Snow still falling on the mountains around the village.
I let out my small dogs at 5am and they escaped through a side gate blown open by the wind and ran barking up and down the road. I went out with Una, both of us in pyjamas and wearing wellington boots, shaking a biscuit tin and calling. The whole street woken, my neighbour Terry also bellowing for the dogs in his pink dressing gown, a floral thing his wife used to wear. (Few secrets in a village like this.)
When we got back to the house, there were the dogs waiting for us, jumping with impatience to come in. A very cross blacksmith plover chased me across the road, annoyed to have been disturbed in the ditch.
It was quite 18th century, the torchlight of hurricane lamps and the wind blowing, birds waking in the great oak and camphor trees. When I got indoors and was making coffee, I realised I am feeling much better and more myself. Delighted, reading Kilvert’s descriptions of the unspoilt Welsh countryside in 1870, the trout leaping in pools, the thatchers cutting reeds, children making nosegays and dancing, the old folk singing rounds: a gaiety we have long since lost.
I have had a poached egg for breakfast and am listening to Vivaldi, feeling like dancing around the house myself. But I must grind up cinnamon and nutmeg for my apple pie.
Interesting to see how illness throws me off balance — an odd mix of tiredness and anxiety. But as I kept reminding myself, no need for any contrived dramas — and the gentleness and routines of rest and regular meals have steadied me. That alcoholic lack of self-care is such a bad habit, a kind of hatred for the body’s needs and suffering.
And following Syd I have been thinking about six joys to be found in the full and unrestrained pleasures of a sober life:
1 Standing out in the garden and hearing the strains of Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi floating out through the living-room windows
2 Sitting down to supper with an elderly neighbour and watching her bow her head and say grace, a habit of thankfulness she has had for the last 70 years.
3 Planting out seedlings of thyme and coriander, tucking the plants into the damp loamy earth and getting black dirt under my finger nails.
4 Taking a heavy knife and chopping up leeks and celery and carrots for a buttery vegetable soup, ladling in chicken stock and smelling the earthy fragrance as it comes to the boil.
5 Laughing with my housemate as we remember how her mother would show us how she danced in the garden in a gingham frock the day World War II ended and the soldiers came back from North Africa and Egypt. She thought there would never be war again.
6 Singing Cole Porter songs in a hot bath, a sultry croaky sort of voice helped immeasurably by steam. Daydreaming about the day when there is a large sober AA family estblished in my village and we have meetings every other evening and potluck suppers with vegetable soup and hot rolls. Followed by the dreadful instant coffee or stewed tea unique to AA all around the world. Tra-la, C’est manifi—que!’