Maureen fried some of our home grown Brussel sprouts with bacon at the weekend, providing a brilliant accompaniment to a lentil and vegetable stew. You plant the crop in good faith. But brassicas can be infested by up to 49 different species of pest insects, which cannot always be controlled.
That’s my oblique foreplay to saying that the next period in my life, from summer 1979 onwards, was so traumatic that I have sometimes wondered if I were its sole author, despite all the evidence that it was self-induced. To be more precise, was the destination pre-destined?
That destination was to feel more isolated than I had ever known. However the motivation was the converse aim. To fit unobtrusively into the world.
Why do we do things? What is the outcome? Maureen and I moved to the small mid-Essex village of Great Waltham in October 2014 because our existing landlord was useless and manipulative in equal measures. The new landlords had no problem with our six cats, and welcomed our pledge to “cherish” any new home which was included in an advert placed in a local newspaper. Boxes ticked.
Yet the real outcome was finding a rural setting, surrounded by nature, where I have begun to find my psychological bearings for the first time in four decades. Walking, cycling, gardening, writing and contemplating quietly. I anticipated none of that, yet cannot imagine how I have lived without it. Was I steered here?
Similarly, I started this blog in autumn 2018, intending to ward of the Seasonal Affective Disorder that has darkened autumn and winter days for a number of years. A very effective equivalent to the therapy of letter writing practised so regularly in Birmingham. Also to leave an account of this life for Lauren, Josie and Rory, our children.
Again, boxes ticked happily. But the bigger picture is that I find myself borne along a narrative river, simultaneously heading upstream and downstream. The enjoyment and self-actualisation is phenomenal. I wake each morning contemplating the next instalment. Its background presence provides an ever-widening meaning, quickly available, while day-to-day quandaries come and go.
The gardening efforts, out under the wide Essex skies, are one of the many things that I am meant to do. The sprouts can turn out good or bad.