One grey February day in 2003, whilst sitting at my computer in a dreary office in West London, I stared out of the window onto the congested and polluted A40 flyover. The only things to be heard were the incessant ringing of office phones and bored voices answering them, and the pneumatic drills and diggers on the road-works outside. Feeling knackered and uninspired about the impending budget meeting with the accounts department later that afternoon, the only thing I could do was to immerse myself in a fantasy. So I set about writing the following piece about my ideal life in the countryside. At the time, the following scenario seemed like a very distant and unobtainable dream…
As I stand at the kitchen sink washing up last night’s dinner plates, I gaze through the fat, colourful tulips sitting in a vase and out of the big oak framed window in front of me. I see spring lambs in the apple orchard, skipping amongst the buttercups and daisies, and a couple of cows peacefully grazing in the bright, warm sunshine. A bumblebee lazily buzzes round my head and I playfully shoo it away, covering myself with soap suds. I look at the remains of the food on the dinner plates and remember the exquisite tastes of our supper the night before which we ate as a family in the garden – a delicious salad of mozzarella, avocado, parma ham, pesto, rocket and lashing of extra virgin olive oil, with homemade crusty bread that I had baked that morning. The windchime hanging above my head makes a little jingle as a light, honeysuckle-scented breeze comes threw the open window.
It is 7.30am and I think about the day ahead of me. After breakfast, the first thing I will do is go out into the garden with my husband and our children to collect the chicken eggs. We will feed the birds, milk the cows and probably have a chat with old farmer Jones. We will then walk around the orchard collecting any rosy apples that may have ripened and fallen to the ground. Then, laden with fresh milk, eggs, juicy apples and some freshly picked flowers, we will head for my little shop which is situated at the end of the garden. I sell everything from fresh homemade bread, to little watercolours of the local scenery, to fishing flies. I decide that later on that afternoon, before I pick the children up from school, I will go for a sail around the nearby lake, followed by a swim with the dolphins.
During the summer months my afternoons vary from day to day. I either go sailing and swimming, bareback horse riding across the mountains behind our cottage, sit by the river and paint, go for long walks, sunbathe, or have lazy picnics with the animals. In winter this changes slightly – I enjoy building snowmen, sledging, making sculptures out of ice, eating the snow and playing with the polar bears who live in a cave in the mountains. My husband, who works from home, is often able to join me in my leisure activities.
Our cottage is warm and cosy with a big open fire in the sitting room where we often sit and read poetry to one another, and laugh and sing and play musical instruments. We have a dining room with a huge oak table in the middle. We often have dinner parties with our friends from London when they come to visit - we have such a jolly old time, sipping wine, eating fine food and laughing about those silly old polar bears in their cave in the mountains. And after dinner we retire to the sitting room where we all sit on sheepskin rugs by the fire and toast marshmallows and play Snakes and Ladders.
I finish the washing-up, take my Marigolds off, call the children, and then head for the garden skipping with joy, to begin the day…
Although our new life does not involve polar bears or dolphins, it does involve all things country - vegetable patches, hens, rolling hills, and mouse invasions.