I learned a new word recently: “thalassophile” – a lover of the sea; someone who is powerfully drawn to & by the ocean. And it named something deep in us. You see, we are coastal people at heart. I grew up gazing out over Belfast Loch, even on to Scotland on a rare, clear day. My husband was further from the sea but spent just as many hours on the water, racing dinghies and yachts whenever he could. And until our move eighteen months ago we had only ever known each other, lived together, by the water’s edge.
So the move inland was a wrench on our maritime souls. We spent the next eighteen months talking, dreaming and searching for the right vessel to get us out on the river. We didn’t want to spend a lot (nor did we have a lot to spend), or have the space to store something big. We just wanted to potter, to mess about on the water. You know how it is.
Well, two hours fifteen minutes but that doesn’t have quite the same pith to it. And what a two hours fifteen minutes it is. I’ve done some long train journeys in my time – 55 hours between Ulan Ude and Khabarovsk in Russia being my record – and it’s left me with a real taste for this form of travel. The trip on the Eurostar was no exception. I love the way train travel reinforces a sense of connection between destinations – you see one slip away and another emerge out the window; a contrast with the cloud-covered ascent and descent of flight.
We were meant to be buying a house. My intended handful of months in this city had already grown into years. We were planning to set down roots indefinitely. Instead, a new job was offered, and we began to listen to a whisper of adventure that stirred our previously hibernating hearts. We’ve answered that call.
If you’re seeking countryside, the quiet, the expanse, it’s a good start when your destination’s arrival instructions tell you “the road is marked unpassable for cars, but it’s fine if you go slowly” (and it was). This was the beginning of our week staying in a barn in ‘the last valley in Devon’.
Friday evening had arrived. The work was done, or at least paused with sufficient peace to leave it for the weekend. It was an evening marked by early autumn – just enough light in the sky, warm enough to begin in a jumper; jackets would be pulled on later. The day’s stories would have to wait for when darkness came. For now we hastily found out high vis jackets, lights, shedding to-do lists and perceived obligations, and got on the bikes before any more light slipped below the horizon.
Once we’d turned right instead of the usual left, that feeling set in. Continue reading
Holidays have always been a big part of family life for me. Each year as a family we would have a treasured three weeks traveling together, moving every few days, keen as we were to keep exploring new places. We’d take a stash of books that we’d all work our way through, sharing hushed conversations about unexpected twists in the tales, away from those who had not yet read them. As most of our holidays took place on boats, we’d often dine on delicious locally-caught seafood in small tavernas. Continue reading