I’ve spent the last week in Suffolk, staying at my parents’ house, which has in turn been lovely and frustrating in the way that only spending extended periods with one’s parents can be.
I went on a bike ride today with my dad.
This involved riding past some old haunts, from when I was in a relationship with my ex fiance. He lived in a tiny village not far away from where my mum and dad now live, having landed there in less than ideal circumstances after we’d split up. Gradually, we worked through our issues and started to build a life together. We fell in love with the area, and although an expensive place to be, we hoped to make our life there some day. Two years ago, we made plans for a small wedding in the beautiful 12th century church in the village, to be celebrated with our closest friends and family.
A few weeks before the wedding, I received a phone call from the best man which was to change everything. I went out to my office car park to take the call in private, and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Soon after, my boss sent me home, and I was gathering my most treasured belongings from my house (including a harp that was on loan to me at the time), plus all my personal documents (passport etc), and hurriedly leaving for I didn’t know how long. I drove to my harp teacher’s house in a state of complete and utter shock.
The next week was one of the worst of my life, and my fear of unknown phone numbers calling on my mobile began (and still lasts). Every call made the situation worse. I found out more and more, and what was already pretty dire became truly shocking.
The wedding was postponed, then cancelled.
The vicar who was to marry us rang me to offer some much needed support. Friends and family didn’t know what to say or do. Somehow I kept working but I have no idea how.
A couple of miles away, in another village within the same group of churches, lived a wonderful woman who agreed to provide some much needed counselling. The vicar lives a few hundred feet away from her. Another few hundred feet away lives another incredibly special woman who has been very influential in my harp career.
And so, this area is filled with many memories, both of unbelievably bad times, and of very slow and gradual healing.
Our ride crossed the boundary from Essex into Suffolk many times (crossing a river that forms the boundary), to the point where I honestly couldn’t tell you which one I was in at any given moment.
I am close to my dad, and he was put in charge of getting me through an important gig the day after that dreadful phone call. He’s not one for chatting about the deep and meaningful, but just his presence is enough to make me feel I can cope with whatever is going on, no matter how dreadful.
Today, we shared our journey and our love of fresh air and two wheels. We laughed at some longstanding in-jokes. We laughed about the utter madness of what had happened, and briefly contemplated what might have resulted had the wedding gone ahead (again in a humorous way).
I have been back to the area around where the vicar lives many times, I taught a much loved pupil around there and I have a special relationship with the church in the village. I have given a recital in the church (as a way of showing my appreciation to the vicar) and held a pupils’ concert there. Because of the support that exists in that small area, I feel very safe and grounded whenever I am there or passing through.
But I have only been back to where my fiance lived a couple of times. I didn’t actively seek to avoid it, but I simply had no reason to go there.
Today, I enjoyed my ride through some familiar and very beautiful countryside. I felt nothing more than the sense of riding through my past. No pangs, no hurt, no anger, no fear of what I would find out next. I briefly wondered where my fiance had ended up and what he was doing, but that was the end of it. Partly this was because I was slogging up some big hills on my bike and thinking only of keeping my lungs in my chest, but also because I think it was, at last, just time to let go.
I was surprised. I didn’t set out with an intention to face any demons in a cathartic way. I knew where we were heading, but had felt no uneasiness when we set out.
A very wise friend told me last summer that gradually, things would lift but it may take moving to another country. Scotland is not another country in the ‘abroad’ sense to me, but maybe it was enough. I am looking forward to heading back home.
Although I lived in Essex for a long time, and put down some deep roots, home is now in the hills of Scotland.