Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Dream catching

What a difference a week makes! Only a few days ago we were about to rent out our house and move to a sunnier clime (possibly Cornwall) to embrace the good life. Now the summer term has started, my husband is back at work and we are once again 'safe' in the old routines. As you might have guessed, we have just returned from a week's holiday: the perennial time for hatching harebrained schemes and entertaining fantasies of jumping off the treadmill.

Genki cafe, St Agnes, Cornwall
Anyone for a smoothie in compostible plastic?
Some people, however, do manage to pull it off. During our aforementioned holiday in Cornwall, I was talking to a friend about this - her theory is that we tend not to make any dramatic changes to our lives until we reach rock-bottom. In her case, after a relationship broke down, she skipped England for Kenya, where her life has since blossomed.

Last week, on our pilgrimage to the beach in St Agnes, we happened upon a cafe called Genki (translates as 'health and happiness' in Japanese). It provides a winning combination of lemon drizzle cake, barista coffee and granola, all served up with a cosmopolitan-cum-surfing vibe. Our daily diet of cake and flat whites became a highlight - the "best bit of the holiday", according to our son. Owen and Natalie Lewis, who own the cafe, are relaxed and friendly hosts. With their tousled hair, good looks and rude health, you could well believe they grew up on a surf board down in the bay.

Natalie and Owen Lewis, owners of Genki cafe, St Agnes
Natalie and Owen Lewis
Imagine the surprise when we discovered that they spent six years pursuing careers in Japan. Natalie taught at the British School in Tokyo, while Owen was an equities sales trader for a US bank. Owen candidly admits that six years of the high life in Tokyo - drinking and eating out - eventually lost its lustre. "You have to ask yourself what's your ideal life," he says. "Some people have their ideal life in a place like Hong Kong, but I realised I was not a city person. I was becoming someone I didn't want to become." These days after work, Owen is more likely to be found surfing or fishing than drinking in a bar.

Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disaster, also played a part. Nothing like a radiation leak to focus the mind - the couple left behind a beach house in Fukushima, the site of the nuclear power plant that suffered equipment failures in the wake of the tsunami. Health and happiness on Cornwall's breezy shores was a more appealing prospect.
St Agnes beach, Cornwall
An idyllic life by the sea?

At the end of our holiday, we attended the wedding of an old friend. She is one more example of someone who sought another path. She swapped a flat in London for a house perched on a cliff in St Agnes with wall-to-wall views of the sea. Now she has married a Cornishman and is expecting her first baby in July. 

All of this makes me think it is possible to achieve a dream, if you are determined enough. Perhaps one day we too will down tools and make for the nearest beach! The difficulty is that our nice existence in Oxfordshire is a little too comfortable. There is some solace in that - we obviously haven't hit rock-bottom. So until the quake breaks, we will be sitting tight, dreaming about a new life by the sea... 


Emma Clark Lam is the author of A Sister for Margot. "This was such an enjoyable read and the quality of the writing was what made it so. I could not put it down as the plot was so meaty with so many twists and turns." -- Amazon review