Today is my last Tuesday of the Easter holidays. It’s one of my closest university friend’s birthday today, and it feels strange that bearing in mind I have been living next to her all year, I’m not celebrating with her.
(Happy 20th Molly ♥)
Coming up to my last few days at home, I feel no hesitation in saying I cannot wait to head back down South. Yes, the next month or so doesn’t hold hope of much excitement other than the mad crush of revision for exams, but I’ll be back home, with my adopted family, and that is something I have missed terribly.
I do love my parents’ house (as I’ve taken to mentally calling it, because ‘home’ doesn’t feel as natural a term these days). I grew up here. The neighbour’s children are practically my siblings. I know my way around the village blindfold, I know how the sun sets every night and turns the clouds behind our garden to pinks and golds, I know the bus routes into town and I know the local dog walks as well as I know the back of my hand. We moved to Leicestershire in 2003, and this has been home for almost all of my living memory.
For all I love it, home here is very much my home when I’m with my family. When my little bro is calling me out on my jokes, my Dad regaling us with well-worn stories we all know the punchlines too, my Mum telling us about the gorgeous babies she saw at the practice that day, my dog, huffing and puffing a little in her old age, coming to flop by my bedside. This to me is home. But for the last two weeks, my brother has been back at school and my parents back full time to their long hours. I’ve organised a couple of meet-ups with the few friends I have here, but if I’m honest I’ve been alone quite a lot of the time.
I haven’t been alone much this past year. In fact, living in a house of 6 other people, I barely get a moment’s peace. Sometimes even then I’ll seek out my housemates, impose huge hugs on them and say things like “I’ve missed you! I feel like I haven’t seen you for years” only to realise it’s been less than 6 hours since I did actually last see them. Student shared accommodation has been a lot of things, but an isolating experience is not one of them. I have constantly been surrounded by people, and I’ve gotten used to it.
Theoretically, I’ve always imagined that I would be pretty good at being on my own. I like my own space, I like quiet and having the chance to read and write, I like it when, after a houseparty which inevitable gravitates to my bedroom because it’s just that much cosier than the living room, everybody finally clears out and my room feels four times the size. But, as this past week and a half has taught me, I’m really not as good as I’d like to think.
Being alone for hours on end, rattling around a big house in which I feel like I’m straddling the line between guest and resident, has not been a fun experience for me. At all. There’s no one to arrange my day around, no one to eat meals with or discuss my plans; so the hours melt into each other and any productive ideas are taken over by a persistent, demanding little voice that says, well really, what’s the point? It’s not like anyone is going to care if you don’t do anything. And inevitably I give in to that voice, and then very little gets done and evening comes around too quickly with nothing to show for it other than a wasted day and a dull feeling of guilt low in my stomach. After a time, I manage to break the cycle, manage to get Things Done, but after this holiday more than ever, I know being alone is possibly the worst place for me to be in terms of keeping a positive and productive mental outlook.
(The fear of not finding friends and being alone, even if it’s just for a little while, is without doubt my main anxiety when it comes to thinking about next year. I have a suspicious feeling that my inability to cope with being on my own is going to be the same in Canada as it is here.)
With that in mind, it was a blessing that today I was not alone. My Mum takes Tuesdays off, and so with the sun rising high in a cloudless blue, we decided to make a day of it.
Calke Abbey is our nearest National Trust property; an early 18th century manor house, complete with gardens, nestled in the Derbyshire countryside. It’s a beautiful house, tattered in a wonderfully, quintessentially British sort of way, with lushly green rolling grounds and woodlands surrounding it. We went a lot when I was much younger, so every time we go I experience conflicting memories about the playground and climbing on old fallen trees. Being preoccupied so much these days with plans and travel dreams for next year, it was also good to be reminded of the beauty of my own country. There aren’t going to be many local tourist attractions in Ottawa with history spanning nearly 500 years.
We started off trekking around the lake and up into the woods, before circling back to the house for lunch at the National Trust cafe. Then, we headed up to the manor’s private church, clambered over a wall, and wandered around the gardens a little before we got told off for having the dog with us. It was a beautiful day, an opportunity to steal my Dad’s fancy camera, a chance to properly chat with my Mum before I go back, and a chance to just be for a little bit, before the time for revision really takes hold.