After the round of emotional farewells with family and friends, the Big Day finally arrived. Like a meeting with an old friend who you haven’t seen for years, you prepare yourself for how you are going to react, hoping that the moment isn’t going to be forced or uncomfortable. When it did finally arrive, it felt as natural as a proverbial duck to water although somewhat tinged with sadness, excitement and apprehension as I was waved goodbye by my dear sister Catherine, from her North London home. By coincidence, it happened that my departure from London to Plymouth by train also fell on the auspicious day of the 21st December – the Winter Solstice – a turning point in the year when the dark days begin to recede and the light, new hope, begins to grow again.
A clear, crisp midwinter’s sunrise heralds a new day over Plymouth, and indeed a new dawn, as I took the short ride to the ferry port after spending a welcoming night’s stopover with special thanks to the hospitality of family friends, Matt, Gen, Laurence and Luke.
The 24 hour crossing was unseasonably calm. Even the Bay of Biscay, notorious for its strong currents and unpredictable weather ,was strangely tranquil. Deeply breathing in the fresh sea air with a G&T in one hand and a book in the other, the hours slipped away on deck whilst the Orca Whales remained out of sight and as illusive as ever. Taking the ferry gives you the full sense of the expansivness of the oceans (if our blue planet is covered by 70 per cent saltwater, why do we call it Earth?) and the sheer distance covered that a flight merely compress into just a few dehydrating, high-altitude hours. It allows the senses and body to adjust and provides space to contemplate the land and loved ones that you leave for the new experiences and places that lie on the road ahead. A perfect start.