Sunshine and Cactus

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I think sunshine has a habit of making everything look better, and feel better, and sound better, and taste better. Here in Britain we live under a perpetual cloud. The winter sky is characteristically overcast, gloomy light turning everything into monotone. When the sun finally does manage to beam her face down at us, once the relentless clouds have given her the stage for a moment or two, the world is suddenly flushed with colours I never knew existed!

Wow, grass is THAT GREEN?! 

That tarmac is looking particularly handsome today!

My goodness, I never noticed how very pink those roses are.

Oh, glory days, this doorstep is the most gorgeous russet I have ever set my eyes on. Peonies nodding in sunlit breeze. Gleaming black railings against the stark white of a Kensington building.

Everything has a humming vibrancy when the sun comes out.

n.b The photo taken above was actually in Spain.

Yeezys

When I went for a walk yesterday I wore my grey trainers. The ones I got for fifteen quid from TK Maxx. I remember the first day I wore them to school after that one of my year five students ran up to me calling, ‘Miss, Miss, is it true you’re wearing Yeezies?’

I stared at her. Her big bushy blonde hair waving in the winter breeze and her stark green eyes blinking cheekily at me. I saw her gaggle of friends giggling behind a wall.

What the heck is a yeezie?

‘What the heck is a yeezie?’ I said, ‘these were fifteen quid from TK Maxx’

Thank goodness no other teachers were nearby, saying ‘heck’ in front of a student is probably a no-no.

I googled a yeezie when I got home. First, I found out it was actually ‘Yeezy’ and not ‘yeezie’. Second, I was not impressed. Yeezy is pretty much some bone headed celebrity clothing line.

So I wore my fifteen quid NON-yeezies on my walk yesterday when I discovered some fields. The sun was shining brightly, igniting each blade of grass and turning them from sombre green into brilliant emerald. I sighed happily and walked on, letting the cool spring wind take me whichever direction it chose. I had plenty of fields to walk in, and some were filled with bright yellow rapeseed (what a nasty name) flowers taller than my five foot four frame. I was in my element. My shoes, which were severely permeable because they’re supposed to be running shoes, were doing their bouncy thing.

You know.

And I was just. So. Happy. Until I walked into what looked like a particularly fresh patch of grass, severely green, blooming and luscious, and my shoes, feet and all, sank right in, right through the deceiving little patch all the way up beyond my ankles with a wet squelch. The mud beneath bubbled up and burped satisfactorily when I tried to lift my foot out. I was well and truly stuck, and nobody around to hear me scream. I could feel the muddy deluged splotching around and soaking into my socks, it was a very cringe experience I can tell you that much.

There was a feeling of resignation, after the initial shock, when I realised that, well, now my feet and shoes were soaking and muddy and probably a bit shitty too, considering the huge cowpats everywhere, but that was that, and there was nothing I could do about it. I just stared down for a few moments, then went, ‘Oh well.’ and proceeded to squelch myself out of there, getting mud all up my leggings in the process.

I got out alright, else I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale, but my shoes, alas, did not survive. The end of the ‘yeezies’ as it were.

I enjoyed the rest of the hour and a half I spent walking after the incident, clearly mud is not a deterrent on a sunny day in England – we don’t get many of those, we tend to savour what we have!

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The M1

Did my fourth motorway drive today. Honestly I was terrified. My hands were glued to the steering wheel, when I tried to move them some point after hitting the 90mph mark, they unstuck with a squelch. Ew.

It is good practise for me but I can never shake the fear I have hurtling down the M1. Sometimes I want to stay in the slow lane, behind chugging old folks creeping along at 60mph but the car I drive has a powerful engine and I can feel it wanting to go faster, complaining whenever I lift my foot off the accelerator. When I move onto the middle lane it leaps forward at the slightest touch, and it surges past other cars so effortlessly. It is wide and menacing; definitely a man’s car. I sound so sexist but it is how I feel.

It is my husband’s car, of course. He works in the automotive industry, and one of his special talents includes being able to tell exactly what kind of car is driving by just by looking at the front and rear lights. His knowledge somehow seeps out of him because now I can tell the difference between cars and their engines as they pass me on the motorway. I don’t know what to do with that knowledge because I honestly couldn’t care less. All I want is to buy a smaller car so I can hurtle down the motorway without developing sweat patches in my armpits!

Today I had an intrusive thought; as I sped down the motorway – I should say up because I was headed up North, I thought how magnificent and powerful the machine I was controlling was. My feet and hands pushing it and urging it along. A small twist of the arm of press of the foot and I would destroy the car and myself, too. It was an abhorrent thought. A part of me wanted to pull over and let my husband stress the way home, but I didn’t because I need to practise else I will never be free. Another part of me hankered after those autonomous cars that are currently in the works. With autonomous cars the pleasure of driving is eliminated, but oh, so will those mountainous piles of stress!

I love driving, I do, but those motorways are terrifying.

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Austen Pinkerton

 

On Being Ungrateful

I am having the most awful day, folks. I missed my first day at work this week yesterday because I was up the night before swotting, and missed my 4am train because of it.

So I really enjoyed being at home; I cleaned my house for the first time in, well, a month and a half I should say. I scrubbed and scraped and my oven is gleaming and my floors smell like lavender and tea tree and my washing basket is empty. I showered and epilated and oiled and washed my hair and scrubbed my face and dressed up nice and – well-  clearly, it was the best day ever.

But it is my last week at work so I had to leave this morning. I simply had to, no amount of moaning about it or crying would change anything. But moan an cry I did. I groaned while I washed my face and cried in the mirror putting my cream on. I told my hair off for being such a relentless bush, and scraped it into the most atrocious bun you ever did see.

I scarfed a bowl of cheerios and a coffee as black and bitter as my mood. I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls at 3am and decided not to have a shower, dousing myself with deodorant and my husband’s manly perfume (don’t you agree ladies, they make men’s perfume so much stronger?).

I cried bitter tears whilst tying my shoelaces and told my husband I would not warm up the car even though he woke up at 5am to drive me to the station, never mind he had to be up at 7. But I did warm it up, I am not that cruel.

I was such a moany, horrible person this morning. Which is not very like me at all.

I think it was the fact that I woke up at 2:40am exactly, wide awake, heart throbbing, and was unable to go back to sleep. I am wired on exhaustion and concentrated coffee, much like a Gilmore Girl.

When I sat moodily in the train, I pulled out my phone to snap a routine snapchat of the train leaving the station at 5:21am, headed to London Euston.

I was about to caption it, ‘Ugh, thankfully this is the last time I have to take this crappy journey.’

But then. I sat. And thought.

Hang on.

That is pretty ungrateful.

It only took me three seconds.

So I wrote, ‘This is the last time I am doing this, hopefully it goes easy’

I don’t know what took over me there. I felt like utter crap, but why broadcast it? It wasn’t even about who would see it, it was about me projecting my bad feelings on the universe despite the fact that I am actually privileged to be on a train in the warmth going to a job that I don’t hate and will pay me – also, it’s the LAST JOURNEY?!

Sour puss, Lenora.

And I just realised that actually, I am pretty ungrateful. So.

Not a few minutes after that a lady passed me and smiled at me in such a lovely way that despite the dark cloud raining sorrow over me I was enticed to smile back at her. My teeth showed. She must have magical powers.

THEN, a few minutes later, the conductor came by asking for tickets. I realised my tickets were due to leave yesterday, and I had made an accident while booking. So we had a pretty decent chat about refund prices and how the Trainline is not the best website to book cross country train tickets and the better bet would be to use Nationalrail.co.uk (pssst, some good tips for you UK train travellers out there). And he got his special red pen that only conductors are allowed to use and MARKED MY TICKETS VALID AT NO EXTRA COST TO MYSELF!?

What a nice man. I think this morning taught me that actually, I should be more grateful and that there are nice people outside.

Also. My childhood American friend is coming to the UK from America for some time and while we were chatting on the phone she told me in the USA they do not travel cross country by train. They either plane it, drive it or take what they call a ‘greyhound bus’ and we call a ‘coach’. A ‘bus’ to us is that long metal vehicle that sometimes has two floors and smells of rubbish and sweat and costs four pounds return to take you ten minutes down the road to sodding Tesco; i.e. an ‘in-city’ bus. But it looks different from a ‘greyhound bus’ or ‘coach’.

 

The sun will rise, folks. That is a fact. Unless it doesn’t, in which case I stand corrected.

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Spain. Yours truly.

 

On Christmas in Spain and British People

Christmas day for me was spent in Granada. Actually, travelling from Granada to Cordoba. In Spain.

They drive on the right hand side of the road, as opposed to the left side which is the side we stick to in Britain. This was confusing to say the least. There were several incidents where we drove straight into oncoming traffic. To say we angered the Spaniards is to make a colossal understatement.

It was a great holiday. We did not have brussel sprouts at all, which I am glad for. I went through a period in 2013 where I had brussel sprouts daily for months. Needless to day my stomach suffered horrendously. No, on Christmas day we ate dry cereal for breakfast, then for lunch we didn’t have anything and for dinner we had, well, I can’t remember. I think we had a late lunch in an Italian restaurant. We had a very cheesy pizza with almost no crust and a beschamel soaked tortellini stuffed with something sweet. It was a very cheesy meal, and also very delicious. Later that night I awoke from some very cheesy nightmares involving a particularly stinky brie. We walked miles and miles that day, I think we did around 18,000 steps. We relaxed and watched the sun set.

My husband checked some women out and I got super pissy about that. He did it blatantly and not just once but hundreds of times throughout all seven days. And it made me severely doubt the power of my booty. Which is a pretty good one if I do say so myself.

I am, still pissy about it and it has ruined my holiday and makes me not like him very much at all.

But the holiday itself was lovely. So peaceful and I saw and learned a host of incredible things about the Nasrid empire and the Catholicism that took over soon after. The battle of cultures is emphatically displayed in the magnificent architecture of the palaces and castles and mosques in Granada, Cordoba and Malaga. It’s a clash of religions and you know, it’s stunning. You can clearly see the gothic architecture competing with the Islamic designs and there are places where whole ceilings have been replaced, only to be broken in some corners and the mathematically intricate designs of the Islamic architecture carries on along the wall and some floors are mosaic and some are flagstone and you just stand there and stare at the deathly silence of it all; and if you stand very still you can hear the echoes of civilisation forming and building and living and dying and flighting.

It is phenomenal. Humans are phenomenal.

There was one point in Granada when we were exploring the Nasrid palace in Alhambra, when a tour guide was explaining the history of the palace to an older couple. I was eavesdropping very blatantly, because we didn’t get any audio guides and there was no information at all anywhere. What he was saying was so captivating, I simply could not help myself. The guide saw me eavesdropping and I felt like such a cheat. But he did not say anything, he just carried on talking. Maybe he felt I should have given him a tip at least, if I was too stingy to pay for a tour!

But oh, Spain was so beautiful. Courtyards and cobbled alleyways and mesmerising views and palm trees and thunderous beaches and orange trees galore.

When we got on the plane to go home we were surrounded by British people and I was reminded of how much I really don’t like British people. Maybe that is a generalisation. But a man of fifty odd years was swearing horrendously at his mother who was limping along using a walking stick. And he was effing and blinding in a most British fashion. And it just reminded me of city streets and uncouth louts.

And I got this super strange stare from him on the plane and it felt very judgey because of how big my bag was. But I guess I am judging him and maybe he was just reminded of another bag in some other place which made him angry. Or something.

Anyway this man who was around 65 started talking to my husband about the forty years he served in the Navy. He spoke to my husband during the entire two and a half hour flight and while I didn’t hear much of what he had to say because the general sound in the plane is thunderous, I learned some interesting things.

And I felt bad for generalising my own people. The British. We are not so bad. Sometimes we can be awful, and drink too much alcohol, and reveal our pale, hairy bottoms in airports, and be generally quite stiff and awkward, and not like to speak what we think but like to show it in a manner of tuts and glares.

But some of us serve in the Navy for forty years and others do a myriad of different things and are their own people.

And some of us are not strong because we react to emotion. A strong person is not one who can fight and win. A strong person is one who can control themselves when they are angry. That is what I learned this Christmas.

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My photo of one of the courtyards in the Nasrid palace of Alhambra, Granada.

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A stunning view over Sacramento from atop Alhambra, Granada.

 

Spreading Some Joy

I don’t have many words to use anymore. I am spent. So I leave you with a photograph of a snippet of happiness. Children and bubbles, long summer evenings. And a man spreading joy.

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Image Credit: Yours truly

Every Last Drop

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Loch Ness

Maybe we can pause the world and escape to a little cubby hole. Maybe we don’t even need to pause it. Maybe it can carry on without us but we would be content because we are not needed or required to help turn its magnificent cogs.

I suppose we don’t really need to turn its magnificent cogs. I suppose if we didn’t, the world would carry on as usual, and it would be exactly the same. But our little nooks would slowly vaporise away and we would be mere wisps on the fringe of it all struggling to find a parting in the heavy, stampeding traffic that is trundling along.

And it would be very hard to get back in.

And everything we worked for would be gone. Snap. Crick crack. Like a click. Or a tock.

That is why we need a holiday. To refresh and recharge our tired little arms, to carry on turning our very own special cogs.

Mine included driving all around this Island I call home. From the south to the topmost North. I only have four days left before I have to set the record player again and fall back into the stressful mess that is my real life.

The worry, the anxiety, the terrible marriage situation where the in-laws and commuting to work suck all the life out of my husband so all I get is an empty moody shell, the awful living situation, the nomad-like bouncing from house to house everyday, the exhaustion, the feeling of not finishing half what I set out to do by the end of the day because I do not have any private space for my work – aaaah!

I don’t want this peace to end. I really, really don’t want this peace to end. I could cry because I so desperately hate it back at ‘home’. But it will end.

And so.

For now.

I will find the Loch Ness monster (that’s Nessie, apparently), I will enjoy the scenic beauty of mountains and water and views and bagpipes for the last four days and squeeze out

every

last

little

drop.

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Loch Ness as we saw it

 

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Edinburgh from up top 🙂

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York – this man was blowing bubbles in return for a small donation to sponsor his trip to Japan!

All images are credited to my husband – he takes the good ones. 🙂

The Most Beautiful City in Europe

Today I am in Edinburgh.

They have a festival going on, which means the city is alive. It is heaving with folks and activities and music and throngs and mummers and minstrels and bagpipe blowers and Chinese people and ice cream and glorious sounds and sights everywhere.

Everywhere.

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited so far in my life, and I have visited a fair few.

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It is stunning because it combines magnificent natural beauty with ancient, wondrous architecture – alongside a light modern touch. There are mountains pale blue in the distance, an ocean glittering under the sunny sky, and castles and gothic spires rising and falling in a cascade over the city.

 

Cobbled streets are so steep – but you barely notice the climb because your neck is craned upwards at the stone walls and jutting rocks and trees growing seemingly over roofs – at the coloured shop fronts and flower falls and steep, steep steps leading to wonderlands.

There is so much to see. Too much to see, that you are twisting your neck to manic proportions for fear of missing anything. In fact, I know I missed a lot.

Edinburgh is a stunning city. No wonder the Scottish want their independence. They have Edinburgh, they don’t need us English!

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