To read part one and two of the Shorts story click Shorts in the category section on the left hand panel.
I looked at the trailer and felt daunted and helpless – didn’t know where to begin – doubts and uncertainties raged about in what little insides I had left. I should explain, I was about seven months pregnant. Sitting down on the dusty cobbles I began to cry: emotions, overblown by pregnancy hormones, didn’t need much encouragement. I’d – we’d – bitten off more than we could chew. It all seemed so right, so absolutely, utterly and completely what we had to do a few days ago. No uncertainties, no doubts, no second thoughts. But now I felt very small, very alone and very vulnerable and very scared.
What I wouldn’t give to be back in Kent, back at Church Gates Cottage where all this madness started…
I wasn’t from Kent but had gravitated there. Born and brought up in the Far East I’d been sent back to school in the UK spending holidays with my grandparents who lived in Goudhurst. My parents moved back to England in my mid teens and had bought a house outside Benenden, Kent. Working in London after finishing college I’d been offered a job in Ashford which I accepted, married Geoffrey, and bought Church Gates Cottage in the village of Pluckley. And, as one does, when trying to furnish a house on a shoe string, I had gone to buy a second hand table but come back with a goatling, Pixie. I returned for her sister, Cherry, the next day, because as everyone knows you can’t keep just one goat.
There followed an intense time of learning. We had a small enclosed garden, only reachable through the cottage kitchen, where we converted the coal bunker into a goat house. Goats grow. With a casting vote of one we were given permission by the parish council to tether the goats in the church yard, and…make hay! We rented an ancient store attached to the cottage, moved in the goats and our enormous treble tennis net of dried hay. Six Rhode Island Red hens joined the garden menagerie. Potatoes, carrots, beans, chard, peas, onions and leeks now grew amongst the roses, lupins, delphiniums and geraniums. Mrs Garnham and I met at the church fete, a strong bond grew between us, she in her early eighties me in my late twenties – she was my mentor, full of ancient wisdom and learning. She taught me how to spin, weave, dye and much more. I made jams, jellies, chutneys, wine from hedgerow flowers and fruit and beer from local hop gardens. I loved it all and one day woke up pregnant…
We had an epiphany, of sorts, and decided we wanted to bring our children up with real countryside around them, full of freedom and clean air, filling them with food we’d grown and produced. It was decided; we searched in Wales, we searched in Cornwall, we searched in Devon, the Lakes, the Dales and Scotland. And we found Shorts, cheap, run down; with the sale of Church Gates there was some money left in the pot for repairs and equipment. Also, most important, Geoffrey could get a job.
So here I was, without the blessing of my family, miles from them and friends on the brink …of what? Destitution? Failure? Or pioneering the life I really wanted for my family?
I got up off the ground, wiped my hand on my grubby dungarees, sniffed, took a deep breath, muttered a pull-yourself-together sermon and went to calm the ruffled feathers of my well travelled hens before introducing them to their new hen house.