Yikes it’s nearly Christmas. It doesn’t feel like Christmas, but there is the smell of smoke in the air so it must be. And 2015 is just around the corner, up the hill and across to the right a bit. One year closer to impending doom from Islamist wind farms and Europhile selfie-taking teens throwing ice cream buckets over old ladies in the concrete parking lots of the Tarkine wilderness. Or something. I get confused from what Rupert tells me I should think.
One thing I can be sure about is that 2014 is coming to an end. If 2013 was the year of unbridled travel, 2014 was almost as static as a static caravan stuck in the mud in Stuckhampton, wearing a fuzzy jumper while watching a crackly TV transmitting a documentary about the Van de Graaff generator and appropriating humour from Blackadder the Third. I daresay 2014 was almost a year of work; there was incontinence to deal with and tax and depression and parents doing things with their kids and interesting accountants and books for sale and other things I probably should not go into too much detail about mainly because I don’t really remember.
But I did travel and I did escape, it was just no 2013. Who knows, maybe odd-numbered years are for being slack and the evens for work? Only time will tell. But as for 2014, what were the highlights, lowlights and fairly average lights in between…
Best stay: Center Parcs, The Lake District
Log cabins in a pine forest, sun dappling through the trees, a red squirrel darting across the branches. Even the shrills of wild children and hypersensitive smoke alarms cannot dampen the environment and your temporary spot within it. Plus a bedroom to myself with a real bed…a relative luxury on trips to the motherland.
Best warm fuzzy moment with vague memories of childhood thrown in: Plymouth Hoe
Sun out, jumper off, cool breeze from the Sound, jumper on. The Gus Honeybun train clacking along with the occasional clang of a bell. Crazy golf, children running around like long-lost maniacs, ice cream with raspberries and clotted cream. So much of my own childhood now being lived out by the next generation of treasured little pirates. Sausage and chips in the gutter with seagulls to fend off. Janners and Frogs blending over Jasperizers. Real street food. Priceless.
The Remind Me Why I’m in Australia Again Award for Self-Satisfied Contentment: Mollymook Beach
May was a month when winter patiently waited and the outstretched hand of summer never quite let go. Dragging myself away from the glorious technicolour of suburban circles under a bold blue sky, the waters of the Pacific caught me unawares with their warmth and placid demeanour. Mollymook Beach is good at the worst of times. On a calm day in the mid-twenties, with winter around the corner, it is hard to not pinch yourself at the good fortune of being, feet planted in antipodean gold as crystal waters roll caressingly in.
Best meal: Trois Fromages d’Areches
I love fondue. I love Raclette. J’adore Tartiflette. Ménage a trios, anyone? On a rainy summer’s eve in the heart of Alpine cheese country, what better than to be warmed by concentrated lactose blocks and fermented grape juice. A backdrop of French hubbub and je ne sais quoi charm. Cheese to the left of me, fromage to the right, and here I am, stuck in the middle with you and positively wallowing in it like a hunk of stale bread relinquished to the fondue pot.
The Bethany White Commendation for Services to Selfies: Titlis Suspension Bridge
Selfies, selfies everywhere and not a shot to think. Being the only person not from China and not owning a telescopic selfie propulsion system I nonetheless grappled with iphone controls and pouty expressions all the while swaying slightly above a five hundred foot ravine in the snow, ice, and thin air of a Swiss Peak. It sounds like an endeavour worthy of Scott and Mallory, of Fiennes and Kardashian, a feat of suitably slavish worship to the filter in the sky.
The Lance Armstrong Medal for Performing-Enhancing Ingestion of Substances Related to Cycling: Kingston coffees and cakes
Inspired by two wheels in the Lakes, I bought a bike and discovered that exercise is nothing if not a cake enabler. Reluctant to become a middle-aged cliché on two wheels, Lycra still escapes me. But a post lake loop topped with a Kingston coffee and some combination of caramel slice, cronut or wagon wheel is the new norm. Every bite eating into the calories my phone tells me were lost; every sip making me more charmed with those who provide it.
The Pengenna Prize for Cornish Wondrousness: St Agnes Bakery
Sausage rolls are the new pasties. Well, almost. All I can say is that if ever you find yourself within a 5o mile radius of St Agnes in Cornwall, do yourself a favour and pop into the tiniest bakery in the tiniest high street and pick up a sausage roll, plain or flavoured with herbs or onion or garlic or chilli or, well, whatever satisfying variation has been baked that day. Even better, pick up two for the extra energy required to hike over the Beacon and along the tin-scarred, Atlantic-carved, enduringly timeless coastline of this magical corner of the world. And don’t ever go back to Greggs and expect to be happy again.
Destination of the Year: Canberra
Well, would you Adam and Eve it? The world’s most boring, berated, slated and abhorred capital amongst those who have never been there also happens to be one of the best places in the world to live. Yes, as a tourist destination it is perplexing at best; yes, it could do with a little more caution in its drive to transform everyone and everything into an identikit apartment-owning, pulled pork eating, coffee-sipping post-hipster pop-up; and yes, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this if I had been to – say – Torres del Paine or the Maldives or if it hadn’t rained in Switzerland for the whole of 2014. But I came back to Canberra and je ne regrette rien. Yes, it has a natural sense of space and air and light and changing seasonality that lends a continual beauty to its setting; yes it still fulfils me when one of its resident rosellas darts past or its roos bound into the sunset; and yes, it provides good coffee and pulled pork post-hipster pop-up environments in which you can at least temporarily pretend that you can afford to own one of the identikit apartments rising up from the ground.