End of the world?

Has it?

Ended, I mean. My 2020 started with an almost full year of sits booked or in the process. One by tearful one have bitten the proverbial dust. Emotionally, if not physically, painful. Does your world look anything like my world? Has your world changed? The last few months enforced inactivity may have altered perceptions as to what is, or is not, normal.

Mind you, I have always wanted an excuse to ask visitors to don overshoes, so rather too enthusiastically have pinned a ‘covid-19 precaustions taken here’ notice to my front door. I also long wanted to wear a traffic pollution minimising mask, but didn’t want to look the odd-one out. Well, that’s another box ticked until cleaner air becomes the norm – but I’m not holding my breath. Perhaps the human race needs to go back to the beginning and start again? Or simply alter our trajectory as per http://www.lowimpact.org ? Low impact living is a concept that I can fully endorse and encourage. One of my more discreet hobbies is to find creative ways to save on utilities – water, gas, electric – in ways that don’t leave me a dehydrated, cold, skeletal pile of dirty rags in the corner. A girl can be only so keen.

With regards to water consumption, I already use ex-dish wash water on the garden etc so casting round for further inspiration, I spy the garden water butts. Ha! shower material? Sadly, the creativity became as dry as the butts since the wall-to-wall lockdown blue sky has reduced the contents to dust in the bottom. Painful.

Nurturing the veg.patch had been my number one lockdown activity (watching the blackbirds fledge was number two: no, I didn’t get out much, but perhaps that’s because I’m not famous. Yet.) so that’s where the water went, plus some more from the taps when the butts ran out. The latest bill has laughed in the face of my herculean efforts. (I wonder if Hercules minds being reduced to an adjective? muse over.) Suffice it to say, the electricity and gas went the same way, although buying a pair of ethically sourced cashmere fingerless gloves over the winter months had been an attempt to reduce heating use. The meagre savings were more than overtaken by the price of the gloves [sigh].

So with house and pet sitting on hold for a variety of reasons – well, one, mainly – I am still trying to find ways to tilt the world back onto its axis. Where’s Hercules when I need him?

Stay safe, peeps.

Previously, on Homeminder….

….there were stories of starting out, getting carried away yet soldiering on but since once again becoming a home owner myself and turning in the van, things homeminder-wise had become somewhat static.

Gardening, book writing and fighting the house every diy step of the way have occupied far too much time. However, 2018/19 haven’t been a complete dog free zone.  The yearning to get close to animals once again ensured that I rashly accepted jobs that I shouldn’t have touched, reminding me of the Manchester fiasco (tablecloth for curtain, stained mattress, lounge/dining rooms accessible only by untying dressing gown cord used to limit animal – 2 unruly Afghans and Burmese cat – access, o I could go on…) but you live and learn.                                                                                                                                Well, you might do, but I seem to repeat the same mistakes, possibly due to my dreadfully selective amnesia. I can’t remember.    

Having agreed to a pre-holiday preliminary weekend sit for a blind, deaf 13 year old poodle, the owners’ casual comment on leaving the house ‘o, he has bitten the dog walker a few times but he doesn’t mean it’ left me wondering how long I’d got. The answer came fairly swiftly as reaching out to guide him away from hitting the coffee table corner, I received a down to the bone bite through the pulp of my index finger. Good grief, that dog was quick! I found the first aid kit, nearly passed out irrigating the wound under the tap (the teeth weren’t in great shape – the dog’s, not mine) and tourniqueted it to within an inch of my life…which was flashing in front of my distorting vision.                         

Attaching the lead to his collar became the next challenge but donning a pair of gardening gloves, I managed to survive the rest of the weekend.                                          And learnt.                                                                                                                                              I had earlier asked how to transport the dog in an emergency ‘o, call a taxi and he’ll sit on your lap’ – a dog that’s just attacked me! – Although I didn’t accept the holiday sit, I could only admire the tenacity and spirit of a dog that could find its way around the garden by the feel of the surface under his feet; would occasionally miscalculate the length of the lounge, bang his head and simply re-orientate and carry on. His unbridled joy on the owners’ return was heartbreakingly poignant.

Next, an even more elderly whippet cross challenged my reflexes in capturing her subtle ‘I need a pee’ body language (when you’ve gotta go, you’ve just gotta go whether on the plush Zen rug or not).  I found my heart melting during her soul-searing stares in my adoring eyes.  Or it could just have been our cataracts talking to each other.                          I don’t think the owner was terribly impressed at the stain in her rug but to paraphrase the pup quote ‘you can’t have an elderly dog AND nice things’.  She was a lady (the dog not the owner) who knew when and where she would walk…to the car and no further…I had to laugh!                                                                                                                                          Then there was a delightful lady of questionable parentage that turned out to be an undisclosed bolter and although I was school 2nd fastest 200metre runner, that was many moons ago. The frantic gallop along the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool canal did nothing to alleviate the childhood pain of never coming first.  The lead most firmly stayed attached on excursions for the rest of the sit…a lovely dog but another pee-er when overly excited, which was most of the time, especially when meeting the owner.      A long black hair on the uncomfortably creased sheets and throw away comments by the owner gave me the even more uncomfortable feeling that my comfort was not high priority.

There have been several sits where owners have stated (cat) ‘doesn’t go far/doesn’t stay out long’ when I’ve enquired as to their habits yet I have found myself scouring the countryside for hours. There have been sits (dog) where I have been told in no uncertain terms that if I don’t run them off leash, the dog isn’t going to get enough exercise. Despite my extreme reservations, I have ceded to that order only to find myself…well, I’m sure you get the picture.

Then there is the sit that makes it all worthwhile..delightfully supportive homeowners who bend over backwards to ensure everything is in place for a smooth transition and stay; darling dogs that are sleep partners par excellence!; a lovely house, in a lovely location with every facility you could want. Ah! Bliss! Who would want any other kind of life?

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End of that particular era.

Well, that’s the end of that particular era. The one where I travelled some of the length, if not all of the breadth, of England in Sowfy the microcamper, peddling my wares as a house/pet sitter.

It is a source of never-ending amazement to me that there are still, even in this day & cynical age, people who are willing to open their hearts and homes to a perfect stranger. Although my status of no fixed abode caused palpitations to DVLA & insurance companies, it didn’t appear to faze my sits, who seemed happy to take the chance that I could disappear with their worldly possessions, without so much as an address to pin on it.

From Newbury Victorian terraced to Gloucestershire barn conversion to Derbyshire vicarage, I was able to sample their delights for almost 2 years.  It had to come to an end sooner or later, though and it was my inherent aversion to risk taking that finally did it for me.  Unfortunately, my aversion to spending trumps all else so breakdown cover was seen as a waste of money.                                                                                                             That came back to bite me when the van did indeed breakdown last August at just 30,000 miles with a clapped out gearbox. Yes, folks, you heard right – 30,000 –  (that’s the last Citroen I buy!) Repairs at a money grabbing dealership then took a large chunk of my savings, precipitating the decision to bale out of itinerent housesitting before any more disasters took the rest & left me unable to get back on the property ladder.                           Serendipidously, a property within my straitened budget in the right location came up just as my nerves and cash started to dry up.  Having to make a snap decision took me into more uncomfortable territory – another Achilles’ heel – and despite a buyer’s fiasco,   I am once again a home owner.

Static once more, as befits a pensioner, my legs & mind twitch and get restless occasionally…so perhaps this isn’t really the end at all… ; )

 

a sort of June musing…

I have had the opportunity to sit 2 sweet chihauhaus in Cheshire this month. This is a lovely county of farmland & quaint villages, that I have been able to explore quite extensively during a series of other sits & a few void days in the camper.                   However, this particular sit came with a rather large fly in the ointment of a potential idyll in that it’s at the end of the runway – a plane spotter’s paradise, if you can stand the 5.30am start and the almost continual take-offs, especially during peak times.

To turn this into a positive, I took to identifying the aircraft livery as they thundered overhead, which revealed that the majority (excluding the Emirates monster) belong to the big name holiday carriers.  With the knowledge that each plane discharges a gazzillion (insert accurate figure) tonnes of  toxins into the biosphere, I took to musing that the planet is paying a hefty price for the priviledge/right to jet off on foreign holidays.

Before I am accused of philosophical prattle on a housesitter’s blog, I  defend myself by saying that I have to fill my time in somehow.  Writing my books (4 at last count) takes some of the day; looking after my charges take a bit more, leaving a smidgen of the remaining daylight to do whatever takes my fancy – which, this month, is to peer heavenward & muse.

Do you ever do that? Muse, I mean. It’s an art (or perhaps a gift?) and takes a soupcon of practice.                                 I give lessons, if you are interested.                                                   If you feel that you don’t have the time to commit to such etherealities, I can offer to do it for you, for a fee of course.

The other of this sit’s musings concerns the residents of the field next door. Such placid creatures, cows, with lovely straight backs, angular hips, beautifully proportioned triangular heads with biiig eyes – many qualities I covet – and a quiet culture that deserves greater investigation.                                                                                                          I watched a golden coloured dairy matriarch lead her band of 15 young beef heifers and bullocks in a perpetual saunter round and round the increasingly souring pasture.             She showed them the water trough at one end of the field, the shade of the oak tree at the other. When she lay down to chew, one by one they followed suit; when she stood to graze, they stood. I admired the herd’s resignation to their lot, expression unchanging through torrential rain or blazing sunshine.  Would they seek shelter, if they could?       As the days passed, she would hang back & let them find their own way more & more, but was on hand (hoof?) to gently guide the more clingy calves, who would nuzzle at her teats for comfort. The older ones formed friendships, lying together in little cliques with some jealousies as one would flounce into the middle of a group, breaking up an intimate tete a tete cud chewing session. I now consider myself a cow culture expert and am happy to hire myself out, for a fee of course.

Have a happy heatwave, peeps!

 

 

..the adventure continues..

As I write this, we are well into 2017 & for me, it has turned out to be as filled with house/pet sitting challenges & adventures as the last year.  Christmas in Wrenthorpe with Eric was punctuated by a delightful Boxing Day visit from my son & daughter-in-law, which I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy if I’d stayed down south.

Having enough sits in the north of England has enabled me to explore Cheshire, Derbyshire & bits of Staffordshire, places I had only dashed through via motorways on the way to & from other destinations. I would exhort everyone to pay a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum where you can spend a delightful if poignant day.  It was thought-provoking enough for me to consider a memorial for my late brother who gave his youth in service to his country, including the Falklands campaign which meant he missed my wedding, & who otherwise would have no other marker to his life.

Knutsford (Canute’s-ford..you learn something new every day!) is lovely but marred by very low planes, as is the nearby quaint little hamlet of Bostock Green, so it was a surprise to me to find that my Wilmslow sit, although nearer to the airport, was so quiet! I thoroughly enjoyed coaxing the fearful rescue Wheaton Terrier outside for the first time in her life to sample some lovely walks. The kangaroo-hopping soon settled down much to the relief of her long-suffering bichon companion.

I have had some void days, putting the microcamper to good use but less & less for the purposes of wild camping. Not only am I getting older & stiffer (dislocating my shoulder in October hasn’t helped!), those nooks & crannies that I used to come across quite regularily are becoming harder to locate. Much to my chagrin, I have had to admit defeat & join the Caravan & Camping Club to access their network of sites. Mind you, that’s no guarantee of comfort – I’d found wild camps with more facilities than the muddy field with tap & elsan; I shan’t name the farm site that had something brown in the water tap hose & Delamere Forest site vibrates with the train traffic. O, well, no such thing as Paradise this side of Heaven!

The rest of the year looms large in my house/pet sitting sights, although my desire to continue this lifestyle prevaricates with the level of pleasure in each sit when it contains owners that are economical with the reality of their pet’s foibles (think undisclosed dog-on-dog aggression, incontinence, pulling etc) but for now it is back to Ashbourne, then Denton…bring it on!

starting out..

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Myla,  missed every day

A lot has happened since I started my housesitting journey in October 2015, some good, most great but some not-so-good. But I do not regret setting out, all burned out from a 36 year nursing career, to dip a toe into a different way of life.

Naive, yes; underprepared, definately and marginally terrified, I didn’t look back at the flat that was now rented out as it represented one of the saddest events in my life. My little ‘girl’, my JRT, light of my life, had died suddenly the year before – I am utterly bereft & heartbroken – leaving me with no focus or reason to continue. Doing the same things without her seemed such a betrayal that I needed to be in a different place; somewhere that doesn’t constantly remind me of my loss.

My sits have been mostly engaging, at times entertaining but always educational – although always an animal lover, Myla was my one & only ‘pet’ – I have learned so much about various animal behaviours & training skills required to look after their needs.

Dogs, cats & chickens have been my repetoire so far…I hope to expand that if possible so watch this space!