🌺

Waking this morning to the light filtering in through the curtains and the sound of the birds outside, I could feel the shift in the season almost before I opened my eyes. As I boiled the kettle and rattled the rats’ cages to drop off their breakfast (all waking with an excited start to grab weetabix cubes and carry them off to their four preferred eating corners), the sense of spring and a change in the air filled the house.

Out in the garden, the snowdrops lightly peppered the ground just as they had yesterday, but they stood in altered surroundings somehow, the sunlight playing with their shadows at only 7am and the breeze lighter, full of promise of a spring and summer to come.

I love spring and autumn – those seasons of change and a spiralling cascade of auburn leaves or cherry blossom towards the new – better than the other longer ones of winter and summer, where we find ourselves settled into mainly light or mainly darkness. They are also both wonderful in their own way, but there is nothing like feeling the winds of change in the air and watching life evolve.

The pony was waiting by his stable door, the last of his four stable mates to go out today, and as we wandered he blinked at strong sunlight and stepped into a dryer field, the grass to mud ratio now beginning to turn in our favour.

One of my favourite parts of the day, full of calm and the space to enjoy my surroundings, is the drive to work. This morning – with crocuses and the first few daffodils lining the roadsides, the jagged hills above me glinting in the sunshine and still patchy with snow – it was more beautiful than ever.

Earlier, out in my short sleeves with my coffee cup, packing the car to start another working week, the sun warm so early; I had been surprised to still need to use the last of the kettle’s warmth to slick a thin but persistent layer of ice from the windscreen – winter still hanging around, in its annual tug-of-war with spring.

Yet today, it is clear it is finally loosing its grip; and with the blue skies, the warmth in the air and the birds singing new songs, we are on the cusp of another spring-time at last. 

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Our Ginny ❀

When I was growing up, our house was always filled with as many animals as people – often more. The family life I loved and learned in was defined by the happy stromash of an exuberant springer spaniel puppy, an ageing Labrador, three children, an assorted collection of small pets and a kitten who quickly grew into a cat but never forgot to remain afraid of the lop-eared rabbit who was once upon a time bigger than her. First pets of our own were our first responsibilities and such a big part of growing up – goldfish to begin with and later my little grey gerbil Rustler and my very first rats, Charlie and Brodie, beginning a lifetime passion. 

Above all, we were definitely dog people. My earliest memories involve lying by the fire with our old golden retriever Shane, and as I got older walking our dogs was a highlight of my day and gave me my solitude and thinking time in amongst all the inevitable ups and downs of adolescence. 

Thirteen years ago this spring, we had just lost our last dog, a beautiful old chocolate lab called Penny, and our home just didn’t feel the same. It was only a matter of time before a new member of the family found her way into our lives – which was how it came to be that in 2004, as I was turning 16 and studying for my first round of school exams, I was absolutely besotted with the little black and tan collie pup who had come to live with us. ❀ 

Ginny was very timid when she first arrived – she was only 9 months old and although she had been given to the rescue centre along with her brother, they had made the decision to rehome her away from him as she had struggled to move out from his shadow in her last home. In ours, she initially had only Corrie, our tortoiseshell cat, for company; and, we all firmly believed as the first few years went by, Ginny began to think of herself as a cat too, curling anywhere Cor did and loving nothing more than to sit in a lap and be stroked, with very little regard for how big she was! ❀ 

Back in those days, Gin was so lithe and active and we believed she had some whippet in her as she cut about the woods where we lived, turning on a sixpence and never running short of energy. Thirteen years later, we help her around on walks with a special harness supporting her back legs which are now prone to giving up on her much sooner than she is done with the excitement of being out for a walk. 

From the very beginning of her life with us, Ginny was so loyal and loving to us all. When we all lived at home and she was young and agile she would career through the house of a morning, finding us all in our beds – for years my days began in the best possible way, waking up being pounced on by the puppy, ready to play; a much-loved era and one any stay back at home always brings a happy reliving of nomatter how many years have gone by. 

A faithful sheepdog at heart, Ginny has always taken her self-imposed responsibility to round us all up very seriously indeed; and she has continued to keep tabs on us even as we’ve all grown up and come and gone from the family home; always one eye on the door if we’re not all together, and reaching a level of happiness and relaxation so lovely to see when she has achieved her goal in life and has all of us around her of an evening.

As is life’s way, there have been so many twists and turns in our shared story as the years have gone by, and such a huge expanse of time has been crossed together as a family. People, dogs and cats have merged into our little flock and Ginny has always accepted them without a moment’s hesitatation, adding them to her headcount and extending the same love and loyalty she offers everything in life. There’s no way of knowing what lies ahead, and quite how life might change for us all as it meanders on. But, come what may, I’ll always be grateful for all these years, and for our Ginny dog herding us together and being one of the lights of all our lives. 

❀

With Corrie, 2005:

Playing in the snow, Christmas Day 2009:

Me with Ginny, our beautiful old deerhound Maisie (with us 2007-2014) and Charmer, 2012:

Summers in the garden:

Ginny, Maisie and Phoebe-cat out for a walk in their usual formation, 2013:

Getting ready for my wedding in 2014:

Waiting patiently for someone to come home, 2015:

Out walking with her new younger sister Katy, 2017:

Our Ginny…. ❀❀❀❀❀

Home ❀

Six years ago this weekend, I packed up my much-loved little flat in town, along with my girls, Smokie and Peatie, my first rats since childhood; while my husband (then boyfriend) and his handsome and hilarious lionhead house rabbit Simba did the same in theirs; and we all moved into our home together for the very first time. It’s strange to think that it’s been that long – sometimes it seems like no time at all and at others when I think of all that’s happened in the last six years it feels forever. 

I still remember so clearly sitting down on our first night in our new home, late on – all our lovely helpers gone, books arranged, key turned in the old door for the first time and the remainder of the boxes left for now – just enjoying the space we could call ours. The girls were down in the kitchen getting acquainted with the new view from their cage, and I always remember Simba, who was as big a character as we’ve ever had the privilege of sharing our life with, making us laugh so much lying very regally in front of the fire even that very first day, happily acclimatising to his new spot.

Five years ago, on Valentines Day in 2012, after a year of living the five of us, we brought home our first pet together, Grace, our little hamster. She was again one of the most wonderful personalities we’ve come across – she was 4 months old when we met her and had been recently rescued having spent all of her life until then in a little plastic box. She was much smaller than any other Syrian hamsters we’ve had, and had lost one ear, but if any of that should have dampened her love of life it certainly didn’t – Grace approached everything with so much enthusiasm, climbing to the top of bookcases in a heartbeat, rocketing on her much-too-big 12″ wheel with no effort, and was incredibly friendly and affectionate. 

The years have tumbled by and life has moved on in so many ways – we’ve begun and ended whole careers, got engaged in our little kitchen, come home as newlyweds, hosted family and friends, seen the blackbird couple come back every summer, lit the fire every winter and seen so many beloved pets come and go. It has all been such an adventure. 

Two years ago, we brought Ty and his brother Harvey home on the same day we moved in, and in fact named Ty in part for the Gaelic “Tigh” meaning “home” since he arrived on such an appropriate day. Sitting with him in our home this evening it is lovely to look back on so many memories.

Not just in our house, and our home wherever we come to make it in the future, but in all of our life, our story has been enhanced by all of the characters in it, including our pets. 

Thought I’d take such an opportune chance to share a couple of them – our beautiful Mr & Mrs rat couple who were a much-loved gift for our wedding and who stand in pride of place in our living room:

…and our wedding horseshoe, one of Charmer’s own, decorated by my very talented friend..

We don’t know where the future will take us and what lies around the corner. I love to celebrate our home-aversary even if one of these years it is our last in this house, as I know whenever we move on it will be all together and to somewhere just as loved and just a new chapter in our life together – as another of my favourite home pieces says, “What I love most about my home is who I share it with” – wherever it is. ❀

Just a few pictures of some very favourite moments here over the years.. 

Whether you are celebrating Valentines Day, light nights, Friday finally being here, anything else or nothing at all, hope you all have a really lovely weekend. X

Winter’s Charm ❄️

At this time of year, I look forward so much to the arrival of spring. I smile at every new bud on the tree, every snowdrop in the ground, and we watch happily every night in our office as 5 o’clock creeps closer with blue still in the sky, counting down to the time when we drive home without headlights on and spend energised evenings in the fading light. I love the idea of being rid of the mud at the field gate, wandering out to check the horse with pumps on across fresh grass, the smell of fly spray filling the air again; and can’t wait to wake to daylight every morning, out to the garden for coffee, feeling like a whole day’s living’s been done before work even begins. 

And yet sometimes, like this weekend, in the midst of the usual February countdown to spring and summer, the romance of winter just catches hold of me again, and I remember why I love it so much and why I count down so keenly to it too when the last days of summer come. ❀❄️

Last night, walking out to a further away field than I usually have cause to go to on our farm, bringing in a friend’s horse for the night, I unlocked the icy padlock on the far-away gate and walked along the grass strip above the fields’ edges, the horses all gathered in clusters around newly-filled ring feeders. The sweet wintry smell of the fresh bales of haylage filled the frosty air, the sky that deep midnight blue of just-before-darkness, the colour always richest just before it turns to black – stars already dotting it and the moon casting light as wellies and hooves picked their way back to the bright lights of the barn.

By this morning, the temperature had risen enough for the rain to return so it was swooshing windscreen wipers and rain bouncing off the car roof as I drove into the farm again. Leading the horses out, frozen fingers wrapped round lead ropes – only warming up when gratefully tucked into Charmer’s cosy turnout rug, where he’s like a little insulation heater in spite of the weather, or wrapped round travel mugs of coffee chatting to friends in the barn doorway – while the ponies began to stamp their feet impatiently, making us laugh.

Their battle finally won and the meander to the field done, find myself standing at the gate in my usual weekend morning routine, Charmer on one side and me the other but both still standing together for the brief few moments before our days begin. Sooner or later he will inevitably spot something more interesting further down the field – where the boys are tussling with each other and the prettiest mare shaking her head as she trots along the fence – but for the moment it’s lovely to have a lull in the morning’s busyness; and it is so easy to be thankful, in spite of looking forward to a new season, for these short cold days and the cosiness they help us find. X