I really needed a holiday.
For one reason or another, it seems to have been a very hectic and stressful year. Work has involved a series of Red Queen situations, in which I’ve had to keep running faster just to keep up, and home life hasn’t been exactly relaxing because of the neighbourhood we live in. This has never been a great area, but recently one or two families have moved in who have absolutely no concept of what it means to be a good neighbour. The vast majority of the people in our street are decent people who just want to get on with their lives quietly, but are unable to do so because of the actions of these two sets of families. One set lives some distance from us, so we aren’t directly affected by them, but the other lives two doors away. They are incredibly loud, all the time, scream at each other at the tops of their voices continually, light stinking bonfires at 11pm, conduct noisy arguments about payment for drugs in the street1 and so on. It’s exhausting. Even in the rare moments of peace, you’re bracing yourself for the next onslaught. We want to move, but we’re not sure that we can afford to live in a more peaceful area.
We definitely needed a holiday, even if it was only a temporary break from the local insanity. We picked a self-catering cottage in North Norfolk, located in a tiny village in a valley. It was a gorgeous little brick and flint cottage, overlooking the village green at the front, and a wooded hillside at the back. It was tiny — literally two-up two-down, with a small conservatory tacked on the back to act as a dining room. However, it was beautifully decorated and furnished, and was gloriously cosy and snug.
It was so peaceful. On several occasions, I sat in the garden with a book, intending to read, but ended up gazing out to the wooded hillside, luxuriating in the lack of noise. It wasn’t silent, but most of what I could hear were natural sounds: wood pigeons drowsily calling (a sound that I’ve found soporific since I was a child), the wind ruffling the leaves in the treetops and the drone of bees nosing into the flowers in the borders. I felt as if I was finally releasing my breath after months of holding it.
At night, we ate our dinner in the conservatory dining room, lit by candles, and watched the bats skimming close to the glass, catching moths and other insects attracted by the candle light. Owls called in the dark woods. When it rained, I lit the log fire and we sat in the cosy living room watching the flames change colour and listening to the hiss and pop of the wood as it burned. We went for long walks along broad, sandy beaches, over dunes and through salt marshes, enjoying the seaweed tang in the air and the occasional, heartbreaking, bleak calls of oystercatchers. One hot day we walked through shady avenues of oaks, the trees on either side of the path leaning towards one another and intertwining branches to form a cool, dappled canopy.
We didn’t want to leave.
At 6pm in full view of shoppers — smart! ↩