Over the years, people have quizzically asked me why this blog has always included a reference to being from “underneath the table.” It’s taken on many forms, over time, as sometimes I’m writing from underneath the table of a whole life, or from underneath the table of parenting, or from underneath the table that I am actually hiding under.
As a young child, I used to “hide” underneath the table in our lounge. I have exceptionally crisp memories of throwing a blanket over our round table with the bow legs, and climbing underneath there to play. It was the right distance of being close to the noise and love of my family, and alone in my own world, that left me both comfortable and relaxed.
I live my life a lot like this. Hiding underneath the table is a theme that followed me right through my teen years (my dad would often find me reading under my desk, when I was supposed to be studying), and hiding under my desk when things got too chaotic at the office, was a common event. At one point, I remember plugging my laptop in, underneath my desk, when I had a massive project to conquer, and was fighting off a horrible case of heartbreak. Being underneath the table helps me focus, and feel safe. And yes, I know I am strange – I am okay with this.
Recently, my life accomplice – Jane – called me up and told me she was booking us for a night away. As it turned out, the timing could not have been more perfect for the both of us. We’d leave the day after my birthday (and yeah, I know, I didn’t write a birthday letter this year – consider the first 3 paragraphs of this that letter for this year – my re-commitment to being underneath the table) and, unfortunately, as life has her way, Jane suffered a huge loss in her life just two days before we were to make our escape.
You’d imagine, of course, that when someone loses an important person in their life, they want to invoke WH Auden and stop all the clocks. But that’s not who Jane is, and it’s not who the person she lost was. In fact, after witnessing her family wishing their beloved matriarch farewell today, I know her family do not stop clocks for anything, for life is far too fleeting, and memories – not time – are more important to cling to.
So, with the internal jangle of having turned 37 within me, and the hurt of her loss still stinging, Jane and I set off on a meander through the Midlands and a visit to Granny Mouse Country House.
You should know that I don’t travel well and (as Jane will tell you – from our drive back and me hyperventilating on the regular over trucks), it takes a lot for me to leave routine and head away for a bit. But, I need to say this: this little getaway needed to happen and it could not have happened in a prettier place.
We opted to take a slow drive towards our destination, and stop whenever and wherever we felt like it. We stopped at the cheese factory, Rawdons (thanks for my birthday G&T) and Jane had me check out a possibly haunted hut. I’m still not entirely convinced that little hut wasn’t infested with mutant spiders but, hey, I still have my head and haven’t sprung any web from my wrists. I think we’re okay.
Arriving at Granny Mouse, feels like walking back into your own family home. Now, of course, every second place you stay tries to convince you of this, but there’s something about this very particular place that gets it so right. I’d had an hour’s sleep the night before, off the back of a litany of bad, sleepless, nights, that left me with a spiky soul and droopy eyelids. But there’s something in that air, that view, and that comfort, that made me – finally – feel okay. More than okay, in fact.
We were booked in (great idea, Jane, best idea – remind me to listen to you, all the time) for a full body massage at their Spa and – well, I fell asleep very soon into it. I woke up when the masseuse asked me to turn over, and my eyelids sprung upon, where I felt like I’d been asleep for eight hours. Instead, it was just twenty minutes of slight snoring and probably drooling. I felt alive for the first time in a long time.
After my body and mind were once again re-aligned, we headed off to dinner. I’m probably going to talk about dinner a lot more often in my life, because I have this latent-but-obvious desire to become a true food critic and live out my days by reviewing eateries everywhere. I’ll tell you this much about dinner at Granny Mouse: It’s no country bumpkin menu with cheese sauce everywhere. Heck no. Each piece of my meal felt like they’d gone through my food diary, picked out the things I liked the most, mashed them together and gone “OH HEY! WE READ YOU DIARY. THIS WAS MADE FOR YOU”. I mean, who else turns blue cheese into a rosemary-crumbed gorgeousness that makes me feel quite emotional? Hah. Of course, eating dinner in the cellar was a total treat, and being surrounded by such incredible wine made me think very deeply about our selection at home…I think it needs expanding.
After dinner, we holed up in our gorgeous suite, with a crackling fire and, of course, donned our onesies. Curled into bed and blissfully warm, I finally fell asleep – and stayed asleep – for more than 4 hours, for the first time, in a very, very, long time.
Morning came round, and I missed wishing my kid a good day at school, because I slept right through the time she left the house (awful parent, awful) and rolled over for an extra twenty minutes of snoozing. A lazy morning, a beautiful breakfast, and a quick walk along the riverwalk ensued, with us packing up and driving back to Durban shortly thereafter. Of course, we stopped at every possible spot we could along the way, for coffee, shopping, and treats to take home.
Hanging out with my life accomplice (p.s. Did you know we run a business together now too? True story. Maybe I’ll tell you about that one day), in a gorgeous place, surrounded by the wonder of nature that we have somehow lucked up in living around, felt exactly like being underneath the table in my childhood home again. It was the right kind of comfortable, the right kind of quiet and, when I came back out into the real world of life, alarm clocks, and deadlines, I felt like me again, for the first time, in a very long time.
My point? It’s this:
—> Thank you, Jane, for taking me with you on this adventure. I could not ask for a better accomplice in adventure, including all Instagram Husband duties.
—> Thank you, Granny Mouse, for the incredible treat of a stay with you, and the way you shaped every detail around ensuring we had the best time.
—> Thank you, Super Shmooshy and Incredible Child, for taking care of the home life for a little bit. I think I need to trust you both a little more in being able to cover all the bases, and the 20-point list.
You enabled me to spend some time underneath the table of life again. I had forgotten how important this was. Thank you.