Last weekend I went to Durham for the first time – a long-lost uni friend from Singapore has just arrived there, and I wanted to say hi, plus my friend Sandy (Randy Sadford) is from there, and his parents happily consented to hospitalising me.
But what I wanted to talk about was the Sunday morning. The Radfords live in an old pit village a few miles out of town - a place that was closed and re-sold en masse back in the 40s or something - which meant that I could walk the length of it in about 6 minutes. So I decided to walk further.
Down the hill, there's the old railway line, and at the point at which a bridge (for a road that no longer exists) crossed the railway line (that no longer exists), I wandered down into the river meadows. Down in that valley there was no human noise in my ears (for the first time in a month), the sun was bright and hot and I could watch the stream water stroll by. I was walking slowly or standing still by this point.
On the far side of the river, the path hugged the edge of a barley field – did you know that barley ears click and crack in hot weather like a field full of children with bubble-wrap? I stopped part-way up the field and stood there for fifteen minutes or more, watching the bees (four different kinds) in the honeysuckle, the trees (ash, oak, hawthorn, holly and some others) wobbling around, the trailing arms of rose-hips reaching across the path, and the odd butterfly passing by. But the thing was, I could have stayed there for HOURS. Genuinely. Just stopping long enough to watch some of the things that are constantly going on without any of us noticing was so good for my soul – I can't do it justice.
Life is sometimes hard, but more often it's kind of grinding. The countryside, to me, is different – it's hard work, absolutely, but not the kind of work which squishes you. Yesterday I was doing my urban equivalent: gardening for slightly-posh retired people. I got scratched and stung, but it made me happy 🙂
[am I turning into my Dad?!]