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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.

Into the Wild

I’ve noticed a theme in the books I’ve been reading lately. Escaping the suburban humdrum, living in the wilderness, being self-sufficient with a simpler life.

I know myself well enough to know I would not stand up to hard, physical labour. And then I do love going to the theatre, to restaurants, to pubs, to the cinema. I do enjoy being five minutes walk from several restaurants, a public library, two train stations, several supermarkets, a fantastic fruit and veg shop, a pub, a club. All the things that come from higher density living.

So why all the books that eschew that life?

It may be a reflection of my state of mind. Wanting to lead a different life. Wanting something else.

Luckily, I can imagine myself in a snowed-in cabin in Alaska while reading The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, yet never have to dig the snow away from the door, or eat the monotonous diet or be turned into one weeping sore from the summer mozzies. Likewise My Antonia by Willa Cather let me fantasise about being snowed in Nebraska.

Escaping from reality!

Escaping from work!

Thank heavens for books. And for holidays – allowing time to read and time to dream of other lives that could be led.

Island dreaming: I went on a South Pacific cruise. Now I think I want to live on an island!