Happiness is Elsewhere
“How hot does it get here in the summer”, I asked Rupert, my partner, over lunch. “Does it go over 20 degrees?”
“Maybe on the warmest days”, he replied.
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My heart sank. I looked outside the window at the grey clouds. Last year in May, when I was living in Paris, I was already cycling in my shorts. It was always such a celebration to take out the sandals and the summer clothes out and stuff the heavy winter coats and boots in boxes. I was closing in those boxes all the cold and preparing for sun, sun, sun. That was about the time when strawberries and cherries flooded the farmers’ markets.
After a few warm days in Liverpool a few cold days followed. It was really discouraging and I wondered if summer, as I know it, ever comes around here. I found comfort in looking at low cost flights to places near the Mediterranean. Spain, Portugal, Morocco, they were a three hour flight away and still so far. If only I had booked a ticket, I could start planning for a holiday and imagine all the amazing things I will do. I once read an article that people are happier when planning their holiday than when they are actually on a holiday.
I didn’t buy any tickets.
Life Goes On
I postponed by dreams of escape as we received an invitation to go to Scotland. Rupert’s aunt who lives in Brazil (ah, another place where I would have liked to go!) was coming to visit and there was going to be a big family gathering. I knew to expect any weather condition when travelling in Scotland, so I packed mountain boots and a waterproof winter coat along with lighter clothes.
Sure enough, when we arrived in Edinburgh it was raining. The next day, we went to a medieval fayre and it was warm enough to take off my jacket. Then came the day of the big lunch in the Scottish Borders. Hot enough to go out in a t-shirt. On day 4, we went to East Lothian. It was a bit cloudy and my jacket proved useful. Rupert’s friends suggested I visit Gullane Beach next day.
Next morning I woke up at 6.30am. Days are especially long in this period, as Scotland is so close to the north pole. The sun rises at 4.30am and at 11pm there’s still light.
The sky was clear – a good omen. Angie, our host, drove me to Gullane and showed me the road leading to the beach. Cautiously, I stopped at a supermarket first and took some food and water with me.
I walked on the straight road which ended in a big parking lot, near some sand dunes covered with vegetation. And there it was, between those sand dunes I could spot the calm sea. I was walking slowly, so as to enjoy every moment of my discovery. The beach was almost empty and the longed for Mediterranean was in front of me.
When I finally reached the beach, I took off my mountain boots, threw my winter coat on the sand and laid down on it. I moved after a few minutes to take my socks off. I felt such amazing relief listening to the waves and playing with my toes in the sand. That, for me, was freedom.
For the next few hours I wandered around the beach, took a road through the thorn bushes which led me past a golf course and into a pine forest. I got back to the beach and walked barefoot, carrying my coat and jumper around my waist, my boots in one hand, my bag of food in the other.
It was just like being on a holiday, except that on that particular day I was dressed for the North Pole instead of a day at the beach. And there were more than 20 degrees! A few hours were enough to make me feel hopeful again.
I didn’t have to take a low cost flight to the other side of Europe to get a break from the British winds and clouds. My sweet escape was right there in Scotland and it’s funny to think how many times I visited the city without having any idea that I could go to Gullane and bury all my exhaustion and stress in the sand.