This morning, on my regular walk round St. James’s Park before heading into the office, I noticed a large group of foreign students taking my normal route.
Unwilling to a) loiter along behind them without getting awkwardly close pretending to ‘take in’ the minutiae of nature or b) smoke them with my best I’m-a-Londoner-get-out-of-my-way power walk, I decided to reverse my course around the park.
And something surprising happened.
As I passed my favourite landmarks – the cafe, the top of the lake, the squirrel tree, the bridge, pelican rock and the Duck Island Cottage – I felt as though I was seeing each one for the first time. A change of approach was all it took for these sites, which have become so familiar with habitual viewing, to become fresh again.
This reminded me of two things:
- In an article I read recently, a woman (I can’t for the life of me remember her name) said that she and her family try to take a different route to work or school each day and then share something new they’ve seen over dinner. It’s a way of keeping their city fresh and interesting. Of keeping curiosity alive. Of pushing back against the natural narrowing of life that habits can cause.
- I believe it was in How to Think More About Sex that Alain de Botton wrote that couples tend to have more sex on holiday than at home. One of the reasons he gave was that removing yourself from the normal sphere of going to work, keeping house, taking care of children and budgeting can help you see your partner in a new light. Sometimes a hotel room is all the aphrodisiac you need.
So simple, really – that a change in approach can make everything appear new and fresh – but also so easy to forget. I’ll definitely be looking for other ways to apply this in my life in the coming days.