Go to the country for rest!

Why do doctors not order an extended stay in the country for complete rest anymore?

Was this something only for the upper classes, anyway?

I ask because I am reading Lillian Beckwith’s The Hills is Lonely (1959), the first volume of A Hebridean Omnibus. It opens with her standing on a jetty, awaiting a boat to take her to an island. She is buffeted by a storm, and wonders why she isn’t at home, in town, drinking tea. Her answer: her doctor ordered rest in the country. It’s not as if she does nothing when on the island. She goes galavanting across the moors, learns to milk cows and assists when an influenza epidemic hits the island. Still, she was following her doctor’s orders: rest in the country.

Rest in the country has always sounded divine. But without milking the cows by hand. When my children were young, I dreamed of getting an illness, one without pain, one that would allow my mind to still operate sufficiently that I could read, for which I had to be hospitalised for rest. Meals brought to me. No responsibilities. No cooking. No cleaning. Bed rest.

Bed rest, even better than that, would be a glass-enclosed verandah to catch the sun. Lying on a cane lounge, wrapped in blankets, a book in hand. But as modern hospitals do not have that, I would have been happy with a private room. Quiet and rest.

Quiet and rest! I remember reading books where the central character was sent to the Swiss Alps and ordered to rest in a sanatorium. It sounded like heaven, even as a child.

Rest, but without TB please

Even as a child, I sensed such a choice was not for the like of me. My class battled on, with flu, with TB, with back pain, to scour and scrub and serve and work. No work = no money. Even if the doctor said the choice was death or rest, we worked on. The immediate needs of income for food and shelter took precedence over the long-term, possible death.

So even if my doctor said that I had to go to the country for complete rest, it wouldn’t be an option. Where? How? Thank heavens for books. I can read and I can dream.

4 thoughts on “Go to the country for rest!

  1. I love this. How alluring, to be sent somewhere to rest! The sanatorium looks a little like a cruise ship. The asylum (where I live) was built on a hill specifically for the benefits of the ‘fresh breezes.’ Wouldn’t it be glorious to be sent to the country to take the airs?

  2. I liked The Secret Garden in which the child gets to read all day – but I never wanted to be that child – they always seemed so frail and were always being scolded and shut away. “You mustn’t get a chill – you’ll catch your death of a cold” – that kind of thing. I much preferred old books in which children were sent to the country and were left alone all day so they could get into adventures – as in E. Nesbit’s books (Five Children and It, Story of the Treasure Seekers, etc.) Feel completely differently now, though. Banished with books – yes, please!

    • Yes to the adventuring books, though I loved and re-read The Secret Garden. Did you read Swallows and Amazons? I recently bought it for Mr S as he watched, and loved, two film versions.

      My frequent day dream as a child was to be part of the Famous Five, cycling across the countryside or rowing to an island.

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