It was once said to me that as one grows older one becomes more and more concerned about less and less, perhaps it was an attempt at a explanation of the propensity of some older people to seem inordinately concerned with matters that seem trivial to most but have the capacity to cause alarm and upset for the person affected. Perhaps it is a sign of advancing years that things that never caused concern in the past can now become a preoccupation.
Moving to a rural parish in 2010 should not have presented so much of a challenge, there had been seven years of very rural ministry on the east coast of Co Down from 1989 to 1996. Perhaps it is distance that needs to be covered that is intimidating, 30,000 miles a year, or perhaps it is memories of the winter of 2010, when the usually temperate Irish countryside experienced double digit frosts, but the prospect of the autumn has become a forbidding one. Once 1st November is reached, it is a question of counting the ninety-two days until the beginning of February, with its hope of returning light and improving weather.
Living in Dublin for eleven years, there was a complete loss of any sense of what darkness was really like. The street lights at our garden wall were so bright that at any time of the night it was possible to stand in the back garden and read a book. Unless one went outside, it was frequently hard even to discern what season it might be. The world changed five years ago, the reality of darkness was rediscovered, and the challenges the weather might pose returned.
Night time in the country is the most challenging, under clear skies the temperatures drop, frost forms, and moist roads quickly freeze over. In the cities, most roads are busy roads and are treated with salt, in the country the main roads are treated with salt and the side roads are to be treated with caution. Perhaps in younger years, it would have all been much easier, perhaps it is the cautiousness of age that endows the roads with a danger they only really possess on a few days of the year, perhaps it is a matter of being an admittedly bad driver and that other people would travel without hesitation, but this year there is a real sense of fear about the dangers the winter might hold.
Standing in a Citroen garage in south-west France, trying to arrange the repair of our ever troublesome car, a Michelin tyre advertisement caught the eye – all season tyres, tyres as good on snow and ice as in summer sunshine. Could this really be true? If those tyres really work, they might not just keep me safe, they might stop me feeling old.