Personal

Extracts From My Holiday Diary

So, like I was saying, I went on holiday for the first time. And it was awesome. As I said to Simon, one of the owners of the B&B where I stayed:

I think I’ve always just moved when other people go on holiday. But holidays are great. You get the feeling of having a change, but you don’t have to move all your stuff.

They were very patient with the tired, raggedy-looking misfit who rocked up on their doorstep with a ouijaboard hoodie on and a chain around her neck. I quickly took Anna, the other owner, on side in my battle against caffeine/work-addiction, and she removed all the coffee from my room and banned me from using the internet. She also made amazing breakfasts. The bacon especially: you know Frazzles? Those little crisps you had when you were five years old? The bacon looked like that. But tasted about a million times better than most other things in the world.

I pretty much spent the first three days asleep. I was so fucking tired from working nine months straight that I just collapsed in a heap on the bed with a pile of books and a TV remote, and lost myself in pure brainfuzz for a while.

I’d arrived on the Sunday, and by Wednesday I was feeling alive enough to venture into Wells with Anna when she did her shopping. I left her at the market and walked around the cathedral, which was beautiful. I don’t normally go for religious buildings, but this one was pretty special. There’s a big astronomical clock hanging on one of the walls, and when the clock strikes the hour some knights joust and a little man kicks a bell to make it ring.

Anyway I finished wandering around the cathedral admiring the religious imagery, and headed towards the palace before discovering it was fucking expensive and deciding to walk around the moat outside it instead. The moat was lovely, and about halfway round I saw a sign saying “Tor: 8 miles” and thought Yeah, I could do that. So I did.

After that I seemed to get some sort of desperate walking routine bug, and got up every morning at 6, read for a couple of hours, had breakfast, then went for an 8-10 mile walk before coming back to the hotel, reading for a while, having a bath, watching a movie, having dinner and falling asleep.

Bliss.

Seriously.

Utter fucking bliss.

I kept a journal while I was there. I didn’t really mean to, I just took my notebook along because I take one everywhere in case sudden inspiration strikes and I need to jot something down, but it ended up being a daily occurrence. A few times I found a study desk right at the back of Glastonbury Library next to the Witchcraft section and read and wrote for hours. Sometimes I sat in the courtyard of the Blue Note Cafe with one of their legendary hot chocolates (whipped cream, Maltesers, Flake, sprinkles) and soaked up the sun in the company of a book or a notebook. Mostly I just sat down wherever the mood took me and carried on reading and writing.

So, here’s some of the stuff that fell out of my pen while I was there.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

On the way there
I’m going on holiday. There is so much shit in my brain, it’s been building up for ages and now it needs to be released. The countryside is so green. I don’t really see it anymore. I glance at it on the way to London but my head is full of emails and bullshit and to-do lists.

I met a guy on the train between East Croydon and Clapham. My sort: a schizophrenic, prison-tattooed dude with a quiff and a pitbull. Lovely dog. Paddy. Irish, from Cork. I never learned the man’s name. We swapped notes on life and marriage and relationships, Brighton and Blackpool and Bristol and Broadstairs. I told him about my snakes and he told me about his friend’s 19-foot boa.

Once I’d arrived
I can’t believe I’m here. As we pulled into Glastonbury the rain subsided and the sun came out. When Rose opened the door to my room I nearly died. It’s beautiful. So much bigger than I thought. I closed the door, locked it and put my stuff away. I’m now having tea in a china cup. An actual china teacup! I feel like Anne of Green Gables. It’s lovely, but it’s so far removed from who I am.

My chain looks weird here, hanging on the walnut wardrobe. Out of place, like a subtle surrealist item in an otherwise realist painting. A melting clock hanging on the wall of a Victorian country mansion.

Now it’s misty outside and raining quite heavily. It’s beautiful. I’ve opened the window to let in the fresh cold air and the sound of the rain; I’m sitting on an obscenely comfy chair drinking tea from a china teacup (can’t get over the china teacup!) and writing this. In a minute I’ll read a bit more of my novel and then go and choose my breakfast options.

This feels weird. Weird, but really, really good.

Monday
It is beautiful. So beautiful I hardly know what to do with myself. Last night when I’d had a shower, I went back into the bathroom half an hour or so later and was amazed that the air in there was so clear and smelt nothing like mould. I thought they must have some kind of super-posh air conditioning system or something but swiftly decided that actually it was probably just proper ventilation. Amazing. This house is so perfect. Everything works and it’s all so clean. Even all the windows open and shut like they should.

Glastonbury: the only place I’ve been where they play music in the public toilets. When you step inside a disembodied voice tells you an alarm will go off if you’re in there for more than 15 minutes, then calming hippy music pipes out of the speakers. It’s like they’re actively trying to induce a weed-addled state.

Tuesday
I miss my snakes. Oddly enough, I don’t miss work. I sort of want to call and say hi but at the same time I want to forget about the whole thing. Sleep, drink herbal tea, maybe even try to wean myself off coffee, who knows? Phil would love that.

Yesterday was wonderful. I pottered around the town for a while and then came back to the room, dumped my stuff and headed out for a walk. I crossed the road and went down the little public footpath through a couple of fields. I took off my shoes and socks and swept barefoot through the long grass. I found a little bridge between fields and crossed it. There was a humming noise all around me and I wondered for a moment whether I was having some kind of religious experience before I realised I was standing in a field full of bees. There was a rough foot track through the clover and I thought about tracing it through the field but decided that walking barefoot over a crowd of bees might not be the most intelligent plan in the world.

I turned back the way I’d come, found a quiet patch and lay down to read for a few hours. The sky was a perfect shade of blue; looking straight ahead I saw a willow tree silhouetted against the sky. If I turned my head to the left and rested it on my arm, I saw small yellow buttercups stretching for miles. Turning to the right, the field gave way to a thicket. After a while I stopped reading and just lay soaking up the sunshine and blue sky.

Arriving back at the house, Simon grabbed my arm and pulled me into the kitchen. “Come and choose your breakfast options or you’ll forget to eat!” What is it about me? People just know I’m hopelessly inept by looking at me.

Strange thing: I’m either sleepwalking or going crazy. Or indeed both. I definitely locked my door last night. I double-checked. But for the second night in a row, when I woke up this morning the door was unlocked. Tonight I’m going to lock it and then hide the keys from myself.

Wednesday
Oh god this FUCKING ROCKS. Got up, amazing breakfast, went into Wells with Anna. The cathedral is great.

Friday
I haven’t written in a couple of days, mainly because finding a biro is evidently too much like work for me to be able to do it on holiday. I spent a day in my room doing very little, an evening watching The Mists of Avalon and drinking herbal tea (well, you gotta get down with the hippies when in Glasto, right?). And then yesterday happened. Yesterday was glorious.

I left in the morning thinking I’d go down Cinnamon Lane and see where I ended up. It was absolutely beautiful. After a little while I came across a place where three rivers met, with lily pads and bees on the banks. I sat there for a while soaking up the sunshine and then carried on down a single-track road, following it for hours past fields and trees and little brooks and tributaries that fed into the main river.

I stopped and read for a while, finished my novel (Call After Midnight by Tess Gerritsen) and then sat with my eyes closed soaking up the sounds of the countryside. After a while something made me turn around, and I realised that the cows in the adjacent field had moved parallel with where I was sitting. Now, I don’t know what it is about cows, but they hate me. These ones immediately started stampeding towards me, so I grabbed my stuff and legged it towards the path as fast as I could. Naturally my scarf got caught on the fence and I ended up waving it like a bull rag, inciting them to more anger. Luckily they were on the other side of the gate by then.

Saturday
Met a really lovely couple at breakfast this morning. Initially I was a bit scared of them – they were really posh – but after a while we got talking and I realised they were great. It was nice to engage in quiet, civilised conversation instead of my usual hundred-decibel banter. We talked about journal-keeping, and the man said he’s been keeping a narrative for the past ten years, pasting in relevant newspaper clippings and recording his thoughts.

I’m so relaxed I can barely walk in a straight line.

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