Nick and Lesley Albert yearn to leave the noise, stress and pollution of modern Britain and move to the countryside, where the living is good, the air sweet, with space for their dogs to run free. Suddenly out of work and soon to be homeless, they set off in search of a new life in Ireland, a country they had never visited. As their adventure began to unfold, not everything went according to plan. If finding their dream house was difficult, buying it seemed almost impossible. How would they cope with banks that didn’t want customers, builders who didn’t need work, or the complex issue of where to buy some chickens?
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Nick Albert was born in England and raised in a Royal Air Force family. After leaving College he worked in retail management for several years before moving into financial services where he quickly progressed through the ranks to become a training consultant. As a very passionate and reasonably talented sportsman, Nick had always wanted to use his training skills towards creating a parallel career, so in the mid 1980’s he qualified and began coaching sport professionally. After a health scare in 2003 and in search of a simpler life, he and his wife Lesley, cashed in their investments, sold their home and bought a rundown farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland – a country they had never before even visited. With little money or experience and armed only with a do-it-yourself manual, they set about renovating their new home, where they now live happily alongside a flock of chickens, two ducks and several unruly, but delightful dogs.
In 2017 Nick was signed to Ant Press to write a series of humorous memoirs about his life in rural Ireland. Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds (book one) was published in September 2017 and soon became an Amazon bestseller. Book two in the series was published on 1st June 2018 and book 3 in August 2019. Book four is due out in early 2020.
Nick is also the author of the twisty thriller, Wrecking Crew, the first in a series of books featuring reluctant hero Eric Stone.
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For almost my entire adult life, I’ve loved stories of people moving to new places and building or refurbishing their homes. Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence was my “gateway book” in this respect, but since then, I’ve read many others.
It should be no surprise, then, that when given the opportunity to read and review Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds, the first book in Nick Albert’s saga of moving from England to Ireland to revamp, not only a “secondhand” home, but also his own life, I leapt at the chance with all the excitement of a dog chasing a tennis ball. (Like one of Nick’s dogs, mine are into the chase, but not so good at the retrieval part of the game.)
I was immediately absorbed by Nick’s story. He’s candid about the less pleasant aspects of his life – facing repeated staff reductions at work and being the lone survivor (something my husband has gone through more than once) – and then choosing the redundancy package so that he could make a fresh start. (Is it just me, or do these things sound more civilized when phrased in British English instead of American?)
I laughed at the bit where he described the pushpin-and-atlas method of choosing a new place to live to his (adult) daughter (to be fair, this method did not work), and nodded in sympathetic understanding at every mention of a contractor whose work was dependent on other contractors’ work being done, or who couldn’t meet a deadline, having heard similar stories from my own parents when they retired to Baja California Sur, Mexico, twenty years ago (in their case, they refurbished one house, built their second, and then sold that and built their last house, which my mother just sold in the aftermath of my stepfather’s death).
Nick is an engaging storyteller. I felt like I was experiencing all these life changes with him. I could feel the rain, breathe in the wind, and smell the distinctive odor of a dog who has rolled in something disgusting. I was disappointed when I came to the end of this first volume, and then delighted when I realized two sequels are already available, and a third will be coming out later this year.
If you are the kind of person who sees those Facebook ads to buy an island in Scotland, or who fantasizes about moving to Italy every time you catch a few minutes of Under the Tuscan Sun, you will love this book. If you don’t do either of those things, you will still find Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds a worthy read, because of the warmth, honesty and humor with which it was written.
Goes well with cottage pie and a pint of ale.