My mum lived in the city all her life. Last autumn I suddenly got e-mails telling me that she had decided to move to a little house in the countryside. Being a city girl through and through, and feeling like I'm wilting in the small town that I live in now, I didn't really understand. Until I saw her house, that is.
When I was in Vienna two weeks ago, I planned to spend a night at my mum's house. As soon as I woke up in the morning with the sunlight streaming in through the windows and the bookshelves tempting me, I decided to make it two nights. It was hot, the garden was beautiful, there was a hammock, a fish in a tree, a straw pig next to the aubergine plant and a little hedgehog near the gate. I sat in the shade all day and read one of my favourite books from when I was about twelve years old, this time in the original Dutch - a very satisfying experience. I felt restored to health, to life, to happiness. On days like this it is hard to understand how unhappy one might have felt just ten days earlier.
Forty-eight hours later I sat on the slowest train from Gatwick to London St. Pancras. It was raining, I was cold and miserable, the commuters looked depressed and Austria seemed like a dream that might not have happened at all.