Seeking peace and tranquility in the countryside is not as easy as you think, writes Jonathan Schofield
A recent opportunity to house-sit in a remote, rural setting, saw me pack bags, load up the car, leave the city and head out on ever-narrowing roads until I arrived at the idyllic setting from which I wrote this month’s blog.
I combined this unexpected countryside retreat with a break from work. Some time to recharge the batteries with long walks, a few runs and some daily yoga sessions to ease the nagging pain at the base of my back.
The magnificent walled garden was the perfect place for some early morning yoga sessions. With my only house-sitting responsibility of walking two scatty cocker spaniels completed on the first morning I stripped down to my pants (it’s a personal preference) and began stretching in the rose garden. The point where I began easing my spine into downward dog was the exact moment my wife opened the curtains from the bedroom of our temporary residence (which also happened to be the precise moment one of the said cocker spaniels decided to clamp onto my left leg to begin a mating ritual, while the other decided to do the same as soon as it jumped on my head). Amusing as she found this, no wife should wake to see their husband in a rose garden in this predicament.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, crisscrossed with ancient by-ways and footpaths, I set out one morning, with dogs, for a meditative walk. The city, my desk, deadlines, meetings, the Tube, seemed a world away. Walking along a footpath between a crop of vibrant yellow rape seed oil and a fence containing some ponies, the birdsong was suddenly broken by an angry voice yelling: “What do you think you’re doing?” A man appeared in country garb shouting that I’m on his land. I began explaining, but no amount of “sorry, I clearly lost the path” would appease the volley of abuse aimed at me – including, that if he saw me again on his land he would bring out his gun and shoot the dogs.
Undeterred by my garden and footpath experiences, I set off later to follow a cycling route that incorporated a number of tucked away churches. Late in the afternoon I opened the great oak door of one slightly dilapidated church, and seeing a large space between the pews, removed my helmet and shoes and plonked down for a basic back stretch. I hear the door open behind me, and the words: “This is not really a place for callisthenics.” It’s the vicar, who then adds: “And I’m about to prepare for a service so if you don’t mind…” Again, I’m apologising as I mumble about a bad back and exit the church.
Yes, the countryside is lovely. But, to be honest, I’ll take the city any day, where I can enjoy my weekly yoga class within the safety of the meeting room — no indignant vicars or frustrated dogs, and in all the years I’ve been in London I’ve never once been threatened with a gun.