I’ve had a couple of happy places in the past. Where I used to live - at my favourite house I have lived in so far - there is a field I used to walk through from the housing estate. Well, it’s sort of a field. There is a path with a bridge that goes over a tiny trickle of a stream, and there is grass and horses. On the other side of the field there is a supermarket. I would walk through the field and go into the supermarket to get some carrots, and feed them to the horses on the way back home. Listening to music all the while, sometimes singing to myself, sometimes even dancing down the path as the horses watched me. That walk from my house to the supermarket and back — or from the bus stop at the supermarket to home, if it was a university day — that was my happy place. There was hardly ever anyone else around, and I could just be. I think that’s the main thing about having a happy place for me. I can just be.
My old happy place. Bad quality photograph, and not much to look at. But it’s still important.
These days I’m not sure where my happy place is. I have the gym/swimming pool, but whether that is my happy place really depends on whether it’s quiet or not. I like alone time and I like to be undisturbed so I can think in my happy place, and I don’t always get that there.
There was another time, years ago, when I went to the pub by myself and had a whisky, and sat in an armchair in the corner and wrote poetry. The pub was called The Litten Tree and I still have the poem I wrote with the same title. The pub is gone now. But I could find another one.
In fact, I went out for a meal with my friends to a pub a couple of months ago, and I got there about an hour early so I could fit in some reading for my masters degree. I felt so at peace sitting in the bar by myself, just thinking, reading, people watching. I wondered if that would be my happy place.
I was in a happy frame of mind that day. But there are some days when I long for a special place I can call my own, a place I can truly call my happy place. I don’t feel like I have that right now. And a few months ago I was feeling quite down. In fact, I was in a pretty bad state of mind. I was worried about medical test results that had taken weeks and weeks to come back. They turned out okay in the end, but the waiting drove me crazy. I was scared. I really needed a happy place then. I just had to go somewhere and be alone, but I didn’t really have anywhere. I ended up settling for the swimming pool again.
I got to thinking: what if our happy place wasn’t a real place? Ideally anywhere could be our happy place if we have the right frame of mind — if we can rely on ourselves to be happy, rather than any external influence like a place or a person, we could be happy anywhere. That would be the ideal. But I’m not that enlightened yet, so I thought maybe I could write down my ideal happy place, and pretend I’m there. I could think of anywhere in the world, or make up a place. Where would my ideal happy place be? What would be there, and who would be there, if anyone? What about the sights, the smells, the sounds? What location would this place be in? Next door to my house or further away? So I’ve written it down. Here is my happy place:
My happy place is a pub, quite like The Litten Tree pub I visited years ago. I go to this pub in the afternoon, and I can walk there from my house so I can have a drink or two, or three. It’s about ten minutes away. Inside, there are never many people around. There is the girl behind the bar, and a handful of other people, either sitting alone or in couples, talking in hushed voices. There are partitions so some tables have complete privacy and people can’t see each other or be seen while sitting there. Other tables are still a little private and well-spaced, but good for people watching. Sometimes if I want to people-watch I sit by the window looking out on the street. The sun is shining. It is quiet but bustling outside. I always have my notebook with me.
I order a glass of Jack Daniels and Coke. The girl behind the bar asked for my ID the first time but she knows me now. The bar plays music - noughties rock like The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Keane. Indie sort of stuff. I know all of the songs. The music isn’t played too loudly - just loud enough. The lighting is a little dim but I can still see okay to write. I sit and watch other people in the bar and they look at me too, but nobody makes conversation with strangers. Everyone here has either come specifically to be alone or to have a quiet chat with a friend. The atmosphere is friendly. The place doesn’t smell of much, but I’m wearing my leather jacket I’ve had since I bought it during a trip to Florida when I was sixteen or seventeen. Wearing it reminds me of sixth form - like when objects smell like times, like memories - it actually smells like sixth form and it is wonderful.
I never see anybody I know at the bar. I just sit and think, and write if I want to. I sit in a comfortable armchair with a high back. It’s green leather and a little worn and faded. The tables are low but high enough to write on, and have faint rings from drinks placed by previous patrons. They aren’t sticky, so I can put my notebook down just fine. They are thick, solid wood.
The pub is quite small but there is an upstairs which can provide complete solitude. There is a deserted dancefloor downstairs. Sometimes I shimmy across it a little when I’m going to buy another drink, if there is a particularly good song on. The drinks are reasonably priced. I stay for a couple of hours and feel quietly refreshed and at peace when I leave.
What would your happy place look and feel like? I wrote mine while listening to music I would like to be playing there, and I felt like I was in that very place. Close your eyes. Imagine your perfect spot, whether it exists or not. (Maybe it does exist and you just haven’t found it yet.) And now, write. Let me know how it goes.