I’m from a small town under the smoke of Amsterdam. Compared to that city we could call my town a village, specifically since our house is on the edge of a nature reserve and so it is quiet and green. But compared to the village to which Twin Cottage belongs my village is definitely a small town. Twin Cottage (please note that all names of the people and their house and pets are fictional, since I want to respect their privacy) is really in the countryside. Where I live in Koog aan de Zaan there are a few things missing: darkness and silence. Both are overwhelmingly present in Twin Cottage. Whether day or night it is so quiet here. Just lovely. No aircraft passing over the house every 5 minutes. Just rural sounds: horses passing the house on the winding lane, hoofs clattering leisurely on their way to the woods. Fancy hearing horses right beside your house instead of cars and trains! Then this morning upon opening the bedroom curtains I noticed that the farmer next door had brought some sheep to his barn with little lambs, only just born. A joy. At night dusk turns the surrounding trees in displays of filigree against a mysterious sky. As if pregnant with all kinds the human eye cannot see. Soon it is pitch black outside. No city lights to light up the evening sky. Just darkness. A completely dark bedroom. When I wake up in the night I must feel my way to the bathroom. I love it. No noises because at night the countryside is asleep. For the first time in over 20 years I can sleep without ear plugs in. Just amazing. To wake in the morning because your body is done sleeping, instead of the sounds of neighbours or aircraft. A yawn, a listen: the lambs bleating with tiny little voices their mums responding in darker tones. The birds twittering. And the tiny meow of the cat who actually has the softest meow rather sounding like a mouse, maybe she is a devious little one, trying to trick the mouses into believing the coast is clear. She already brought in 1 dead mouse, 1 deceased mole and 1 living dormouse.
I arrived here on the 18th of January. Edward and Laura were to set off really early in the morning and so I arrived for lunch and the afternoon was spent showing the ins and outs of the house. Heating, woodburner, what to feed the pets and where to walk the dog. Laura prepared a nice meal and we celebrated the event with a bottle of Champagne in front of the fire. We had a lovely evening. The next morning we said our au revoirs and off were Ed and Laura. A long journey ahead of them all the way down under. It was 7 am and now suddenly the house was mine. A nice feeling. I adapt very quickly and have no feelings of homesickness nor do I attach specifically to places. So whether in a hotel, a b&b, a tent on a campsite, at home or at friends, I feel comfy mostly everywhere. However, Twin Cottage is exceptionally lovely. It reminds me of a holiday cottage we once stayed a night at which was called Little Pudding. Although Little Pudding was smaller, it was also very cute. And the same goes for this brilliant house. It even has a room which I can use as a workshop for my painting, since Laura is a very creative person herself and has a lovely workspace which she was happy to have me use.
After having a shower and having some breakfast I gave Jock a big cuddle and he bit me in the face. He did not mean to hurt me I am sure, but he caught my lip and so I burst out crying. It did not really hurt that much, but I think I was just a wee bit emotional. So there I was with a thick lip. I realised that Jock and I needed to get to know each other and that the way I showed him my affections was a way he was yet to get familiar with. We went for a nice walk together. The weather was lovely and Jock was splendid. That dog is so well behaved and listens perfectly to my commands. I was a little cautious at first since the narrow country lanes do have farmers in Landrovers driving like mad at times and so I needed to be on my guard. However I soon learned that I need not worry. Jock hears the cars long before I do and whenever he hears one he halts and stand to the side of the lane. He is so well trained. Just perfect. To think the poor thing is a rescue dog and had a tough youth is heart breaking. To me it is unthinkable to be mean to animals, they depend on us, we have a responsibility to be good to them. Unfortunately where he was born they merely saw him as either a good working sheepdog or a good for nothing. Since in his case they decided he was the latter, he was kept in a barn for 5 years on a chain. He therefore is somewhat traumatised and definitely is wary of men. He does not hurt them or anything like that but he sometimes barks at them. Just plain fear. So understandable.
When I first got here I had to discover the surroundings and was walking along the paths that Edward and Laura had pointed out to me. There is one path with leads along a footpath crossing a farm. Laura told me that the people owned a few dogs there, one of which was not too keen on Jock. She said it would be a good idea to bring a few dog biscuits to divert the attention of any fighting moods they might get into. Strange how just a warning like that puts one on ones guard and I found I could not walk in that direction without being wary of bumping into that particular dog.
One day as I walked past the house next to that farm, the window opened and a lady looked out: ‘I say, is that your dog? Please keep him of my lawn in the future!’ I must confess I was somewhat surprised. First of all because she did not recognise Jock and second of all because she had 4 dogs running over her ‘lawn’ already. Whatever. It takes all kinds. The odd thing was that Jock only walked on the grass which she called lawn which was just directly next to the footpath, he did not even wee there. Oh well.
Another day the nasty dog came running out of nowhere showing his teeth. Jock did not take friendly to this aggression and they barked and growled at each other. I felt frightened. I take my responsibility for the pet sit very seriously and I would rather be wounded myself than have anything happen to Jock. Fortunately a woman who was leading a horse to a field called the nasty dog back and told me not to worry because it was ‘all noise’. Hmm, I wasn’t too sure, but at least the dog listened real well to her command and backed off. After that I tried to find other routes to walk with Jock, just in order to avoid any altercations in the future.
After a few weeks I had discovered lovely places to go and ventured in all kinds of lanes, fields, footpaths, woods, along brooks and hills. The absolutely amazing experience for me being that I literally walked hours on end each and every day wandering here and there and only very very rarely encountering other walkers. Hardly ever on the walks in the surrounding area. The only times I would encounter other nature lovers and walkers would be when driving the car to land in the care of the National Trust. I would go there mostly with a friend during the weekends and in those particularly beautiful places there were some other walkers, but definitely not many and because the land is so huge and wide, with so many different paths and hills, you would never be in each others way. What a huge difference with my home country. I know I should not compare apples with pears, but whenever I go out for a walk around the park and land adjacent to my house, it’s a parade of people walking their dogs, cyclists, joggers, nordic walkers, roller skaters, all sorts. It’s just a tiny country with lots of people in. No wonder I love Wales. I just needed the space, the fresh pure air, the feel of expansion and freedom. Just walking. Simply being. Breathing in deeply, feeling my muscles because of the ascents, feeling so very much alive. What greater joy? I cannot think of anything better.