories, as loving links deepened. A funny moment when the power went out. The chef sent the waitress back with a request for us to re-choose our dinner with anything that could be cooked on the gas burners, as he had lost the use of all his ovens. Yummy food arrived soon after and ‘hats off’ to him for creating against the odds. His wife came over later with champagne and special chocolates for the happy couple. The new ‘Mrs’ leant across to me and placed before me the tiny pink rose from the top of her chocolate box with the words ‘For you Jane, because I just know you keep little treasures from magic moments’.

After dinner the new ‘Mr’ took his bride, his Mum and me for an evening drive. We saw tiny Dorset villages tucked away in the golden evening light, rivers, little bridges, trees, fields and old fashioned hedgerows bordering country lanes. We watched for deer and chatted about the history of this wonderful place. His bride wanted me to see the church where her daughter and son-in-law were married a few years ago. We got out of the car, just us two girls, and walked around this special place. The windows of Moreton church were blown out in World War II and Whistler’s grandson was commissioned to replace them with etched glass. They are a sight to behold.

Moreton Church

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Lawrence of Arabia is resting peacefully in the churchyard opposite.

We managed to squeeze some time in, so I could see some of her daughter and son-in-law’s wedding video and I am glad we did. They have a way, this family, of elevating the ordinary to something magical and love flows from each of them and through all they do.

After many hugs, Badger and Bella (their two furry babies) and I are alone. We potter through our days; enjoying a beautiful garden, the breathtaking views across the fields, swinging on the seat amoung the roses and flowers as the pond fountain plays, eating strawberries and lettuces fresh from the earth (that’s me as my furry companions have their own treats) and as evening draws in we tuck up amidst all the twinkly lights. There are arty objects and crafted pieces dotted about and a sign above the door saying ‘What if the Hokey Cokey really IS what it’s all about?’ Well, if it is, one thing I know for sure is that it will be threaded with much love like everything else in this home.

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Magic moments from atop my favourite hill in Gloucestershire….

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Dilly and Amy on a walk in the forest.

It is these dog’s special bond that brought me to Dilly’s five bar gate at the top of the hill back at Easter time. Love flowed and a friendship developed with Dilly’s Mum and Dad, Eddie and Elaine, and they have flowed care ever since. I have been tucked up in their magic home for the last few days.

Magic moments….

Dilly feels she has two main roles in her happy life; one is playing with tennis balls and the other is ‘herding’ the chickens. She can be found resting under trees throughout the day keeping watch over her flock. Every now and then her ministrations get a little too enthusiastic and the hens bat her back with their wings…then peace descends once more. I will hear a ball dropping at my feet as one of the abiding memories of being here. Each evening we all feel the effects of multiple ball throwing and one by one the balls get tucked away and Dilly settles down for an evening cuddle. You cannot say the word ‘balls’ within her hearing after this has happened and Eddie made us all laugh when he came in the other evening enquiring ‘Have the sphericals gone to bed yet?’. Dilly was fast asleep last night when I was heard to comment that I had spent the week sitting on balls.

Hepsibar is a poorly hen right now and giving her some tonic and vitamins is important. I usually find her in the silver birch tree memorial garden and we have a chat whilst she takes her ‘get well soon’ treats. This morning she pottered into the kitchen to say thank you.

I collected some things from my car the morning after I had arrived and felt him, before I saw him. It was Rocky, the lovely big boy of a horse, that I cared for at Easter. He was lunching in a neighbour’s field with Lizzie his buddy. I looked up to see him quietly watching me over the gate. I walked over and put my nose to his and wrapped my arms around his neck. We stood for ages breathing together.

Eddie is so talented as a musician and we are blessed to have him play the piano to ‘us girls’ as we go about our evening tasks. I was delighted to hear the Star Trek and Thunderbirds theme tunes. Another abiding memory will be Eddie bounding into the front room doorway late one night saying ‘I have just composed a new piece, do you want to come and listen?’ ‘You do don’t you? Yes, you do?’ He was bouncing from one foot to the other and Elaine, Dilly and I went down to his studio and were privileged to hear his latest piece for the flute. Beautiful.

Showering and looking out of the window onto the little lane and forest the other morning, I was surprised to see the postman in his van drive slowly past . Though not as surprised as he was….he’s young, he’ll recover!

I knelt down yesterday at the edge of the forest and chatted to a two year old toddler about all the leaves he had picked up and the shapes they made. His Mum took him home to help him make a picture with them all.

Friends I made at Easter have been hugged, new friends have been made as we have walked the dogs in the forest, special animals have been cuddled, fresh eggs have been collected and the house has been warmed with the smell of baking, the full moon has been watched, blue skies have been celebrated, sunshine has been welcomed and fresh air has been breathed. Magic moments have been tucked away in a heart that overflows.


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