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For months, we meant to formally identify a yellow bush in our front garden. It’s a haven for birds and bees and adds a vibrant splash of colour to the street. When we eventually got around to using PlantNet to find out what it was, we learnt it was Canary Broom; the only one of its kind in the village or surrounding area. It feels like karma that the house we bought in Britain after nearly two decades of living abroad has a plant which is indigenous to the islands where we lived for fourteen years.

Canary broom, Somerset

Canary broom outside our front door.

Connections, eh? Sometimes they make you wonder.

In Portugal, we rented a house on a small sheep farm – a quinta. When we returned to Britain, we rented a house on a sheep farm in Devon on the border with Somerset. It felt almost more like a transitional continuation than something completely new.

Sheep farm, Setubal

From living on a sheep farm in Portugal…

At the tender age of seventeen, I dropped out of school and joined the Marines, training at Lympstone Commando, which is just thirty-six miles from where we now live. When Andy and I decided to step off the corporate ladder and move away from Stockport, our first choice was Totnes. But then we figured if we were going to jump ship, we might as well head further afield. Sri Lanka was initially favoured, but we decided it was too big a step and opted for the Canary Islands. That circle isn’t quite complete as Totnes is sixty miles away, but we have at least ended up in the same part of the country. That wasn’t planned, not consciously at least.

Sheep, Devon

…To living on a sheep farm in Devon.

When we moved back to the UK in 2021, we decided to rent somewhere in either Devon or Somerset because we thought the weather might be kinder, help us adjust to the British climate after nearly two decades living in hot locations. We had no plans to buy a property though, simply stay for a couple of years while researching which part of Britain we wanted to set down more permanent roots. In our first year, we scouted various locations in England and Scotland before realising we were extremely happy living in the South West. But we fancied shifting east into Somerset. After months of house-hunting around the county, the property we liked most, and now live in, was only about twenty minutes from the sheep farm where we rented a house. Nothing coincidental in that, we liked the area, so it’s logical we’d stay in it. The coincidental part is that when we arrived back in Britain, we rented an Airbnb in a little place called Oake. It was totally random, little more than putting a pin on the map to find somewhere as an initial base. On our first full day back in the country, we went to a country pub for dinner. That pub is now the nearest one to our village.

Walk to the pub, Somerset

We can walk to the very first pub we went to on our return to Britain.

Putting a pin on a map back in the eighties is more or less how my sister ended up moving to Manchester and then Great Moor in Stockport. When I visited her, I decided I also wanted to relocate to that part of the country. I transferred south (being in the Civil Service made shifting locations relatively easy) and moved in with her and her husband. Then they headed even further south, and I bought a flat in inner city Manchester. In the first few months after transferring to England, an attractive training officer visited the office in Tameside where I worked. She was out of my league, way cooler than a country hick from a small Scottish island. When I transferred again, this time to Stockport, I found myself working in the same office as her. Incredibly, the attraction turned out to be a two-way thing. After a brief period of going out together, I moved into her cottage in Great Moor, discovering it was barely two streets from where my sister’s house was. During the period I lived with my sister, there must have been times I passed a stranger who would end up being my partner on this wonderful and, apparently, circuitous journey through life.

Baker's Vaults, Stockport

Where friendship blossomed into romance.

That thought still blows my mind.

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Jack Montgomery

Jack is an author, travel writer, photographer, and a Slow Travel consultant who has been writing professionally for twenty years. Follow Jack on Facebook for information about his writing, travel tips, photographs, and tales of life in a tiny rural village in Somerset.

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Welcome to my Canvas

Some of the items on this site won’t be to everyone’s liking, I get that. Basically this is my place, my wee studio to mess around in – experimenting with words and thoughts. I’ll be chuffed if you enjoy it, but if you don’t, c’est la vie. As a friend used to tell me “it would be a boring life if we all thought the same.”

Jack Montgomery
A wine press,
On a farm at the end of the dirt track,
The Setúbal Peninsula,