Originally written for Standard Issue in 2017 on why I’d choose garden centres over clubbing any day!
Me and my lovely fella walked into Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland a couple of weekends ago.
We proudly flashed our shiny new National Trust membership cards and, in that moment, everything changed. And it felt so good.
We became part of something. A new tribe. The National Trust membership crew. We reached the gold standard in weekend pursuits and we’re seriously buzzing about it. #SquadGoals
But we’re not alone in this realisation that domesticity rocks.
I grew up wanting to be punk rock (in reality, I was as close to anarchy as Trump is to reason) and it seems my punk rock idols were actually early adopters of domestic bliss.
John Lydon started hanging out in tartan pyjamas and spreading Country Life butter on his toast. And these days, Kelley Deal is as famous for her knitted bags as she is for playing lead guitar in The Breeders. So I’m following in some pretty impressive footsteps when I declare my love for cosy pyjamas, garden centres and early nights.
I think I started feeling the draw towards comfort over chaos back in my late twenties. Going for an early morning run with my good friend Jon on a Sunday morning, breathing in the fresh air, hearing the birds sing, feeling alive and, at the same time, feeling incredibly smug. We were happily pounding the pavements in our Nike trainers while last night’s dregs were lugging their hungover corpses into Jacksons supermarket for a packet of ciggies, some Nurofen and a can of Red Bull (Yes we were smug tossers. What of it?)
I asked my 18 year old stepson recently what he thought of the fact that me and his dad, Chris, enjoy visits to stately homes, long walks and nights in with a pizza and the latest episode of Homeland. His response?
“I can see the merit in it. It’s just….I like to live a bit more.”
He’s just gone out clubbing. Before leaving he dyed his hair – again. I rolled my eyes and said ‘You’re dying it AGAIN?’. I reminded him to clean the dye off the sink afterwards – which he repeated in unison with me (am I that predictable?).
I then asked him if he was going to take a coat with him. The look on his face said it all. I have turned into my mother.
Back when I was his age, I was often found tottering around the cold streets of Hull in open toed heels and a PVC mini skirt. I’d have no already doubt puked up a cheap cocktail from Spiders nightclub, topped my levels back up at the bar, and then washed it down with a dirty hamburger from the dodgy van parked outside in the industrial estate. My hair usually had the remnants of five different packets of Shaders and Toners in it and always felt like straw thanks to the endless bottles of Sun In I bought from Superdrug.
So I should really thank my lucky stars that our boy is more sophisticated than we were at his age and give him a break. His idol is Chris Martin, not Courtney Love or both of Altern8 (sorry husband – I’ve outed your love of 90s commercial rave). He’s definitely more stylish than I ever was, can take his drink better than I ever did and, well, as far as I know, behaves much better too.
But THANK GOD I don’t feel the need to go through all that again. Leaving the house at 10pm? I’m already tucked up in bed when he goes out.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I have some fun (if that’s the right word) times to look back on, but it’s incredibly soothing knowing that I can find spiritual enlightenment by taking a mindful walk under a clear blue sky rather than a dodgy mix of chemicals in a dirty pub toilet (the 90s made me do it).
Once upon a time, it was getting Glastonbury tickets through the door that made my eyes light up. Today, it’s the quarterly Wyevale garden centre vouchers that I excitedly check the post for – and it’s a bonus if they throw in a 2-4-1 on cream tea.
After our visit to Seaton Delaval Hall this weekend, we drove further out into the countryside. We have a shared dream that in five years time, we will live in a beautiful little village in the country, with nothing but a quaint little church, a snicket and a post office. We’ll have a little summerhouse where we can write or curl up with a good book and one of our little cats, our hens will free-range and we’ll be so far out in the sticks we might even get them a cockerel for company.
And that’s just the outdoors. Inside there’s cushions and candles, fairy lights and fresh flowers. These days, I even take the time to arrange them carefully in a nice vase instead of hurriedly plonking them in the sink along with old discarded teabags.
Socialising is different too. When we get together with friends (with three weeks’ notice of course) it’s usually for a cuppa and a piece of cake, a pub quiz or a board game.
I’ve yet to let go of my youthful rebelliousness in its entirety however. We’ll choose Cards Against Humanity over Trivial Pursuits, and I still can’t quite cope with Radio 2 on a weekend (show tunes – never). But my rapidly growing gardening club card points, National Trust membership and diverse collection of slippers are taking me on a journey in a definite direction. And I’m bloody loving it.
I’m heading into a new era of cool. Hygge and wholesomeness. Nature and nirvana. Slippers and….nah, I don’t need to dress it up. I don’t need to be ‘on trend’ or part of a Danish movement. Cos I don’t really care anymore.
Who’s joining me for a cuppa and a malted milk?