I WAS WALKING home the other day, down a quiet country road. There was no one else, just me, the sun and the wind. The sprouting crops coloured the fields a fresh green, birch and pine trees adorned the edges of the fields in neat clusters. It was quite far, about 9 kilometres, with no cars passing by to give me a lift. I preferred it that way, however, – I wanted time and space for my thoughts and dreams to ride the wind.
I moved into this little farm of mine ten years ago. Since then I’ve created a world of my dreams, a world of my imagination, my little paradise on earth, with a garden of nearly four hundred rose bushes, English, Historic and ramblers; with a pedigree flock of beautiful Texel sheep.
In the beginning I couldn’t hold a spade – I hadn’t worked anything physical before. When I bought my first chickens, a goat and later a sheep, I didn’t even know what it felt like touching them. Now I can give advice on roses and garden design (in my own simple way, of course), on sheep, goats and chickens. I attend to my precious ewes when they are in labour. I can push and turn and pull the lamb if it refuses to come out. I shear each and every of my sheep by hand, talking to them and patting them along. We are in full agreement with my two gorgeous rams, Beau Senior and Beau Junior, especially after one misunderstanding, when once Beau Sr. nudged me innocently so, that I flew a few metres across the paddock (but landed safely).
And what with my landscape photography course! It gave me a great excuse to wander across the neighbours’ fields, struggle through forest undergrowth or tread with respect along the edges of wetland. Or to take a swim in summer, in the cool waters of a lake early in the morning or quite late in the evening, depending on what I was shooting – sunrise or sunset. I needed this excuse for myself and for my diligent neighbours, because how else can you explain to them why you dawdle. You don’t want the villagers to think you are nutty.
I’ve been asking myself now and again how long you can live in such bliss. True, there is lots of hard work: you slave away at a computer for weeks on end to meet deadlines. Or feed the 32 sheep by hand, singlehandedly, on winter days whatever the weather: in a snow storm or at -20°C, – the animals are entirely dependent on you, they can’t wait. In our climate animals have to bet kept indoors for five to six months a year and my sheds are pre-war, traditional and feeding is not easy. In spite of this, my existence on the farm has been an absolute bliss.
But can it last? And should it last? I could sense the tell-tale signs of the answer deep at the back of my mind. Those signs would move and turn and kick like a baby inside you. Yes, something was brewing.
And then, on a beautiful spring day it came. With full force, brutally shaking me to the core: I paid taxes on my already modest annual income! As a self-employed person I was left with a pittance that would never allow me to travel, to do things I want, to live the life I want. I do understand the objective reasons why my country’s economy is as it is: still in transition from an authoritarian regime under which we had to endure fifty years, to a market economy. It will take a few generations to undo what the inhuman regime has done to us, both in the economy and in our way of thinking. But I have no time, I’m in my late fifties and this is my only chance to do something about my life.
The decision to leave my little paradise and my country has been painful, very painful. I don’t even dare to dwell on it. But I’m ready to go. I’ve started another on-line course to give me an instrument to earn my living and do something good for those people who would accept me.
I’ve never wanted to live abroad. Travelling – yes, when you return home! But not living. Even if it is my beloved country, my Other Country, for which I fell at the age of seven, when I started learning English at school. Even if I have my Other Mother in England, Mary, who is now eighty and who has had a profound influence on me, who has been an inspiration to me throughout our friendship of thirty years. It was she who taught me, a young woman straight from a country under authoritarian rule, to see the world in an entirely new way. It was she who introduced me to all that is British.
I love Britain, it’s culture, the people. I’ve been there numerous times for business and pleasure. I’m in love with London where I studied quite a number of years ago. I admire the landscape of the British Isles, the parks and gardens… I hope the country will accept me when I’m ready.