House Sitting in Epsom

Mark Stewart Travel Stories 2 Comments

Chances are you’ve never heard of magnesium sulphate. It’s much more likely you know it by its common name: Epsom salts. Now, other than one of the earliest discoveries of this compound being discovered in the town of Epsom, this is the last we’ll be talking about that.

We rolled into Epsom on the Southwestern Rail train from Waterloo station just before noon.

I think it was noon, our phone said so at least. For Kylee and I, it could have been any time of day – or night. For over 46 hours now we’d been awake and in transit. Delayed and cancelled flights back in Canada had us bouncing in and out of departures without ever leaving the airport.

I hardly remember even entering the UK. The chaos of Heathrow airport, a place with an energy that could slap someone out of a coma, simply blurred into the background of that morning… evening… afterno— whatever.

You get the idea.

We were tired.

The only real memory I have is Kylee and I trying not to make eye contact on the tube. Every time we heard “This is the Piccadilly line to Cockfosters,” we bit our tongues to stop from laughing like children. We have trouble acting like adults at the best of times, let alone without sleep – and that shit is funny.

Epsom couldn’t have happened at a better time for us. The previous few weeks were absolute madness. After finishing up our time in Colombia, we spent a whirlwind three weeks back home in Canada. We were exhausted. It was time to catch up on a little work and get some much-needed rest.

On the edge of Surrey, about half an hour outside of Central London is the borough of Epsom & Ewell. Relatively unknown to most (even friends from around London hadn’t heard of it until we brought it up!), Epsom is a quiet town on the edge of the English countryside. If it’s known for anything aside from the salts, it would be the Epsom Derby, which is the largest horse race in England. More importantly – for us anyway – Epsom is not only where Jimmy Page grew up, it’s where he learned to play the guitar.

While Europe wasn’t in our initial plans, TBEX, a travel blogger conference we’d decided to attend, changed that. Thanks to Kylee finding this incredible opportunity on Trusted Housesitters (the benefits of which we’ll get into in future post), we were able to kick back and enjoy this much-needed bit of placidity.

Some brick houses surrounded by green trees and flowers

This is where we lived for three weeks!

For close to three weeks, we had a gorgeous flat on the outskirts of town all to ourselves. No shared kitchen, no shared bathroom, no dorms; just us. Well, almost. Pepper was there too.

What; I forgot to mention Pepper?

Pepper came with the house we were taking care of. Actually, live-in pet-sitters would be a more accurate description of our task. Though I’d never heard the term “Jug” before (Jack Russell/Pug cross), the name is now synonymous with the cutest, most playful and awesome dog in the world.



Yeah, I know, I know; everyone thinks their dog is the best. However, there can’t be more than one best, that would defy the definition of the word entirely. There can only be one “best” dog. And I’m sorry, but it isn’t yours.

It’s Pepper.

A small dog on a paved pathway

Pepper. Better than your dog.

Early morning walks through expansive green fields and parks snapped us into a much-needed routine. We were getting more work done than we had in weeks, we were getting exercise, and eating better.

Ok, so that last part was a blatant lie. We were absolutely gluttonous.

It had been a few years since we’d found ourselves in England, so we and some catching up to do. We ate it all: Bangers and mash, rich meat pies, sausage rolls, Yorkshire puddings, crumpets, double-cream, fish and chips, and full English breakfasts from Wetherspoons.
 

Want to eat what we ate?
Try our recipe for Toad in the Hole!

 

It’s not that we wanted to eat so unhealthily, it’s just that we felt obligated to experience the local culture through its cuisine… or something. The World Cup was on, so we had to sample all of the craft beer from the local pubs. Also, there was a heatwave; and cider is cool and refreshing.

The dangerous addiction to Colman’s Mustard I developed however, I cannot justify. I think I may have an actual problem with that one. I went through three jars in as many weeks.

A plate of different breakfast foods

The Full English Breakfast.

We would spend most days working and playing with Pepper, and in the evenings head over to the Jolly Coopers or the Cricketers for a pint. Often we’d simply just have a night in and watch a movie. It was the closest thing to a normal life we’d had in nearly eight months.

An absolute highlight of our time in Epsom was when an old friend came in from London for a visit. We initially met Aut in his home country of Thailand, way back in 2007. The last time we saw each other was in 2013, during our last trip to London – a city he’d recently moved to at that point.

Kylee and I stocked up on all the goods: Melton Mowbray pork pies, meats, bread, cheeses and scotch eggs; along with plenty of cider and a jar of Colman’s. The three of us hid from the scorching heat under a towering Oak tree while catching up on the past five years and reminiscing about old times.

Following a little too much cider and some feeble attempts at selfies, we parted ways. Thankfully it was only a simple farewell, as we’d be seeing Aut again in a week. This was merely the pre-game show.

Three people hold wine glasses on a blanket in the grass

Reunion Picnic in Epsom

Our time in Epsom was outstanding. It doesn’t jump out as some incredible must-visit destination of England. And honestly, I doubt the locals would want that. They seem to be getting on perfectly well with the status quo.

The majority of our surroundings were fields and trees, the tallest buildings maybe three stories tall. It wasn’t until one evening while up on the hill at the Derby Arms Pub, near the racetrack, could we see the London skyline far-off in the distance. Though only a 30-minute commute by train, it was easy to forget how close we really were to the madness of London.

The days slowly ticked by in our world of temporary normalcy. In this life we’ve chosen, it’s not often we have an opportunity to feel this sort of stability – let alone have the chance to fall in love with the cutest dog in the world.

Though we tried desperately to hold onto these precious moments of tranquillity, it’s not yet our time to settle. The road still beckons and we must follow.

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Catherine
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This sounds like absolute perfection! We’d love to house sit, especially on a farm, but no one seems to want to have a couple plus 4 kids. You guys are doing it right! And that food! I want ALL OF IT!