When i moved to the lovely Holy Island of Lindisfarne from the inner city friends and family were, understandably, concerned that i would be cut off and isolated. logically they were right but the reality was strangely different.
Twice a day the metres high tide pours over the length of the three mile causeway and forms a separation barrier between nirvana and civilisation. misread the timetable and it's "bye bye car, hello North Sea "
As the water nears, hoards of invading tourists become a wave in retreat. wall to wall merrymakers weighed down with backpacks, binoculars and walking boots, meander their way to the car park reluctantly leaving this little corner of paradise to the millions of birds and 150 souls who call it "home".
The streets, fields, sea, dunes are enveloped by a cloak of velvet silence, broken only by the cry of gulls and the happy chatter from colonies of sparrows, fattened by the thieving of cake and scone from the plates of unwary patrons in the coffee shop gardens.
I spent many sunny, summer afternoons sitting in a field overlooking the sea with a flask of coffee watching seals slumber in the heat, or through the cold months toast my toes by an open fire, sipping hot chocolate in Pilgrims, the coffee shop at the bottom of my garden, surreptitiously people watching over the top of my Guardian, a carrier bag of birthday or christmas gifts from their craft shop nestled at my feet.
Often people ask "what do you miss most?" well.......all the above !!
You see, once all the people had gone i could stop obsessing over the 20 metre rule and venture out.......what?......you don't know the 20 metre rule?......forgive me if you've heard this before.......if a person can walk 20 metres they are no longer eligible for disabled mobility support.
How far is 20 metres?.....65 foot......approximately 5 cars or two double decker buses......any more than that and kaboom, you're on your own.....housebound......no more coffee shops......no more craft shops......no more sea......no more leaving the house.......no more anything.
Those of us with broken bodies use that benefit to pay for taxis getting to dentist, doctor, hospital appointments. i also use it to pay a lovely lady to help me go shopping twice a month......have you ever tried pushing a supermarket trolley when in a wheelchair? trust me, it's beyond impossible. some use it towards a motability car or scooter. sometimes it pays for simply seeing the outside world.....maybe even to see the sea.
The island village is tiny so i could reach everything easily and, once the tide came in, there was nobody watching and counting. here, in civilisation, i'm afraid to breach those 20 metres. i'm not permitted 30 metres or 50 metres, which is what it used to be, step over 20 and that's it, penalised.
So.....yes i miss island, but what i miss most is autonomy, the freedom to put on some shoes, pick up a paper, walk down the garden path and engage with the world.