"People are still trying to go to Waitrose in Berkhamsted and the small hill on St.John Wells Lane is very dangerous at the moment, so I would avoid at all costs." (actual note from Hertfordshire Constabulary)That's where we live, a community where people pay attention to the first butterflies of spring, ask for advice on chiropractors, post warning of white vans with "foreign-looking" men inside it, and are compelled to reach Waitrose, whatever the weather.
There's nothing not to like. It's hard to get used to the subtle, small-minded racism that comes with living in a remote village after living in a proper, multi-cultural city. But then I am reminded that we are only 30 minutes by train to London, one of the biggest and most racially diverse cities in the world. It is amusing more than offensive. Most of it is pure ignorance. But it is jarring nonetheless.
This isn't a hip village, but it is inhabited by kind people who look out for each other, people who offer to bring meals to old folk who can't get out in the snow, people who knock on your door to tell you they found a ten pound note outside your gate and is it yours, people who bring in your rubbish bins and recycling boxes if you've left them out too long. Indeed, people who stop and ask how you are and how you are settling in.
But the snow brings its own set of conundrums. How are the roads? Does anyone have a 4X4 to get to Tring Station? Does anyone have the number of an emergency plumber? The email is a cacophony of questions. I discover that rural Buckinghamshire hasn't had snow like this for four years, that there is nothing to do with horses but to put them out in the field for a stretch and keep them inside with plenty of hay (not much fun for a thoroughbred ex-racehorse to live without proper exercise for nearly a week), that most people don't fuss too much, and that wine, it seems, gets you through most things.
Charlie has bronchitis but is pretending he doesn't. I've brought him soup, clear liquids, paracetamol, guaifenesin, and "It's the End of the F***ing World." He's listening to a Spurs match on the radio, so all is well (I can imagine the little smile on his face). I'm left to walk the dogs alone, which I like, because it's the time that I think the most clearly. All through the snow-covered trees I'm singing "Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood" in my head. You know, the one with the enchanted neighborhood where Christopher Robin plays. It's so, so quiet. And all the animals, even the crows and pigeons, are hiding. The only sound is that of Thistle breathing (she's a Frenchie, and she has a short nose, so give her a break) and the crunch of the snow underfoot. It's the time when I furiously keep voice messages to myself filled with Brilliant Ideas. Of course none of them link up, but I am hoping one day they will all make sense in some kind of elaborate Grand Plan. I'm still dreaming of levitating. I'm wondering if it has something to do with the Full Moon. Apparently, my friends Maria McKee tells me on Instagram, that people, especially empaths, are experiencing An Awakening. I'm not sure if I'm an empath, but I'm not sure if I'm not either. I certainly believe I feel Too Much and especially wondering in the woods.
There's a village on the way to Stansted called Smug Oaks. Charlie says this is where I should live.
My mother tells me that this snow is perfect for cross country skiing, and she says this with a sense of longing. Her mother died at her age (82) but when she was 80 she was still going up into the mountains with her friends and skiing from cabin to cabin. I know that she wishes she could do the same. Actually, we all do. I'd like to be channelling my mormor right now.