Adjectives I’d like to people to be able to use to describe me in a year’s time – radiant, vibrant, ageless, light. I’d settle for ‘looks great for her age’, mind, but these would be nice!
I’ve spent a lot of time in the air recently, in airport lounges, in restaurants and at hotel breakfasts. For the past seven weeks, I have spent four of those overseas, which is a lot for many people, but it’s especially a lot with two fairly small children. Much of that time I’ve spent in the company of two of my colleagues, and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about what’s important to us. It’s what you do when you’re together more than you are with your respective spouses!
One of my colleagues (and dear friends) seems to have many things sussed, not by accident but by design. He’s a long distance runner, in better shape in his mid-thirties than when I met him in his early twenties. He is organised, calm, gentle, side-slittingly funny, deep. He’s also dad to a two-year old and a loving and sharing husband. We’ve had a lot of time to talk about what’s working for us and what isn’t, and he swears, among many things, by Gertrude Rubin’s ‘The Happiness Project‘. So in between long-haul flights I picked up a copy of her book for myself and fell in love with the concept.
I worry too, like Rubin, that focusing on my own happiness may be a bit indulgent. Certainly, blogging about it may be. But I have just spent a long weekend with my parents, people who have never put their own happiness first, and they continue to pay for it. They pay for it in ill health, in stress, in not saying ‘no’, in weariness. I love them, but I don’t want to be them someday. I feel galvanised; life is too short to have it slip through my fingers in the rough and tumble of a busy everyday life. My husband and I feel, for a number of reasons, like 2013 is a year that has barely registered; where good times outweigh the bad but they don’t outweigh the times we barely remember. I want 2014 to count.
This is one of my favourite places to come – the Cotswold Country Park, near Cirencester. From a former quarry to a beautiful lake, it is a perfect example of how the land can be reclaimed and turned into something beautiful and useful. Even on a bustling Bank Holiday weekend, there are still plenty of quiet corners to sit and listen to the birds and the sound of the water and just relax.
My son started calling it The Far Away Park years ago, when we first discovered it. To him, it was nothing more than the best ever park, with swimming and magical secret paths in the woods, but we couldn’t walk to it like we ordinarily do with parks. The Far Away Park. The name has stuck, despite the fact that he’s now more than old enough to find it on a map all by himself.
Having said this, I did like it better before it was taken over by new management. It used to be just simply the lake and paths, a couple of small playgrounds near the beaches, pedalos and a simple cafe. Now there are giant floating balls to run around in, at £5 for 5 minutes, the world’s most pathetic pitch and putt course, at £10 for a family of 4, and the annual pass has almost tripled in cost. Rather than being the place where we can get away from it all, it feels ever so slightly more like the sort of place from which we want to escape.
Yet there are still quiet corners for the family, and enough sand and water to keep the kids happily occupied for hours, and by declaring it a ‘pester-free zone’, we (mostly) avoid nagging about those stupid giant balls.