It’s back to school well and truly now, the end of another endless summer holiday. I could have managed more, to be honest. Whole days doing not much brought back my own childhood. Oh, the freedom of that long break, building Lincoln city in the dirt under the house with my brothers, catching tadpoles and guppies in the creek down the road, taking off on bikes with lunch, stopping where we pleased to eat, a law unto ourselves, not a care in the world, no money in our pockets, no shoes on our feet.
I felt some of that freedom again this holiday. We banned screens midway through, unplanned but jointly agreed rather than parent-enforced, all of us sick of the selves we’ve created in the worlds of our desktops. We put the family photos on the screen and sat and watched our shared history. We organised two extended family get-togethers for Christmas, played board games with friends, and pottered about the garden. We talked, played music, read, slept, spent time on the couch with the dog. As I say, not much.
After Christmas, we cleaned up using Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying as our guide. Kondo’s bestseller is worth a read even if you’re not tidying; hers is a life lived neatly with total certitude. I found myself kissing goodbye to jeans I no longer love, thanking books for all they’ve given and then unceremoniously driving seven loads of possessions that no longer serve me to their next life, via the transit station of the Salvation Army. Liberated doesn’t begin to describe the feeling I get now when I look at the single shelf of books in my study or the little pot of sharpened pencils on my desk.
On a whim we drove to Byron Bay in the afternoon of New Year and even the hordes of other travellers I mostly can’t abide were just part of the joy of the experience. Gelato, a dip in the sea with the dog, Spike frankly doing more howling from shore trying to avoid the actual water than swimming but happy to be there with us.
What a holiday! It made me realise anew that this is happiness, small moments, Earth n’ Sea pizza as the lighthouse beam swings around and across the water, the view of my post-Kondo underwear drawer, a game of Quiddler lost or won.
There’s a scene in the movie The Hours where Meryl Streep’s Clarissa is describing a feeling she’d woken with long ago, a sense of possibility she assumed at the time must be the beginning of happiness. “It never occurred to me it wasn't the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.”