Apologies for the shamelessly attention-grabbing title of this blog, but all will become clear. I have just returned from a wonderfully indulgent week’s holiday in the glorious south-west (I know, I’ve barely been back at work…). The week began with three days of top surf action with the usual awesome crew at Saunton Sands – definitely one of my ‘happy places’. From my first glimpse of waves crashing onto that vast expanse of sand and dunes stretching away to the hazy twinkle of Bideford in the distance, a feeling of peace settles on me and I can’t help but grin.
After that, I assumed it was a mere hop away to reach the Roseland Peninsula on the south coast of Cornwall for a week of nostalgia (I was heading to stay on the same farm where I holidayed every year of my childhood). However, I hadn’t banked on a) how blimmin’ long the ‘foot’ of Devon and Cornwall is and b) it being harvest time and the resultant army of veeeery slooow tractors on the roads.
Anyhow, it was DEFINITELY worth the journey, in so many ways. Here are a few of them:
- Following on from my previous experimental blog, where I tried and rather failed to recreate in little old Blighty the feeling of freedom that comes with being a backpacker, this time it really worked, and I wasn’t even trying. Cornwall definitely has some kind of pixie magic going on and it well and truly cast its spell on me over this holiday. I have felt simultaneously tingly and relaxed all week.
- If living in the present moment is the route to soothing mental unrest and achieving inner peace, then this has been a good week for my quest for zen. This is because I have been regularly indulging in two activities where it is impossible not to fully occupy the present moment. The first is when catching a wave. My mind simply can not focus on anything other than my determination to stand up on my board as the elements take over and I am subsumed by the power and noise of the unforgiving ocean. And the sweet rush of getting it right is also mentally all-encompassing. The second activity is plunging into the icy Atlantic Ocean in just a bikini. I have a weird love of diving into cold water, from that first freezing hit that takes my breath away and causes me to squawk involuntarily, to the tingling, burning rush that then spreads across my skin. My every mental fibre is focused on the exhilarating physical sensations and I feel acutely alive. After diving in on my last day, I found myself shouting, ‘This is the f***ing life!’ at the top of my voice, like a mad woman. However, I also felt inescapably ‘in the present’ when I was getting changed on the beach afterwards, doing the very polite, British ‘towel dance’. A very friendly couple from Dorset chose that moment to come and ask me how the water was and tell me all about their sea-swimming exploits of old, just as my knickers were awkwardly half-way up my legs. Needless to say, I clung onto the towel desperately, in an attempt to avert a very middle-class disaster. (You see, the title wasn’t purely gratuitious.)
- Holidaying alone means you can do whatever you want and be as pretentious, reclusive, geeky, inane, lazy, active, or indeed anything else, as you like, without fear of judgement – e.g. I was able to: ‘write my novel, don’t you know’ and stare wistfully out at the seascape, seeking the muse; read philosophy books; sing along at the top of my voice to my ipod along the country lanes; geek out with the flora of the famous Cornish hedges; commune with cows (this, in fact, needs its own blog); lie in meadows and cloud-gaze (lots of this); stride out across the fields and coast paths, Lorna-Doone-like; eat strange combinations of food; wear my pyjamas for most of the day (very unusual for me); shout in the sea like a crazy person… etc, etc.
- The holiday emphasised the alluring power of nostalgia. In a very Cornish style, nothing about the farm seemed to have changed since my childhood – even the matted collie dog in the yard looked the same. The only difference I could perceive was that everything seemed slightly smaller. The familiarity was packed full of memories, such that the years fell away. I felt the same exuberant excitement of my youth, but this time shared with a yen for relaxation, the inevitable temperance of maturity.
- I had lots of time to ponder all kinds of existential questions, brought into literal and littoral relief by seeing the coastline stretching away into the distance on either side. Such a vision always makes me ponder my place within the universe. Seeing the edge of a landmass offers a glimpse of the grand masterplan of which we are briefly a part. This makes me feel simultaneously tiny and insignificant, yet gratefully integral.
The benefits I reaped from just one week there also caused me to revisit a well-trodden path of musing, concerning whether I should live closer to the sea or not. However, part of Cornwall’s charm is surely its inaccessibility; its feeling of magical escapism. If I moved there, would I end up soothing my soul in the land-locked midlands? Hmmm, jury is still out… Anyway, a few photos below of my wonderful week.
My home for a week – luxurious in its simplicity. (And look at the weather!)
View from the caravan – completely unchanged, even after all these years.
Portholland beach, where I walked to each day for my morning dip in the ocean, brrrrr.
Ogling mussels on the beach.
Bovine spies are rife in the Cornish lanes.
My favourite UK wildlflower, betony, nestled into a Cornish hedge. The distinctively wrinkled outer shape of the leaves has also taught me a brilliant new adjective: crenulated (I believe the Norwegian fjords are described as crenulated by Slartibartfast, too).
The famous round-houses of Veryan. They were built without corners so that there was no place for the devil to hide.