The seasons reflect one of nature’s most spectacular rhythms. We are lucky that they differ greatly one from the other, each with its own particularities and its own advocates. As I see it, the best of them all is spring, which according to astronomers, started this year on March 20th. Spring is the season in which the days lengthen and the weather becomes less hostile. In our garden, hyacinths, daffodils, camellias and the beautiful star magnolia all burst into flower. All around us the animals find partners, make homes and have offspring that simply jump – gambol if they are sheep – for joy. It is ultimately the season of reawakening, renaissance and notions of perpetuity.
For this old man, all the other seasons have serious limitations. In winter, although snow and ice can look very pretty, the weather is too cold and too numbing to be welcoming. Similarly, while summer offers fruits and warmth, all too often these are accompanied by heat waves and even drought. And, despite autumn’s rich colours, I see its falling leaves and denuded branches as harbingers of death.
On a weekend in mid-March, my wife and I joined in the season’s spirit and a renaissance began. For the first time in months we dared to make firm plans for the future and to see ourselves once again as active, independent and adventurous. In the immediate months after Rohan’s accident [On Church Road, 12th Feb 2015] our lives stood still, in many ways for me it was akin to a winter’s hibernation in which I was in the grips of anguish and discomfort passively waiting for some sort of normality and independence to return. All thoughts of the future were suppressed; to say anything would have tempted fate. We could deal with only the more immediate issues – planning what snacks might be brought in, which bedclothes needed changing – that was the limit.
On that weekend in March, less than two weeks ago and only a few days after Rohan’s final discharge from hospital, life was beginning to return to normal. After intensive physiotherapy, although still needing her wheelchair for long distances, she was now able to walk short distances and climb the stairs unaided. Moreover, she no longer needed living quarters that looked like a hospital ward.
We were sitting at home in our conservatory basking in the sun when both of us, without conferring, suddenly opened our diaries and proposed to each other that it was time to start planning the future again. Dates for our summer holidays were pencilled in, then madness took over: “What about spending a week in Paris?” “Let’s make it soon” “How about next week?” It was risky, but possible, so why not? Both of us just wanted to get away for a few days to celebrate the joy of our new-found independence.
There was a some anxiety on the morning of our departure for Paris as we weren’t even sure that we could board the train. As it turned out, Eurostar treated us royally. There were special ramps in place that allowed us to get on to, and out of, the carriage. The journey itself went like a dream; it so happens that wheelchair users and their carers can travel first class with all the trappings (including three-course meal) and at a reduced cost.
When we alighted at the Gare du Nord it felt like being released from prison. We were now free and independent grown-ups again. Or was it just a dream? During the journey Rohan had chosen to use her wheelchair but by the next day the words of the physiotherapist became increasingly persuasive – “Walk. Walk as much as possible.” Soon we were wandering through the streets of Paris, shopping, meeting friends, eating at some of our favourite restaurants, going to exhibitions and climbing up and down the stairs to our first-floor pied-a-terre. Walking was slow and Rohan’s back and legs would begin to ache at longer distances, but just imagine, all of this would have been unthinkable only a few weeks earlier. At the end of January she could not move more than a few yards without the aid of her crutches, her wheelchair and/or her carers.
At last our hospital nightmare was over, and our adventure in Paris had much in common with moving from winter to spring. And like my favourite season, our few days there offered us just the renaissance we needed.