The sun was bright this morning but the wind was cold. The last of the beech leaves whirled about the house, like giant golden snowflakes. Elder son had stayed the night and was up early to go back to Manchester. Ian made him poached eggs on toast for breakfast with our bantam eggs and home made bread. The eggs poach really well, the white keeping together instead of flying off like a jellyfish. By the time I came down in my sheepskin slippers and big dressing gown he was ready to go.
Afterwards we pottered about, enjoying being home together after a week where Ian had come home only to go to bed. A trip to the village for the paper made me realise how we much we are beginning to be settled into life here. We chat, in the post office, at the deli buying homemade black pudding, in the newsagent. I rarely go to the village now without seeing someone I know. In the newsagent I meet a friend in her seventies (would I have crossed the generations in the same way in the city? I don't think so) who encourages me to join a choir. We have a male voice choir in the village, a serious one which enters competitions and has just been on a visit to Ireland. Every Christmas they invite women to join and make a mixed choir. I'm not a singer, can just about hold a tune if everyone else around me is doing so, but don't regard myself as having a singing voice at all. "Can you read, open and close your mouth and stand still?" she asked me. "Yep, I can do all of that." "Then you'll be fine." So that is Monday evening spoken for until Christmas. I've never done anything like that before. I am not a church goer. I am not a joiner of things or a member of clubs. I didn't even do Brownies or Guides. But it is part of what I promised myself when I sat for hours in my garden as I got better last year: more saying no to the familiar strident demands of work; more saying yes to family, friends and a wider community, more doing things I haven't done before.
For lunch we have bacon, egg and black pudding. This is perfectly in accord with the diet. Then the weather says that the afternoon is for outside. Although the sun has gone and the wind is cold it is dry and there are more bulbs to plant. Ian fixes chicken wire to the gate to the field. Theoretically when the chickens are out they stay in the side garden but actually they like to roam and can sometimes be found standing inquisitively on the kitchen step or striking out down the field towards the big apple tree. By the end of the afternoon I have another nine pots of tulips and only fifteen Orange Emperor still waiting to go in. They are the perfect excuse for buying another big terracotta pot.
Now there is chicken (not one of ours, they've got names) roasting in the oven with a pot of red cabbage. I had been intending to save the red cabbage for Christmas. It was huge and glossy and had survived when most of the cabbages I sowed had fallen prey to slugs and snails. This afternoon I found that something, probably still slugs but with massive jaws, had decided to have another go so Ian lifted it and brought it inside. The outside leaves caused gentle excitment to the chickens in their run. Now it is cooking slowly with red wine vinegar and brown sugar. The woodburner is lit and Ian is snoozing. It is too easy to look back and realise that you were happy once and did not know it. I'm happy today, right now, sitting here.