Beryl is my three-month-old lamb. She lacks any kind of social skills and pretty much all intelligence and emotional range… but she’s absolutely changed my life.
Well, back in December on a slightly drunken train journey back to Kingston with Wildfire MD Debby Penton, and after one of our many pre-Christmas festivities, she pulled a copy of The Sunday Times Magazine out of her bag, thrust it into my hand and told me I had to read the article on page 27.
My eyes couldn’t really focus on small print in my inebriated state so the following day I turned to page 27 and was confronted by:
“Living the dream? Looking for more from life? Join the queue. Matt Rudd talks to the middle-aged fathers for whom success is a poisoned chalice.”
Obviously I took the piss mercilessly at first but secretly really loved the fact that she cared enough to worry I might be feeling that way and that she was brave enough to broach the subject with me.
While I don’t think I was anywhere close to the level of despair the people quoted in the article had felt, there were certainly lines that struck a chord:
“I leave the house before the kids are awake. I might get home in time to see my eldest. They feel disappointed. I feel like a failure.”
Like I said, I wasn’t at my wits’ end or consciously unhappy but reading that article did force me to think about what I really wanted in life and set the wheels in motion for a new adventure.
Six months later, I’m now the proud owner of a five-acre smallholding in west Wales complete with Beryl, two other lambs (Cutie and Tiny), four cockerels (Cocky-Locky, Rocket, Feather and Blacktail) and Turk — the limping turkey who has to be carried to bed at night because he can’t get on his perch.
I love my new life and I feel like I have the best of both worlds.
During the part of the week I spend in Kingston — or ‘civilisation’ as I like to call it — I have mobile signal and shops, but more importantly a new energy and focus on my work. I feel like I am developing much closer relationships with many of my Wildfire colleagues and I can join in with the social activities that I used to frequently miss out on, guilt-free.
All this with the knowledge and confidence that my wife and three boys are having the time of their lives back home.
And when I get home, I’m actually present. We spend more quality time together. We all appreciate each other more. We have more fun than we used to. And we have a long list of friends who want to come and stay in our annexe and help us stay on top of the weeds and brambles.
I also have new challenges and things to learn about… What chainsaw should I buy? How do I make the ride-on lawnmower work? When do you stop bottle feeding lambs?
Whilst I realise the idea of Beryl and life on a smallholding won’t appeal to everyone, and in the concluding words of The Sunday Times Magazine article,
“We should all take the time to discover what brings us joy. It’s never too late to change.”
Little did I know that what I needed in my life was Beryl.