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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Day 16 - Rest day in Barnstaple

It’s been a good day in Barnstaple today. The weather has been lovely, and I’ve had no pressure to go and explore lots of places as I know it so well. So I’ve done a bit of shopping for supplies, done some stretches and enjoyed strolling along the river, looking at the old town and climbing to the top of the castle. Rather less dramatic than the last castle at Tintagel.

I’ve thought a lot about the experience of being on my own too. It felt lonely yesterday afternoon and this morning, and I was experiencing it as an emotion to try to suppress. But as the day progressed I was more curious about how it was affecting me, and about how I might react to it. This was coupled with reading the excellent psychotherapist Philippa Perry on staying connected.

She talks about the importance of staying connected with others in order to keep a stable mental balance, and she made me think with the following excerpt:

In crowded countries such as Japan and Britain we tend to have ‘negative politeness’. This means that people are aware of others’ need for privacy, and their desire not to be intruded upon. In countries where there is more space, like the USA, people are more inclined to practise ‘positive politeness’, where the emphasis is on inclusion and openness.

I think being on my own is making me be more ‘positively polite’ - I’m actively starting conversations with people in a way that I wouldn’t do if I was with David or my friends. And although I would have previously agreed that people in the UK more enjoy ‘negative politeness’, my experience so far is that people have been happy to talk, and for me to listen to them talk about their lives. I have really enjoyed this.

And although there’s been some lonely moments, the solitariness has given me blessings too. To be able to sit in a park and read a book in the shade. To stop and watch a flock of geese following their leader like a troop of soldiers. To have time to chat to friends through text and real life, hearing about both concerns and triumphs and be able to be properly present. To be able to have time to talk to a vulnerable man who was recently bereaved and was holidaying on his own for the first time. To get to know a bit below the surface of lives of a number of people at the hotel as we’ve chatted over breakfast and tea. To have my head up as I’ve wandered around the town, noticing features and aspects of the town I’ve not seen before. And to go to the cinema in the afternoon, to see a film that wasn’t that great!

A walk towards Exmoor tomorrow, where company awaits me again. I’m looking forward to it.

Local tipple - ginger beer

Dinner at Lilico’s lounge - good food, strange lack of drinks availability…

Vegetarian pizza

Yet another day without ice cream!

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