Of course you can't go back; but -- oh great: I start writing in one spare minute and my mother interrupts. so here I am more than a day later trying to remember how I had planned to proceed and lamenting a lost mobile phone and a broken back tooth. The phone is surely on the floor of the rental car rather than anywhere else. So I’ll never see it again, which may well be a blessing in disguise as I hated its software with a passion quite absurd. And the tooth must have been ready to go. Both can, in fact, be easily dealt with.

Not so the heartache brought on by trying to go back even though I know I cannot. Somerset remains the most beautiful area I know, possibly because I know it rather than measured on any objective scale. I found myself lingering in front of estate agents’ windows, sizing up the offerings and figuring things were maybe not entirely unaffordable. The main purpose of the trip, to visit my dear old friends Dudley and Jane before Dudley gets too much worse, went well. True, we didn’t talk all that much or all that deeply, but that may be because we’ve already exchanged all the intimacy we're going to. Duds, late at night, having definitely had too much to drink, worrying away at me with endless questions, occasional prods, forcing me to answer in greater detail and greater simplicity until even I could understand what I was saying.

That sounds obtuse. I don’t mean it to. Just that at a couple of points in my life, when I was most confused and possibly most deluded about what to do, Duds helped me. He never actually advised me, I don’t think; just helped me to formulate my thoughts for myself.

And though I hate to sound Pollyanna-ish about the benefits of life-threatening illness, it was also salutary to see Jane and Dudley not bickering and simply taking care of one another with love and attentiveness and no further thought, or so it seemed, to ego. A couple of other old friends put in appearances too, in the thick of Somerset’s arty scene though somewhat peripheral to ours. It was such a pleasure to gossip reasonably good-naturedly about old acquaintances who, it seemed, were mostly not all that changed. I did feel a great deal of longing for a social scene in which I could speak and be understood, by people I could read and understand myself.

But what would I do? How to pay the bills? Would The Squeeze like it? Could she work or earn? In the end I found myself dreaming tangled skeins of pasture-fed poultry, professional blogging, 50,000 subscribers willing to pay 10 pence for a 30-minute podcast and so on and so forth. All of which involve risk. and all of which I am therefore no more likely to carry off than I was before I left.

So, yes; I could go back. But to what?

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