It’s difficult to muster up any enthusiasm for the outside when it’s raining, grey, cloudy and windy. Having survived two storms, Ciara and Dennis, a recent drive through the countryside showed off its rugged, wild and cool beauty, refreshed and shaken up from the strong winds (Ciara, by the way, was called ‘Sabine’ on the European mainland. Was the UK’s decision to call it Ciara yet another stroppy decision to underline its exit from the EU? Who knows… .). My first love affair with the British landscape was through the book ‘The Secret Garden’, where Frances Hodgson Burnett describes the Yorkshire Moors in such vivid detail that I could see the lilac and grey skies, the dark green mossy hills and the light brown grass that was waiting for spring time to come. I could smell the crisp and aromatic air, filled with the remnants of winter and the promise of the first blooms and blossoms, coaxed out by the rays of spring sunshine. Since then, I wanted to see those wonders of nature for myself, longing to spend time in Yorkshire, on the Scottish Isles, walk the Highlands, climb through the valleys and hills of the Peak District and walk along the beaches of Cornwall.
Soon after I arrived in England, a work colleague took me and two friends on a day trip to the Lake District. It was a cold, cloudy and rainy adventure, where we didn’t see much of the glory that nature has to offer but I did fall into a river as I slipped and fell whilst taking some photos. I was ill soon after with a cough and cold. A few years later I ventured up to Scotland, driving through the same landscape again that I had not been allowed to appreciate in its full glory previously. This time, however, the National Park was lit up by sunshine, blue skies, fluffy white clouds and luscious greenery of all different shades. I stopped the car many of times to just gawp and stare, grateful that the demons of my fall into the icy water had finally left me. Scotland had its own surprises, historical Edinburgh being one of them, drawing me in as I explored the old streets, the historic buildings and the glorious castle. Other journeys, mostly with work, that led me ‘up North’ were always greeted with astonishment of just how beautiful this part of the country is.
Of course, living in the middle of England, I quickly fell in love with towns, cities and nature, all of which were only a short trip away from me. Quaint little cottages dotted around picturesque villages, the rolling countryside which gets referenced so often in novels and stories featuring this island, and not forgetting the vibrant colours of England’s cities; they all captured my heart and made me fall in love over and over again. I will never forget those long walks in the countryside, standing on top of a hill and marvelling at the multicoloured fields that transformed from bright yellows and greens in spring and summer to paler colours and various shades of dark green, grey and brown as autumn and winter came.
From the countryside to the city, London will always remain a firm favourite of mine, charming me from the first time I arrived and wrapping me round its dusty, dirty little finger every time I visit. The Big Smoke is a treasure chest that surprises and entices me, makes me wonder and stare, explore and jump for joy. It makes my heart sing in a way no other place ever has. London makes me believe that everything is possible, that, no matter how weird I am, I belong and have a right to be me. There is history and progress, adventure and refuge, beauty, chaos and simplicity, all in one place. I often compare a visit to Berlin to my adopted capital city. It took me days to understand and warm to Germany’s capital whereas my love for London was instant and permanent. And when 52% of the country voted to leave the EU, London cried with me. Our bond is strong, loyal and unbreakable.
As I am rereading ‘The Secret Garden’, I feel closer to Mistress Mary than before. Like her, I stopped and stared at the unique wilderness that opened itself up to me. We both arrived here at night and tried to make out what laid beyond the darkness. Unlike her though, I immediately took to everything Britain’s nature and surroundings had to offer me and I am, to this day, enchanted by its strange magic. Even if it rains a lot.