I'm house- and dog-sitting this week in the heart of the country. I can't quite get a quote from Sydney Smith out of my head: I look upon it (the country) as a healthy grave. Smith was an Anglican cleric, a writer and philosopher, so perhaps his words should have some weight with us town-dwellers. I might not go to the extremes of calling my current abode a healthy grave but I come close to it at times.
At any rate, here I am, miles from anywhere. I should of course be drinking in the pure mountain air, revelling in the quietness, glorifying in the early morning birdsong. The reality is that I feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe. A sighting of the postman nearly makes my day. Going shopping for bread and milk in the nearest village has a heady feel to it. And when an attentive neighbour drops by to check that all is well, I feel as if I've been invited to a party.
On the plus side, I go walking with the dog every day. He and I know every sheep, every cow and every mucky puddle within a three-mile radius. I am getting fit and healthy and eat like a horse.
The dog is great company, he watches my every move and barks at the slightest noise which sets my nerves screaming in fright in case he's spotted an intruder. And another thing. When night falls in the country, it does so with a thump. In other words, outside the windows it is pitch-black, the only other glimmer of light being from the houses far away across the lonely valley.
I should admit here that I was born in the country but I've lived in cities and towns for all of my adult life and am almost ashamed to admit that I need houses around me, the glow of street lighting and the noise of people and traffic, at least during the day. Maybe I'll miss the peace and quiet next week when I return home but I don't really think so.