It’s been three years since I’ve seen a British summer, and I’ve noticed myself lately driving around as I go about my business, as if seeing the countryside and weather for the first time. A change really is as good as a rest, apparently.
I grew up in a small village, and as a child I found it boring. As a horsey kid, it shouldn’t have been that way, it should’ve been wonderful. But my loan pony didn’t live within walking or cycling distance (if he had, I suspect I’d very rarely have been at home), and none of my school friends lived in our village. The day I passed my driving test was when I won my freedom, and from that point I stopped caring so much about being cut off from other people.
That cut off feeling has returned somewhat during recent years: I sold my car when I moved to London just over four years ago, and promptly used the takings to pay my rent when I quit my job a couple of weeks later. Some very big mistakes were made that year, ones which I’m still feeling the repercussions of! So two years ago, when I dropped everything, moved my belongings home and ran away to join the circus, there was no money to have my own car and certainly no money for one.
Upon my return in autumn, I was able to borrow my Mum’s car occasionally, but it was just a means of getting around – my surroundings don’t look very inspiring in winter, unless it snows or there’s a heavy frost. I spent two winters surrounded by brown and grey, with the odd hint of blue, and two summers in a completely different world, creating a new temporary home for the bulk of my trips, then taking in a huge variety of places on my travels. I’ve seen red cliffs and black sand, several different types of turtle, a gorgeous pink sunset and some concrete jungles. But none of it looks like home.
The countryside has bloomed from grey to green, driving along the roads feels like a sweeping rollercoaster of leaves and grasses, with trees reaching out across the lanes, rather than just nakedly poking out of the ground. The countryside really is rolling around here, and I often feel myself sitting taller in a vain attempt to see over the hedges into fields beyond. This technique works when you’re on a horse, not so much in a car.
I’ve been to some stunning cities, and there are some great ones near me. But nothing compares to the emergence of my local summer from the curtain of rain, wind and grey skies of winter. I swam through our clay-based soil throughout the winter, it’s fantastic to be able to drive with the windows down, sunglasses on and fully-bloomed countryside around me, the comforting hug of home re-born, both in real life and my memories.