Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Journey Girl Travels… to the ends of the earth

Well, she travels to the tippy toe of England actually, Cornwall, which is hardly the ends of the earth; I don’t think the ends of the earth would have lovely things like butter-thick clotted cream, flaky-pastried pasties and Roskillys ice cream, would they? And this is my excuse for having been absent from the blogosphere this past week. Because the one and only bad thing about holidays is that the week before you head off to melt away your troubles and remember what it feels like to be a student with absolutely NOTHING to do (except with more to eat than a bowl of frozen peas and a kinder egg), you become so busy and so stressed, you inadvertently counteract any health benefits you are later hoping to enjoy.

But anyway, we are here, and I am supposed not to get all stressed about work right now so let's talk about happy things... Like Cornwall. Even so, yesterday (day 3 of our holiday), is the first time both of us felt truly relaxed. We were eating at the time of course, since much of our enjoyment does seem to stem from what we are currently shovelling down our gullets (see above). But we had just completed a blustery, quad-burning 5-mile walk from The Lizard to Kynance Cove and back, and therefore thoroughly deserved the subsequent sustenance of a massive doorstep cheese and ham sandwich (him) and a buttery JP with mature cheddar cheese (me) followed by a River Cottage steak and ale pie later that evening for tea.

I am currently writing this with a pot of tea, and a slice of toasted sourdough topped with butter and squashed banana, in a slate-floored kitchen, next to a rayburn, listening to the wind that appears to be trying to rattle off the roof tiles. I quite possible have never felt happier.

Here are a few highlights of our Cornish adventure (and I apologise for the photography skills, I keep meaning to get my sister to teach me how...)

So we stopped in Axminster at River Cottage's Canteen on the way. Will had the most amazeballs sausage sandwich which I secretly wished I'd had too. Instead I had poached eggs and mushrooms on toast which was also pretty darn good...

We arrived at our accommodation (the most picturesque little cottage on the top of a cliff with the sea one way, rolling fields the other) and decided that it was time we found the nearest pub, which was all the way down there at the bottom of that cove....

Inside, the locals were playing a Cornish card game called Euchre which I think is a bit like Trumps. We didn't join in the card playing (cards are also now forbidden for fear we garotte each other over a game of Black Jack), but we did join in the drinking, which made the journey back up the cliff face in the pitch black a lot easier than it rightfully should have been. 

Yesterday we walked from the Lizard to the little cafe at Kynance Cove where we rewarded our efforts with a coffee and a slice of carrot cake. Followed by the bargainous purchase of a box of England's most southerly eggs which had been left on the steps of a house right on the edge of the south-west coastal path. They were ours for the princely sum of £1.30.
They are seriously big eggs. Poor hens...
Right really need to get washed and dressed now. Can't be too studenty even if i am on holidays. Bye for now.xx

Thursday, 14 February 2013

How to write a love letter

There once was a time when I wanted nothing more on 14th February than to receive a box of chocolates the size of a dustbin lid, and a bunch of red roses so wide that I’d have to rearrange the furniture before squeezing it through the front door. It never happened, but I’m not bitter. Mainly because I realise gestures such as these are just not my husband’s thing. In fact, if he did ever do any of the above (which he wouldn’t), it would simply be because he was expected to (which he isn’t), which, I think you’ll agree, is about as romantic as a mail-merged Valentine’s card from your local MP. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not a wholesale damner of Valentine’s Day. Anything that encourages a bit of love-spreading and togetherness amidst the daily drudge gets a big thumbs up from me. But for it to count, surely you have to decide the moment is right? Rather than in fact wishing you were eating spag bog in front of the telly tonight instead of getting all dressed up for a poncey meal somewhere out...in the cold…at the end of a very long week…just cos Clinton Cards says so. Or is that just me?
  Because you know you love each other. It’s in all the little things you do on all the ordinary days of the year when you’re not required to spend twenty quid on a foil-wrapped chocolate heart and stuffed toy to show you really care; like when he puts the hot water bottle on your side of the bed, or you buy him a walnut whip when you dash in to M&S to grab a pair of tights. And perhaps you don’t tell each other everyday that those are the things that really count - perhaps you don’t tell each other at all. But you’re not going to be anymore enlightened by a mass-produced card either, are you? So, here’s my plan – it starts with a blank piece of paper and a pen. I don’t have to be Shakespeare, it doesn’t have to rhyme, it doesn’t even have to be more than a couple of words long if that sums it all up. I might not know the right words straight away – they might come to me on the train, on the phone, in the shower – today, tomorrow, next month, or in a year. But when it happens, I’m going to write the person who makes the little things matter, a love letter. My mum, my best friend, my sister, my husband, my dog – a love letter, isn’t a romantic preserve. I’ll tell them the little things I know only they know about me, and the little things only I know about them. I won’t even need a card - some A4 binder paper, or even a napkin will do. There’s no need to wait until next February the 14th. I’ll just write it all down, leave it by the toaster, slip it under their pillow, hide it inside their bag. Tell them ‘I love you’ without even having to say those three words.

Ps. If you want to read some beautiful letters, look no further than one of my favourite blogs – Letters of Note. My favourites are in fact letters from three fathers to their sons – John Steinbeck on falling in love, Ronald Reagan on getting married and Ted Hughes on living like a mighty river.

Pps. I’m still hopeful a ginormous bar of Toblerone might be on it’s way home from Waterloo this evening - there’s no point in wasting a good excuse for chocolate, now is there?

Monday, 4 February 2013

Making More Hours in the Day

 I’ve often wondered what life would have held had I been born a lark rather than a night owl. Surely I’d have a couple of novels under my belt, be fluent in Cantonese and possess an immaculately folded underwear drawer. Because although technically I am awake the same amount of time as your average early riser, when you’ve sprung out of bed at 5am you’ll be less inclined to spend the next two hours scrolling through your facebook newsfeed and watching re-runs of Glee. I am a night owl and it’s genetic. Nothing short of an early morning flight to somewhere hot with highly alcoholic watermelon-flavoured beverages can entice me out of bed before I absolutely have to. When I was a toddler the only way Mum could do the school run was by transferring me and my bed covers to our little orange Citroen Diane (AKA Mr Bump due to its lack of seatbelts and suspension) and driving around with me splayed across the backseats as though drugged. When it was my turn to go to school Mum took inspiration from that most popular movie of the day, Superman, meaning I would climb into bed sporting my Care Bear pyjamas, and emerge washed and fully dressed in my tunic, tights and blazer. Ta-daaa!
  I never grew out of it, of course, because, as I said, it’s genetic. But anyone who accidentally wakes me before the allotted time is no longer met with the kind of blind rage that could boil a cup of tepid tea. I’ve come to accept that getting out of bed before I’m good and ready is a simple fact of life. I spend the first 20 minutes of everyday a walking hazard: my limbs behave as though I am being operated by a drunken puppeteer, I bounce off worktops and door handles, my tongue and brain refuse to work in unison, and loud noises and bright lights prompt me to squeeze my eyes shut tightly and sway on the spot. By the time I switch on BBC Breakfast I am too traumatized to even sigh. And so starts another day.
  And then last year at Swanwick Writers Summer School I met the lovely Jackie Buxton, also a night owl – she can’t change, it’s genetic don’t you know. Erm, except she did. Because while I was clawing my way around my bedroom at 7am trying to find the shower, she had been up for two hours, been for a run, eaten breakfast, made herself look utterly gorgeous, and no doubt written another chapter of her book (which she has now finished). She called it ‘Larkism’ and had been practicing it for a couple of months when we met. If she could do it, she assured me, anyone could.
  I’d love to say that I took this advice and now, five months on, bounce out of bed laughing with glee at the thought of never having seen 5am on purpose, ready to complete a circuit of 100 squats and lunges, clear my inbox, wash down the bathroom and digest the business section of The Guardian before breakfast. I did not. Instead I decided that Jackie had in fact somehow had her genetic molecules scrambled (perhaps through proximity to a meteor strike or bite from a radioactive spider) and therefore was the one exception to the ‘can’t-change-a-night-owl’ rule. The ONE exception. Meaning statistically speaking there was no point me trying.
  This morning, I took a jaunt over to her fantastic blog Agenthood and Submissionsville, however, in which she happened to be talking about how her larkism is still going strong. Needless to say, she is now on her second novel, sings in a choir, teaches three creative writing classes, is learning a foreign language, keeping fit, and finding time to be a wife and mum. Surely there are not enough hours in the day? Oh yeah… got it now. So this week, I’m seriously contemplating Larkism. Because there really are not enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do (ie get all Cath Kidstony with my sewing machine, all David Bailey with my camera, all Audrey Tatou with my French and all Jackie Buxton with my novel). I’m contemplating Larkism in much the same way a person might contemplate voluntary root canal surgery – I know it will do me good, but can’t quite see beyond the butt-clenching pain. Hmm…. any others of you done it? I need persuading...