I reach over and turn the radio off. One episode of The Archers is more than enough for one day; I cannot bear to listen to a second. It is 7pm and so far today I’ve woken up, had breakfast, baked a banana cake, gone out for two walks – one in the rain and one in the sunshine – and read several chapters of my book. I’ve cooked my mother dinner, washed up god knows how many times, made a fire and done some laundry. If I didn’t know better I’d think I’d retired and moved to the country. Oh, no, wait, I have. Sort of.
I’ve been home for almost three weeks now, the limit set on my time in Staffs roosting with my mother in her spare room, and my work here is about done. I’ve caught up on sleep, reestablished my wellie-walking stride and annoyed my mother with the numerous pieces of half-eaten fruit I’ve piled up in her fridge (because why have a piece of fruit when you can have your own mini fruit salad?!) Oh, and most importantly, I’ve settled Audrey in. She is now a happy cottage cat, exercising her limbs going up and down the stairs and hiding in one of the many cubbyholes she’s found whenever my four year old niece comes around. Poor Emily! “I want to see the kitty. She’s so cuuuuuuTe!’ she exclaims. But apart from her large scared green eyes, Emily is yet to see anything of Audrey.
For a while, I must admit, I felt the same – that is, inclined to hide and come out only when summer had returned. But autumn is slowly charming me: sunny and rainy, misty and breezy by turn; I forage for blackberries (the edible kind, not the annoying telephone kind) on my daily walks and watch the first of the leaves change colour. I have made friends with the Moorlands Bus driver who is effectively my own private taxi; whenever I want to go into town I just have to call up this strange out-of-the-way bus and it comes to pick me up, and all for the bargain price of one-ninety!
But alas, it is now time to get packing again. This time it is Renaissance poetry, angle-poised lamps and a single duvet that will be my dear friends in the coming months. Audrey I must sadly leave behind, a fact which – as she came snuggling up next to me on the bed today – pains me more as England has so far managed to charm her too: out of her tigerish ways and into something more resembling the “cuuuuuTe” pussy-cat she appears. I wonder if it is having the same effect on me – smoothing my sharp edges – or whether the upheaval of moving yet again, starting over yet again, will raise the tension this weekend just a notch.
My loyal, steady and infinitely patient mother will be, as ever, on hand to help, glad I am sure to see an end to the half-eaten fruit, but less pleased to be taking on full-time responsibility for yet another of her daughters’ animals. But it has been nice, if only for a while, to spend my days as my mother does – or, at least, as she would when finally she retires and can fully enjoy her escape to the country: listening to Radio Four, pottering round the allotment, cooking with freshly grown veggies and retiring to bed at 10pm. In short, for making me slow down long enough to smell the horse muck and sneeze with hay fever, I thank Mother kindly.