Around twenty years ago I was stood in a winebar. We were drinking Bolly, celebrating another deal that had gone well for our clients and therefore for us. It was a time of high pressure playing with money that wasn’t ours in the first place! Do well and you were well rewarded – fail and you were out. I was doing well and making a lot of money. One of the older dealers – much older than most of us in that bar – liked to tell stories of insider dealing trades of the past before the law changed. That evening we found ourselves together at the end of the bar, semi-isolated from our colleagues, and he took the opportunity to share a gem of drunken wisdom with me. “You know… All the important deals are done in smoke filled rooms don’t you?” It was certainly true in my experience – much was decided before any trading began, though he was wrong about one thing. The smoke filled rooms were no more with smoking bans in public places across the capital. I reached a point not long after that celebration where I realised that the pressure of trading stocks was something I wanted to walk away from. I was also developing a rather annoying conscience which pained me when I thought someone had got a raw deal out of our efforts to make a killing. It dawned on me – “I’m in the wrong job!” So I took a package to leave back in 2007 when the city was under pressure to come clean about its dealings and just before the crash of 2008.
Life in the wilderness was scary at first. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But slowly I found myself getting involved with nature projects as a way of keeping busy and earning a little money. It was the start of a journey. I applied to work at a wildlife sanctuary. I found myself out in the driving rain making hedges and fences safe so that the wildlife was protected and somehow it felt good! Then I started doing work as a farm labourer – it didn’t pay well but I had that lump sum behind me to cover any shortfall and I found that a frugal life actually meant I could put a little money away some weeks.
I moved from one area to another, following the work. I met my current partner, Anna, while working as a labourer in Gloucestershire. I think she likes my dream even if she doesn’t believe it will ever happen. You see, I’ve been dreaming of owning my own farm some day and that prospect suddenly became a lot more realistic this week. We’ve been living in the village of Ballygreen for a couple of years now……I do work on the local farms and she works behind the bar in the Three Horseshoes as well as making pottery, some of which she sells for a good price. I’ve kept a tight reign on my finances and Anna has often made sure we have food on the table each day. Between us we have enough in the bank to perhaps fulfill that dream.
Last night, while sitting in the ‘Horseshoes with a couple of the farmers that I do work for, Sophie Brennan mentioned that Holzman’s Farm was going up for sale. Tim Holzman is looking to get out of farming and has no heir to take over his farm. “He’s going to stay in the farmhouse, so that’s not for sale” she said……That prompted a lot of chat over the ale. I knew Sophie had bought fields from Holzman in the past – he has been reducing his workload before retiring. I’ve worked a couple of them for Sophie. I wondered what was left of the farm – prompting some derision from the table. Just three fields and a yard with a couple of buildings. It seems that the farmers with the exception of Sophie were not interested in buying. I made a point of asking Sophie as I have a friendly working relationship with her and she owns the land around, “Are you intending to buy?* and she said “I don’t think so.” “Would you have any issues with me buying that farm?” I asked. “If you’ve got the £200k or so then why not? – I can take you up there tomorrow to take a look if you want. I know Tim well and I know he’d want the land to stay under the plough.”
It came back to me that night as I wandered back to our lodgings with Anna – “You know… All the important deals are done in smoke filled rooms don’t you?” I’d just made a pledge to look at something that could cost us a lot of our savings and give us a lot of heartache too. Anna was non-commital – she needed to see. I guess it would all come down to the visit with Sophie and the price Holzman wanted for what was left of his farm.