I feel like I’m making some form of bloggers right of passage as I type away from the quiet carriage of a Virgin Pendolino, something I’d associate more with the Hannah Gales and Poppy Ds of the world than your average farmer, but as I’m stuck on a train back to Scotland for the next four hours or so, it felt like the perfect time to keep my promise of blogging more and put together another quick update.
I’ve spent the last four days away from the farm in London, seeing the sights and sounds of the Big Smoke. Most of Iona’s school pals live down there and after four years of invitations, I finally agreed to go and meet them. I’d been digging my heels in for quite some time now as I thought I would absolutely hate London. I’m not a big fan of cities, so I thought all the smog, noise, traffic and tourists would be a bit too much for me. But despite occasionally feeling a bit of a country bumpkin, and it being very warm, I actually really enjoyed it.
We stayed with two of Iona’s pals in their flat, and spent time socialising, eating too much food, drinking and exploring. It was great to meet all of her friends, who were all lovely, but visiting London also gave me the chance to meet up with my two best mates Kenny and Luke, who now both live and work there too. I’ve not seen either of them since before we left for Scotland (it’s probably been around three years), so I was a bit nervous things might be different now, what with them working for global media giants and me chasing flocks of sheep about for a living, but within five minutes it was clear nothing had changed. We grabbed some lunch and reminisced about our Uni days, before heading to watch the Scotland v Australia rugby match in a strange backstreet pub which served very flat beers and was full of old boys that looked like ex East End Gangsters. We all hated being at University, but looking back on things we had a great time together and made some memorable moments that will stay with us forever, as will the inevitable liver damage we sustained. So maybe it wasn’t all that bad…
While on the topic of University, some of you may already know this, but I spent four years studying towards a business management degree before turning to farming. As part of my final year, I wrote a dissertation on football finances, focusing in particular on Arsenal FC and their move to the Emirates Stadium. As luck would have it, the area we stayed in was very close to Highbury, so we took a walk across to see the stadium on the Saturday morning. After spending the best part of a year of my life producing that report, and I’m aware this may sound stupid, especially as I’m not an Arsenal supporter, there was something very special about seeing the Emirates in the flesh.
The one thing I didn’t expect to see on my travels was a cow, let alone a Belted Galloway, but that’s exactly what I came face to face with on Sunday afternoon, when we took a trip across the city to walk around Richmond Park. After two and a half days in the city, I was definitely ready for some fresh air and greenery, and the Park was just what the doctor ordered. It is incredible to find such a wide-open space, and it is very easy to forget you are actually right in the heart of a capital city, especially when you stumble across twenty or thirty deer!
The deer are so docile, especially compared to the wild ones back on the farm that bolt at the first sight or sound of you, and it was a privilege to get so close to these amazing creatures. This was definitely the highlight of the trip, and the Belties were just an added bonus to remind us of home.
I’ve had a fantastic weekend in London, not something I thought I would ever say, but I think that just highlights the importance of taking ourselves out of our comfort zone. It is very easy to get cut off and become a recluse in your own little world on the farm, and the longer you stay there the harder it is to motivate yourself to get out and about again. Getting away and experiencing new things is important, not only to stop the world passing you by but sometimes just to remind you of how much you love what you have at home.
Now as we hurtle through the English countryside, somewhere around Stoke-on-Trent, I’m going to leave you and go back to my new train bound hobby of critiquing other farmers’ bale stacking and trying to identify sheep breeds as they hurtle by at a hundred miles an hour…