Once a year, we would all like to go on a big adventure. It is good for the soul and reminds us of our humanity before we created a society based on valuing only written language and staying in man made dwellings.
The things we all do on holiday, are in fact things that bring us deep pleasure. Buying and cooking good food. Exploring a new location. Turning off the TV and playing games with our children. Reading a great book while milling about on a sandy beach. Having a glass of wine at 5pm with the love of your life. Going outside to look at the starry sky. Taking a boat ride. Having a picnic after a long bike ride.
The silly thing is that we could be doing these things on any weekend, but we tend not too. We probably tell ourselves that we don’t have the energy. But it is probably not physical energy that is lacking (unless you are one of the few people who do heavy manual labour these days) it is in fact, entirely mental energy that we lack. In an attempt to create a world where we have more leisure time, where computers allow us to work from home, and electronic devices reduce time spent on household chores, we have created an environment where we are totally unable to switch off from stress. Our workplace can contact us at any time of the night or day (I have received emails at 5am!), our banks send a text message to tell us we have no money, and social media bombards us with adverts 24/7 to our phones to remind us how fat/ugly/hairy/poor we are.
Our holiday to the Scottish highlands and Islands was absolute bliss. The cottage we rented was cheap compared to Cornwall or Pembrokeshire and it had no TV, no gas connection, and no mains water. The water was from a local spring. If you opened the windows you could hear the twin waterfalls which cascaded nearby. We had a log burner for heat and the nearest shop was 35 minutes drive. The journey was long, but the rewards were priceless. We had to improvise and re-adjust our expectations. The children did not even mention to TV and it was as though they had remembered how to be children again. The adults looked though the small library and forgot about Brexit.
Our nearest beach was a short drive away and when it was sunny, it was like the Bahamas. Beautiful clear water and white pure sand. On one day we took our bikes on the small ferry over to the Isle of Gigha. From the port we rode round the bay where you will find a small campsite with it’s own beach, pub and jetty. The pub served us bacon butties and fresh orange juice before we headed off to the twin beaches. On arrival, we were hot and sweaty and strode straight out into the sea. Below, by my foot was what looked like a pipe fish (native sea horse). “It can’t be?” I thought but as I put my hand into the cool water, it swam away from me. As we walked along, baby plaice scooted away from us. My older son dug in the sand to make a sand castle and pulled up live clams, big enough to eat. The sea was teeming with life. I had never seen anything like it. It was like a little Heaven on Earth, how I imagined the world was 100 years ago. The Mediterranean was pretty on the surface, but dead beneath. If you wanted confirmation that human impact was not killing everything on the planet, if you wanted hope that nature could recover, here was the evidence.
This type of magical holiday experience cannot be had all the time. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and lack of midges. No one got ill and we made some fantastic memories. I called in to see an old friend who greeted me with “I know you like cheese, so I brought you this.” Local cheese. She knew me so well. She spoke of the new life she had created two years ago when she bought a house on a remote island. It had a different pace, with a close community. She said ‘hello’ to friends, as we sat and ate on ice-cream on the shore with a view to the mountain beyond.
But my absolute favourite day, was the one where we built a beach fire. We headed down around 3:30 when most others would be going home. We had purchased fresh herring fillets, venison sausages and scallops and cooked it on sticks over the heat. I am 39 years old, and this is something I have never done. You can keep your fine dining, this was the best food on planet Earth, with the most incredible view and we were all alone, save for one curious seal which cruised around the bay and a sailboat with a couple who had docked for the night.
Prosecco, scallops and loved ones. What more does one need?