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  • Several years ago, I was in that place. It seemed to stretch on forever, like a grey road across a grey landscape, peppered with occasional and temporary diversions but, essentially, leading nowhere.

    Then it got worse: a huge hole appeared in my road and I had to find my way round it. Or fall into it.

    That was when I started to realise that the long, grey road wasn't the only road. There were others; odd that I hadn't noticed them before.

    Of course, they were harder to negotiate. They were rocky and potholed, you had to watch your step. The advantage of the long grey road was that one only had to keep plodding along it. And as I had two dependent teenage children, plodding along had been the easiest option.

    What did I really want? I asked myself. What could I not live without?

    It took a lot of planning and organising, and there were slip-ups on the way (I bought a house in Cambridge - the English one - as my perfect house but then was overtaken by the housing market crash). And there were two bright children to get into university. But it happened eventually.

    Now I have all the things I need: birds, butterflies, long walks, flowers, a place to grow fruit and vegetables, a place to write, friends and family. A river. A huge sky. Sunshine. Bats in my cellar. Lizards and humming-bird hawk moths. Sweet violets at the edge of the wood. Glow worms, and so many other things I have yet to discover. My own oak tree, and my own enormous cherry tree, so laden with cherries that I was overwhelmed. (Next year, I'll be ready. I'll make jam)

    And, unexpectedly, I found love, too.

    As my son (then a perceptive and wise sixteen year old) said to me, at the time the hole appeared in the road, "Mum, you were a jack-in-the-box, and dad was sitting on the lid..."
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