I have written a lot of posts about music lately, as those old (and sometimes new) songs keep finding their way into my head, and I get that urge to add them to my ever-growing list. The list that was once intended to be very short, and to provide material for occasional posts, seems to be in danger of becoming a blog all of its own. My tendency to wallow in nostalgia, fuelled by musical reveries, seems to be undiminished. This whole blog was originally intended to be primarily about my life in Norfolk, in contrast to my previous life in London, and that seems to have been lost along the way. At least a little bit lost.
As I approach almost two years here, I can say with confidence that Beetley is beginning to feel like home, instead of somewhere that I just happen to live. For some time, I had a vague feeling that this was a bit like a holiday, and at some stage, normal life would be resumed. Of course, this is now my normal life, and far removed from my previous one, fortunately mostly in a good way. I came to sit before the computer late tonight, intending to write about yet another song, but something stopped me, and I began to write this instead. It came to me, that I don’t miss London. I have not yet returned there, despite being close, when visiting Hertfordshire, and Essex. I try to imagine reasons to go back and visit someone, or something. I fancy seeing the view from The Shard, but there will undoubtedly be queues, and crowds. I could visit some friends there, but the logistics of travel, parking, and getting Ollie looked after, make it all seem to fall into the ‘too difficult’ box. I miss the choice of restaurants, but if I went back, would they just all seem too familiar, and old hat?
I have to face the fact that I have put the city behind me. Even a trip into Norwich seems like the big metropolis, and has become an unattractive prospect. I have slowed down, my pace has lessened, and my desire for things has almost gone. I seek no new clothes, gadgets, or accessories. My lifelong passion for collecting films, first on VHS, then later on DVD, seems to be that of another person, someone different. I still read about them, and on occasion, write about them, but my desire to watch and own them is slowly fading. I am overwhelmed by things. The collections of a reasonably long life, filling spaces in rooms, shed, garage, and loft. I need to divest myself of belongings, not accumulate more. I need the freedom of less, the cleanliness of not owning. Today is as good a day as any to start.
When I moved up here, I imagined that friends and family would flock to visit, to enjoy the peace of the countryside, and the delights of rural England. This was a selfish assumption, and gave little thought to their busy lives, work commitments, and the problems of travel, to a place with no station, and a road network stuck solidly in the 1950’s. East Anglia is a forgotten place. There is no motorway to the East, no high speed rail link to the lump in the North Sea, that nobody ever needs to go to. This is not a complaint, perhaps it is the very thing that makes it such a good place to live. It is not somewhere to drive through, to get to anywhere else. Neither is it a place to live, so that you can commute to somewhere busier, and more important. If there was a road sign that typified this county, it would be a cul-de sac. The life of England runs North to South, at the Western limits of East Anglia, and there is no reason to turn right, to head East; unless you live here. This fact makes local people insular, and less-travelled, than those in some other parts of the UK. I have met many people who have moved here, for retirement, or peace and quiet, but most real local people do not leave. They are born here, live here, work here, and die here. There is something old-fashioned about that, and also something compelling.
I am still a Londoner of course. To the perception of others, or when I open my mouth and speak, inside my head, and in every memory I have, it is all London, and always will be. But I am now able to say that I am living in Norfolk, or I am from Norfolk. That may seem silly to the reader, but it is a massive change in how I view my life, and the biggest change in my life too. So, what is that Norfolk life, that I now accept as mine, and that I have lived for nearly two years? You may have read about my dog walking, and my endless wanderings with Ollie. That is part of it. My volunteering for the Fire Service has been busier of late, and getting me out to small towns and villages I never knew existed. Helping with the Cycling Proficiency at the local school is on its way to making me part of the local community, as is talking to groups about fire safety, in halls and day centres. I doubt I will become one of those people recognised in the street, stopped for a gossip, or a chat about the latest trends in smoke alarms, but I feel that I am contributing something.
My circle of friends locally has not really expanded. They are still predominantly other dog-walkers, although I know some people from the school as well now, I don’t see them outside of ‘normal duties’. I am friendly with neighbours, but we don’t really do a lot else, by way of popping into peoples’ houses, or meeting for dinner and drinks. That was something I used to do a lot, and I don’t miss it at all. My life has changed so much, I am only just now becoming fully aware of just how much. I have woken up, and smelled the proverbial coffee. I live in Norfolk now, and this is my life. And it’s not bad, it really isn’t.