16 - Jan 2020
Just to let you know, this will probably take more than two chapters to write. I want these to be short reads. First of all, on a purely selfish level, I don’t want to be spending all day writing a blog, especially on a Sunday. I’m also considering my attention span when reading other people’s blogs. That’s it really.
Inner Peace Retreat Winter 2018
Now, if that’s not an enticing promise, I don’t know what is. To find inner peace. That‘s what I told myself I needed. It probably appears like a self-indulgent weekend away in a beautiful location where no-one needed to know I was going crazy, but the minute I saw the ad in the back of Psychologies magazine, I determined to go. Little did I know what I was about to discover.
Knowing my friend - OK let’s cut the crap - I asked my sister to go with me. Start again.
Knowing my sister’s aversion to all things holistic, I knew I had to ask her to agree to going on the retreat without giving her any details. Thankfully she said ‘Yes’. It was only later that evening, when I received a rather panicked phone call from her, that I began to have my doubts. She’d looked at the link to the website I’d sent her to help her prepare what she needed for the weekend.
‘There is a picture of a group of ‘hippy’ women with their hair in bunches sitting in a circle wearing ‘yoga’ clothes?’ she half-screeched, half-asked.
’Ummmm … Ye … es’. I hesitated to answer her.
After an uncomfortable silence, she added, ‘I’ll bring my hair bands and yoga clothes then?’
’Thanks sis’. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so relieved.
She must have have sensed it, for she replied, ‘I’m here for you. It’s going to be fine.’
Concrete and Willow
What can I tell you about my younger sister. We are unalike. I mean - totally. Chalk and cheese doesn’t even cut it. More like concrete and willow.
There was a choice of where to stay. But first, you had to decide whether you wanted the privacy of single accommodation, paired or shared.
Your own room - stupidly expensive and, in my eyes so unnecessary, we’d been to boarding school - we could do dormitories. On the other hand, my sister was still haunted by having to share a room with me when we were growing up. If I told you that my mum strung up a curtain to separate her part of the room from mine to ‘shield’ her from my mess … you get my drift.
I’m not saying that I’m messy or that she’s OCD... OK, there may be some truth in that.
I reckoned she would agree to share with me. It would enhance the experience, I would argue. We hardly see each other with her living ‘up north’ and me ‘down south’. We could catch up and maybe even become a little closer.
Accommodation - Modern or Rustic?
How do you decide when you are opposites? I couldn’t imagine anything better that sleeping tucked inside the branches of a tree. Surrounded by living wood. Four-poster beds constructed of lopped off boughs. To watch gnarled shadows creep at night, to smell tree bark and resin, chop vegetables on brightly tiled countertops and bathe in the glow from a wood burning stove. Who wouldn’t love that? That’s my idea of dream accommodation.
Nope. That’s my sister’s idea of holiday hell.
’You’re lucky I’m staying in a room with you’ she said, ‘I don’t do shared bathrooms’.
That’s true. At home she has her bathroom and her partner has his, so I guess she was making an exception for me.
’And if you think I’m sleeping in a tree, think again!’
Good job I’d already anticipated that and had managed to secure a booking in the last available stable room. It was slightly more expensive than sharing a treehouse with two other women, but I’d do anything to keep my sis happy, as she was doing me an enormous favour in my time of need.
Stable it is then
We arrived in rural Norfolk on a bright winters day. Tired from driving but having had a pleasant trip. This was, after all, our old stomping ground, having lived in Norfolk for many years growing up.
Our accommodation was in a converted stable block to the side of the main building. Our room was just as it appeared on the website. Floor to ceiling glass flooded the small room with bright ‘Norfolk‘ light, bringing alive the muted grey palette. We crossed the pretty courtyard and were quick to whip off our boots and place our feet on the heated concrete floor. Within moments we’d flopped onto the deliciously comfortable beds and drifted off for a short nap before supper time.
Part three to follow