One of the things I like about coming to Minehead is the way that time warps here. It’s like taking a step back in time, to a world of tacky bucket-and-spade, penny-arcade seaside holidays, where Butlin’s rules the town and all the food has been boiled. But it’s also about the torpor that sets in when you come here. It’s quite exciting the first few times, but once you have been here a lot, as I have, there is almost literally nothing to do. It’s not a lack of attractions or countryside; there are the many joys, walks and attractions of Exmoor all around, especially accessible if you have a car. It’s more that part of the reason I come here is always to spend some time with my grandmother and assorted other members of the family. I arrived on Thursday afternoon.
It’s now Saturday afternoon, and it quite literally feels as though I have been here a week, with time stretching. One common activity has featured in another stay here – a little lifting and carrying in Grandma’s garden. Another has been my habitual potter down the high street, this time to see if I could find a single book shop selling anything I was interested in. I had plentiful time, and searched fairly comprehensively, but there was nothing besides thrillers, romances and hardback history books that wouldn’t fit in my travelling bag if I forced them. We’ve taken the dogs for the aforementioned run. So now, having read two newspapers literally dry, we’ve had some light lunch and I am now surveying three members of my family and two dogs, gently snoring in the heat of a sunny afternoon, papers and books on laps or splayed where they slipped out of hands onto the floor. The dog is clearly chasing something in his sleep, because he twitches and yelps from time to time, but apart from that and the flapping of fat wood pigeons in the garden gorging themselves on the bird table, nothing is moving. I can’t understand where all the time has gone since Thursday, since I have only done enough to fill one normal day. It’s like every moment has been stretched out. It’s very relaxing, though also an odd kind of void that becomes rather boring, so that I’m glad to be off to London again later this afternoon for bank holiday fun with my friends there.
It’s all a welcome contrast to the madness that has been Brussels lately, with me being a very unhappy and quite manic boy for the last couple of weeks, running around staying just ahead (or sometimes just behind) the anger and loneliness that seem to be chasing me lately. It was a bad cycle, and the issues will still be there when I go back, but for pure escape and sense of Zen-like calm, you can’t beat the time vortex of West Somerset, where the sun shines, the breeze barely breathes over the leaves, and the grandfather clock ticks away over the rustling of newspaper and the snores of Dalmatians.