My mother called her mother’s house paradise.
After my grandfather died my Gran upped sticks and moved to the Perigord, to a small house in the middle of nowhere, with a huge garden surrounded by cows grazing quietly. In the summer it had beautiful dry lazy heat, where you would just recline in a chair with a cup of tea watching the harvesters gathering up the wheat on the other side of the valley. Except for the occasional fighter jets practising their low altitude flying down the valley there was virtually no noise other than the cicadas and the birds.
We all found peace there, a quiet serenity that felt perfect. We had our little family rituals, ate well and drank well, pottered about discovering hidden charms of the region as well as visiting the famous ones. We read a lot and talked a lot, had the occasional visitor, sometimes nice, sometimes just to be tolerated. We had crackly Radio 4 and the weekly Guardian as the only reminder that there was a real world out there where boring things happened but for us visitors this was where we tuned out the world and relaxed.
My mother called it paradise because she could and did relax, doing what she wanted without worrying about my father who rarely joined us.
When my grandmother died it all changed. My sister took over the house and although my mother still found that same peace I didn’t. My sister did not make me welcome there and as a parent I could no longer lie around doing very little. I stopped going and that almost broke my heart. But that change in ownership made me realise how much of the atmosphere was down to my grandmother being a warm, happy, comforting person who made me feel safe and who listened to me. I need to write more about this lady to whom I owe so much.
I have several times this week lazed in my new comfortable recliner in the garden, enjoying the sunshine with a book and a cup of tea and enjoyed peace for an hour or two. Searching for that perfect moment of happiness, however ephemeral, elsewhere is no good. You have to build it with the tools at your disposal, wherever you are. You take paradise with you and make it. It doesn’t belong to someone else or somewhere else. It’s up to you to stand firm and build it with what you’ve got. It comes from within.