Looking out the train window at green fields, oast houses with quirky angled cowl-tops, horses, now fields with rolled up hay, some villages, mostly green, I’m thinking, Did I really have to go so far for this?
This is not regret. I am very happy with my decision, and there were numerous underlying reasons leading the way, but some part of my decision held these questions—Why not? If not now, when? There is something energizing about a total change of environment.
There is also a lot exhausting. Aimua bears the brunt of most of our wrangling to get what we thought of as basic services coming from New York City—mobile phone service, internet with acceptable speed, a car, which is indispensable—also dealing with a house we only saw once or twice before renting. It is charming and picturesque, but also apparently a vital part of the insect community. Aimua has battled ant infestations, wasp nests, all sorts of flying things (prissy Americans must provide their own screens for the windows and doors if they want fresh air).
Reflection usually comes with a birthday—this one probably more than usual.
NHS pays for all drug prescriptions for people over 60, which is useful because you need more drugs. And lining up replacements for multiple specialists is daunting, but we’re getting there.
The National Rail service provides a discount for seniors of 33%, which helps because I am still commuting to the office three times a week. Working from home though is wonderful as I hear sheep lowing in the fields. So sometimes I have to move to the window to get a good connection for a conference call—it’s a nice view.
I expected learning to drive on the left side of the road in a car with the steering wheel on the right side would be a challenge: it was probably the thing I was most apprehensive about. What I did not realize that choosing to live in the Kentish countryside would mean driving on the wrong side of very narrow roads. Aimua quickly adapts from right to left each time he crosses the Atlantic. He zings at 60 mph around those narrow country roads with ease. Me, not so much.
And I thought the challenge would be making turns into the wrong lane and getting the hang of roundabouts—Britain’s answer to four-way stop signs and fewer traffic lights. Actually, much harder is learning your car’s position in your lane when the white line is to your right, not your left. There is also getting used to two-way roads that become single lane when parking is permitted on one side. You have to duck out and travel in the wrong lane until your lane clears, hoping any cars coming in their lane will politely wait until you switch back. It is mostly an orderly process with thank you waves and high beam flashes.
And then there are enormous farm tractors that bounce along toward you with their four-foot high tires riding the center line.
I’m getting better. I don’t reflexively pull to the left every time a large car or truck approaches me (or at least not always). But I do swear there is some law of physics that says you will always pass an oncoming car on a tight curve, but maybe that’s because the road to our house is all tight curves. Right now, in the summer, the sun is up from 4 am until 10 pm so all our driving is essentially in daylight. I’m not looking forward to winter when those hours reverse.
My amazement at our change of countries is at its highest when I am in London’s center. Double decker busses, Covent Gardens, the bridges across the Thames—these are all things that I associate with being a visitor. They are familiar, but as sites I’ve seen in movies or on many visits, but not as home. I see them now and I think “I live here.” And I do.