Highways and Byways

How far does ‘home’ extend?  As far as the front door? The garden gate?  Further than that, I think.

We’ve lived in this village for nearly six years and I thought I knew it well.  After all, it’s not very big.  I walk the main street twice a day to take the boy to school and back, I drive the other large-ish road regularly on my way to the nearest town, and I know most of the side streets.  This week, however, I’ve spent an hour or so each morning walking paths and minor roads that aren’t on my usual routes.  I did have a cursory look at a map on Monday, but mostly I’ve just been following my nose.

Being slightly geographically challenged, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the several ‘aha’ moments as I’ve emerged from a new-to-me footpath onto a familiar street, or spotted another footpath I didn’t know existed, or realised that if I walk down here I’ll end up there.  I swear there’s an audible click as the jigsaw pieces fall into place in my head and my mental picture of my home surroundings becomes clearer and more solid.

I’ve heard birds singing, smelled pine trees and soil, seen fantastic views over rolling fields (and I thought Suffolk was flat!) and encountered squirrels, pheasants and friendly dog-walkers.  I’ve been stung by nettles and slipped in the mud and altogether properly experienced this place we live in.

These excursions have prompted me to ponder lots of questions: did all of these little patches of orchard once join up, and if so how big was the whole orchard once?  Is there a map I can find to tell me?  What’s a haulage lorry from Scunthorpe doing in the back end of nowhere in Suffolk?  Why is there an elderly man sitting out of sight behind the village hall in an equally elderly Jaguar with the engine running and the window open, smoking a pipe?  Is he perhaps the lift home for the man with the incredibly bushy moustache and the battered tennis racket who is whacking balls around the playing field for his two collies to chase?  And most of all, why have I not done this before now?

A tree’s roots extend far beyond its trunk.  A person’s roots need to extend beyond the front door.

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