Long before I moved to Australia, I lived in an idyllic rural village in the South West of England, with open views of fields for miles around in each direction. The houses were beautiful cottages made of Cotswold stone, with roses in the gardens – and looked exactly as they would have a hundred years before. The local teenagers hung out by the park on horse-back, and the two big houses hosted annual Summer Supper parties exactly as they had for generations. My elderly neighbour lived in the cottage his mother had been born in.
The village had a quaint old pub, a church, a nursery school, a post box and a play park. On the corner was a farm you could let yourself into, leave a couple of pounds in the honesty box, and help yourself to freshly laid eggs. The nearest shop was about six miles away, which was the closest option for even a pint of milk or load of bread (this was long before I’d ever even heard the word paleo). With miles of public rights of way, it was right in the middle of nature. And unfortunately a great big motorway.
The huge motorway was the main route from London to Wales and dissected the village in two. In the time I lived there, there was only one brief occasion when the constant rumbling of cars and heavy goods vehicles stopped – just for an hour or so. On this one afternoon, the entire motorway was closed after a serious accident. Rather than being blissful, the silence was eerie. Day in, day out, no matter how ungodly the hour, the roar of the motorway never ended. Along with the noise, the motorway covered the windows and walls of my should-have-been-yellow house, with a thick layer of dirt.
On hot days (rare in the UK), the better option was to be uncomfortably hot, rather than sleep with the windows open.
The fields that surrounded the village grew all sorts of different produce and it was fascinating to see a fallow field transform to a field of wheat in a matter of weeks – all from my kitchen window. Every so often I’d see the farm machinery spraying the fields, which would fill the air with a heavy, unpleasant smell for a couple of days. The type of smell you can taste, long before you get close to it.
Half way down of one of the bridal paths, right next to the stream, was a huge steaming pile of (what I eventually learnt to be) human manure. I saw some of the best tomato plants I’ve ever seen growing up from that pile. The smell was one of the most unpleasant I’ve ever encountered, as made clear by my Labrador on her twice daily walks, who would do everything she could to drag me closer so she could have a good roll around in it (fortunately I was onto her and she never got to indulge in her penchant for excrement). Just when the pile looked like it couldn’t get any bigger, it would all but disappear, and I’d notice the smell had moved to the nearby fields, full of produce.
After living this healthy rural lifestyle for a year or two, I had a cold that just never went away. Or rather the cough never went away. No matter how much I’d cough, it would never quite resolve the need for the coughing. Eventually I went to the local-ish doctor (across the motorway, in the neighbouring village) expecting to be given some medication to clear up my cough. Without even getting so far as to see the doctor, a nurse heard my wheezing and coughing and instantly diagnosed asthma. Which I hadn’t realised you could develop, totally out of the blue, at the ripe old age of 23.
With the help of modern medicine, the coughing stopped, and it was manageable*
But I’ve always wondered, did where I live cause me to develop asthma?
If you developed asthma as an adult, what do you think caused it? I’d love to hear, in the comments below.
* Several years later (long after I’d left the village) my asthma was instantly cured as a side effect of life-saving treatment I received in a completely unrelated incident.