Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
I drive a long journey 6 times a week. It’s my choice, I don’t complain but it is definitely my one indulgence and the thing I haven’t changed to save the planet. I’ve racked up the miles over the years but as petrol is now very expensive, as opposed to just expensive, I have made the decision to look for a nearer nursery for Tobias and stop doing the journey.
I do know, however, that I will miss it. Over the hills and down again the children and I have seen so many sights, had so many conversations and learned so many things that it’s never been a wasted journey. We’ve seen the farming year many times from start to finish. The tractors ploughing had the boys enthralled as much as the combine harvesters. They’ve seen the hills blanketed in snow and the weather close in as the temperature clearly dropped the higher up we went. They’ve seen the blazing yellows of the fields of rape set against the deep blue of a clear summer’s day and I regret not actually stopping to take that long threatened photograph to capture the moment. The trees bare in Autumn leading to buds in the Spring meant they got to feel and see the seasons taking place. The cold, dark, winter mornings and the colder and darker winter nights contrasted with the gradual lightening of the morning as we drove round the lanes. Not only have they seen the farming year but the days fade in out of the seasons. A perfect illustration of the rhythm of life.
We’ve seen thatched cottages re-built, helicopters fly so low over the fields that we could see the soldiers inside, and a muntjack deer with its adopted family of horses –yes, the deer was always with the horses no matter the time of day. I always thought it was a foal but it never got any bigger! We’ve made many wee stops during different potty training times and one was made with a ‘vulture’ (some sort of hawk) sat on a post whilst Ollie went to the loo. The sad episode of the house that caught fire and, we think, someone may have died if the boarded up windows and flowers pinned to the slowly rusting gate left there long after their colours had faded away. The house is still empty 2 years after and looking ever sad as the damp and weather take hold.
There are the conversations I’ll miss. The car is the perfect place to have that chat about everything and nothing. No one is face to face so the words float between us as we soak up the scenery whilst thinking about our answers. Time seems to elongate and we have learned understand that pauses mean reflection and that we don’t need to jump into the silence to save awkward moments. Ollie has talked non-stop from the journey’s beginning to end but now retreats into his books as the 30 mins there and 30 mins back is perfect for him to loose himself in whatever he’s reading. Jokes are told from Beanos, facts are recounted and amazed over and difficult words are asked the meaning of and I have developed a skill at visualising a word from it being hurriedly spelt out!
We have listened to plays and the boys have become ‘radio 4 children.’ I know this as Ollie asked me to tape a comedy show the following week as he knew he would be in school and miss it. He still laughs at the remembered jokes and loves to tell me often! We’ve had story CD’s, DVD’s played from borrowed school books (a rare treat as the DVD player is reserved for ‘long journeys’ and never usually on.) ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ is 5 minutes long and was played over and over for the whole 30 minutes. I did say no to the return journey! We’ve bopped to radio 1 and sung our hearts out to various loved songs. Chris Moyles’ ‘McFly Day!’ is one that will stick with me forever as I love to hear the boys say ‘Oo oo oo oooooo, looking out for my star girl…..’
Lots of things happen on the journey that would never occur in our house. Experiencing first-hand the changing seasons has given them something that yes, they could learn from books but nothing compares to the sounds of the tractor, the dust of the harvest and the thrill of a deer as it rushes out in front of you. I stop sometimes and soak in the smells of the countryside, the freshness of the air and the stillness that makes me feel incredibly calm and is the best de-stressor I could possibly have.
I will miss my journey both for the boys and for me. It was surprisingly, the freest hour I could spend with the children despite the confined space. I have learned that it isn’t always the destination but sometimes the journey itself that is the important part. I have learned I get irritated by drivers that drive 40 miles an hour and cause massive tailbacks where people take risks in overtaking. I have learned that I need that time to stop the car to wind down the window and look around me and I have learned that you can have a lot of fun sitting facing forward and not actually looking into anyones eyes.
So the change in us is certainly deep and definitely permanent and it has helped shaped the boys ideas. When they are home earlier than usual next month and have more time to chill at home I hope they stop, even for a moment, to think about the journey they no longer take. I’m not sure they will but I know I’ll think about it often…