Elizabeth Mapstone

Many of us find we need to move house as we age – and it is a daunting prospect. Indeed, I was so reluctant I left it until the options had drastically narrowed, and my husband simply would not have moved anywhere if I had not made him!

He was 90 and his brain was active even if his tired body was not, and it was only the prospect of moving near Oxford where he had been remarkably successful that made the move palatable. I, unfortunately, developed various ailments which made moving from our very isolated house essential, so being near family and immediate medical care had definite appeal.

Not that we found it easy! Our first discovery was that we were incredibly lucky in our choice of location. Though near a main road going straight into Oxford, we had somehow found a spot that rarely picks up traffic noise, is peaceful but friendly, and very civilised. Many of the residents are older, and even the young children are extraordinarily well-behaved. And it turned out that the doctor we were able to register with is the very best I had ever had! That is luck indeed.

Moving house is not easy when one of you is totally impractical at the best of times and getting very old, and I chose to get my dodgy hip fixed fast, so privately. Again, we were lucky as my operation was so efficient, I was home in five days, and very soon able to walk with a stick.

A miracle.

And I found neighbours slowly ready to accept us. I don't blame anyone for being cautious, but our near neighbours were friendly, and next-door even invited us in for Christmas drinks. - which felt like positive acceptance. They are, I suppose, the next generation, and I have seen their children grow up and go to college just like my own grandchildren.

I am perhaps not as good as some at making friends, but the cautious
 friendly approach of most of our neighbours suits me beautifully. Greetings and smiles are usual, but our relations tend to remain at that – until I appear to need help, and at least two of my neighbours have gone out of their way to offer assistance. Since I became seriously ill a year ago, and then my husband died, I have become aware of just how fortunate we were to move here. Perhaps even running the risk of disaster, as we did when it was no longer safe for us to remain in our isolated house, brought with it the unexpected possibility of new life in a new place.

As I recover as much strength as I can, I do wonder what I have learned that might help others. For I have been astonishingly lucky in finding a
wonderful doctor, a peaceful neighbourhood full of people who are pleasant – and friendly if they trust you! - and access to Oxford's superior hospitals. My husband was the author of '*Pooh and the Philosophers*' and others, which meant he left me a comfortable inheritance to live on, a great blessing not available to everyone.

Being friendly to one's neighbours has to be a positive approach, though 
being too demanding can definitely be off-putting. I remember one of my 
neighbours over-did the friendly approach, until I rather dreaded any sign she might be approaching the house: we had very little in common, though she was perfectly nice. Lonely, I thought, and her job had ended: she needed a friend on her own wave-length. Fortunately she found one, married him and moved away.

People are all different, and I do think that allowing politics to interfere with local relations can be a big mistake. I have fairly strong political views, and always have had, even as a schoolgirl. However, I don't think they are relevant to how people live together in our very fortunate society. People of very different political inclinations can enjoy each other's company – as people in my family do, so long as they stay off that one alienating topic of politics.

The family includes those who embrace almost every political belief – but we have all learned to save our views for other occasions, and we seem to function as a family rather well. I suspect that the area I live in is like my family, and like much of Britain: people of very different beliefs and origins can live together peacefully, and we do tend to wonder why others find it so hard to tolerate difference.

I love living here now, as old age has made my needs and priorities change. May it last as long as possible!

Lead photo is of some of the Oxford Writers Group. I am second from the left! Other authors are left to right Pam Nixon, Barbara Hudson and Heather Rosser.

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