The concept of ‘happy place’ is so overused, but so accurate at the same time. There are a lot of places I enjoy being in, but only a select few in which I feel completely and truly peaceful, content, and safe. They’re the ones I crave, especially recently when my little flat has become the only space I actually spend proper time in.
Well, I can’t visit any of these places for at least two months (if this ‘roadmap’ thing goes ahead smoothly – ha!), so let me just throw them out here, please? Thanks. And be sure to comment/tweet/DM/whatever with yours. I want to know.
We can start with the earlier memories that formed happy places. The big grassy area out the front of my college. Especially in Spring/Summer time, when everyone would spill out of the higgledy piggledy old buildings and onto the lawn, in the sunshine, gathering in groups and ripping into their lunches from the vending machines in the canteen. I remember lolloping lazily with friends in the heatwave, gossiping, playing catch and swapping notes between lessons.
I guess if we’re going to mention college here – the black box theatre I had all my A Level Drama classes in would have to be added to the list. I grew a lot in there, and after a rocky start I found it was a space I could properly let go in.
Winchester cathedral grounds (and the little stone bench I almost always sit on, with a coffee, to stare up at the old building I graduated in). Also the pub by the river, the Oxfam bookshop, and the top of the high street (does this count, though? I’d never sit and ‘hang out’ in that place… maybe it’s just a ‘happy passing spot’). Obviously, the university campus would have to be on the list too; particularly the student union cafe, the library and my halls. I mean, the actual buildings where the seminars and lectures took place wouldn’t go amiss, but I’m trying really hard to keep it to just a few, okay? Cool.
(Let’s go a bit faster, now. Because not every happy place needs its own explanation, and/or context.)
Stargazy! My lovely, ridiculous friend’s shop, in Hastings Old Town. It’s reminiscent of a gypsy caravan, packed to the brim with crystals, scarves, and the most beautiful handmade silver jewellery. I have genuinely, deeply missed visiting and working in there, since the first lockdown.
The bench at the top of the steps up the East Hill. I’ve started going up there again recently, after being put off for years because of too much time spent there as a horny teen, but you just can’t beat the view and the peace and quiet of it. It’s extra lovely when you go with a friend who brings a flask of tea and mugs, FYI.
The West Hill, too. But only on the May Day weekend. The rest of the year, I could take or leave it, really.
My friend’s cafe, at my favourite table against the exposed brick wall, drinking the strongest long black (the finest Brighton coffee, obviously) and eating a chai fudge brownie, looking through the window onto the lovely quiet street with the church and the tattoo studio and the ancient barbershop.
The place down the road from me with the rickety window shutters and chicly mismatched furniture that proudly exhibits itself as a tequila bar, but also offering a wide selection of whisky and the boujiest booziest cocktails.
The Brighton Lanes. Ugh. I hate how much I miss them, because it almost confirms that I am a hipster/indie kid wannabe, but I promise I only go there for the coffee and cake.
The office I work from once a week, with the table I always manage to knock off balance, and the quiet therapy room where the most chilled meetings take place, and exciting audio recording happens.
Our staff room in Tunbridge Wells, with the magnificent second-hand sofa that’s perfect for lunchtime naps.
My favourite patch of St Leonards beach, where I sat for 10 hours with some of my favourite humans (and nearly £200 worth of burgers and chips), on my 27th birthday.
Shakespeare and Sons, Berlin. Yet another cafe, but hear me out – there are bagels and books, too. It’s just got the happiest feel about it.
Nana’s porch, in her little village – with added Vegemite on toast to complete the vibe.
My special spot in the park that’s just up a little passageway at the end of my street – I started going there when I was let off shielding last spring, taking a blanket, a lunch box and a book with me. I’d often end up ignoring the book and just listening to my favourite podcasts while eating my sarnies.
The biggest bookshop in Europe, in Piccadilly. Browsing each floor, one by one, for a good while before scurrying upstairs to the bar and indulging in their happy hour – when the prices are almost reasonable. (Optional but inevitable drunk book shopping to follow)
Thursday Plantation, Ballina, New South Wales. The smell of the air there is like nothing else. Tea tree and eucalyptus, mixed with the essence of the woody forest, in the balmy heat, ooooft. I could get high off that sweet combo. It’s also so peaceful there; walking through the forest or just sitting on the deck behind the shop, drinking a mint tea. Mmm.
Bottle Alley – pronounced ‘bot’lally’. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always loved walking through there to town, and back – and at night, it’s quite magical.
So many beaches on the East Coast of Australia, I cannot possibly name them all. I plan on revisiting them in 2022, one way or another.
My roof. Of course. A proper sanctuary, and my saviour last year when I couldn’t leave my building for so long. I’ll miss a lot of things when I leave this flat in the summer; the pristine tiles in the kitchen, the rain-style shower head, the old fireplace, its proximity to the train station, the beach, the shops and the park – but I know I’ll miss that old rooftop the most.
I know I’ve probably forgotten so many here, but these are the ones that immediately fill my mind and calm me down when I think of the simple term ‘happy place’. The ones I will look up on Google Maps while on my lunch break, and shamelessly travel through them in street mode. It’s great to have these tucked away inside my mind, but then I also realise that one of the most important things to learn in life is how to make any space a happy place. And on that pensive, borderline wanky, note; I’ll end this post.
PS, I’m very aware how big a part food and drink play in this list. Not sorry.