I’m one of those people who needs a bit of space regularly, by myself, so that I can be fully sociable and pleasant the rest of the time.
So I took myself away to a lo-fi yha hostel*. The aim was to give my brain a chance to catch its breath and to think imaginatively again.
‘Poor you,’ said the taxi driver who took me from the station to the hostel on the ridge when I told him I was staying alone.
‘Not poor me at all!’ I replied. ‘I love being alone.’
The solitude gives me freedom – from the demands of other people, from having to negotiate plans and decisions, from compromising what you want to do with a day. Being away alone is pure and unadulterated time to treat myself to doing whatever and going wherever I like.
It does lead to a kind of lunacy though. Staying in a hostel inevitably means having odd conversations with strange people. And walking alone around the Downs I found myself spotting wildflowers I’d never seen before and stopping to tell them how pretty they are.
On the top of a hill covered in susurrating grasses yesterday afternoon, four fat purple thistle flowers stood out alone on the crest of the rise. Each flower was at least two inches in diameter. I have never seen thistles like them and they were the only ones in a huge windswept open landscape, brilliantly purple and brazen. I went over to them, photographed them, told them how amazing they were and then touched the palm of my hand onto the softness of each flower.
Clearly the actions of a complete nutter. But perhaps in a mad world, having the opportunity to be a little mad for a brief time, helps you keep your sanity.
*As an aside, the more I stay in YHA hostels, the more I feel the name should be challenged under trades descriptions. I’m 31, so hardly ‘youth’ and was easily the youngest person there. I’m not entirely sure what the appeal of dorm style sleeping arrangements and shared bathrooms is for the Baby Boomer generation. But still, they come.