As I limped, like a Duracell bunny whose batteries have finally expired, over the finishing line known as ‘the last day of term’, I realised that I was feeling a bit tired. We all get tired, right? We all feel a little run down and in need of a rest. Everyone craves a prolonged stretch lying down in a darkened room, preferably asleep.
The problem was, I hadn’t quite realised just how tired I was. I thought I could carry on doing a bit of social media here, a bit of writing there. It was my husband who put me straight.
‘You need a break. From everything.’
He was right. Apart from writing, I have my children, my ageing parents and all the other ‘stuff of life’ to sort. I sometimes feel like a computer whose memory is too full.
‘No space available’.
I needed to download.
A week later we went to Cornwall. I had the good sense once upon a time to marry a Cornishman so we go to the south-west quite a bit. We stayed with my mother-in-law (a good one in case you’re wondering) for three nights before heading further west to camp on a farm in Sennen, near to Land’s End.
One of the things I like most about camping is the way it forces you to just be in the moment. That and the fact no-one expects you to wash. Or brush your hair. It’s like the early days of motherhood.
Anyway, I like to try to be ‘in the moment’ if I can. I’m not very good at that mindful stuff. I need a lot of practice. I get distracted by thoughts of what we’re having for tea or if I remembered to lock the back door. Still, it’s good to try. Actually, I think it’s quite important for your soul.
It’s also one of the themes I explored in my l latest book, Life or Something Like It. The main character Cat, is forced to step down from her high-powered job for a while and ends up looking after her brother’s two children over the summer. On a holiday to Suffolk, where the phone signal is patchy, she has to slow down and learn how to just be again.
Time slows down on a campsite, there’s nothing to rush for. Admittedly a few star jumps during the early evening will keep you warm as the air grows cold but apart from that, you’re on a go-slow. No hurrying allowed.
I also didn’t see a single person with a phone, apart from for photographing purposes. There were no children playing on iPads. Instead I noticed several small boys sitting together, each with a snail balanced on the top of one hand, happily chatting to their new pets. I saw older children riding bikes or kicking footballs. I was startled by a small girl as I returned from the loo one evening who held up her clasped hands to me and squeaked, ‘I caught a cricket!’ Her face was a picture. She reminded me of Ellie from Life or Something Like It, and it made me smile.
So we sat outside our tent, watching the sun rise and fall behind a perfect slice of blue sea, we ate weird but delicious ‘codge-ups’ of food, we followed the secret path towards the magical promise of beach below, we clambered over the rocks, we ate pasties on the sand and mussels in the sea-front pub at Sennen.
Of course, I have to insert a caveat here. Had it been a) raining b) two degrees cooler or c) noisy, I would have enjoyed it a good deal less but it wasn’t.
It was wonderful and the perfect place to download my brain and just be for a while. Cat Nightingale has taught me well.