At heart, I’m a traveller. I love a backpack weighing on my shoulders. It took me until my early 30’s to discover that. The unexpected liaison with a stranger, the spontaneity of a moment that can take you to hidden treasures, the unbelievable sense of freedom felt by carrying your essentials, needing nothing else, having no immediate time restraints.
Yet when travelling, I search out my comfort. Often bought about by having a regular haunt to frequent. In Buenos Aires it my local cafe graced by an Italian waiter and his cheeky humour. In Auckland, Tacapuna Beach Cafe, stylish, yet so close, it’s almost in the sea with views across to Rangitoto & Waitemata Harbour, and in Hanoi, Vietnam, Moca Cafe, a haven from motorbikes, and home from home muesli, fresh yoghurt and latte.
So, just 400 metres from my home, I’m grateful for my own cave. It’s healed, it’s celebrated, it’s felt tears, laughter, deliberations.
In amongst the robin redbreasts, the fairy lights and the painters chairs, It’s seen my life twist, turn and unfold over the last 5 years. I’ve taken men I’ve wanted to date there. Sometimes questioning if I want memories of unrequited love stored in the crumbling walls of my favourite place. But life is all of it, isn’t it? Not just the good stuff but that which makes us vulnerable, me human.
I’ve had joyous memories. My local friends, and they are almost like Joey, Rachel and gang, came to wish me farewell before I headed off sailing across the Coral and South China Sea. I question why I’d leave somewhere I love. But even more memorable is coming home. Taking off the backpack, feeling the comfort of what I know. And they know me.
For the last few weeks I’ve been unwell. An achy body, not capable of much. Requiring nourishment. Peace. Stillness. HH is my cave. It sits within beautiful terraced gardens, with views of the River Thames. An oasis. On Saturday I walked though the wooden doors. Martyr greeted me with a hug before she spilled her tales of her own recent trip to the Philippines. The other girls and I talked about grey hair and ageing. In seconds, I re-connected. Relinquished a desire to be on my own. Suffer in silence. It’s so obvious, and yet time and time again, I don’t reach out and ask for help.
A couple of weeks prior a guy entered with his ponytail, backpack in tow. I had to ask. ‘So are you going somewhere or have you just got back?’. ‘Passing through’, he answered. In a moment, I was right back next to my travelling spirit. Open. Intrigued. Jealous. The feelings I associate with exploring returned, and we cut through the daily chatter, to discuss emotions, real lives, money and happiness. It’s a difficult instinct to recreate in your regular haunt, and so I was grateful for the reminder.
So, it’s the hello with a sense of acknowledgement, the single shot latte in your favourite mug, the hot water bottle and orange blanket to allow me to sit outside on cold days, and it’s my brother, best friends and locals you don’t have to talk to, that make Hollyhock my Soul Place.
Oh, and where is it? I’m not saying. I don’t want to spoil it…