What is it about the phrase “A week in the Country” that conjures up a picture of all that one thinks one is missing, living in a crime infested capital city?
Is it a question of ” the grass is always greener?” or is it in fact that both ways of living have pros, and cons?…Life is what you make it, what you put into life, you get out of it, irrespective of ones surroundings, there is something to gain from every situation in life, no matter how unimportant and insignificant it can seem at the time.
Picture a reasonably sized village in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire, that nestles in the heart of a valley, which from the highest vantage point looks like a picture postcard, especially at dusk….( the gradual incline, not to be attempted in flip-flops or shoes with soles that have their own agenda!!) Despite aiming for ” the country look ” which one has tried in vain so very hard to accomplish,my equipment in the foot department I always think needs a little attention !)
The Village is myriad of terracotta roof tiled cottages and picturesque houses,the tiles in so many different shades of russet and ochre,brown and amber, set against a backdrop of old grey weathered stone and dark green patches of vegetation, the occasional bright yellow light twinkling, as it illuminates a cottage garden or the distant church spire, which dominates like an intruder in the darkening sky.
Now before I get all carried away in the belief that I am the recreation of Anne of Green Gables, or a distant cousin of Heidi, I have decided that this is going to be a lovely week—- all log fires, autumn leaves that crunch beneath your feet as one takes those early morning strolls in the crisp Autumn air and end of Summer sun, and the clear star filled skies above, that light pollution and smog haven’t yet discovered……bliss.
I hope you’re getting the picture…. Boris Johnson hasn’t as yet enforced a passport requisition to travel 200 miles up the M1 ( or 2 hours max by train) he may as well have done, as one is in different territory!…..one must adapt….and being easy going , that cant be too hard….can it?
Despite the enforced visit, which was all rather sudden , due to the fact that my sister had the overwhelming desire to see what it felt like to gallop, in bare feet,dressed like a horse, and attempt to run a race with several work colleagues !!(the betting being done for charity),she found out what it was like!!!……she fell at the first hurdle ! resulting in a torn Achilles, and not being able to put her foot to the ground……hence my visitation.
I was collected at the station by a lady I hadn’t met before, who would drive the 20 miles to the village, someone my sister knew….but that could be anyone, as she knows most people in the village….and by the time I left….so would I !!
We arrived at Lea House where “the failed jockey” swung on 2 crutches to open the door….she was a cross between Long John Silver and Captain Hook! …it wasn’t really funny at all as she was in pain, and my country break I had a feeling, was about to begin!…… and the words “relax” and “rest” didn’t feature !!
Dinner passed,…and I reacquainted myself with a gas hob!!….all was well,…I was tired, but forgot that Archie,the zealous, but very loving, cocker spaniel needed his bedtime walk…. one of my list of duties!!
So…. off into the night we went…Archie and me!…….out of the 5 bar gate and into the Lane….it was so dark, but the torch on my phone lit the way ahead….it wasn’t that late , but there was no one around……..not even Archie! who had disappeared ahead of me, but I could hear the tinkling disc on his collar so knew he wasn’t that far away…..Suddenly a fox darted out in front of me….I don’t know who was more shocked…him or me !! he stared at me, (this fox had attitude!!..)..he didn’t move….I think he could tell I was a visitor, on his territory !…Where was Archie when I needed him!….. I called….. and eventually he appeared ..and Mr. Fox fled….so much for the long walk….
Next encounter was trying to get my sister upstairs on 1 leg…. (that’s her on 1 leg…not me )that proved interesting…and Archie thought we had discovered some new game and proceeded to join in, pushing his way onto every stair…but after some scuffle, the mission was finally accomplished. I went downstairs, made sure the wood burner was out and headed to my room…The widows are small and cute, around which the fading rose bushes of Summer are climbing, the windows divided down the middle, open with a small latch….so I flung them open.
The night was so still…and so quiet….all that I could hear was an owl hooting in the distance, none of the usual sleep accompaniments of London…police sirens, ambulance sirens……people shouting, and traffic….all of which after several years, one tends not to hear anyway…..Then suddenly…. there it was.!..that dreaded sound….a buzz!!!…a bee had flown in the window….London bees go away for winter….why cant Derbyshire ones get the same package deal!!!… but no!!….Aaagh, alone with a bee, I turned the light on….now what!!!….there was no way I was sleeping with a bee buzzing in the same vicinity….but I didn’t know what to do next !!!He wouldn’t go away !!!… I stood on the bed and aimed to do an imitation of an air traffic control supervisor, but this imposter had other pursuits on his mind…..he wouldn’t even be still.!…after half an hour,jumping on the bed with a rolled up newspaper doing what could only have resembled some form of Hungarian Folk dance, banging my arm on the drawers, that were in a silly place anyway, I decided to go and sleep downstairs,(well I didn’t exactly “decide”…I sort of flounced in a heap of exasperation, followed by Archie, who seemed totally bemused by the entire episode! Bees, Wasps and me have never been best friends…not even polite acquaintances….. so why on earth,j ust ‘cos I’m in Derbyshire, would I sleep with one !!!
Next morning…(seemed like 15 mins later)..Archie made his presence felt at 6am by gently poking me with a paw, on the sofa. I grabbed a jacket and wellies and off we went on the morning walk…. it was rather lovely, the air was fresh and we went up a hill beyond the back of the house up a quiet winding pathway….overhead the large oak trees met in a rather lovely arch of leaves just starting to turn golden, the dew was twinkling on the grass and there was a slight mist across the open fields. Archie was off, chasing every rabbit in site and sniffing his way around various mole holes. Suddenly round the bend of the leafy Lane a man in a cap was approaching…. with a sheep dog.
It was so quiet, no one was around and I could feel the sudden quickening of my heart beating….here I was….in the middle of nowhere, no one around, and I find myself starring in an episode of “Midsomer Murders.”….!!!
” Morning, Ducks” says the man….I was looking around for any resemblance of a webbed foot or large beak on any part of my anatomy, when I remembered that ” Ducks” was like the southern “love” or the Geordie ” pet”…a local term of endearment….maybe murder wasn’t on his mind after all.” You’re staying down at Lea House ain’t you?”….surprised,I said that I was, and he went on to say that his wife had heard of Linda’s accident and had made her pie and was going to drop it off later that morning! …..
A pie !!!!…who makes pies these days!!?? let alone brings one as a gift!!! I hadn’t seen a home made pie in years…!! how lovely!….how kind!!how divine…..( I bet it wasn’t a giblet pie!! my Grandmother used to make the most amazing giblet pies…most folk throw out the giblets after making gravy….she made pies!!)… we exchanged pleasantries talked about the weather…. of course,…..asked how long I was staying, gave Archie a biscuit …. and off he went!!….hmmm I wonder what time his wife, Maggie is dropping off that pie !!!
There used to be a village shop that served lovely coffee , but sadly that’s gone now….as I walk up the hill I do find myself thinking that I would really miss heading out down the road to a coffee shop or paper shop, as I do each morning in London,…but country village life does have its compensations…… little village fetes and those amazing stalls of home made cakes…and the incredible sense of community…as I was to find out later that morning.
I returned to the cottage, and every half hour or so there would be another visitor…..they arrived with flowers, or biscuits….Maggie with her pie and another with scones…I tell you , if you were going to damage ones Achilles this was definitely the village to do it in!!! if this happened in London you would be lucky to see the postman….let alone the constant flow of neighbours….
Now, not to put a damper on any of these wonderful “Samaritains baring gifts”…..but they all live a maximum of 15 mins away,there is not a water shortage further down the village….they hadn’t crossed the Gobi desert to reach Lea House, or climbed anything that resembled Killimanjaro,…….. yet everyone said ” yes ” to a cup of tea!!….it wasn’t even tea time !!…by the time I had made cup 12 the novelty of ” How lovely to see you, would you like a cup of tea?” was beginning to wear a bit thin…….(but the Apple pie was amazing!!)
The villagers were so lovely…..I felt as though I had known them for years….though some I had met a few times before…. They weren’t all born in the village, as is so often the case these days, one couple who had bought ” The Hall” had moved up from Highgate in London….What is so nice about village life, is that people ” drop by ” spontaneously…..I think that’s the major difference really….in London things are done ” by appointment “planned.. in the Country things …..just happen!
It was a busy week, my phone signal was a little “home-sick” as kept disappearing, and I missed “the noise”. I missed looking out of the window and seeing ” life” moving at a pace. But the country has its own charms, a community where everyone cares about everyone else, where everyone is a friend…..can be called upon in times of trouble…..Is this the case in Southern villages too? or is it the Northern warmth in Derbyshire that permeates these stone walls of village life?
Seeing these lovely people, reiterated my belief in something I read the other day, by Oprah Winfrey. In years to come, when the In box contains no e mails, and the phone no longer rings, and the unopened letters are returned, as we have left this world….what is left behind in abundance, are not possessions, or ” things”…it is the love that we gave, and how we were loved by others, the acts of kindness we did for no reason, and the use we can be to others, when we have nothing to gain by doing so.
Life really can be so lovely and so special….look for the worst in people ,you will always find it, but its so so much more rewarding to look for the best, because it bounces back…twice fold.
Whatever it was,…… it was memorable( especially that pie !!) I was tired….as it was a busy week too.
My ” Week in the Country”I enjoyed …… but you know what? I’m looking forward to a new week now… in London !!
Love Millie xx
PS sorry about late posting,