The return to these pages of the sorely missed Jude Rogers:
From the back windows, England rears up on its hind legs and bucks. She arches her back, her frame curving and rolling, pale green, dark green and yellow, spinning out like a colour dial. From the front windows, Wales glowers. Mood, as always: attractively angry slate-grey. From the north to the south The Hatterall Ridge tenses, a fixed line, straight and solid, one eyebrow permanently raised, telling you not to mess.
Last month, we arrived at the border. We’d done a bunk, a great escape, a mid-life crisis move, a Year In Provence manoeuvre, but forever, and to a place with more rain, sheep, mist and bilingual signs. For seventeen years, an English city had lived under the skin of a girl born and raised in a sprawling Welsh village. The cut and buzz of it, the speed, the rush, the flash, was all me. But then it started itching. I scratched until I bled. My head droning, shuddering, throbbing. I wanted out. I wanted quietness.
Here it is quiet.
Something had happened. I’d been in love, but that love had shut down. That love had fluffed its feathers in grimy corners, stretched its long, lovely neck in unsalubrious places. Worlds had jarred together, brilliantly, loud and hot and bright. They no longer did. This was my fault: I didn’t throw myself out there anymore; I was tired, scared, anxious, nervous. I retreated. I hid. When I did venture out, everything still felt like it was closing in. And so many of the things I’d had a crush on, that made my heart race like a rollercoaster, had gone too, torn out by people who had never experienced longing or real, pulsing, shaking emotion, the stuff that fills you with light and air from your heels to your hair.
I wanted wider. Sky, leaves, earth, bigger colours. I wanted crunch and cold and wood-smoke so my senses could still switch themselves on. I knew I was being absurdly romantic and daft, but I was willing on the fear as well. I knew this leap wouldn’t be a picnic. It wouldn’t be a smooth, blissful transition to a state of being #blessed. I knew, as I do now, that there would be darkness, aching darkness, single-track lanes pitted like lunar craters, angry, slate-grey, devouring fog, the flies, the dead animals in the hedgerows, the pale green ghosts of speeding cars at 3am out of nowhere, the prospect of absence, of silence, of loss. And then there are the questions about why so many of us want to turn off and turn away now more than ever, going over to the other side, rejecting the way the world is winding on, remembering the way the world was, and how it worked.