Sunday, 23 September 2012

Last minute escape

It's less than two weeks until term starts, and I have finished a book. I am completely exhausted, and I have a mad term in front of me, since I will be on study leave in Lent, and all my teaching is this coming term. I know that I have no self-discipline to stop myself from working, therefore I must go away.

Staffan and I are not good at planning holidays in advance. Unless it is a desert safari or an Amazonas cruise which have to be planned in advance, we improvise. Until last weekend we weren't even sure whether we would be able to go, and when we started tentatively, we were immediately in disagreement. I suggested Lake District, while Staffan suggested France. In fact, he suggested Alsace before he figured out that it would take us three days to get there. I suggested Lake District because my idea of a holiday right now was a long walk every day, preferably in an aesthetically enjoyable environment. Staffan did a web search finding lovely places for £400 a night, and although I enjoy luxury every now and then, I prefer spending my money on more pleasurable things than just a place to sleep. By serendipity, there was a National Trust broschure lying in the hall, which I was about to throw away, but a feature on Lake District caught my attention, and I gave it Staffan without any further thought. He found a web address to NT holiday cottages and spent some hours talking to various people in the booking office, since it was too late to book online. For some reason, he started looking for places in Cornwall. I saw in my mind endless beaches, which says how poor my geography is. Everything he inquired about, based on enticing names such as Captain's Quarters, was not suprisingly, rented out, so I told him just to ask what was available, anywhere. After more lengthy phone calls we had a cottage waiting for us in a place, like in Roald Dahl'd BFG, beyond the last page of the atlas. I had no time to do my homework because I had to finish all urgent matters before we went since the description of the place said “mobile access restricted”, implying that internet access was non-existent.

Off we went on Wednesday morning, and although Staffan had told me that it was 500 kilometres from Cambridge to Cornwall it somehow didn't get into my mind. We have this distorted image of “the little island”, and in the first place everything south of London is around the corner, so it is hard to imagine that Cornwall is as far away as Scotland. Or as far away as from Stockholm to Denmark.

I don't know what I had expected, but when we finally drove down what felt a narrow cow path to the little cottage by a tidal creek, I felt at once that I had come to the right place. My mobile phone had no signal. We were cut off from civilisation.

Staffan had driven all the way and was tired, but I went out for the first exploration, climbing up the steep bank of the creek. The trail was well marked, but I didn't want to walk too far without knowing where it would take me so I went back and sat on the stone steps by the creek watching a flock of ducks. In front of my eyes, the tide turned. There is nothing more peaceful than watching the tide come in, and it had been a very long time since I did it last. And I had never watched a tidal creek. I could have sat there for hours, only I had to get out pretty quickly since the tide was coming in fast. We had come at the lowest water. It was soon high. I felt incredibly happy.

The cottage had heaps of maps, guidebooks and walk descriptions. I read them all before I went to bed.

Mohun: low and high water

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