Hey. I’m Connie. Soon to be 25, and that scares me more than most things.
I was raised on a farm, but no ordinary farm.
It was a place children played outside in hand-me-down ‘farm’ clothes, slightly stained and torn but still adequate enough for getting dirty in; 12 months of the year. It was a home with an open fire, a seller to seek out the latest inhabitants and straw bails stacked up the front door to keep the wind and rain out. After dinner games of ‘answer the question’ around the table rewarded us with a chocolate if we could remember what those tall metal structures in the field are called, and where coal comes from. Mac sitting always at the head of the table. Home was my Mom, sounding the horn for us to come in for a home made dinner, one which we had to finish all of, before asking to leave the table. Home was a place of love and inclusion – a foreign concept to me in school life.
I got older and the majority of 14 year olds were in a field somewhere every weekend, drunk on the idea that white lightening and cheap vodka were as good as it got. I spent weekends doing whatever needed to be done on the farm. I was an outsider, still trying to figure out how I felt about it.
At 15, ice hockey became the sole focus of my life – or I wished it could. I passed through four teams of the academy as a net minder, attending summer camps and icing at every opportunity. By 17, I was training 5 evenings a week, in Coventry and Nottingham, Tuesdays and Fridays with Coventry’s EIHL – UK’s third division professional men’s league.
At some point I had to accept, ice hockey was neither going to put food on the table or take me around the world. Both factors of equal importance. After hearing tales of Mac being able to incorporate employment and travel, I knew I had to find something that was going to allow me to do the same.
After a year at University of Glamorgan (South Wales) learning how to drink beer and snowboard, I figured four walls and a schedule wasn’t going to teach me what went on in this world. So, during our annual holiday to West Africa – The Gambia, I sought an opportunity to enable me to stay. At the tender age of 19, I volunteered in the paediatric and maternity departments of the capital city hospital in Banjul. As you may be able to imagine, I grew up fast. Having witness healthcare at its most fundamental, I soon realised what I’d spend the rest of my life working towards.
I wasn’t ready to go full bore into a nursing degree just yet. So, I worked as a nursing assistant on a trauma and orthopaedic ward at my local hospital for 18 months, studying for an NVQ qualification to facilitate my secondment into nursing.
In January of 2019, I graduated from nursing school. Somehow, within these three years, I confirmed the notion that this career will take me all over the world. I managed to spend 39 weeks of my degree abroad. Using every annual leave week to skip about Europe alone, or sleep in my car while driving the Cornish coastline, I soon figured out how I felt about being the outsider. Free. Included within these 39 weeks, was a two month expedition across West Africa with my dad – Mac, and my brother – Scott. An insight into what we are really capable of if we focus on what we want most.
My degree also offered me two opportunities to exchange abroad. In the beginning of 2018, just three weeks after the West Africa trip, I lived with an incredible family in Western Norway – Forde, for two months while working in various healthcare facilities. Then, in November of 2018, shortly after my final exams I begun my final four week elective placement in a hospital in Tanzania, also living with a local family. I realised here that no matter where we will go, great people and beautiful experiences are waiting there. After my four weeks exploring Northern Tanzania and delivering babies at West Meru District Hospital, I had the entire festive holiday period to explore Victoria Falls, and the wilds of the Mighty Zambezi River.
The official end of my degree came mid January, I can now practice as a nurse. So, what is my first endeavour, do you ask? It’s pretty far from nursing to be honest. I stole two months from my forever career in order to take another trip overland, in the Unimog with Mac across Finland and Russia. Again, learning what can be accomplished when you want it bad enough. That’s all it comes down to right? How bad you want it.
Apparently so. After 12 applications, 8 interviews and 7 job offers, I was offered my dream position as a newly qualified nurse. Very soon, my life will move down to Cambridge to begin working as an Emergency Nurse in Addenbrooks – Major Trauma Centre.
There is just so much life to be lived.
Racing home from primary school on my modified bike, quick change into ‘farm clothes’, grabbing two apples and running up the field to ride on the tractor/combine with my dad… Farming and machines have been part of me since day dot!
As the years progressed, school became an inconvenience to working on the farm. Consequently, I stopped attending as soon as the law permitted.
Five years working at home was followed by three years driving tractors and combines around the world. Work hard/play hard was the mind set.
A brief excursion around SE Asia proceeded six months work and overland travel throughout the fairdinkum land down under.
New Zealand, the South Pacific islands and Hawaii provided a variety of entertainment on route to my next job in Alberta – Canada. 8000 head of beef and around 15 sections of land (1 section = 1 sq mile = 640 acres) circa 10,000 acres kept me busy and motivated. Most weekends however, were reserved for tasting and enjoying all manor of local delicacies.
The six month contracted summer season was followed by a road trip along Highway One to Niagra Falls, then south to Texas. Ten weeks seeding winter wheat, cultivating friendships with locally employed Mexicans and visiting ‘Billybobs’ – Honky Tonk Bar in Fort Worth on Saturday evenings; are very special memories… The hats, shirts, belts, boots and of course those ‘painted on jeans’!!
Clockwise around South America for the winter of 1982/3, missing only Argentina and Chilli. Margaret Thatcher was riding high, the British Navel Fleet, having successfully recaptured the Falkland Islands… Argentina was not a great place to be at this time.
The wheat was maturing nicely in Texas and was ready for harvesting just as the machinery and grain storage preparation was complete.
Further employment with a contract harvester followed during the summer of 1983. Fourteen combines, fourteen trucks, seven large caravans, workshop facilities, fuel storage tanks and service vehicles were all part of the mobile combining operation that followed the wheat harvesting operation through the Midwest, from New Mexico to Canada.
The final little boys wet dream was driving a 580 horsepower Big Bud tractor on Snowy Mountain Ranch in Montana. 48,000 acres of wheat farmed with two tractors.
Soon after arriving home and returned to work on the farm, in became apparent that I needed to do something for myself. Numerous business ventures followed including:
- Recycling waste organic materials to land – shit spreader
- Designing and building a machine to thoroughly agitate various organic materials prior to transportation – shit stirrer
- Property renovation/subdivision
- Coin op launderette
Overland expeditions have featured heavily during this period, different methods, travelling partners and geographical regions. The most recent expeditions have been with my best mates, who also happen to share my DNA.