As I have said before, I am used to living here now. The transition to country life has had its good and bad parts, but on balance, life here is very good, at least for those of a ‘certain age.’
I can put my hand on my heart and say that I am now reconciled with the lack of choice for eating out, although it would be nice to enjoy a Tapas, or perhaps a Greek Mezze, without having to drive into Norwich. Never mind, I have had my share before, so it’s not as if I am missing out. I have also resigned myself to the strange ‘closed on Mondays’ thing that is the norm here. I just don’t go out to eat on a Monday, unless for an Indian meal, as they are always open.
Anything I might miss as a result of choosing to no longer live in a city, is easily balanced by the peace and quiet, feeling safe, and enjoying the benefits of country and coast, not far from my door. Then there is Ollie to consider. He is a country dog, afraid of traffic and loud noises, content in the knowledge that he will be going somewhere exciting, even if it mostly the same place everyday. He would not even like town life, let alone that in a city. So, contentment reigns. Sort of.
There is one thing about living outside of a city that I don’t think I will ever get used to, or become comfortable with, as I came to it too late in life.
Driving after dark is a chore. After a lifetime of well-lit roads and urban motorways, driving along country lanes, and on the unlit major roads of East Anglia is something I really don’t like. The constant oncoming streams of headlights, unfamiliar bends and junctions, all add up to a very taxing driving experience. This is made much worse by the current habit of most drivers to use main-beam headlights at all times, and not bothering to dip them when they see another car (me) approaching. Add to this modern high-intensity lights, fitted to some sports and luxury cars, and driving becomes something like trying to navigate with a searchlight directed into your face. If that wasn’t enough, many local drivers also utilise their additional driving and fog lights, whatever the conditions. A small hatchback coming towards you might appear to be the size of a medium truck, illuminated by up to six forward-facing lights.
Years ago, lights on cars were not that great. You had to use main beam to see anything, but there was an accepted courtesy, an unspoken rule of the road; you dipped them when something came the other way, or was in front of you. This once widespread practice now seems to have been abandoned in this ‘I’m all right Jack’ society that surrounds us. As long as they can see a few hundred yards ahead, enabling them to drive too fast, in perceived safety, they don’t care about blinding other road users. Modern headlights are so much better than they were even ten years ago, so the use of main beam should only be necessary on stretches when you are the only car visible.
OK, I am moaning again. Sorry. But it really makes a difference. I now hate driving after dark, which in the winter is anytime after 4pm. It has become wearing, and dangerous too. Dazzled by oncoming lights, I have missed turnings, driven too fast into sharp bends, and narrowly avoided hitting cyclists and parked cars. Returning home after a long drive here, I feel worn out, eyes tired, body tense from the stress of this unnecessary experience. For all those who know no different, who have always driven on unlit roads, this might all seem silly.
But believe me, I really am like a rabbit in those headlights.