The glorious open road. Trees stand tall either side, the morning sun illuminating their fragile yet magnificent autumnal shades of brown, yellow, green and red. Beyond them spreads green blankets of grass, separated only by narrow lanes. Like the gentlest of rollercoasters, the road I travel on sweeps up and down, left and right, with every rise and turn giving rise to eager anticipation as to what will come next. It never disappoints. I feel like a child excitedly gazing out of the back window of the car, nose touching the window, as they approach their home for the Christmas holidays.
My pace slows at the sign for 30 mph and gradually the sea of trees and grass paves way to stone-built terraced houses, small fields of play and local shops where every customer is greeted by name. The roads are tight and cars regularly line one side of the road. Normally giving way to oncoming traffic is cause for mild irritation; not so here with the opportunity it offers to further survey the quaint surroundings. Soon I arrive in village centre territory, where shops are more common and car parks take on all manner of shape and size. There are no regular car parks here, that I can see.
I quickly realise that I should have researched the car-park situation prior to leaving, to save on stress and maybe a £1 or two. I expect said stress to emerge, but it does not. It must be this place; calm and unhurried. I soon find a cute (and free, I think) spot in front of a set of terraced houses which, quite frankly, I would really like to live in. I picture Christmas mornings and Sunday mornings and summer evenings and snowy nights. Oh, to dream. I vacate my car and walk towards an open space, triangular in shape it seems. I pass a newsagent, where an older chap with a broad smile stands outside in conversation with someone inside. They seem to know each other well.
‘Good morning!’ he enthusiastically offers in my direction.
‘Morning!’ I offer back.
That’s nice, I think.
I walk on and past a chap sanding the wooden frame of his front window. I anticipate what will happen next.
I chuckle inwardly and return the greeting.
I continue my slow walk. Across the road on a bench sits a lady wearing a radiant and contented smile. I come across a coffee shop and, unsurprisingly, peek through its broad windows. Inside looks beautifully rugged and inviting. I promptly enter. Wooden chairs and tables of varying design, colour and size sit uncluttered. A brick wall divides the space, with a large family-size table on the other side. Beyond the table is a fireplace. Music quietly plays in the background and people sit sparsely on its tables. Two ladies sit opposite each other at the far end of the shop, a dog quietly resting in front of them, and to my right on the large table two girls chat. Elsewhere, a couple of chaps sit separately – one next to the window and the other immediately to my left – both drinking coffee and reading a newspaper. I regularly look out of the window as people and car and lorry and cyclist stream by. Amongst the pleasant flow is the lady from the bench – her smile still beaming as she wanders by.
Departing the coffee shop, the adventure continued: a Geordie couple with pugs called Bella and Phoebe, the pub with its ticking clock and cosy snug, a fisherman, the lock where boats rise to greater heights.
It is all so mesmerising and all so new. The roads, trees, hills, tractors, people, cyclists and shops have no doubt been here years. To many, these sights are as regular as the rising sun. But today, their familiar is my unchartered territory. And on this day, I am so grateful to God. Last night, as the weekend closed, I was feeling low. Circumstances were weighing me down and the upcoming week had a familiar look to it which slowed motivation. Laying awake in bed I was determined to do something about it, so I resolved to venture out in the morning to new surroundings.
True to form, I woke-up and the good idea before bed had become an annoying idea when eating a bowl of cereal. I pushed through, though, and I now sit writing these words. As the autumn night begins to settle in once again outside my window, my mood does not follow; the sun is still shining and the upcoming week looks more hopeful. I breathed in new air today and it has done the world of good.
I recently read an article outlining ten ways to find inspiration in your writing. One suggestion was to change your habits, while another was to make time for a walk or run. There is a wider application here. Our days can get weary, painful and familiar. Will the trip to a nearby village, a resolution to run on Tuesday mornings, a different route walking the dog, registering for the weekly book club or a new spot to eat lunch or pray make everything all rosie again? Probably not. But if we let our imagination dance a little and do something different to break free from routine and normal, then the eyes that have dimmed will expand again – even if slightly – at new sounds, new sights, new smells and new people.
Where is fresh air waiting for you today? Go get it. It may just do you the world of good.