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How it all began...

Like a lot of people, it had always been a dream of ours to one day pack up and move to a place with a little bit of land, to get a few animals and basically live the ‘Good Life’. So, watching Dick & Angel and Escape to the Chateau was particularly inspiring.

Of course, dreaming and doing are completely different, and it took a series of unfortunate events spur us into action.

Our home at the time was a lovely little bungalow in a village in West Sussex and although we couldn’t afford a house with land, we bought this one as it backed onto open fields.

We’d often take a glass of wine and sit at the end of the garden to watch the sheep and dream of having a field of

our own to keep a few animals in. And although deep down we still hankered for a more rural life, we couldn’t really complain. We had a little veg plot, a few chickens and ducks and we thought that this would be as close as we would get to our rural idyll.

Work-wise, I had a studio in the garden, where I created and sold my wire sculptures and Neil was a Firefighter and had been for 20 years.

He was very proud of his profession and although he loved it and enjoyed being

part of the Firefighter family, the job definitely took its toll.

Looking back, we didn’t really realise quite how much the years of being involved in distressing situations had affected Neil’s mental health. I did what I could, talking through the bad jobs with him when he came home but the stress just builds unseen, until something happens to bring everything crashing down.

For Neil the trigger was a pulmonary embolism, or blood clot on the lung, (actually, he suffered a blood clot on both lungs.) All of a sudden, after years of being there for others, Neil was the one needing help and it really knocked him for six.

Fortunately, after several days in hospital he recovered enough to return home but he was still very breathless and it was clear that his physical recovery would take time, but mentally he was absolutely broken.

Simon, who was Neil’s boss from a previous station and also a very good friend, was instrumental in aiding Neil’s recovery and he and the Fire Service family rallied round, but the second huge blow came when Simon died suddenly.

It was such a dark time and events like this make you stop and evaluate what you really want from life. What’s holding you back from realising your dreams and do we really know how much time we have to live them.

So, when we could we focused our attention on escaping to the countryside and living our dream fully. A new home in the South West was now firmly in our sights...

To be continued.

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