I knew it was going to be a perfect morning for my last walk with the dogs. The sun was streaming through the big front windows and a heavy mist hung low over the fields and wrapped around the church tower in the distance. My week of housesitting in the country was coming to an end. I pulled on my wellies and tattered old Barbour, leashed the dogs and headed down to the fields. I thought about the past week, the serendipitous moments, the theraputic hours spent walking the fields and woods with two appreciative and affectionate dogs. I thought I would miss London. I didn’t.
I’m convinced my first English housesitting experience was unusual. The location was spectacular… a small, country village on the outskirts of Salisbury, the lovely old vicarage that overlooked sheep-speckled fields and two beautiful labradors to keep me company. My job was to take care of the house and the two dogs, walk them daily and keep general order around the property.
My mornings consisted of waking and feeding the dogs, chugging a cup of coffee and trying to choose which of the dozen scenic walks we would take that morning. There is something to be said about crunching through the hoar-covered fields and ancient forests just as the sun hits the horizon. Clears the head. Accentuates the need for more coffee. Afternoons were much the same…a long ramble, a quick walk through town for stops at the butcher or green grocer before heading home for dinner and a night snuggled up on the sofa in front of a fire.
On the weekend, The Mister came to play the role of country gentleman and our daughter came to visit. We piled the dogs into the car and explored the neighboring towns on Saturday and drove to the beach on a beautiful, sunny almost-spring day. Sound like heaven? It gets better.
My first morning in town, the doorbell rang. I opened it to find a neighbor, who stopped by to see if I needed anything. We shared a cup of tea and a chat before he was off with a promise to return if anything came up while the owners were gone. The shopkeepers in town were lovely and helpful. They called you “luv” and asked if I was”enjoying my time here.” Strangers on the street said “hello” and “you’re a long way from home.” In my first three days of housesitting, I had two coffee dates, one tea afternoon, two lunches and an invitation to church on Sunday. I met an ex-Royal Navy pilot, numerous retired clergymembers, a woman who was in the midwifery corps that inspired the Call the Midwife series and someone who had, in addition to an amazingly interesting life, Hugh Bonneville as a student (just mentioned in passing). Somehow I had landed in the Lake Wobegone of England. In addition to everyone in town being good-looking and above average, they were interesting, kind, generous and neighborly. It was unexpected, undeserved and much appreciated.
There were moments that weren’t perfect. I forgot the poo bags on my first walk and had to walk a half mile with a warm poo wrapped in a receipt I found in my pocket. I managed to blow a fuse in the kitchen the first evening. I stood on the toilet with a flashlight in my teeth and yanked the fuse out with enough force that it ricocheted off the wall and cracked into two pieces. I did get to meet the electrical supply people in town, though. They were very nice. There was a trip to the vet and a silly issue with a car key (by silly, I mean I was being completely stupid). Life is interesting, isn’t it?
So, I’m back in the city, missing the country, needing a dog and a few friendly faces. Maybe I can talk the owners into an extended vacation.