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Living the Dream.....reality shattered.

“wow, lucky you, you’re living the dream.”

Anyone can live the dream, you just make a choice and decision and make it happen, take action.

But always know that nothing in life is simple and easy. I have made choices to change my lifestyle, now that I have finished my career as a Firefighter. I’ve served my time in.

I seriously needed to step off this path as I was at the saturation point of overload. Physically and mentally fatigued, I was exhausted.

Now in France, we had an amazing view of mountains and land to fly my birds on, but still so much to achieve and so many challenges that were so hard. You really have no idea, but it was what we wanted and where we chose to live and the lifestyle that went with it. It was our choice.

After 3 months of building aviaries and grafting, plus keeping on top of the ever-growing grass that I had cut pathways through and a 10 x10 m area for the flying/training area for the birds, I finally finished. The grass cutting was every 3 days, and I could walk 6 miles on this day and not even leave my garden. But I had fit healthy birds and wild Birds of Prey to see every day. It was beautiful.

We would get hard frosts and by midday, it was change clothes to summer clothing and by 16h back to winter clothing again.

For birds to stay healthy they need a stress-free life with a good healthy food supply and exercise. Not so bad, is it? And maybe exactly what we need too.

The moult comes through from April – Oct, but it really can vary. They renew and regrow new feathers. As stated in book 1 if stressed it will show as Fret marks, awful chunks missing in the plumage or stress lines in the quills and will likely break. It looks ugly and their feather plumage reflects on me and how I’ve looked after them.

All birds came through looking feather perfect, despite the crazy heatwave, ‘canicule’, we had where I was out every 30 minutes literally hosing them down, only after letting the tap run for 5 minutes as it was boiling hot. It really was a fine balance and a harsh environment, despite what you see.

Then the big swift and hard kick in between the legs…..I had a huge tax bill, (facture,) for the aviaries. 2000 euros and it was on the Habitation, so it would have gone up yearly. They, the authorities considered it a liveable structure.

For 3 months we went over and over it, getting help from our farmers’ wife, who is now the Mairie, (mayor,) of the village, where she was trying to solve this huge dilemma without selling the birds. What was I saying?.....’Selling the Birds’. This was my lifeline whilst in the job, my complete contrast and escapism from the harsh realities of trauma, my passion and I was having it taken away. I was out of options.

I started cycling up mountains, literally to push myself to try and find a way and clear mind to save them. We had spent out on new boiler, washing machine, cooker, you name it, it went wrong. We hadn’t budgeted for any of these things. We had no money coming in and any promises of Falconry was few and far between.

I am strong-minded and practical person, I have been conditioned to respond and deal with problems and solve them by adapting and thinking outside the box. Surely, I could get around this. And the whole time I’m still grass cutting and flying the birds. Take away the tax stress, and I loved it. Then another hard decision was being asked of me again in my life. I am going to either pay and be more in debt and have no idea where to get it from or how much it will be year on year, or I have to sell.

I chopped and changed from day to day, my wife was stressed for me, but it was impossible, so I sat and wrote out an advert to sell them as a complete package. Pushing send was an incredibly difficult thing to do.

This was ‘Wings and Talons’ I was selling, something I created and accomplished from nothing.

The long of it is, they sold to a great young man from Greece and now has them doing similar to what I was doing. He was vetted by me and watched how he was around the birds and how they responded to him. He has a calm energy and does martial arts like me. Non-threatening and yet confident. Perfect and he has proven that. I wish him well and hope he gets as much joy from them as I did.

I am dealing with it by staying focused. I have got them flying every other day for the inspection visit for purchase and doing so well. It just seems such a twist that I was doing what I wanted to do, and all were flying well and healthy.

C’est la vie I guess!!

It was when I was taking down a couple of aviaries and building temp ones under the barn that it really hit me. I had to start deconstruction for fear of the Authorities fining me on top of the 2000 euros.

I was back and forth, building and moving heavy loads in the heat, the birds out in the weathering area and happy. My wife was sat under our amazing, canopied area working when she asked if I was ok!

It was like a throat punch that took all breath from me and I just dropped onto one knee. I sobbed and 'phook' me it really hurt. It even triggers an emotion now as I write this, but I have it under control now as I’m writing it. I have only ever had this once before and that was when my mother passed away. You just have nothing in your legs to hold you up.

It’s not the same but they were like my family, I had a very close bond with all of them and for many years.

It was a rush of so many emotions that just overwhelmed me and I could not stop. It had to come out. It may have only been a minute or 2 but some emotions cannot and will not be held in however hard we try. It’s not healthy to suppress them.

Saying goodbye to them all in December was also as hard, I had to let go and accept it. The next 3 months was literally taking the existing aviaries down as fast as possible. I hated going out that way, incredibly sad times. And after the New Year started, I find myself grafting again doing hard landscaping. We needed some cash flow. I was up before daylight and out in the cold and working hard and lifting some stupidly heavy rocks and building materials. I thought I had finished all that back in the UK. And all the wood, (3m scaffold planks,) from the aviaries I was recycling into our barn as flooring so my wife could maybe start teaching Pilates and Meditations, again to get money coming in.

Then like everyone else we all got hit with 2020 and severe Lockdown. To top it we had intermittent wifi and internet connections making it impossible for my wife to work.

After many long chats, we decided to uproot and sell again. This time we were heading south again to the Algarve, Portugal. New climate, new horizons and new opportunities.

So, when asked was I ‘Living the Dream’, I have to pause and not instinctively say ‘Cough’.

It was bloody hard graft. Emotionally and Physically.

What I can tell you from my experiences, and my perception of Living the Dream is ……

Having the freedom to choose and the drive to make it happen.

This is Living the Dream.

Adapting when everything falls around you.

Picking yourself up when knocked down, again and again.

Accepting things that you cannot control.

Holding on to hope and staying positive.

Holding on to the thought of the troubles you are dealing with now, will end.

It’s there for everyone.

If you have a choice, you have a chance.

‘Dream and Dream Big’…..

….now make it happen!

I have to admit as I wrote this out and then read it out loud to my wife now that we are in Portugal living a totally different experience in life, we both found it moving to hear and for me to say, as we acknowledged just how difficult it all was. So, to say I have it under control, yes, I do, but it still has an impact. Things like this don’t just vanish.

Thank you to so many who enjoyed it with me and captured it on film.

A 'Treasured 15 years Experience'.


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