thoughts in the mornings

It was definitely easier to breathe in the countryside

As she opened the door to take in the first deep breaths of the morning air, she heard the birds. It was still early, still dark and there was less chatter amongst the birds than on previous mornings. It had been a stormy night and that had perhaps kept them in their nests a bit longer. Did birds stay in when it was wet she wondered? She hadn't really thought about where birds sleep when it's wet but she assumed like any sensible creature when it was raining and the night was full of lightening that they would stay in and perhaps even have a lie in, skipping the early worms.

Certainly, this morning was a wet one and she couldn't hear the owl that usually delighted her, making its owl sound somewhere in the distance. She loved the mornings in the countryside. She could watch the day arrive, sipping tea and looking out as the sun made its way up in the quiet of a country day unfolding. It was infinitely different from her London mornings and yet, entirely similar.

In London, she would likely be woken by traffic, or the lights or the general rumble of the city. She wouldn't necessarily want to take deep breaths at the back door like she did in Devon and this was now a serious consideration. Her home town was increasingly noisy and the prospect of another new housing development opposite her home was preying on her mind. The plan was to add another three blocks of apartments. 14, 19 and 27 storeys high. This was to add to the 1700 homes that had already been crammed into the once available space and though she had been aware of it all over the past years, the new plans were troubling her.

She didn't want to move from the home she'd lived in for almost 28 years. She liked knowing her neighbours, she loved the magical market hall that had become her playground since leaving her own school career some 20 years ago. She loved that she was from the area, had been to school there, lived, shopped, even worked there in the past. It was home and though it was noisy and the air wasn't clean and the controversial LTNs hadn't blessed her street with any advantages, she was reluctant to leave.

Yet it was becoming clear that it was going to be a necessary move at some point anyway. Regardless of what was going on outside of her front door, it was inside the home that was going to be the deciding factor. It was the stairs.

Admitting that one's ageing body is struggling is one thing. Facing the reality of disability in that ageing body was another thing altogether and it was a simple fact that bodies that sometime struggled to walk certainly found it all easier in the quiet of the countryside. Especially if there were no stairs.

She'd been coming to Devon once a month for some years now. Her girlfriend worked for three days each month in a small village hall, assisting on a course about movement and though the woman wasn't sure what the course entailed, she knew she benefitted by coming along. She had made new connections with local people, just as she had in her hometown and there was a pleasure in seeing the same faces each time.

She shopped in the local shops and had come to know names and a bit about people. The grocer who sold all manner of delicious fresh food but who himself ate no fruit other than bananas and no vegetables other than potatoes. She somehow loved that he made a living selling food he didn't eat but that he knew was good for people. She liked Sean.

The two women who ran a shop selling things you didn't really need but were somehow drawn to had become firm regulars in her wanderings. Though she didn't buy anything because she didn't need more stuff, she always popped in and they would catch up and exchange observations of the world. Much had changed in the five years she had been visiting and yet there was a comfort in the steadiness of the women. They seemed to remain the same.

Then there were the friendly folk in the health food shop and another cobbler who seemed to have the same energy as her market mate. Friendly, cheerful, kind. She had become firm friends with an older woman who had begun with a rather grumpy enquiry about her parking outside the village hall and had ended by inviting her in for tea. Now they would occasionally chat on the phone in between visits and the woman would drop by for a cuppa and a catch up each month. With a combined age of 143 years, there was much to be said about the changes in the world and the two women enjoyed the friendship that emerged, despite the evident differences in their lives. Her new friend was 89 and had been to London just twice in her life. She just couldn't imagine that. She was a Londoner to her core, much as she loved the quiet.

The woman and her lover stayed in the same air bnb each time and it was perfect for their needs. Half of a converted barn with one bedroom, a fabulously close by bathroom that suited the night's needs well, and an open plan kitchen and diner. Huge windows, lots of light and an ever-changing landscape. No stairs, no traffic, a wood burner in the winter and a view overlooking a lily pond. She knew she was blessed. She also knew that one day she would have to leave her home. She couldn't quite conceive of that.

Deciding that she didn't have to decide her future just yet, the woman made another cup of tea, stood on the step and took a long deep breath of the country air. The sun had risen, the storm had passed and it looked to be a gentle day. It was a long road ahead in these changing times. It seemed best to take it one careful step at a time.