As my gap year very unfortunately draws to a close I can’t help but try and savour every little moment I have left in this place. The better part of my year was spent working at Ryde School on the Isle of Wight. Well I say better part, but in fact I’ve spent more weeks on vacation than I have working. And despite being placed in one of England’s most depressing places to live (no really, ranked fourth in places where the most money is spent on anti-depressants, see: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/most-depressing-place-england-more-7279116), the Isle of Wight will now forever hold a spot in my heart.
To give you an insight into my the place I called home this year, here are six of my favourite things about the island (in no order):
1. Seaviews. Not the most ground-breaking of my discoveries, considering it is an island, but living in a place surrounded by ocean has its perks (ignoring my battle with seasickness). Coming in on the hovercraft during the summer, greeted by that gleaming sun and sparkling ocean isn’t the worst way to be welcomed home. Practically everywhere you go on the island is has a view of the ocean. And although the sea proves to sometimes be menacing and scary during the winter time, there is no denying it’s beauty. Running along Ryde Seafront down to the BoatHouse quickly became one of my favourite activities this year. Especially if there was enough help from Mother Nature as to feel the warmth of the sun and have the fog clear enough to see across to Portsmouth.
2. The kids. With all the travelling you do as a gappie, it’s easy to forget the actual reason we’re allowed to go to all of these amazing places; the job. The kids (apart from the odd few) have been absolutely incredible. Especially in making me forget the not-so-glamorous aspects of the job. Picture it: You wake up ridiculously early. It’s raining. The temperature is in the minuses. The venture down to the frosty netball courts for afternoon practice is looming. You depressingly roll into work 45 minutes earlier than every other staff member to do the dreaded gate duty. Like I said, it’s REALLY cold. You’re questioning your life choices. “Why didn’t I just stay in Australia?” you ask yourself, looking off pensively into the horizon in the hope of a glimpse of sunshine. You want to go home to the warmth. Let me yet again emphasise, it’s bloody freezing. But wait, there’s that absolutely adorably tiny red-headed girl from year 4 running up to you. Her smile is stretching from ear to ear, from the sheer innocent anticipation for the day to come. You can’t help smiling too, as you see her little legs speeding through at a hundred miles an hour, her bag jolting up and down against her back. She tackles you into a cuddle that barely reaches above your knees she’s so small. And despite coming at you with such force as to nearly knock you straight out onto the concrete, the day is already salvaged. You can’t beat that. I mean if a hug from a giddily excited kid first thing in the morning doesn’t cheer you up, I don’t know what does.
3. The Cliffs. Having spent the better half of my year living at the school Boarding House right on Whitecliff Bay, I’ve become no stranger to the numerous ginormous rocks that hang over the ocean on the Isle of Wight. I’ll admit that part of the appeal of them has been periodically sending my mother (who is terminally afraid of heights) selfies of me close to the edge during my afternoon jogs. (Although having technically aged into an adult this year, it’s clear that my maturity remains that of a 12 year old). But the cliffs also have a special appeal to me, especially during winter time. Climbing up them made me feel like the only person in the world. Granted, this sometimes had the effect of me sensing like I was definitely being set us up as the next victim on Midsummer Murders. But the view over the open sea always made me feel like the physical openness around me somehow translated into freeing up headspace. So I would often make the climb up Whitecliff just to think. The first time I went up there also holds one of my earliest and favourite memories from the year; going up there with Johannes on my first weekend on the island, and getting my first real taste of the sights that the island has to offer.
4. Old Structures. Anybody who’s been to the island will tell you that the moment you step off the ferry, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Intentional or not, the island, and Ryde in particular holds a certain historic charm. And while it’s lack of development is among some people’s criticisms of this county, it is one of my favourite things about the island. This makes sense if you consider that I come from a country that in my opinion is severely architecturally lacking in any conservation of the past. The old brick of the victorian-esque buildings and the high street’s undisturbed nature make you feel like you’re a part of an unfolding history.
5. Running. As previously mentioned, the scenery on the island is pretty easy going on the eyes. This made it so much easier for me to fall back in love with my most productive childhood habit; running. During my final year of a school, although I was running, I was mostly doing to get out studying for 20 minutes, and I became really bored with my surroundings, and wasn’t really enjoying it. The seafront views of this place was exactly what I needed to spice it up. Although I was always running versions the same path, the views were different everyday (you can thank the ephemeral English weather for that one). One day, the sun would be shining right on me, and I could enjoy the view of the ferries crossing over to France. The next, it would be so foggy that I could barely see past my feet. Needless to say, I never found myself bored whilst jogging, and it was good to help fight the gap fat.
6. The staff. I hope none of them ever read this, because I’m sure it would inflate their egos and I’m also sure that they’d take the piss out of me for it… But they are amazing. They’ve really got me through this year, because they’re my kind of people. You know the type… Sarcastic, funny… Slightly annoying at times. You can tell I fitted right in from day one. There’s nothing like a few innuendos or a bit of racial stereotyping to give you a giggle and a perk up to face the rest of the day. (Especially if the rest of the day involves Year 3 PE).
There’s no denying, I’m going to miss this place. Despite the added expense and inconvenience of having to take a ferry in order to reach any kind of real civilisation, it’s been incredible. Everyone here have been so lovely, and I’ve made some real life long friends outside the bubble that is Frensham. A.A Milne definitely puts it best: “How lucky am I to have something that makes say goodbye so hard?”.
Until next time Ryde, you’ve been extraordinary.
And it’s a see ya later, not a goodbye. Just to clarify.