When I was a little girl my Mum used to accuse me of building castles in the air. Meaning my plans were baseless and had little chance of succeeding. I think she was referring to my alternative careers as a princess, astronaut, Olympic gymnast and shepherdess in a Thomas Hardy novel. Oh… and international musical sensation.
I had very little chance of being any of those things: I never met any royal princes, wasn’t technically literate enough to be a Space Shuttle mission payload specialist, couldn’t even do a forward roll let alone balance on a 4 inch beam and somersault off it while, although I spent several happy Easter holidays bottle feeding lambs on a relative’s farm, the time of shepherdesses a la Hardy are long gone.
My life goals in the end turned out to be nicely achievable, though (I only have one left that isn’t quite as I planned it). I wanted to marry a clever man who loved me, have three children (two boys, one girl in that order absolutely), be a teacher and write books. Preferably best-selling books that could fund a lifestyle. That’s the only one that isn’t absolutely on track for my plans at 18, but I’m happier writing a blog, writing self-published books and running a Facebook group on hygge. Plans change or need to be altered according to actual circumstances, not the dream world we wish we could inhabit.
I had a real life lesson in adapting plans this weekend. We had a family weekend away in Northumbria. It may, possibly, be our last full family holiday, since all three of my children (two boys, one girl absolutely in that order as per plan) are now adults and I’m beginning to see light at the end of the parenting tunnel (the one that says I am responsible for every little detail of their life: that I have caused every upset or that their successes but mostly their failures are down to me. I claim credit only for getting them to adulthood in one piece physically, and without social services being involved. Believe me, that was a surprise to my Mother, given how I treated my dolls) and a future that won’t need to be shaped around what teenagers want or need to do. We stayed in Gosforth Travelodge which is nicely placed for the North country and especially Alnwick and Bamburgh, which we have never visited. Castles, you see.
I could give you a blow by blow account of the vacation, but that’s not necessary. Suffice to say that, having booked in advance for Bamburgh on the Saturday because the website advised me to and the Friday was fully booked a few days in advance, and having planned a full day up there, wandering around the castle, running in slow motion along the beach, visiting the Grace Darling museum and finishing off with a three mile beach walk to the next coastal town down, we woke that morning to find that a nail had rather inconsiderately wiped out our rear tyre. It was flatter than the proverbial pancake. Oops.
Thank goodness for emergency tyre places and swift service. Although we had an estimated time of 3pm, the guy at Mobile Tyres by Andy was there by 1pm, and had us on the go by 2. Instead of the full day of activity, we had a couple of hours max at the castle and all the better for that. Knowing that our time was limited meant we had to focus on what was important: get fed (late lunch/afternoon tea) and enjoy the misty rain-soaked views.
I love castles: I love the solidity of the walls, the sense of timelessness, the fact that castles still in use today have very different purposes from that for which they were built. I love that a defensive, fortified location now is a place to rest and enjoy the view, the history, the wildlife. I love the stories that emanate from castle walls, even (especially) the ruined ones that speak of invasions, advancements, change and modernisation. I love the love that a lived-in castle has had poured into it over the years. Nobody buys a ruined castle and restores it because they hate it. Bamburgh was restored to liveable glory by the Armstrong family, in the Victorian era. William, First Lord Armstrong was an engineer, manufacturer, inventor and (yes) arms dealer who bought the castle in 1894 and died six years later before it was finished. It’s been a family home, a school and a convalescence centre since then, and is now divided up into public spaces and private apartments. I’d love to live in a small part of the castle, but whether I’d say the same on a cold, snow-bound Sunday evening I don’t know. You can read a good history of the castle here.
And Bamburgh still gives you a very real sense of solidity, of safety and of being a place away from the world. Even the state apartments have a lived in, welcoming feel with deep settees that are crying out to be slouched in and a very liveable room on the seaward-side that has fireplace, comfy chairs, books and even a billiard table to keep the best hygge lover happy on the coldest wet day.
I need more castles in my life. When we woke and saw the puncture, it was a real disappointment. A puncture, on holiday, on a wet day. It could have been a real downer, except that life is too short to be down for long. When the puncture first happened, we thought we’d be stuck for the weekend and started planning a bus trip to town to make something of our break. Once we knew it could be fixed that day, we knew we’d be going somewhere, even if only the local seaside resort for ice cream and a wet walk. I say ‘we’, because not a thing happened this weekend without discussing it as a family. “Shall we do XXX?” “Would you like to go to XXX?” “Is there anything else you want to do/see/visit?” Holidays with adult children is a lot more stressful than with ten year olds where you just say “We are doing this.” and they go along.
Getting the tyre fixed so quickly meant we could kind of follow our original plan, although not in its entirety. Our time was limited, we had to choose what mattered most and ultimately we had to accept that we could plan to the last detail but life has a way of laughing at plans and forcing us to adapt. That’s true of all life, not just castle visits.
That middle image: that’s my life at the moment, watching three young adults confidently striding off into the unknown. I hope I’ve given them the skills they need for the journey: common sense not to jump off the cliff edge without knowing what’s below; adaptability to take what life throws at them in the way of nails and bad weather and to make a good day of it even so; strength to stand against the buffeting wind and wisdom to know when to retreat. Above all, I hope they’ve learned to build the castles of their life on a firm foundation of kindness, knowledge and determination to get on with life. I don’t care if they never own a castle, or even a house, as long as they’re happy and have what they need for the journey. I don’t plan for them now. It makes living harder, because I have to get used to asking instead of just doing while they tag along, but I know they will all leave me sooner or later. I’m just going to make the most of them while I still can. And sometimes that means visiting real Castles rather than creating them in the air.
The header today is Bamburgh Castle by Philip Veater on Unsplash. I chose it because, like many castles and indeed many situations in life, it shows that we see it clearest by being further away. The light on the castle is a beautiful gold that makes me want to head towards it, while the distance that we have to cross to achieve our final destination may be slippy, wet or lead to sandy shoes…. but it’s worth the effort. I also loved the irony that the day we went was about as far away from a golden sunset as it could be. Whatever the weather, the castles in life stand firm.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. August is like a pause before real life begins again in September, so it’s a second chance to set up rituals and rhythms that boost happiness and work for you.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
On the principle that it’s never too early to start thinking ahead, really, and that Christmas is always on us before we know, how about Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas? Christmas is about the small things in life, much as hygge is, and establishing what you want from Christmas and then being able to say no to the excess is important. The book has hints and tips that hopefully will help you enjoy what is, too often, a frantic season.
Available as just an ebook, and a short, sharp read, is Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas: Easy Ways to keep the Joy of Christmas, and your Sanity, intact. It’s an easy read, with ideas and hints to keep you sane through the season. The self-care advent calendar is one I’ve followed for a few years now, and it really is a small daily dose of calm in a manic month.
And on the basis that we may well find ourselves in Lockdowns or unable to enjoy an absolutely normal Christmas under Covid regulations if numbers spike, why not read and plan alternatives? Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was written in response to the pandemic last year, and will need updating soon, but it is about celebrating whatever the situation, and does have good advice on stocking up an emergency cupboard, celebrating when travelling to relatives is impossible and putting the heart of Christmas back into the heart of the celebrations.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.
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