What is it like to live in a small rural village in the early 21st century? Well, my dears, draw closer and I shall reveal to you a day in the life of a typical village resident.
The alarm goes off at 6 am. It isn’t a surprise. I have been lying awake for at least half an hour. I have two old fashioned wind up clocks that chime, usually a minute or two apart, and I heard them strike the half hour. If I listen carefully I can hear the church clock too, slightly off set again. It’s easier in the summer because the bedroom window is open but in the winter the sound is muffled by the double glazing we had installed about 3 or 4 years ago. A woman in the village is responsible for keeping the clock going and no one knows what will happen when she is no longer with us; she is quite elderly now and not in the best of health so it is a pressing matter, but church attendance is very limited. Only a handful of villagers attend the services, and these are spread between a number of churches which are the responsibility of the local priest. I am not an Anglican so I do not attend but I am sad to think the church may not be able to continue.
Sigoth gets up to make a cup of tea and we stumble through our early morning routine, in and out of the bathroom, dressing and getting ready for the day. We both have to travel today and need to catch the bus which comes at 6.55. The next bus isn’t until 8.55 and it is about 8 miles to the nearest town or train station.
Downstairs we put the breakfast news on so we can keep track of the time and I download the newspaper to my e-reader to read on the journey. After the local news and the sport it’s time to go. I have to travel to Leeds to go to head office for a couple of days. Tomorrow I am going to visit an Offspring overnight before heading back to Leeds for an afternoon meeting.
Sigoth and I find our way carefully down the street, slip-sliding away. It is a good thing there is a moon not long past full to light our way. The streetlights here are further apart than in the town, so it is dark. There has been a heavy frost, or perhaps light snow, and the pavement is white and slippery, and we are the first to tread along it. In the distance a barn owl is hooting, and we crunch the frozen leaves which have fallen from the horse chestnut. In the summer we are serenaded by peacocks as we wait for the bus, but in the winter it’s the owls. Sometimes there is a cockerel, but today he is too cold to shout.
When we reach the bus stop we look at the stars and moon and feel blessed. Sigoth has an app for identifying stars and we find we can see Mercury, Venus and Saturn towards the east, all in a tidy line. It’s very kind of them to queue up to be viewed.
We often meet a neighbour at the bus stop on his way to work, but today he must be working at home. It’s just me and Sigoth waiting in the freezing darkness, and the bus is unusually 10 minutes late. I worry I might miss my train, and Sigoth worries he might miss his connection to another bus.
The bus usually connects quite well, but last week there were problems because of delays on the journey caused by diversions around flooding. The late bus still gives me 5 minutes to lurch across the road in the dark and ice and reach the platform just as the level crossing comes down to announce the arrival of the train.
I scramble into my seat in the last of 3 coaches. My ticket is pre-booked so I can reserve a seat but the regular commuters are not so lucky and it can be difficult to find somewhere to sit as the journey progresses. Quite a few children use this train to get to school so it is noisy and boisterous.
By the time we reach Leeds about an hour later the train is crammed with commuters standing in the aisle and their bags all end up in the face of whoever is sitting nearest to them. Luckily I have the window seat today. Most of us are playing with gadgets: e-readers, smart phones or tablet PCs. There is no phone signal for much of the journey however, so blessedly few loud conversations. We have to travel through the Howardian Hills which block signals, but which are home to rabbits, deer and foxes if you are quick to see them, as well as fields with sheep, horses and cattle. When it is light there is a lot to see, but at this time of day you can only see your reflection in the glass.
I have put my suitcase in the overhead rack for the journey. It is difficult to reach it when we are ready to get off in Leeds because the press of people trying to leave the train prevents me standing up and reaching it. I have to wait for a gap and then get it down by which time the people on the platform have surged forward and now I have to fight past them all with the suitcase, my laptop and handbag. At the same time I am clutching my ticket in hand ready to negotiate the automatic barrier to get out of the station.
I stumble onto the platform and manage to find my way to the escalator, trailing my suitcase. An eager commuter rushing for the train trips over the case and we both apologise to each other, then hurry on our separate ways. I go up the escalator, across the bridge and down again to the exit, juggling bags, tickets and crowds.
By the time I reach the barriers the main crowd had already gone through and luckily no other trains have arrived so the way is fairly clear. Just the last few stragglers like me.
Now I have made it through the first hurdle I head for the hotel where I will be staying tonight. I leave my case with the concierge, exchanging a few cheery words as we now know each other quite well. I am a regular, which affords me certain privileges with the staff. I set out for the office with laptop in hand, already running late for the 9.00 meeting. I make a point of stopping on the way to pick up lunch; there won’t be a chance later.
Arriving at the office the lift isn’t working so I use the stairs, carrying laptop, handbag and now a coffee and lunch as well. I swipe my ID card to open the door, sign in and take my lunch to the fridge. Already colleagues are asking questions about the new release, the issue with the system and the workshop we are holding at 10.00. I find my way to a hot-desk where I can check emails in the 5 minutes before I have to dial in. I need to speak to Finance about the capital budget, and plan to do so at 9.30 after the teleconference.
The rest of the day is a whir of meetings, questions, emails and discussions in odd corners. A colleague and I have to take part in a telecon in the first aid room because there is nowhere we can go to dial in that is quiet. I fail to speak to Finance because the gap I had planned is taken up with a more pressing crisis. I eat my lunch in one of the meetings, along with other colleagues on similar schedules.
My last meeting is with a colleague who has had a busy day too and we decide to go for a pint of beer to recuperate. It’s great to have an hour or so to talk about something other than work. I check into the hotel properly at about 8 pm but they are so busy that I end up using the restaurant instead of room service for dinner.
Eating in a hotel restaurant on your own is very depressing.
When I get to my room the heating has broken down. It’s December in the north of England, so not very warm. The staff rush up with heaters for me, and I begin to thaw out as I type this story.
I call Sigoth; his buses ran fine and he got home at a reasonable time. I also call Offspring to be visited, and agree where we will eat tomorrow night, assuming the weather does not prevent my visit.
Tomorrow is another day, and I plan to head west across the Pennines after work. Who knows what adventures await? I will cross Saddleworth Moor, the site of appalling murder, and also the highest train route in England. Or I may use the Leeds – Settle route across some of the most beautiful scenery in the country (although it will be dark). I will visit a medieval cathedral city which isn’t York, the site of the gaol where George Fox, father of Quakerism, was imprisoned in the 17th century.
What will you do today?