I had a good summer. For the first time in eight years, we had a holiday just for pleasure. Not one structured around my research or a doomed attempt to appease extended family, but just a place we thought might be fun for the four of us.
We went to Innsbruck, with a few days in a mountain village called Thiersee along the way. Part of Thiersee’s appeal for me was staying in an all-inclusive hotel (I think this is OK when it’s independent, family-run and in Austria. And the food is all both organic and locally sourced.) For three days, I didn’t need to think at all about what to cook or whether we had enough milk for breakfast or whether I’d provided each child with five portions of fruit and veg and if not, why not and could I borrow from tomorrow or yesterday… We went off climbing mountains in the knowledge that there’d be a four-course meal on the table when we came back, and one lovely day, swam in the lake until there was only just time to hurry down the road and shower before dinner.
And then we went to Innsbruck, where we stayed in an apartment, but by then we were ready for less hearty mountain cooking and I’d had a few days off. I like Innsbruck. I’d like to live in Innsbruck. (We were delighted to discover a very old friend who does live in Innsbruck and pines for Munich, so it goes.) From our balcony, we could see mountains in all directions and watch the weather coming down the valley from Italy, and the local trains took us high up the valleys in twenty minutes so we could spend the day hiking and wander around the eighteenth-century old town in the evening. I enjoyed speaking German again and, despite issuing manifestos about accepting translated fiction, I’ve signed up for a German course now.
And now we’re back in what doesn’t quite feel like home. Leamington Spa in general and our new house in particular are perfectly comfortable and pleasant places where any sensible person would be glad to live, and I am glad but I still pine for Falmouth and our small, damp and quirky cottage. I knew I would. The challenge now is to develop a similar affection for a new place, and partly to that end I’ve been cycling to work, eight miles of which half is a quiet country lane lined, at the moment, with damsons, blackberries, rowans and rosehips. We’ve made six kilos of jam, and I have a hunch that eating your environment might be a good way of learning to love it.