I grew up in a gentler, less materialistic age, aligned to the flow of post-war Britain in the countryside. By the time I reached my teens I was screaming with boredom, longing for excitement and a faster pace of life. Fifty years on – having raised a family, pursued a career in mainstream employment and having fallen prey to the stress and alienation the latter can bring, I am currently downshifting and simplifying my life.
Last week turned out to be the best of the entire summer, with unbroken sunshine several days in a row. So, having no other commitments, Martin and I decided to take a spontaneous ‘staycation.’
We live on an enchanting island but it’s easy to get used to the wonders that it holds, when engaged in the day-to-day business of making enough money to pay the council tax. So it was good to travel the tourist trail for a day or five, going with the flow of our impulses and experiencing the magic afresh. And even better to come back to our comfortable home each evening, knowing that, for us, this was not simply a short break from a hectic reality.
We ate at a seaside cafe, swatting wasps away from our food, while dozens of customized motor scooters droned past on an early morning ride-out from their convention campsite. Wandered aimlessly through towns and villages, pointing out amazing architectural features that we wouldn’t normally have time to notice. Visited boot sales and country fairs on a whim and strolled along beaches from which you can view the strata of millenia, in the topsy-turvy cliffs rising above them.
Supermarket trips were kept to a minimum, with the sole purpose of grabbing easy-to-cook holiday food and replenishing stocks of alcohol, ice-cream and chocolate. And when we were at home – ignoring all telephone calls and business-looking correspondence – we read library books and dozed in the sunshine.
The main purpose of the week was to relax and enjoy ourselves and we definitely achieved that. But steering our lives in a new direction was never far from our minds and I was somewhat irritated to discover that the puritan work ethic is rather heavily ingrained in my psyche. So, instead of resisting it and feeling guilty, I made it work to my advantage.
Visiting a different library – there are several on the island and our tickets are valid in any of them – I decided to widen my choice, picking books in genres that otherwise would not interest me. I have started to log these, with critiques that will – hopefully – help me discover my own writing ‘voice’. Encouraged by this exercise, I even had a stab at writing a few early morning paragraphs – just for fun!
On another day-trip, I slipped into yet another library and picked up a stack of manuals on handicrafts and cooking, winemaking and preserving. I spent a happy afternoon flicking through them and picking out those that appeal to me; have gathered together the necessary materials/ingredients and I’m all set to start making Christmas gifts for friends and family – won’t they be surprised!
So, as I prepare to start the new term at my afternoon cleaning job in the High School, I’m feeling rested and optimistic about the coming months. I may not have as much income as I’ve had in the past but I’m time-rich and – what’s more – I have a clearer vision of a relaxed yet more fulfilled future. It may have taken half a century, but the wheel has finally turned and I can finally appreciate the blissfully idyllic nature of my childhood.