Last week I spent the day in a village kicking my heels.
To pass the time, I decided to take a walk.
A long one.
I decided this with not a little trepidation. This is England in January we’re talking about.
It was dark, cold and wet. I wasn’t sure if the two fleeces I’d brought from California would be enough to keep me warm.
But I set off anyway.
As I walked around, I was amazed at what I saw.
A war memorial commemorating those villagers lost in wars over the past century. Large brick houses with imposing facades, long sweeping drives, the occasional electronic swing gate.
The backbone of the village – former farm laborers cottages, several rows of them, the church with gravestones dating back to 1773 and a peeling noticeboard outside announcing the times of each service.
There was the pub, formerly a thatched cottage, with its finely painted sign a piece of art in itself and, of course, the village hall where the Women’s Institute and playgroups for preschoolers would carefully avoid meeting along with all manner of classes from yoga and natural birthing to cycling proficiency.
The elementary school and village pond completed the set piece while bridleways and public footpaths snaked out from the village across the surrounding English countryside like spokes in a badly mashed wheel.
I followed for a time, the postman.
There he was, riding his bike one-handed. It was so cold I wasn’t sure how he could hold the mail with his other ungloved hand. He would jump off his bike, run up to each house, drop in the mail (in England, slots for mail are located in the front door) then get back on his bike to cycle to the next clutch of houses. If there was a long driveway, he would cycle up, post the mail and ride back down.
I always wanted to be a postman.
Seemed a good way to get exercise, fresh air, peace, quiet and satisfaction in life. It still does if you get a route such as this one.
The only other people I saw were the trash collectors and their lorry, picking up rubbish and recycling throughout the village. Finally, they couldn’t resist yelling out to the woman that kept passing them on their route around, making some good-natured comment about what a lot of walking I was doing in a way that is peculiarly British.
I have never been called out to like that in the US and would be shocked if I was.
Eventually I returned back to base, the cold long forgotten if unchanged. My cheeks were rosy and my clothes quite damp but I was full of wonder at the new knowledge I’d discovered.
Knowledge that had been at my fingertips for decades.
On my walk, I ventured to parts I’d never been to before. I’d noticed for the first time scenes I’d passed a hundred times. I had spent hours and hours in this village as a child. Driven around it many times as an adult.
And never noticed any of it.
Have you visited a place a hundred times and then suddenly noticed it? What is it that finally makes the difference? Let me know in the comments!
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