In the last week, my husband and I have both been pining for Scotland. Usually at this time of year we are making preparations for a holiday to the Western Isles (if we can afford it). We happily run away to the Islay Whisky Festival, and it’s wonderful. We were there at the end of May last year, and it was one of the best holidays of my life.
And I haven’t had a proper break since.
No Christmas, no Easter, no weekends off. I’ve been away repeatedly, yes, but to my late mother-in-law’s house in Oxford, or to my mother’s in Hampshire. Not for holidays, but for Doing. In the past, my mother’s home would have been a haven to holiday, but now she has dementia, and so it has become a place of caring and problem-solving. Not restful.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a meltdown. I’d had enough. No breaks, and all the emotional wreckage of the last six months had taken its toll. My husband had just come home from his annual walking holiday in France with his pals, but I don’t have the money to do that kind of thing, nor the energy, of course. (In fairness to him, he feels bad that he’s had a break and I haven’t. And I certainly didn’t resent him for a much-needed and healing respite.)
Anyway, I decided enough was definitely enough.
So I’m running away.
I don’t have money to pay for a hotel or self-catering bolt-hole, so I’m going for second-best. I’m going back to Oxford for a week on my own. My mother-in-law’s house is waiting to go on the market, so I can settle in without cost. I shall pay for my keep by juggling estate agents and various visiting tradesmen – it is amazing the little jobs that have to be done, and someone has to be there to let people in to do them.
I intend to rest. And read. And journal. And write. And perhaps even draw. I shall laze in the lovely secluded garden – I’m hoping for good weather. And then there is the City to revisit. I spent a great deal of time there in my younger days, not simply when my husband and I were first dating, but long before then, when it became a sanctuary from the emotional upheavals of my life. I want to reclaim the city I knew then, reclaim it from the sad memories of recent years, when it was tainted by the demands of elder care, dementia and death. I want to walk the streets and soak up the golden light reflected off the Cotswold stone. I want to look up and see the curlicues of the college windows, the gargoyles and Classical statues, the wisteria and the laburnum. I want to walk in Christchurch Fields, rummage in the Covered Market, and eat lunch at the Nosebag café. I want to walk up the Cowley Road and feel the vibrancy of the various ethnic communities that have settled there. I want to glide through the Ashmolean Museum, letting the beauty of the ages sink into my very pores.
I want to please myself.
I want a week-long artist date.
I want to find myself again.
I want to eat salted caramel brownies at the Barefoot Café. (Which pretty much amounts to the same thing!)
It will be a celebration of no wireless connections, with only my minimal phone data tariff to support me. I hope I shall have enough on my slate to be able to document a few of my adventures on Instagram. Rest assured I shall be taking lots of pictures. But it will be something of a relief to be somewhat incommunicado for a while.
I have a journal project that I intend to undertake. I have been planning it meticulously for a while. I don’t know whether I shall be able to pull it off, but I promise to report at length when I get back. And share my strategy so that you can have a go too, if you like. But I’ve got to test it out, first.
I have a mountain of books to take with me too. Research for my current writing project, though I might give myself a week off that. A couple of novels. Books about creativity and writing. And no doubt, being Oxford, with Blackwells, and the Oxfam bookshop, I shan’t escape the week without buying a few mores.
And a pile of notebooks are going with me too. With lots of different pens, and a glue stick for ephemera. I plan to soak up the LOT!
It’s going to be quite an adventure. Wish me luck!