When I was a child, I could find a new favorite place in the world at the drop of a hat. I can name three off the top of my head that I went back to and loved again and again. Number one was Haggerston Castle in North Berwick. A classic Haven holiday village, I used to describe Haggerston as being magical, which is crazy having now returned as an adult. I used to walk in to the main building and the smell alone (think classic caravan park swimming smell) was enough to make me smile and I miss that. I miss being young and taking every place I visited at face value. My second was Blackpool, even now I still look back and smile. I think of spending hours in Bingo cafes, hanging out of car windows to get a better view of the Illuminations and the circus show that we saw every year without fail. We go back next week with Harrison for the first time, and I’m almost scared to ruin what was once my favorite place with a grown up reality check. The third was A Whale Of A Time – a somewhat dingy play area that used to be round the corner from my childhood hairdressers. Now this play area was absolutely nothing special, but to me it used to feel like biggest place in the world. When I was little, I’d beg my mum to take me there, and I can still remember exactly what it looked like inside. I went back for a birthday party when I was a fair bit older, maybe nine or ten, and already all of the wonder had gone. My favorite place in the world had gone from being just that to being another play area that smelled of sweaty children and chicken nuggets. It just goes to show that as we get older, we become more critical. We let negativity creep in, and even after only a few years I could feel completely indifferent about a place that once was my favorite place in the world. Part of that is just getting older, everything does change and it’s expected that we would become more cynical, but at what cost? I’ve stopped visiting places and saying they are my favorite place in the world now, maybe because I’m older, or maybe because I’m yet to find somewhere that warrants my favorite place, maybe I’m just too critical or maybe it’s because I’ve not been to Disneyland yet. Right now, I may not have favourite places in the world, but I’m content with just my happy places. Those places that I can look back and smile at just the thought of.
It had been a while since I last found a new ‘happy place’. Last weekend we visited Pollok Country Park, and finally I had another. Although I am fairly local to Pollok Country Park and have been for the last twenty odd years, I don’t think I’ve ever visited, and if I have I cannot remember, so it can’t have made that much of an impact. I discovered the park after looking up National Trust properties in Scotland. Eager to visit anywhere with a nice backdrop, we added it to our ‘list’ months ago, and never got around to going. In part, because it just didn’t seem worth it. When I think of Pollok as an area, I think of it as a bit of a dump. I’m jumping to foregone conclusions here as truth be told I’ve not spent enough time in Pollok to know what it’s actually like, but it would never be my first choice of my places to spend my saturday afternoon in. Our original plan was to go Pumpkin Picking, but someone (I) failed to realise the Pumpkins are still green, and so that plan quickly went out the window. We settled on Pollok Park as a last resort and went in with no expectations, and I left feeling happier than I have in a long time. Parking was nothing short of a nightmare, unable to find any spaces, our car next to some other equally abandoned cars in a dubious looking area next to the car park. Content with the free parking space we had acquired, we trotted off. I think I expected Pollok Country Park to be like every other country park I’ve visited, but it’s much more than just a park. Everything is beautiful, and that is no exaggeration. It may have taken 23 years, but I’ve finally found a part of Glasgow that I absolutely love.
It may be that I fell in love with the park because of the beautiful landscape, or the lovely house that sits in the middle, I don’t actually know, regardless it’s a place that feels special now. I walked around the grounds like a giddy child with my camera, propping Harrison between the mini maze of bushes and trying to capture the moments as Jordan walked dutifully behind him. We never actually made it to the swings we were looking for in the first place, instead we made the most of the flowers, the gardens and losing our way just trying to find the toilets, but I still look back on that day as a happy one. It’s amazing what your own mindset can do for your surroundings – had I visited Pollok Park few months before, I don’t think I would have left feeling the same way.
I’ve not found a new happy place in a long time, and that’s not because I’ve not visited anywhere new. I don’t think I’ve necessarily been in a place where I’ve been looking for one. I don’t think ‘happy places’ have any reflection on the places themselves, but rather on how we feel while we are there. It’s easy to find these places when we are young because we have very little stress, no substantial worries and we are as care free as we will ever be. As adults, our mind set is completely wavered by everything going on in the background. It’s hard to appreciate the simple things – like a new park – when everything else seems to be a disaster. Over the last few months, nothing has really been that great. I’ve not really been able to write about any of it, because truth be told I can’t put my finger on exactly what was wrong. I’ve been feeling down and bringing everyone else down with me. It’s difficult because I feel like I could put this sadness down to the baby blues in the early months, or I could blame my lack of desire to do anything on the newborn bubble, but as Harrison has gotten older and time got on, the excuses disappeared and I was left feeling somewhat lost. I still am, but this last month especially there has been a change. While still a bit lost, this month I’ve been content. Previously, I felt like I had very little control over what was happening in my life. This wasn’t because of child birth alone, moreso because I’d chosen to change every single aspect of my life at the exact same time. When Harrison was born, I’d just left education, I had to completely switch my career which had only really just begun, I bought my first house, I stopped training consistently, I stopped making effort to see any of my friends and I went from being slap bang in the middle of a honeymoon phase to a serious relationship that now required us to grow up very quickly. I hadn’t just changed my old life, I’d stumbled into an entirely new one. It’s taken me until now to get back on my feet, and I’m finally comfortable in the place we are in. Life is a rollercoaster and chances are it’ll be flipped on it’s head next week, but for now, I am completely content.
If I look back at any of my ‘favorite places’ they’ve became that way in a time when I was completely content. Often the places we visit on holiday become our happy places because they are associated with a less stressful life. I finally feel like I am in a place where I can find my happy places and actually appreciate the places we visit. Pollok Park is great, but my love for it now goes that little bit deeper than saying it just has a great roundabout. It represents a time when we finally found our feet as a little family again and for that it will forever be a happy place.