Well, I promised some work experience throwbacks so here one is.
Cast your minds back to late November 2015 – Christmas was on it’s way, everyone was working for end of unit tests, and revision for mocks in Spring was being planned. But, far more importantly, the NSA work placement list had gone live. For most people, my American friends especially, a much cooler image of an NSA work placement has probably come to mind than the reality. Unbeknownst to most people, the NSA in the UK has nothing to do with government intelligence, but stands for the National Sheep Association – much more interesting am I right?
For those of you who haven’t left after realising this is about sheep, thank you, you’re the kind of people I want around here. Anyway, the NSA publishes a list of advertisements from sheep farmers willing to have students come and do lambing work experience with them. The listings normally consist of a few lines saying if accommodation is available, the size of herd, and a bit about the farm and the way they run things. Students can then contact the farmer and arrange a placement – simple, and that’s exactly what I did. The week that I wanted to go was pretty early in the lambing calendar – mid February – so I only had two options on the list that lambed early enough. I emailed both, and one was free. We had a brief phone call to arrange the dates and that was it – I was off to spend a week with a family of strangers working on their sheep farm in Anglesey – an island off of Wales.
I’m not sure how I convinced my worrying mother that I was going to be fine staying on a farm I found on the internet, but in February I was being driven up by my family, full of nerves and wondering why I had signed up for this at all. As it turns out, I found myself staying with the friendliest people I have ever met, and I had the best week ever. The farm was run by 25 year old Ger, who had taken over after his dad sadly passed away. I stayed in the farm house with him and his mum, and he had a brother and cousin who came every day to help out. I have to say that the people who you do a placement with really make or break your experience, and I was so welcomed by his family, and they really made my time there amazing.
Within an hour of arriving, I had donned my waterproofs and was in the barn, pulling my first lamb. I won’t get too graphic here, but it really was amazing to help with the birthing process and watch so many lambs come into this world. Ger was a great teacher and I can safely say that I know my way around a sheep now. Every evening we were greeted back in the farm house with a delicious meal and then sat, happy but exhausted, by the fire chatting and watching trashy tv. If that isn’t the dream, I don’t know what is.
Aside from learning the ins and outs (sorry, bit too literal maybe) of sheep, I also drove quad bikes, got behind the wheel of a car for the first time (I was awful and still haven’t passed my test all these years later), and even tried shooting. They were all pretty shocked when I said that I hadn’t shot a gun before, so I was taken out to shoot some empty aerosol cans. I was surprising good, and they said I should join my local shooting club, which was very sweet but I regretfully informed them that a local shooting club did not exist in my south London neighbourhood.
I took to country life like a fish to water and was pretty sad to leave and get right back into school and exams. I missed the community spirit and being active all day, but one good thing about my surprise gap year is that I can hopefully return to lambing or something similar – the world is my oyster – for a year, at least.