Welcome to Cafe and Bookstore Author spotlight. I invited authors in the Cafe to share what they consider to be a defining moment in their lives that resulted in a major positive change. The current series ends on October 11th and is booked out with some wonderful authors and their stories.
Jane Sturgeon has been a systems analyst, trainer, technical author, painter, psychic medium, furniture restorer, de-clutterer, therapist and creative. She has lived in Africa and The States, looked after many farms, loved through two marriages, is Mum to an extraordinary young woman and loves making things. She lives next to the Mersey River where it meets the Irish Sea and shares her life with loved ones and an impressive collection of yarn.
Dog Sitting with a twist or two by Jane Sturgeon
I am grateful to Sally for gifting the opportunity to write and share a life changing moment. Sally’s blog is a wonderful mix of her writing, books, poetry, food, health and life articles and posts filled with unstinting support for her fellow authors. Thank you, Sally. ♥
In the current heat, wide awake stints in the middle of the night have become the norm and during one, I was pondering on my life changing moments when this story popped into my thoughts. It is not a classic ‘life change’ moment, yet, it is one I go back to often, especially when I need a reminder of inner strength and flexibility.
Post-divorce and with my daughter away at university, I hit a brick wall career wise. I had no clue what to do next and I remember feeling scared. A random trawl of the internet sparked an idea to go travelling for a while and see what floated up. I have always loved animals and with my rural background I put a profile up on a home/animal sitting web site. Within days I started to get bookings and having promised my daughter I would stay in the U.K., I set off to flow care to furry and feathered friends in other folk’s homes. This is the story from one of those adventures.
It was late summer and hot and dusty as I arrived at a farm booking in the depths of Wiltshire. The lady owner had already caught her flight out to North Africa for a few weeks, so I had received emailed instructions on where to find the backdoor key. The understanding on these ‘sits’ was I gifted my time in return for a stay in a lovely place, whilst caring for animals, plants and their home. I earned my pennies through self-employed work on a psychic service, so with internet access I was good to go.
The details of the sit were ‘A beautiful 17th century moated farmhouse, Harry, a long-haired black retriever, a few chickens, some retired racehorses (which were liveried and had their own grooms) and a few sheep.
As I drove up to the gate there were three lovely dogs with tails wagging happily on the other side. I opened my car backdoor, then the side gate and ushered my buddies for the next fortnight into my car. I chatted to them all whilst negotiating the main gate and driving into the farmyard, where I saw a massive enclosure full of chickens, ducks and geese. I remarked to my new buddies,
‘I am seeing more than a few hens!’
A few uncharitable thoughts were forming, centred around the farmer, as we all trouped inside the farmhouse, with my suitcase.
There was a helpful aerial photograph on the hallway wall and after we all had a drink and I donned wellies, we set off to make a few other discoveries. There was a large flock of Jacob’s sheep in a far field, which just happened to be surrounded by a high privet hedge. Their beautiful curly horns are known for getting caught in this type of vegetation and my heart sank a little. A walk through many outer lying fields and then the stables confirmed my growing fears as I realised how many horses and foals were living there.
We returned to the farm kitchen and I discovered that the Aga was not working. I made a cup of tea with the electric kettle and fired off an email to North Africa, including the lines:
‘I have found Harry and the other two dogs are called? Over a hundred chickens, ducks and geese can hardly be classed as a few hens and I have clear evidence of a flock of sheep.’
Her reply was priceless.
‘Oh Jane, Flo (the westie) is a sweetie and Bumble (a miniature poodle) is no bother. Flo is mine and I forgot to mention her, and Bumble’s Mum is out here with me, so we thought you wouldn’t mind.’
I conserved my energy and ceased to send her emails.
On the first evening a man walked into the kitchen and opening the fridge, spotted me sitting at the table and smiled,
‘You must be Jane.’
He turned out to be a weekly lodger in the converted attic and had been staying there for over two years. He was leaving at the end of the week and yes, he was upset about going and a new lodger was due in the following Monday.
Every day the farm kitchen resembled Piccadilly Circus, as a succession of folk drifted in and out with various requests and I was not able to work for a minute. The Aga engineer came twice, the quad bike was serviced, the septic tank was emptied, the gardener trimmed all the hedges, the cleaner arrived (I have never forgotten her kindness) and lodgers and grooms came and went. There were three greenhouses, chock full of chillis, peppers and cucumbers that needed watering and I made the discovery that ducks ‘dive bomb’ you when they’re hungry and Jacob’s sheep want a cuddle.
A few days into the mix, a truck drew up at the gate early one morning and a grinning face announced
‘Hi, we’re Duncan and John and we’re here to build a hay barn in the far field.’
‘Of course, you are.’ I replied with a smile.
They were my saviours, as they knew the farmer and the farm well.
Mid-morning and afternoon, my buddies and I would carry tea and cake over to them and we’d have a natter, sprinkled with much laughter. They were a father and son building team and my heart will always hold them fondly. The Aga stove was up and running again, yet my baking had varied results.
My opening gambit of,
‘Hello chaps, this is lemon drizzle cake, but not as you know it.’ Was met with laughter.
They ate it and all my other offerings.
On my last day and the last day of their build, Duncan arrived alone and said his Dad was poorly.
‘I have given up trying to get my work done while I’m here, can I help you?’ I asked.
What followed was a day filled with pure joy. Duncan gave me a quick lesson on how to drive the digger. I had driven his massive tractor a few days earlier, as a treat, but that was a world away from handling a digger. I gathered my nerves and following his instructions sat inside the cab and started to adjust the gears for driving and the gears for handling the bucket. Everything I set in motion was the opposite to how I’d been shown. I opened the cab door and puzzled, I asked for help.
The swine laughed and leaning in, spun the gears diagram plate upside down.
‘That’s been loose for years, so I was just testing you, Jane.’ As he creased up with more laughter.
It set the tone for the day and all who value health and safety rules, stop reading now.
Duncan placed a beam across the bucket, climbed in with his tools and I took him into the barn structure. Dropping him down under the front beam and then lifting him up to put either end of the new beam in place. We achieved all of this above the deafening sound of the digger’s diesel engine, with Duncan making hand signals over the top of the bucket. In and out, we kept this up all day, until every single beam was in place in the last section and then
‘Houston, we had a roof structure.’
On the last beam, I gave in to a moment of mischief, because truth be told, I was getting a touch cocky. Duncan signalled for me to bring him down and out and instead, I tapped the gear lever to take him up a few inches. This was the view that greeted me.
I will always be grateful for Duncan’s trust that day and for gifting me the space ‘to have a go’.
Anytime I feel wobbly or unsure in the years since, I dip back into the energy of that day and the love that flowed from all the animals and kind folk on that farm, but especially to Duncan.
A footnote: I was booked in to do two further stints on that farm and I cancelled them. Duncan and I are still in touch.
©Jane Sturgeon 2020
What an adventure and I must say that I do think the owner of the animals was very cavalier about their care and was very lucky that Jane is the person that she is…delighted she shared this with us.
About the book
Each one of us holds stories about ourselves and these drive our lives. Thoughts are attached to emotions and actions spring from how we feel. Old stories can be re-written, new stories can be crafted and discoveries are made along the way. It is the tapestry of life and yes, you can weave with whatever threads you choose. Loving support, fresh perspectives and new life tools can make all the difference.
A recent review for Writing on Water
Stuart Crowe READ AND READ AGAIN Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 May 2020
A short book maybe, but certainly a thought provoking book. Certainly a book if I had read a week or so ago, I certainly would have had second thoughts about questions I asked. If I had of read it year and years ago, there would have been certainly more thoughts given to the question of where and what do I do now. A very interesting read and a little bit of an insight into someone else’s life and thought processes. A book that needs reading again.
Other books by Jane Sturgeon available on her website Books
I am sure you have enjoyed Jane’s story as much as I have and I know that she would love your feedback… thanks Sally.