First published in World Unwrapped.
I live on the top floor of an apartment block overlooking the ocean. Just across the road is a bakery overflowing with croissants, fresh bread and fancy baked treats. It's funny how fond I am of this little bakery despite the fact that there is nothing I can eat there, thanks to gluten intolerance. There are two things it provides me with other than the tempting smell of pain au chocolats, and that's borrowed Wi-Fi when our internet cuts and endless occasions for people watching.
The person who intrigued me the most today was the awkward looking 20-something-year-old man with tied back scruffy fair hair under a straw sun hat. He was lost and was staring down at his phone walking backwards and forwards and round in circles but always with a sense of purpose until he disappeared off up a side street.
There's a homeless man who spends the days talking to the pigeons just outside our flats. Its 35 degrees Celsius here but I've never seen him without his thick leather jacket, all torn and worn. We always nod at each other or say "Bonjour" and his presence has become a comfort in amongst the drunken creeps who come out at all times of day with various slurs of street harassment.
I'm sitting here at my desk with a cup of Yorkshire tea which arrived in the post last week. It seems like time has just zoomed past and landed me here on this island in this adult body. Being on the other side of the world gives so much room to grow and at the same time keeps a certain dose of nostalgia alive, giving people and places from back home an overwhelming sense of significance.
Sometimes I love the fact that I showed up here alone and get to make all my choices on my own terms with endless adventures to be had. Other times, like this morning, I'll be swimming in the sea watching the fish with my mask and snorkel and I'll notice the empty space beside me which marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. My dad's not by my side to explore the rocks together and make funny faces under the water. So I make funny faces at the fish but it's not the same.
This is a room of my very own after fourteen months of moving around and sharing other people's houses. My shelves are cluttered up with various trinkets, cards and half-filled notebooks. I try and keep it light enough to travel and have three most precious things to me in this room.
Number one is Daisy, a tiny little rabbit who must have had her arms, legs and head sewn back on about six different times as I was growing up. Small enough to be carried in a child's pocket and hand, she came with me between parents houses when I split myself between two different worlds. The second is something my granny made for me. She's going blind and still found the willpower and creativity to sew a beautiful hand-crafted purse. Lastly, is the drawing my mum did for my 23rd birthday. It's a multi-coloured hare under a golden sun. The hare travelled all the way from England, across the ocean to the little island where I now lay my head.
Offering an extra bit of home comfort is a small bookshelf with maybe eleven or twelve books, both French and English.
I always wanted to live by the beach in a hot country, travel the world and learn another language. But something very important that I've learnt is that even when living the dream, life has inevitable ups and downs, highlights and dips and there's a shadow side to paradise.
Humans are messy, complicated beings and we lead messy, complicated lives which make up whole societies. But sometimes, to avoid getting pulled down by the weight of suffering in the world, we have to just keep it simple. So, this is what my everyday looks like today. Today I'm a little blue but that's ok. I'll always find a way to see beauty in the everyday, every day and count the precious things I'm grateful for.