On Thursday evening, we sat under the stars, in the beautiful Blenheim Palace courtyard, and sang along to David Gray. The atmosphere was joyful and happy, and the nostalgia and love in full force. As we drove out the gates -for one last time- we turned back to that special spot, and waved goodbye. Over the last ten years, those gardens and parkland have been the backdrop to many walks and talks. Life. So the nostalgic evening had felt like a fitting farewell.
As moving day nears, I’m feeling increasingly sentimental about our lovely village and area. Yet, this spot became our world and heart purely by luck. After travelling the globe for two years, and with no strict ties, we applied for jobs all over. And chance led us here. Home was initially a rented stone cottage in the beautiful Cotswolds, but for the past ten years we’ve lived in our picturesque village on the Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire border. Far the longest either of us has ever set down roots, since childhood.
For a location chosen by fate, and before I became ill with Pulmonary Hypertension; our village and area have suited us wonderfully. The calm and quiet and peaceful setting has been a godsend on poorly days, when suffering from over-stimulation. Exactly midway between my dispersed family and thus the perfect meet up spot; we’ve regularly seen our nearest and dearest without the need to travel or even leave the bed. The abundance of crisscrossing bridleways and open farmland, have been perfect for my off-road mobility scooter and dogs. And as retirement left me home alone for the majority; I’ve adored being part of a small, friendly community where everyone says hello and chats. Furthermore, by luck, our home is close to a leading cardiology hospital, and a wonderful local GP surgery, that have helped me navigate my new illness. So many blessings, all by chance. Leaving is going to be hard.
So for the last few months, we’ve been slowly saying goodbye. Revisiting some of our favourite local places for one last time. Scootering to the top of Astro-Phil hill, strolling the ramparts at Rainsborough fort, watching the aeroplanes take off at the airfield. A picnic at The Clumps, the much loved gated road at Nether Worton, a yummy pub meal at our local. One last trip to the Zoo and Stowe Gardens and good old Kenilworth castle. Plus some of our friends and family have popped over for one last cuppa or picnic or sleepover or dinner. Furthermore, a busy camping trip with a full-on itinerary, allowed us to bid farewell to our favourite Cotswold beauty spots. And the village Jubilee celebrations and farm open day, were the perfect way to say a final adios to our friends and community (and bonus- I won best dressed adult in the parade! 😉 ). One last time.
Then there are the practical finals. The last blood tests at the doctors, the last clinic at Oxford hospital, the last haircut. The last check-up at our trusted vet, the last oxygen delivery, the last chip shop run. I’ve even been getting teary about driving the local country lanes, in case I don’t do that again! As moving day edges closer, the lasts keep coming quickly, one after another.
Last night, on the hottest day of the year, we took an impromptu hike across the fields towards King’s Sutton. As I sat watching terns diving, and Phil swimming in his favourite local pool -one last time-; I was mulling over my ridiculously over-the-top sentimentality. And then I realized why it felt so strange and sad to be leaving. We went through a life-changing event here. When I developed PH, it altered Phil’s and my future completely and utterly. This is the house we hoped to bring babies home to, the village we hoped to raise our family in, the area we hoped to work and play in. And for a while, everything was on track to do just that. Yet, this became the house and village and area where I was too ill to move, to cook, to wash, to walk, to breathe. This is where we were told I couldn’t have kids, I had a terminal illness, I needed oxygen. And this too is the place where I started to regain my strength and my hope; surpassed my prognosis, started walking again. This spot is where we built our new life and new future together. Where we learnt to adjust our sails. So everywhere we go there are memories. The field where Phil cried when he thought I was dying, the farm where my sister pushed me around in a wheelchair, the lane where I took my first outdoor steps. There are memories of these last ten difficult, proud, scary, triumphant, trying, happy, self-growing, life-changing years everywhere. So as we visit each spot -one last time- we’re also saying goodbye to the memories associated with each place.
Moving away is putting the events of this past decade to the side. We’re ready to fill our new town and new hills and new world with new memories. It’s time to move on.