On Thursday the 15th of March 2018 I decided to visit the small castle town of Arundel, in the heart of rural Sussex, all on my own. I had been mentally planning this trip for quite some time (because of my autism, it is hard to be spontaneous). I did not completely commit myself to the outing because confounding factors such as extreme tiredness or anxiety could have interfered, but I sincerely hoped that I would be able to go. Because I was so determined, when the day came, and armed with my travel times, I managed to complete the challenge.
To ensure that I was well nourished before leaving, I made a decadent bowl of porridge. I adapted a recipe taken from http://www.rebelrecipes.com/. The porridge contained mashed banana, almond milk and coconut, and was topped with coconut and vanilla yogurt, almond butter, seeds and raspberries.
In Arundel, the first thing I did was walk to Swanbourne Lake lodge, which is a cafe that sells traditional English food. I had a toasted tea-cake and Earl Grey tea with lemon, and I sat in the garden overlooking the lake. I had not been to the cafe for a long time, which made me slightly nervous, particularly as it can be hard for me to eat at cafes because of OCD around hygiene. But the cafe had kept its 5 hygiene rating, and seemed very clean, which was reassuring.
I then attempted to walk round the lake, but I had to turn back after a short distance because there were a few dogs. They were all on leads, but I have a severe dog phobia, and so just walking in an area where there are dogs was very anxiety provoking. However, I’m glad I at least tried to confront my fear, and I will try and walk further next time.
I gradually walked back towards the town alongside the river, and I took quite a few photos of the passing swans.
In Arundel town, I visited an artisan food shop, and spent a long time looking at all the interesting products on display. I fought my fear of buying new food, and purchased egg pasta from the Baytree company, and a jar of authentic Italian pasta sauce, made by an Italian company. I had to spend a lot of time mentally battling my fear before I made the decision to buy these products, but my intense interest in food had the final say. I will definitely visit this shop again next time I am in Arundel, because I would really like to try the interesting syrups (ginger, pomegranate, etc) for adding to drinks or drizzling over pancakes.
The next destination was the tea and biscuit company shop. This shop has only been in Arundel for two years, I learnt today, and I felt a child like excitement as the young sales woman let me smell all the different loose leaf teas! This was sensory heaven!! Some smelled of expensive ladies’ perfume, while others smelled of sweets. I particularly liked the marzipan black tea, and ended up buying a small packet.
I then visited a book shop, and spent a long time leafing through the cookery and philosophy books, in absolute peace, as the shop was so quiet!
Finally I visited the Victorian shopping arcade, which contained several quirky shops, including a trip back to the 60s’ in the form of a vinyl record’s shop, selling music from the likes of Francois Hardy. The shop had a nostalgic smell that took me back to my childhood, probably because my dad took me to this type of shop when I was very young.
I felt so excited in the arcade, and really wanted to jump and flap, but I repressed this urge because I still feel a strong need to mask my autism in public. I felt on a high because everything was so new and interesting.
Arundel is a tranquil oasis far from the madding crowd; it is quiet and picturesque, and calmed my senses while simultaneously pleasurably stimulating them in the form of epicurean culinary delights. I plan on making further trips to this small town in the near future.
And to top the day off, in the evening I cooked lightly dusted lemon sole for the very first time. I was feeling slightly overstimulated once I got back home, and wasn’t sure whether or not I could face another challenge, but I decided to face my fear and do it anyway. My OCD was slightly triggered during the process of cooking and eating the sole (read my post entitled ”food is where the heart is” to gain some insight into my fear around fish), but I felt a sense of satisfaction once I’d completed the challenge. Of course I rewarded myself with ginger biscuits and Swiss chocolate discs afterwards.
My New Year’s resolution was to try and go on outings by myself at least once a month, in order to try and challenge my anxiety and therefore hopefully grow as a person. This is the first such outing I have been on since last year, because it took me quite a while to recover from Christmas, and it can be harder to travel in the winter. Now that warmer weather is here, I hope that I will make many more such trips in the months to come.