I’ve always been a firm believer in time away from relationships and life as you know it. In the same way that when I moved to London I needed a weekend in the country every month or I’d explode, in the same way I need time away from Mr K and away from my job. Need it. This has nothing to do with him, or the civil service, and everything to do with me and my need for moderation, for time spent alone or in a situation polar opposite to my marriage and life as business as usual. Without it, I feel caged.
Repetition leads, in my book, to exhaustion. No matter how much you love London, life here takes more effort than in most places, and it can chip away at your soul. To give your best to it, you need to come away now and then. It can be alone, it can be with a friend. It can be a day, a weekend, a month. Anything goes. What it does need to be, is different.
It’s hard to describe this to people who aren’t married or in 9-5 jobs. It sounds flighty, I suppose, the need to “get away”. But it applies in all aspects of life. If you’re overworked, you need time off. If you’re dieting, you need a dirty burger on a Thursday night.
In April, I went away with my best friend Cat. We dubbed it our 60th – sixty years of Anna and Cat.
We stayed in a log cabin just off the Cornish coastal path. It smelt of pine.
My Mum’s Cornish, and grew up on a farm opposite St Michael’s Mount. It’s a beautiful part of the world, and there’s still so much of it for me to discover (next up, the moors of Jamaica Inn).
I’d never walked along the coastal path before, and I knew it was time. After the last year, my insides were screaming out for some restoring, recalibrating, resetting.
(This is starting to sound like a Blair speech. I’ll stop with grouping things into threes).
And walk we did. And talk we did. It’s a landscape that lends itself to remembering who you are, and what’s important. It lends itself to dreaming (London can take the dream away, sometimes, because commuting is so relentless).
Because it was April, and because the coastal path was quiet, it felt like we had that corner of the world to ourselves. And when you feel like there’s no-one else around to hear, it’s like something clicks open inside your chest and it all comes tumbling out. Everything you were holding together so well. And then you’re left with the bare bones of your thoughts, and you try to rebuild.
I used to do this, so I understand why people do it, but it still saddens me that people jump on a plane at the first mention of a holiday. The UK coast is an incredible, beautiful, dramatic and haunting place to be; drenched in history and stories. I like wet and windy beaches though; fish and chips and your hair blowing in your face and the sense of being miniscule when you look up at the clouds chasing across the sky. I appreciate this is not the stuff for which you save your Boots Advantage card points over the course of the year.
I also taught myself something new – how to read an OS map. You can pick out the hardcore walkers a mile off, because they’re carrying proper walking paraphernalia and not just Lonely Planets with pull-out maps. I will not claim for a second that I’m a proper walker (although I go about walking enthusiastically, like a child, running up onto rocky outcrops and jumping in the shallows) but it was good to feel like one, for a moment.
Things I learnt on this holiday include:
- Don’t be persuaded into doing sun salutations on a rocky outcrop. Pictures may end up on the Internet.
- Don’t “smell the air”. Same risk as above. (But the air smelt sooooo good)
What do you do to escape, readers? Do you even need to?