Occasionally the rush hour roar on the road outside falls silent, and another sound floats through the cottage window. A robin is singing in the silent rain of a grey November morning.
The road is especially busy at the moment, as lorryloads of mud are carried away from the nearby A23 roadworks to an obliging local farm, where the contours must look considerably different by now. I wonder if they’ve factored a new Ordnance Survey map into the cost of the roadworks.
The contrast between the roar of the mudmobiles and the gentle autumn singing of the robin couldn’t be greater. Man is tearing up the nearby countryside so he can drive a bit faster; nature is doing its best to squeeze into the remaining spaces around it.
It’s been that sort of week in the village in general, a week of roaring and singing, storm and calm. There was lots of roaring at the local pub the other night, as angry residents tried to fight off plans for a major housing development at the end of their road. Their solution: to shove the housing up the other end of the village where they think it will be someone else’s problem. It felt like naked nimbyism laced with naivety. I certainly don’t think it’s what the government meant by localism.
The wind roared too, mightily, and while leaving few visible signs of damage it was enough to plunge half the village into darkness. We were lucky – we got almost full power back within nine hours, while the adjoining house had nothing at all for three days, and the neighbours the other side had a trickle.
More worryingly, one elderly woman dependent on a stairlift found herself marooned for three days in her cold bedroom, as her even-more-elderly husband tried to negotiate the stairs with cups of tea. They lost all their food as their two freezers melted. The best of village life kicked in as people rallied round to bring them soup, tea and cook meals for them.
Life has been roaring too. Social services systems dealing with the elderly seem in disarray and just as chaotic as the worst bits of the NHS. It seems that the only way to get anything done, anywhere, is to mention the word “escalate”. It’s the “Open Sesame” of modern life. And don’t get me started on the central heating engineer who was booked to sort out my mother’s cold house and cancelled by text after his scheduled arrival time.
As the week continues, I’ll try to make sure that in the moments when the roaring stops, I’m still listening for the singing.