I apologise for my blog absence this past month, but I'm finally able to update you on what has been a difficult time (don't worry, it has a happy ending).
The estate decided to close the pheasant shoot. Mike was made redundant. We lost both our jobs and our home in that one decision. It was very unexpected.
Being made redundant when you work for a company is hard enough; being made redundant from a family that you've served heart and soul for almost 25 years is more difficult to process. Mike has made his home in Dorset and it will be a terrible wrench for him to leave.
But - here comes the happy part - the phone started ringing almost immediately after news of Mike's redundancy was out. It's not the done thing to "poach" staff from other families but now Mike was on the market, he had inquiries from shoot owners looking to redesign or reinstate their shoots (Mike's speciality). An experienced 'keeper who has been trained by the royal gamekeeper, and presented to HM the Queen for his services to shooting is not going to be unemployed for long. (If it sounds like I'm boasting on Mike's behalf, I'm just trying to focus on his strengths and remind him of his worth. He calls it "blowing sunshine up his arse". Same difference.)
One call came late on a Sunday evening. The owners have known Mike for many years and shot here as guests, including a particularly cold and wet day last winter when they brought their young son. The poor lad was succumbing to the cold, and Mike simply took off his own jacket and put it over the boy, and carried on with the day. The owners reminded Mike of that small kindness. Mike had forgotten, and I never noticed (it not being unusual for Mike to see to his guests' needs at the expense of his own.) They asked Mike to come for lunch and have a look at their shoot, about two hours' north of here, on the England / Wales border.
We have accepted their job offer and, when shooting season is finished here on 2nd February, we will be doing the same thing you read about on M&T, but in a new place, for a new family. A family that takes notice when their employee gives them the clothes off his own back. That bodes well for Mike and me.
We will keep our acreage here, but rent it out for now, and rent new fields closer to home for the sheep (now numbering 50 head) and Kitty. The dogs have new heated stone kennels, and we have a lovely lodge house with outbuildings and a well-tended garden. And a nice family to work for - did I mention that bit?
We won't know the real reason why the shoot's closing here until sometime in the future. Often a shoot closes because the family wish to focus on other sporting activities, like fox hunting. Sometimes it's a prelude to selling the entire estate.
Now our news is out, I can resume our normal blog scheduling, including updates on the end of the filming here, our shoot season so far, and of course it will come as no surprise that there's a lamb recuperating in the living room as I write this. It also means that, once we're moved and settled, I can start writing that book, filling in all the details I've left out of the blog. At least you - and we - know now that it has a happy ending.