Mum is down and sitting in front of me. She lives in London and comes to stay with us a couple of times a year. I’m not sure what she thinks.
Of course she’s positive and complimentary when I talk to her, but it must be odd to see her son live such an alternative lifestyle, her boy who she remembers wandering off to school in a smart uniform, who used to play with the family cat, Solomon, and shy away from any dogs (oh how things change), who left school and began a career of working in offices as an estate agent, and now… now, has separate indoor clothes and outdoor clothes (a sure sign of a manual worker), and the front door step crowded with mucky welly boots.
Most of the time even I’m astounded by how different my life is; not from other peoples, but from my own. In London I had such a trendy apartment. It was Victorian with ceilings so high that when I wanted to fit a plaster ceiling rose, I had to hire a mini scaffolding tower. The walls and ceiling were yellow, and the rose, coving and all the woodwork a bright, crisp white, with jazzy curtains hanging at the windows. You could have photographed it for a magazine.
Now I live in a tiny cottage on Exmoor. In the lounge, about six inches away from my mother’s feet, is an incubator with half a dozen goose eggs and nearly thirty duck eggs warming nicely with the chicks growing inside. On the other side of her, curled up and asleep, is my dog. She doesn’t look comfortable.
I want her to be part of my life, but I know she doesn’t quite know what to make of it. She can’t join in because she doesn’t know how to. The other thing is, our life has lots of different stands to it, with the farm work, the farmers’ markets, the courses we run teaching others how to butcher and process meat, or smallholding courses, even self sufficiency courses. Then there’s the writing.
The writing is going really well and I’m actually now getting editors coming to me asking if I can supply articles, which is brilliant. I had a lovely one last week. There’s a magazine called Writers’ Forum, and for years I was a subscriber because they have a monthly competition where you write a story on a set theme and the winner gets theirs printed in the next edition. I entered every month for years, and every month I prayed this would be the one and I’d win, but it never was. I never even came close. Anyway, a little while ago I sent a pitch in for an article about getting my book published, and they accepted – but the really cool thing is, they want a photograph of me for the cover. What a turn around.
I told mum about it and she laughed. She keeps looking at me now while I’m writing, little furtive glances that I can sense rather than see. She’s not proud of what I do, she’s not—oh I don’t know, maybe she is, maybe that’s not fair. The thing is, it’s a Monday morning and I’m sitting on the sofa writing this, and then I’ve got an article to write for Devon Life magazine and some research to do for The Exmoor magazine, but I know she doesn’t think this counts. What counts is if I was up and dressed in a smart business suit and on my way to an office somewhere.
I guess it used to upset me a little. Getting the book published helped, and I think she can see that Debbie and I have worked really hard to achieve the life we have, even if she can’t understand it. I have got to take her back at the weekend, back to London. On route, I’m going to make a detour to Bluewater, the massive shopping centre in Kent because that’s where she shops and that’s what she knows, and I’m going to take her into Waterstones and stand her in front of my book. It probably won’t mean much to her, but for me, it’s going to mean the world.