For the past 15 years, I have told people that I live in the countryside
But the truth is that for most of that time, I stayed in hotel rooms or business school accommodation and spent my days in windowless workshop rooms, or else I was on the move in cars and trains and planes. I didn’t really live anywhere, certainly not in the countryside.
This year it’s been different.
Like many people, I have been living in ‘lockdown’ since March, to shield myself from the risk of Covid-19 infection. First, I should say that I am fortunate to have stayed healthy, to have had enough savings to see me through, and good neighbours to do the shopping and keep an eye on me. Second, solitude has sometimes given way to loneliness and that hasn’t always been easy.
Third, I’m a writer who has been saying for years that I would be so much more productive if I had more time to write. I didn’t realise that it would take a global pandemic decimating my work portfolio to call my bluff, but it has and I’m happy to report that my writing life has flourished.
All that said, for the past six months I have truly lived in the countryside, with daily walks across open fields next to the house. My dog Ted, well known to readers of this blog as Captain Midnight, has been living his best life and, in return, his canine sense and sensibilities have kept me moderately sane,
The tiny garden has thronged with life throughout the year. Great Tits, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Robins, Sparrows, Blackbirds, even a Spotted Woodpecker have jostled at the bird feeders. I have watched bees pollinating the plants and butterflies crowd the buddleia. I have seen the berries come into season in turn – blackcurrants, blackberries, and now raspberries – and been here to pick and eat them. The rowan tree is laden with clouds of pink berries that will ripen and feed the birds when winter approaches.
I feel more connected to myself and to the more-than-human world than I have done for many years. The physical restrictions necessitated by the pandemic have paradoxically liberated my spirit and nourished my soul. Of course, I hope for all our sakes that the threat of infection recedes and that the restrictions can be eased. I also hope we can remember what really matters and not close our hearts as we reopen our schools and factories and offices.
When I open my doors again, I want them to open onto a world in which we remember and reward those on whom we depend for the necessities of our lives and those who take care of us when we cannot take care of ourselves; a world whose resources we steward rather than exploit; and one in which knowledge of our common humanity, which has been laid so bare in the face of disease, diminishes our fear of strangers.
I want to remember the birds, the bees, the berries, and the butterflies.
I want to stay living in the countryside.
I want to keep on writing.