One of the joys of a staycation is that you get to re-discover your own country with fresh eyes – cities that seemed for other people to enjoy or were associated with drawn out history classes about the Tudors and those other killing types.
This time I revisited two cities/towns – never did understand the difference – once it has a high street, bank or banks, a big church and parks, it’s a big place…I digress – Brighton was the first holiday my son and I spent in a hotel in the UK – he was seven and wide-eyed by the basement pool, the dining room and the water front pier – we rode on the roller coaster, more than once and ate sweet things and chips and a stranger handed him a stuffed, blue dog ‘Bluto’, he carried it around like a trophy. we ate at a restaurant with some sister-friends and visited a palace and the fair – we looked at the beach. Having lived in the Caribbean, we knew real beaches.
Yet, on this visit, I was solo – meeting up with sister-friends, we are all mothers, been through a few wars, career changes, location changes and men – love, lust, leave, left and stayed. On a brisk, beautiful Sunday morning we walked for over a mile, walking and talking – catching up, moving forward and laughing. Walking and talking, the beach and waves our only other witnesses, apart from the families – him and him, she and she, oldies and young-uns, cyclists, skateboarders, skaters, tourists taking pictures of everything and the sea gulls. Yet, we were able to talk from within ourselves, no judgement, just questioning our roots, our responses and it continued in the evening , wine and back steps, children telling us to keep down the noise – and yes, we laughed in response. 30 years worth of friendship and love.
Before catching the train back to London, I sat on the pebbles and inhaled the sea air, and missed Antigua. The sun warmed my face and a veil was shifted as I went over our conversations…. in our 50’s and still learning, changing, questioning – we did not expect this as our mothers never told us this.
My next trip took me back up north – a city with a Minster, medieval thorough-fare, buildings that talk to you and contain shops built on passion and a need – wools, buttons, teas, antiques, vintage, one-off designs, books, adult comics, booksellers and food. In this city, I meet a chef, whose real passion is creating ice creams – not your usual types – think – coconut with coconut cream and flecks of dried coconuts; peanut butter and sea salt – each flavour as close to the ‘food’ that the chef envisions – his ice creams are sold alongside cakes, sausage rolls that look like the ones you used to buy at the local bakers before we became aware of good and bad fats, except he has added Jamaican jerk sauce – talk about a meeting of the minds – old recipes, mother’s intuition combine to make a sausage roll that is reflective of the country we now live in.
In this city my desire to do something more is regenerated as I taste teas and search the corners of the specialist shops and talk to owners who have time to talk about what they are selling and teach you a new way of looking at something and in one store I get a knitting lesson without my hands even touching a pair of needles. In another one, my sister cousin and I marvel over buttons, hundreds of buttons, vintage, new, plastic, bone, wood, colours, patterns, plain, big, small, delicate and shiny. We pick several designs and again, the staff share their knowledge. Eventually we settle on a bag of assorted buttons, a pick and mix selection and two sets of vintage buttons.
My writing spot, my eating spot, my I-can-do-that spot is an old pub that has a range of whiskies that will take years to taste as each has a story, a history and a way fo being made that has not changed for centuries as well as chinese teas served in tea-infusers that evoke well-being alongside a slab of home-made cake. Mornings begin with the owner and his friends doing a crossword, sipping coffee and putting the world to right. Then the regulars drift in , each with a story continued from the last visit – one pint, one tea, one conversation – then come the lunch time visitors hungry for food – Jamaican dishes and gourmet burgers – served up with a dash of warmth and mum’s portions – not for the weight conscious or the food-shy. upstairs, there is a corner perfect for street watching and writing and day dreaming and planning next steps, dreams to action.
This city is made for walking, looking, discovering and being inspired – dreams no longer lay dormant as I followed trails set by Romans, Tudors and the like.
Each time I leave a city, I discover a new side to myself – not really new, more like the pressing of a piece of coal into a diamond, not quite ready to shine.
Pictures by the author – Brighton and York – Staycation 2016