Special Places – Part Two #inspiration #reflection #nurture

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Welcome to Part Two of my journey through a few of the places which have special meaning for me.  Here’s Part One if you missed it, in which I picked out a few places from my childhood and career. In this second geographically inclined post I’ve focussed places which have connections from a relationship or social perspective. This was meant to be just one post, but the more I thought about it, the more places I found.

Beer, Devon, UK

One place that is all about quaint streets and sumptuous scenery is the pretty village of Beer in Devon. Here I took my first grown-up holiday with a steady boyfriend (who, a few years later, was to become my husband). We paid a thrifty £10 for a week’s hire of a static caravan with no umm… facilities (for these we had to stumble down the hill to a communal toilet/shower block – not much fun in the dead of night).  So small was this caravan that we had to fold the bed away every morning (and whenever we wanted to take a photograph that our parents might see). We fed a very hungry electricity meter with absurd amounts of coin and charcoaled the rear-end of a chicken in an oven the size of a matchbox. We walked a few miles of the Jurassic coastline each day, found delightful pubs to sit outside, ate our fill of crab sandwiches and cream teas, and had the best time.

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My husband is now my ex-husband, but we are fortunate to remain good friends. The village of Beer is intimately entwined in my mind with simpler times, and an enduring connection, which is very important to me. I’ve been back once or twice – it seems hardly to have changed, and that is much to its credit.

Lycian Coast, Turkey

I started going to Turkey around the early 1990’s – mainly on singles holidays (which I’ve written about here). Are you seeing a connection already?

img_2312I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent in Turkey; I’ve never had a bad holiday there. It’s a beautiful country and a wonderful place to relax and revive. On my first trip, I spent a week in the hectic port town of Kusadasi, but thereafter I picked small towns and villages along the Lycian coast and Gulf of Fethiye, and around the Bodrum and Bozburun Peninsulas. I also took a couple of week-long gulet cruises, which cannot be beaten for away-from-it-all bliss.

When I came to fulfil a long-held ambition to write fiction, I decided to follow the ‘write what you know’ principle, and located my psychological suspense story on a singles holiday in Turkey.  I began writing in 2010 and wrote about the process and what I was learning about the art of writing fiction, in the earlier posts in this blog.

I set ‘Singled Out’ in a fictional village – it’s a fusion of several of the places in which I’ve stayed. I had this idea that I wanted the story to immerse the reader in the setting – make them feel as if they were on the holiday themselves – and to do that, I drew on all my recollections of those earlier holidays. In 2013, I made a special trip back to Turkey for research purposes, to update and refresh my memories and gather some specific sensory data to ground my story. I visited the ancient city of Ephesus, just as my characters do, and I took a day-trip on a gulet; not the same as a week drifting the sea with no shoes on and nights lying under the stars, but not bad, given the time constraints.

img_2408‘Singled Out’ was, I now realise, my practise novel.  It explores the dark side of the kind of holiday where not everyone is who they seem. I think I’ve made a decent fist of it, but now, when I dip into its pages, I can see the journey I’ve been on and the things I’ve learned in its shortcomings. A few agents expressed initial interest, but it never made the cut, so I self-published in 2015. Readers have so far been extremely kind in their feedback.  You can check it out here, if you feel so inclined.

Sanibel Island, Florida, USA

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In January 2015, after having prevaricated, pushing back on her generous invitations for three years, I went to Florida to visit my cousin Martha. The reason for my prevarication was my grossly overweight state and the simple fact that I couldn’t face the discomfort of a nine-hour transatlantic flight and all the other fun-and-games of a transit into the USA. As it turned out, and entirely to my expectation, the journey was a gruelling one, as I was at my very heaviest (it would be nine months before I began to get to grips with my healthy/weight-lossy project). But I’m so very glad I bit-the-bullet and overruled my fears.

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Martha was a New Yorker, lately moved to Connecticut. On retirement, like others with sufficient funds for a holiday home, she began to fly south, to Fort Myers, Florida, for the winter. There she made a beautiful second home to which she welcomed a seemingly endless succession of guests. My visit began a day late (I wasn’t joking about the gruelling journey), but it was sunshine and smiles from the moment I arrived. Martha was the most wonderful, thoughtful and generous host.

Spot the basking alligator
Spot the basking alligator

One of her favourite places was Sanibel Island, and she treated me to a day trip. We crossed the endless road-bridge and drove on down to JN ‘Ding Darling’ Nature Reserve, where I got a little too close for comfort to a basking alligator. We dined on fresh seafood at Traders Gulf Coast Grill and Gifts (yes, and Gifts – those American’s never miss a retail opportunity).

img_3592Then we mooched around taking photographs in the botanical gardens and on the beach at Sanibel Moorings and stopped by the lighthouse before heading home. It was a special day, as everywhere we stopped was either a favourite place for Martha, or it harked back to holidays of her youth.

My lovely, wonderful cousin was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer just six months after my visit. She died in September 2016. I can never express how glad I am that I made that trip when I did, and was able to spend such special time with my ‘sister of the heart’.

Home, Greater London, UK

Talking of hearts, home is where the heart is, so they say. Cliches notwithstanding, I love my home. It’s just an ordinary suburban house in a quiet street, with a small courtyard garden. As well as being my home, it’s my workplace – and it’s my sanctuary.

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Over the years I’ve renovated and redecorated, so now the whole place reflects my personal style.  It’s calm, neutral (too neutral for some) and uncluttered. It’s geared around my needs and activities too. I have a room set aside for my Pilates and exercise equipment, and another which is my workplace and writing space.

fullsizerenderI like things just-so (call me obsessive if you will), and nothing pleases me more than to arrive home after a busy day with a client or up in London, to leave the world on the other side of my front door, and sink into my comfy curly-uppy chair in front of the TV.

I have a personalised relaxation recording prepared by a hypnotherapist a few years ago. In it, she urges me to picture the safest, most relaxing place I’ve ever been. For ages, I would try to picture lovely beaches where I’d been on holiday – they’re relaxing, after all, aren’t they? But it was when I realised that the place where I feel safest and most relaxed was my own home, that I began to use this recording most effectively. I would lie on my sofa, or recline on a chair in my garden, and I wouldn’t have to imagine myself anywhere, because I was already in my safest, most relaxing place.

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Author: Jools

Abundant, Bold, Confident, Determined, Empathetic, Forthright, Grumpy, Healthier, Individual, Just me, Kind, Loving, Mellifluous, Natural, Optimistic, imPatient, Quirky, Real-world, Single-minded, unTreatable, Unwound, Verbal, Wilful, eXtraordinary, Young and old, Zero-tolerance.

12 thoughts on “Special Places – Part Two #inspiration #reflection #nurture”

  1. Lovely post, Julie. A little traveling for the purposes of research sounds wonderful. I enjoyed your special places. I almost made it to Sanibel Island once. Perhaps time to try again… or maybe Greece! 😀

  2. Ahh…home definitely is where the heart is, and how wonderful that even with all your travels and wonderful experiences, you find the safest, cosiest and happiest place inside your own home and lovely garden. So much enjoyed reading this Julie, you take me right along with you to those special places of your heart, thank you for sharing them with us and also for your lovely photos. You are well travelled indeed, I could talk to you for hours about your adventures! I am so glad for you that you got to spend such a wonderful time with your cousin before she died so sadly. BTW, I did spot the alligator basking in the sun! The tug on my heart grows ever stronger to visit people I haven’t seen in too long as I read your post – I have a good friend in Florida and Atlanta, both of whom are frequently urging me to visit, but as yet…and of course, I long to return to California. In the almost 14 years I’ve been back in the UK, I’ve only been back once, in 2013. Interestingly, I also did a little research whilst back there for my book 😉 In fact, not until I did that, did I feel ready at last to begin writing it, even though I’ve wanted to for over thirty years. And as for Fleet Services, I can well relate to your ‘attachment’ to the place, but for different reasons. Whenever I drive by there, I feel a pull at my heartstrings, as that was where I always stopped with my children for a break driving with my Mum back up from Dorset to Heathrow to fly home to America after spending time with my her and my English family. Even today I feel that pang of homesickness as a reminder of what it was like to say goodbye for months, sometimes a whole year, at the airport, as I headed back to my life at ‘home’. And it was my home, in CA, and I miss parts of it now. But as you say, home is where the heart is and today I know I too am safe and cosy just where I am. Oooops….sorry for the extra long comment, you can see how your delightful post stirred me up for all the right reasons! Have a lovely weekend Jools, see you soon! 🙂 ❤

    1. As someone who writes memoir, I’m doubly delighted that you enjoyed my ‘special places’ posts. I make no pretence to be a memoir writer, but every now and again, something occurs to me that seems relevant in some way to the general health-and-wellbeing theme of my blog (and I don’t like to stray too far away from topic!). I’m sure we will enjoy sharing talk of our adventures when we meet up in a few weeks. All I can say is this… if you’ve been putting off a visit to your friend or friends, put it off no longer! Because nothing should keep you from those important connections in life. I was so very glad that I made that visit to Florida when I did.

      I love that Fleet Services has some resonance for you too! The most unlikely places connect us with memories, special people, arrivals and departures. And yes… see you SOON!

      1. Ha…who knew we would share a connection with Fleet Services, of all places?! I’m so glad you were able to put the past to rest when you returned to take the photo. Yes, you’re right about visiting, I really do need to get on with it. Reading your post stirred me up to get on with it – in a good way 🙂 Your ‘special places’ posts have a wonderful place on your blog in sharing precious memories and experiences, all forming the whole package of wellbeing. And yes, I am so much looking forward to seeing you too Julie – I think we’ll be talking all day 🙂 xxx

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