Bird-Watching in France

I was never much one for big holidays.

During my working life I was often harried by the Human Relations team into taking holidays. Unlike my colleagues, who would often have their entire year’s holiday booked well in advance, I was always too focused on my work to think of when I would be taking my next break. I would never say that I was a ‘workaholic’, I never took my work home with me and I always gave myself time at the weekend to ‘depressurise’, as they say. However, once I found myself absorbed into the corporate world of endless meetings, presentations and lunches, I found myself happily occupied and, dare I say, satisfied.

Whenever I was eventually forced into taking my mandatory holiday by HR, I was rather at a loss of where to go. Without a wife, family or group of friends, I found myself in a strange state of isolation. Outside of work I had precious few human relationships and my sense of adventure was somewhat limited by this. I took the time off, but I never used it to travel or explore the world outside my neighbourhood of London. The 30 days or so of holiday that I was granted every year were usually spent reading in silence in my study, redecorating my home and attending to other such thrilling maintenance issues – they were not times that I looked forward to.

As my retirement grew ever closer, I began to give myself the opportunity to dream, to imagine myself in some far off land with a rucksack on my back and a camera hanging over my head. With every documentary and movie that I watched the fantasies grew ever stronger until they became all that I ever thought about. Although I longed to take myself away in an exotic foreign land, I was still a little nervous about taking such a brave step into the unknown.

A few months before I was due to leave work I decided to take the pro-active step of booking a holiday villa in the South of France. I know this might not sound like the most adventurous of steps, but it nonetheless felt momentous to have put a plan in action and, in some ways, make the fantasy a reality.

In July of this year I stepped aboard a plane for the first time in decades. When I alighted at my destination I found myself in a foreign land, drenched in sunlight and new, strange smells. The few weeks that I spent in Languedoc were some of the most rewarding that I’d spent in my life. It felt scary and liberating at the same time having so much free time on my hands with no agenda other than the one that I would set for myself. Each morning I would wake up in my private villa expecting to be running late for my train, but then I’d remember where I was and hesitantly lay my head back down onto the pillow for another hour of sleep. The bags under my eyes, which I’d assumed would be with me for life, slowly began to fade and a healthy glow returned to my face, which I’d not seen on my skin since I was a boy.

I might not have spotted too much wildlife whilst I was there, but my trip to the South of France was certainly one that I’ll never forget.

Welcome To My Site!

Hello and Welcome!

This blog is a long time coming but I’m so glad that I’ve finally got round to it…

When I was a youngster (trust me, you don’t want to know how long ago this is) my friends and I used to keep journals. As archaic as this might sound, we would spend hours and hours poring over these notebooks, filling them with all sorts of odds and ends. This was before computers, before mobile phones or even digital cameras – thankfully we had access to PVA glue and scissors…

These journals weren’t school projects, we weren’t told that they would help us with our university applications or that they would make our CVs look good, we created them because we wanted to record our thoughts, our memories and leave for ourselves a snapshot of our lives that we would be able to look back on. Unfortunately, like so many childish pursuits that are started with the best of intentions, at some point these journals were left to one side, forgotten and lost.

Luckily, despite having lost those precious tomes of my youth, the memories of those halcyon days were iconic enough for me to remember them for a lifetime. Long summer days were spent romping through fields of waist-high grass, picking the buds of flowers and building grand dams in rivers. Squashed sandwiches were happily munched throughout the day and cans of pop were shared, all whilst the hunt was always on for new wildlife that we hadn’t seen before. Although a blog can be easily forgotten and laid to one side, those memories still linger in my mind.

Last week marked the day of my retirement. After decades of my life spent in an office, leading boardroom meetings and creating presentations I now have the opportunity to get outside and relive the days of my youth. Although I briefly flirted with the idea of writing a book, the thought of spending hours behind a typewriter or a computer felt like defeating the point of my retirement. I shelved the idea for the first few months of my retirement and decided to dedicate my time to getting outside as much as possible.

During the last few years of my working life I spent much of my spare time watching nature documentaries and films. Thanks to the wonders of on-demand television I was able to lose myself in hours of thrilling wildlife visuals and immerse myself in some gorgeous scenery; with David Attenborough as my guide I travelled to many far off places and saw all kinds of exotic creatures that I’d never have had the chance to see otherwise. Those indulgent evenings, usually accompanied with a glass of wine and a microwave meal were exactly what I needed to get me through the last few years of my working life and bred in me a thirst for real life adventure that I had all but forgotten.

Now that I’ve spent a few months on the road, exploring all sorts of wild and interesting places I feel like I’ve got enough material to start this blog proper. So strap in and get ready for adventure!