Well, here I am again. Spent the last few weeks driving around Crete, looking at different areas to live in. The search ended abruptly, though, when I saw this:

View from Apartment

That’s the view from the balcony of what is now my apartment. I’ve been staring at it more or less continuously for the last few days. It changes all the time, as the sun moves across the sky, as the wind changes direction, and as boats go to and fro.

The interesting thing is that we saw some other wonderful places too. One was in a peaceful location in the middle of an olive grove, another was in a beautifully renovated traditional village house. But when I saw that view, it was as if the others didn’t exist.

Since we moved in, I’ve been enjoying an amazing sense of peace. I have lots to do – the apartment search was costly, our funds are running low, and I need to start writing some freelance articles and bringing in money. But still, I feel so much calmer and less hurried than I did in London.

It reminds me of other times in my life when I’ve drawn solace from water. When I was a young corporate banker engulfed in self-hatred, I used to walk out onto London Bridge and stare at the Thames going by beneath me. Later, in New York, I performed a similar trick, this time looking down at the East River from the 18th floor of the Wall Street office building I was working in. And one of my favourite recent memories is of swimming in Barbados at sunset – if I am angry or stressed, all I have to do is close my eyes and recall that feeling, and I instantly calm down.

It’s strange, because I grew up in south-east London, far away from rivers or oceans. But still, some of my favourite childhood memories are of playing in shallow streams on holidays to Wales or Yorkshire, trying to build dams and watching the water find its own way through. At the seaside, even though the salt water stung my eczema-ravaged knees, I loved watching the waves roll in and out, in and out.

I don’t think I’m alone in being calmed by water, am I? It seems to appeal to something in us, maybe some distant memory, or a desire for the eternal. Perhaps it just reminds us how small most of our day-to-day worries are. So what if my credit card bill is high? I’ve got food in the fridge, and enough cash to pay next month’s rent, and a beautiful view to gaze at. Things will work out. And whether they do or they don’t, the water will keep flowing by as it has for millennia, and as it will do for millennia more after I and all the things I consider important have ceased to exist.

27 Comments

  1. Jen Squire 26 May 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Wow, what a view! Glad you’ve enjoyed your search and are now settled in such a beautiful place. We finally have some sunshine in London and I’ve been sitting in my courtyard reading ‘The Sea, The Sea’ and looking forward to being on the Spanish Mediterranean coast in a couple of weeks.

    For me the ocean provides perspective: how insignificant our individual concerns are, and how liberating that is to be reminded of. Not to mention the cleanse of salt and sun on skin.

    Hope the setting helps with your next writing ventures.

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 26 May 2013 at 8:02 pm

      Hi Jen

      Good to hear from you! Yes, I heard there had been sunshine in London, and over a bank holiday weekend too – a miracle! That sounds like a wonderful way to spend a Sunday.

      I think you’re right, it’s about perspective. I love the sun and brightness in general, but don’t like too much direct sun on my skin – for me, sitting in the shade with sunshine all around and a breeze blowing on me is perfection!

  2. Emma 27 May 2013 at 12:19 am

    Hi Andrew,

    Great view. It reminds me of France, in the Esterel. Have you ever been there?
    I glad that you found a place to settle down. Good luck with the freelance jobs.

    I understand what you mean about the water. I can stay a long time watching the Mediterranean sea, perched on a rock and I always find cities with a river more attractive than ones without. I think the endless movement of the water and the repetitive lapping of the waves distract us from our thoughts, like a music for relaxation. Without realising it, we start to unwind and consider our problems differently.

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 28 May 2013 at 10:48 am

      Hi Emma

      No, I’ve never been to the Esterel, but I’d love to go there one day. You’re right about cities with rivers – always much more beautiful. Lakes are also good too, like Lucerne – often those cities have a river too!

      1. Emma 30 May 2013 at 9:23 pm

        Look at the Estérel http://wp.me/aQVen-R1 (I hope it works)

        Your post also reminded me of Baudelaire :

        “L’homme et la mer

        Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer !
        La mer est ton miroir ; tu contemples ton âme
        Dans le déroulement infini de sa lame,
        Et ton esprit n’est pas un gouffre moins amer.”

        (Free man, you’ll love the ocean endlessly!
        It is your mirror, you observe your soul
        In how its billows endlessly unroll
        Your spirit’s bitter depths are there to see.)

        1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 31 May 2013 at 9:36 pm

          Beautiful, Emma (both the Estérel and the Baudelaire!)

  3. Charlie 27 May 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Best of luck with the writing, inspiration shouldn’t be a problem!

    I’m happy with the countryside, but a river or lake sort of finishes it off and I’ll be drawn to that more. There’s a freedom in just being there, feeling that anything’s possible.

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 28 May 2013 at 10:50 am

      Yes, countryside can be beautiful too. We used to drive out into the Kent countryside a lot and the rolling hills had a similar sense of peace. Water just adds another level though. You’re right, so much more sense of freedom and possibility!

  4. Maria Savva 28 May 2013 at 6:11 pm

    That’s such a beautiful view! You’re so lucky. I’ve always loved the sea, and my dream is one day to be able to have a view like that LOL Hope you’re finding lots of inspiration for your writing, Andrew 🙂

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 30 May 2013 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks Maria. Yes, it is beautiful. I haven’t written anything yet – too much to arrange, and I’ve been working on some freelance journalism stuff to pay the bills from moving. Plus we planted out a vegetable and herb garden! And I’ve spent a good few hours sitting watching boats go to and fro 😉 But I think that when I settle down and get writing, it will be a very inspirational place to work in.

  5. Vishy 2 June 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Nice to see you back, Andrew! The picture you have posted is so beautiful! It is so amazing that you are in Crete now! Hope both of you are having a wonderful time. I liked what you said about water calming us. That is very true, atleast for me. Happy reading and writing! I can’t wait to read your next post and see more pictures.

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 4 June 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Thanks Vishy! Yes, it is beautiful here. I’ll post more photos over my year here. Good to hear from you!

  6. Delia (Postcards from Asia) 6 June 2013 at 6:26 am

    Hi Andrew,
    It’s good to see you found a place you like, that view, blue all around, must be amazing and very soothing. I love looking at water too, but I love trees even more. Maybe I should go live in the middle of a forest. 🙂
    Perhaps you can share some photos and tips on gardening, that would be great.
    Enjoy your beautiful new home!

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 6 June 2013 at 2:35 pm

      Thanks Delia! Yes, it is very soothing. Trees are also good, and green in general. Yes, go and find that forest house 🙂 I’ll post some photos of the garden soon. It really is a very different experience from anything I’m used to – it hardly ever rains here, so the ground is more or less rock and dust. We’re watering every evening and hoping things live!

  7. hilary west 11 June 2013 at 9:58 pm

    What a great view to have. I loved Greece when I visited, though being stranded in Kalithea penniless was just a bit difficult and I had to get help from home to get back. Water is always a panacea; it is wonderful in any garden. I am green with envy that you can enjoy all that heat and scenery !!!

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 12 June 2013 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks very much! Wow, being stranded penniless doesn’t sound like fun. I’ll have to stop staring at the view and start writing soon, otherwise I may suffer the same fate 😉

      1. hilary west 12 June 2013 at 5:54 pm

        No , it wasn’t too cool. I lost my wallet and had no flight booked back home. I sun bathed for about a month living off berries and water from a drinking fountain and the odd handout from a cherry seller who kindly gave me some of his wares. I devolved to sleeping in a local hotel’s toilet when no one knew I was there. I just loved Greece though even though it was a bit scary. When I got back home the breakfast tasted amazing and orange juice was really beautiful. I guess I had refreshed my taste buds after all that time ! Take care, Andrew, and good luck on your adventure. Greece is amazingly easy to write about I would guess, because it is so inspiring.

        1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 14 June 2013 at 8:58 pm

          Wow, that’s not too cool at all! Sleeping in a hotel toilet must have been scary. You could probably charge people a fortune for the “berries and water” magical weight loss plan, though 😉

          1. hilary west 15 June 2013 at 12:23 am

            You are right about the weight loss. I came back really slim and very tanned too of course !!! Every cloud has a silver lining !!!

  8. hilary west 12 June 2013 at 6:02 pm

    By the way I would love to see photos of your garden out there. Such a mild climate is kind to all sorts of lovely plants !

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 14 June 2013 at 9:01 pm

      Sure, I’ll post a photo soon! The mild climate is great, but the dryness is tough – there literally hasn’t been any rain since we moved in. The ground is like hard-baked clay. But we water every evening, and things seem to be growing quite quickly!

      1. hilary west 15 June 2013 at 12:18 am

        When I had a garden In England I loved watering it in the evening, particularly after a warm day. My last year at home I was always in the garden and grew peppers and melons in the greenhouse as well as cherry tomatoes. It was funny though that the thing I liked most was purple loosestrife which grew quite wild. I am looking forward to seeing your photos, Andrew, I am really envious – I would love to be there.

        1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 17 June 2013 at 7:44 pm

          What a wonderful name, loosestrife! I hadn’t heard of it before, but just went to look it up. I remember that several of your stories were set in gardens, and the descriptions of gardens were very beautiful and evocative, so now I know why!

          Ours here is more functional I’m afraid – rows of vegetables and herbs. It’s not really beautiful or ornamental, although I do love looking out at it each day and trying to spot new growth!

          1. hilary west 18 June 2013 at 1:03 am

            Sounds like a kitchen garden, but you can still intersperse a few flowers here and there, and of course some flowers are edible. I think Nasturtiums are edible in salads. They would run rampant in Greece particularly if you are always watering ! And you are right about my interest in gardens. I was a bit of a garden freak from 12 onwards !

            1. hilary west 18 June 2013 at 1:12 am

              I liked ‘A Virtual Love’ by the way. I put a review on Goodreads and on Amazon too. I particularly liked its preoccupation with Time, as symbolized by the old clock in the book !

              1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 18 June 2013 at 7:25 pm

                Thanks very much, Hilary. I saw the Amazon review but didn’t realise it was you, because of the different name. And I haven’t been on Goodreads for a while, so it was great to go on and see your review. I appreciate you taking the time to read and review my book!

            2. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 18 June 2013 at 7:26 pm

              Yes, it is a kitchen garden really. Good idea about edible flowers! Will see what I can find in the local garden centre…