Each morning I follow the same routine; as I leave the house, I pull the front door shut behind me, turn left and look down the street. The terraced cottages form a guard of honour as the road makes its way slightly downhill towards the river. Beyond that, the view opens up across the fields to the other side of the valley. From this distance I can't see the llamas grazing, but as I look up I can see the lights glowing from the solitary house on the hill. I'm intrigued by the round turret like wing at one end and always think it could be the setting for an Agatha Christie murder mystery, a deadly dinner party with Hercule Poirot as guest of honour; 'Villainy at the Vineyard' perhaps, or 'The Shocking Shoreham Shooting'?
I have a long commute to work, so it's still dark when I leave. There's no-one else around at this time, but as I look along the road I can picture the other Crown Road residents waking up and preparing for the day ahead. I know the house where the toddler will already be awake, chattering away to her Dad before he sets off for work in Tunbridge Wells. I can imagine the scene where our champion of the allotments will be slowly stretching, bringing the life back into his aching shoulders. I can almost see each of the dogs and cats bending down to their individual breakfast bowls.
Then I turn to walk up the road towards the car. Parking is never easy in this small narrow street, so it's usually a bit of a way from the house. I never mind that though; this is sometimes my only chance of the day to feel like I'm really part of the village. At the top of the street is the hill leading up to the woods on our side of the valley. This is the slope where so many people rushed to test out their tobogganing skills when the snow fell heavily in December, I can still almost hear the excited shrieks of delight and fear. Sometimes the field is empty, at other times there are sheep or cows grazing there. I remember the reaction of my son when he first saw them clinging to the steep incline "why don't they roll down?"
As I walk up the road I continue to imagine the scenes behind each front door. The young couple a few doors up are expecting their first baby. It was due earlier this week and I wonder if anything happened in the night. But there's no way of knowing; everything looks peaceful and it's far too early to knock and find out. As I reach the top of the road, the first car reverses past me on its way to the station. The driver smiles and waves through his rapidly de-misting windscreen.
Just a few minutes later I reach my car, but in that short time the darkness has lifted a little and the sky is a lighter grey. I know that each morning for the next few weeks this will happen slightly earlier until the day when I walk out for the first time this year to the bright morning light of Shoreham. On that day I'll walk even more slowly to my car.