Turns out when I wrote my piece about my pets from childhood, I threw myself down a memory-lane wormhole. My memories of holidaying in Wales all came flooding back, and the warm nostalgia got me thinking about all my favorite places.
You know when you do guided meditation and they sometimes ask you to think of a place you love, and really imagine yourself there? I spent some time throwing myself back to places that I wanted to spend some more time in. Some of these places don't exist for me anymore, some do, some I'll probably never be able to visit again, some hopefully I will be able to.
Some of the happiest memories of my childhood were made in both sets of grandparents' gardens. My Dad's parents, Nan and Grandad Birdie (they had an aviary), had this massively long garden that seemed to go on forever and ever -- it rolled in four sections, the aviary and a shed, the stretch of lawn we played swingball on, a smaller section packed with bushes and trees and then a wild, overgrown bottom that we loved the best. The bottom of the garden was where we could pretend we were lost or shipwrecked, or escapees from a prison -- we'd spend hours down there amongst the brambles and nettles.
They're both gone now, and the garden too. I hope other children get shipwrecked at the bottom of it still.
When I was about 8, my Mum's parents bought a beautiful little bungalow at the foot of the Sussex Downs. I remember the foundation of the garage being laid out, and us children would use it as a stage, as a boat, as a platform to run and jump from. We made pretend fishing rods out of sticks and string and sat at the edge of the cement foundation, dangling the rods into the imaginary sea and catching imaginary fish for our dinner.
My Nan is a keen gardener, and over time the garden bloomed with roses and sweet peas, hyacinths and fox gloves. The apple and cobnut trees were joined by plum trees and a vegetable patch. My Grandad would let us go and pick the peas fresh from their pods, we'd pop pop pop them straight into our hungry little mouths, every year until the year he disappeared and died, when the pea pods were full of maggots, not peas.
I said that I never wanted to return back there, I never wanted to go back in the garden that held so many memories. I didn't, for a long time. I go there now, and the flowers still bloom beautifully.
Holiday destinations have always got to be up there in the favorite places stakes. I'll always yearn to go back to Cape Town following our holiday there last November.
Fresh from a few months of being ill, it marked my first feeling of letting go again and enjoying myself -- my first gin and tonics in MONTHS slipped down remarkably well, and we buzzed around the city reminding ourselves every hour or so how lucky we were to be there, somewhere so beautiful, with the mountains and the vineyards, the beaches and the weather, the rare, bloody steaks that cost us a pittance and the most amazing wine.
You know where else I love? I love being in my bed on a Saturday morning in summer, with the window slightly open and the sounds of the cars rolling by outside and the birds singing along to each other wafting in. I like lying there, knowing that I don't really have to get up for anything. I like being there, with the promise of brunch hanging around, and reading the weekend magazines that come stuffed in the papers and drinking orange squash.
Maybe one of us will go and make scrambled eggs, and I'll prop myself up with cushions and sit there in my bed and scoff the lot, feeling indulgent and like the queen of my bedroom.
Of course, the bath. The bath is definitely one of my favorite places. There's never relaxation in the same way as sinking into a hot, steaming bath of bubbles -- again, with a glass of orange squash resting on the side of the tub (I am obsessed with orange squash -- it's the one thing I really miss when I visit the US). No one can get me when I'm in the bath. I'm safe there.
I think safety and that lovely feeling of being protected has a lot to do with my favorite places. I always loved visiting my aunty Lesley's house in the middle of nowhere -- we'd visit in winter and there always seemed to be snow on the ground and I'd always secretly hope that we'd get snowed in there and not be able to leave.
Her boyfriend smoked cigars, and the thick, sweet smoke would sit in the room with us while we swapped Christmas presents, my sister and I reveling in the attention that only your aunty you see just once or twice a year can give you. I remember getting a Dear Diary electronic organizer one year and spending hours and hours playing on it while the chatter of families catching up twittered on around me, thinking that I could quite happily stay there forever and ever.
That won't happen again now and it's sad, but we'll make new memories like that of our own, and they'll be equally brilliant.
I also love being at the till in a supermarket, with a trolley full of food. I love being in my Mum's kitchen while she potters about making dinner, I love Brighton and the crazy street art and the West Pier, lazily falling into the sea while we all sit on the beach and watch with our cans of Red Stripe after work, the smell of barbecues in the air.
What are your favorite places? Are they places you can visit again or places held in your memories? Share in the comments!
I'm on Twitter: @Natalie_KateM.