Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Here's a thought that makes me smile:
My fingertips touch hundreds, maybe thousands of different things every day and I am probably unconscious of most of their sensations. But when they brush against the Man's fingertips, even just in passing, my whole body notices, and my mind  stops. Every time, any time.

I like to think that if there are auras and personal energy fields, you'd be able to see something happening around my fingertips when I touch him. I like to think that on some level, there's an actual sound, like a crackle of electricity, that we make when we touch.

And I think: I've held... how many hands so far, with other men I've loved and been with? Dozens? Hundreds? And it was nice, of course. But it didn't spark my body and stall my mind. And that tells me something.   

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The night the clock went back

I turned around in bed last night to see the Man curled up beside me, in a deep sleep.  A wedge of streetlight came in through the window and splashed across the foot of our bed, and  the chestnut tree rustled in the wind. Two leaves gone, four, golden summer dropping away one leaf at a time. The clocks went back silently, but I think I woke up at the moment that they did, and saw the timeless things around which the world turns. Golden leaves falling in the wind, streetlight, the fan of a lovers eyelashes.
I took it in, in the half-dark: Time passing, time stopping, time moving backwards. And us standing together within it.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

It's what's inside

Lets: curl up together like two cats (me grey, you brown and white. Both purring) on the windowsill of whatever ruin we are inhabiting. In the bar of sunshine, fanned by the breeze. Why don't we: Discover the corners where the nightwind does not reach, where the broken wooden floor creaks, where it doesn't. We'd learn how to use the stairs without breaking them, how to lap water from any pool in the garden after the rain. Let's just Be here, together. Let's prowl under the thornbushes and watch the sunset, let the flashing street flash by. Let's sit silently side by side and just watch. Let's listen to the creaking house and let it creak. Let the wind play with the curtain or take the chimney down. We have what we need: a bed, a sill, each other's shoulders and chests and paws. Let's wake in the middle of the night to the sound of the rain, and in the morning to the sound of the setting stars. I want all this with you, as the flashing street clatters by. Let it go on, on and on, as we sit in here. Let them think it's a ruined house, abandoned and empty. We know its every creak. We love its every corner. I love every moment in it. Our palace. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dark have been my dreams of late

I've been dreaming again. There are times in my life when I simply crash into oblivious sleep, and others when I spend night after night after night wandering my emotional landscape. Sometimes the landscape is magical. Sometimes terrifying. I wake tired, sore even, and recognize that while I never left my bed, I have actually been on an inner journey.  
I've been dreaming of water. Flooded rivers and deep forest pools into which mysterious magi dive from great heights, from diving platforms high up in the trees. Dark forests on the edge of deep blue oceans, the colour of no ocean I recognise. I dream, for the first time in my life, of being pregnant. In these dreams I am wandering wild landscapes with burning sunset skies and I am anxious about whether I really am pregnant, or whether I am dreaming the whole thing
I wake frightened, with my palm pressed against my tummy. I remain unsettled through the day, half because of the landscape I have been in, and half because I want to return there as soon as possible. 
Who is to say which is more real. The forests of my dreams with their fire and water and freedom and panic, or the world in which I type these words. 

Saturday, 4 August 2012


"I stand for the touch of bodily awareness between human beings," he said to himself, "and the touch of tenderness. And she is my mate. And it is a battle against the money, and the machine, and the insentient ideal monkeyishness of the world. And she will stand behind me there. Thank God I've got a woman! Thank God I've got a woman who is with me, and tender and aware of me."  

A quote that made me smile, inwardly and outwardly. 

Some quotes I come across are a challenge and a question mark and an exclamation point.  They raise the internal eyebrow, they make me look twice and wonder.  Others are a homecoming and a flush of recognition and an affirmation. 

I've just finished Lady Chatterley's Lover for the first time.  I fully intend to read it again and then perhaps I might don a more critical stance - though that seems to be totally against the spirit of the book actually.  To me anyway, at this time.   Because so much of it was a flush of recognition and a warm homecoming.  

Words are so important. Perhaps it's feeble-minded of me to only fully come to appreciate the reality of something once it's been put into words.  To say YES! to it once someone as talented as Lawrence has been able to articulate it for me.  But so what.  Bette to come to a YES! than to never come to it at all.   

I felt the YES! from cover to cover. 

I thought about the Man and how I feel when we are together.  I speak only for  myself in this, as who knows what is going on behind those eyes of his.  But for me, this is what we 'stand for'.  A world apart from the 'insentient ideal monkeyishness'.  A different wonderland, just as valid.  There are many things far from ideal about 'us'.  I'm not going to list them, for it doesn't matter.  But there is nothing monkeyishness.  Nothing farcical, nothing made of superficial appearance, I think is what Lawrence means.  Nothing of the mechanical, the socially ordained, the socially constrained.  Of course, it creeps in. But I think we're trying to live and build a way around it, imperfect as it might be, transient as it might be (though I hope it isn't!) It's worth a try, and we're trying. Without struggle.  

We assert and re-assert, without ever having explicitly agreeing to do so, the intimate, the soft, the warm, the unspoken, the tender, the kind.  He is bringing me towards that part of myself, in a deeper way than I could have alone. In a more adventurous way, in a more lived way.  I must have wanted that, and I didn't know I did. I fought against that need, for a long time. But he stands for the touch of tenderness.  And does not fight it. And holding my hand, he is walking me towards it, quietly, without even knowing it. 

Postcrossing: Lviv, Ukraine

So a few days ago I received another Postcrossing postcard, this time from a girl in Lviv, Ukraine. (Pronounced, roughly, as lev-iu on the Wikipedia site and as Le-viv by the BBC). If you're into football, you'll know the city as the host of the Euro 2012. 

I'm not into football, and again, I hadn't heard of it. So I googled.   

I won't try to summarize this incredibly detailed Wikipedia article - it describes what seems to be a really vibrant city! Lonely Planet calls it "mysterious, edgy and architecturally lovely", and says that its citizens boast that it is Ukraine's "least Soviet city" (I'm guessing that's meant to endear it to us) :) 

My postcrossing friend recommends it for coffee.  And since I'm totally addicted to caffeine, this got my attention! She says her city is famous for the best coffee in the world. 
And her city's tourist office appears to agree with her (as does the Ukrainian tourist board). Apparently this is a city where there is nothing more offensive than instant coffee. I HEAR THAT! 
And they host a coffee festival every year! 

Here's a BBC video on coffee, chocolate and beer in the city (though as one commentator pointed out in the comment threads here: I wondered why she is saying thank you in Russian?) 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

I keep thinking and thinking and thinking (and feeling and feeling and feeling) about my Father and Mother. About the fact of my Father's illness and my Mother's sadness and struggle to care for him while maintaining some kind of independent life. About what I should really be doing, about what I really want to be doing. What is my role and how do I really decide out of love rather than fear and guilt.

There's no way to explain to someone who hasn't been in my shoes how much of a journey I've taken to be even be able to type that last sentence and really think I know what I'm saying.
It's been a long journey since March.
That (I think?) is when my Father fell sick and was hospitalised again.  We've been through this before, I thought. We'll go through it again. Here we go. I was so practiced. My Mother phoned. I heard that beeping on the other end, before I heard her voice or just as I heard her voice. Her call had awoken me out of an uneasy sleep. And I knew before she said anything. I jumped out of bed, I pulled on my jeans.  She said hello? I felt nothing, I thought nothing. I just knew, in the cold, emotionless, sharp way of knowing that comes over me when I hear that beep - Papa is sick. Papa is in hospital. I need to go there. I will need to have a meeting with my boss today, urgently. I will need to ask for leave. We have a conference in 4 weeks. I'll need to pack the papers on my office desk. I should get to the office.

Beside me, the Man was still in a warm, soft sleep, his eyelashes perfectly still against his cheeks. My Mother  was talking, telling me what happened. Heard it all before, I thought, heard it exactly this way - concentrate on what you need to do.
She said I wish I could be there with you to help you too.
I snapped, ice-like: I don't need you to do that. I'm fine. Just tell me what I need to do.

And there we have it. The last time I said I don't need you, I'm fine.
I felt horrifying in every sense of the word.

I went to work and planned and planned. Clip clop, clip clop. Papers filed, meetings shuffled, everything cut and paste into place.
I walked into my boss's office with a list of items to sort through before I could leave. 3 A4 pages long.
Before I told him anything was the matter, we exchanged the usual pleasantries: How are you, nice weather we've been having.
He said: I have some good news for you - We've decided to make you full-time as soon as possible.
I've been waiting for this for years.
I won the funding that will make it possible. I work full-time hours regardless of what's on my contract. I wanted this.

I felt nothing, I thought nothing. I just knew, in the same cold, emotionless, sharp way of knowing that was still over me: It's happened. What a day for it to happen. Should I turn it down? Should I tell him now that I have to go, urgently and I don't know when I'll be back?

I felt like ice. Cold as ice, hard as ice, broken as shattered ice. Go, stay. Too much going on here, too much going on there. A sharp drop into the abyss (or it would have felt like one, if I hadn't turned to ice) in the morning, a huge flight into the open sky in the afternoon (or it would have felt like one, if I hadn't turned into ice). The beep beep beep on the phone, the words full time in the office.

He smiled and asked: Aren't you happy (or something like that)
I thought: I wish I was deaf. I wish I was blind. I wish I could go back to bed. I wish I could cry.
I smiled back and said yes, of course, I'm thrilled.

I've been walking around feeling snapped in two since. I think back to that meeting, and I feel it as clear as crystal. I'm surprised there wasn't a large cracking sound, like a twig breaking.
I didn't tell anyone that I'd just been made my dream offer for my dream job. I didn't tell anyone who didn't need to know that I would be away because my Dad was ill.
Maybe I should have done. I should have connected the two parts of my life. Maybe I would have done if I hadn't turned to ice. But I did, and I snapped, as ice will snap.

I'm only starting, slowly, to thaw now. Taking a deep internal breath, and realising: the Universe is not toying with me, and I did not actually break in two, no matter how it felt.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Postcrossing: Vilnius, Lithuania

I've sent my first Postcrossing postcard, to Minsk!
And received my first one too, from Vilnius, in Lithuania.

I hadn't heard of Vilnius before, to my shame, and one of the reasons (perhaps the most obvious one?) I'm so in love with the Postcrossing idea is that gives me a chance to luxuriate in learning about new places.
So every time I receive one, I'm going to post a bit about it here!

Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania. Here's the wiki and I even found a youtube video!

My postcard has a beautiful picture of Saint Johnnes' Church, bathed in beautiful sunlight.  The church is situated on the University campus, apparently.  I so love the colour of the stone!  I love old stone buildings.  And would so love to spend a day wandering around there!

Friday, 13 July 2012

There's a reason I don't fight the sadness I feel when I miss my cat.
And why I do when I anticipate loss in other areas of my life.

It was a pure relationship, with no opportunity for any of the shit that language brings: negativity, expectation, inference, guilt.
We learnt, without words, what the other needed and wanted, and whether we were the Being who could give it to them. We learnt how to give and take, how to share and when to leave the other alone. We learnt comfort and tough love. We learnt how to manage boundaries and expectations without any expectations. Without feeling or imposing any obligations or habits.
I don't even know what that would look like in a human relationship and if you asked me to explain, I couldn't. But I know, in a deep way, that I knew it with him.
I might sound like I'm idealising it - perhaps I am.
I might sound like I am tired of the complexity of human relationships and am retreating into a dream world where my cat and I just were. I am.
I miss him. So much.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Asking for what you need

 An essential part of 'growing up' - or just growing, I think - is figuring out what you need, and whether you can really ask it of the Universe (by which I do not mean being a chickenshit) and if so, asking!
I find it infinitely easier to ask for 'things' or manifest opportunities than I find asking for something from someone. I find that incredibly difficult.  It's unsurprising, therefore, that I end often end up angry and resentful.  I find it difficult to say: 'You have slacked off, and it's started becoming really lame now'.  I find it difficult to tell my Mother that she needs to also listen to me on the phone, not just talk about her or my Dad.  I have a voice in my head saying selfish, selfish, selfish right now, by the way. 
I find it hard to tell friends who always seem to have something or the other going on: I exist too.  
I wait until they get it - which never happens, and no wonder. 

Without meaning to turn into one of those annoying people who accuse their pasts for each failing, I am pointing my finger at my past. 
I've felt responsible for my parents, and particularly my Mum, because of my Dad's illness and my Mum's brave, lonely and sad vigil through it.  Though it's never been let on that that is my expected role, I've taken it on to varying degrees, automatically.  For most of my life I have of course felt that I could ask my Mother for whatever I needed, but over time, I've felt it less and less.  My Dad's gotten older and older, my Mum is tired and going through this every single day, and I feel like I should be able to handle myself.  But I am under no grandiose delusion that I should handle myself entirely alone.  That would drive me mad.  That's why I treasure friendships - for the joy and the solace that they provide, for the opportunity for me to share and participate in life outside my situation at home. For the sake of it. For fun. For learning. For the chance to give and receive. But I've let the pattern of 'I understand, I'm there for you, Forget about me' that I let myself develop at home go too deep. It has spilled over into the rest of my life, and I find it difficult to say to my friends: 'You know, you're behaving selfishly (because I let you?)' 

I am finding more and more ways, over the past few weeks, in which my family situation influences how I think and act. Or to put it more accurately, how I have let it influence the way I think and act. 
I guess it would be obvious to anyone with two eyes, but it is a process of discovery to me because I'm in it and can only see things one at a time, slowly building patterns rather than realizing them all at once 'from the top'. 

I wrote an email to my dearest friend today, to point out that she hadn't replied to my phonecalls for weeks. I feel selfish for having done so, and anxious. But I also feel like doing that represents a step forward - one that would not have crossed my mind to take just six months ago - and there's no going back. 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

I do not speak for other people who have faced the long illness of a loved one (and particularly a loved one who is meant to 'take care' of one - a parent, a guardian).  Speaking only for myself, I find that on reflection, a huge part of this challenge is how it affects my sense of self. 
In many respects, I consider myself a very decisive person. I know what I want, and I find a way to get what I want. 
Not so when it comes to my relationship with my parents. 
A normal part of 'growing up' is developing an independent sense of boundaries.  This is difficult to do, but it's necessary and healthy.  Our society seems to grant that it's a long and difficult process and grants people allowances for the many years of adolescence, during which time this 'coming into one's own' is meant to occur. 
My adolescence was constrained, in many ways, by the fact of my father's illness. I see that now. Even though I was quite 'rebellious', and I did experiment and push boundaries and explore my interests, I was constantly aware of the limits. If I stayed out too late, or was in a belligerent mood, I felt guilty about what this would do my father, either directly or through the effect on my mother's mood. I don't think my parents ever explicitly constrained me by using guilt, but I felt it anyway. For the simple reason that whether they made me aware of a connection or not, I could see it myself. When my father was upset, or especially angry (as the parents of adolescents sometimes are!), he felt chest pain. There was no need to remind of this connection because it was exceptionally visible. 
So I was split. 
I was (and remain) quite strong-willed, and with diverse interests, and with a strong sense of adventure and fun. 
But I was also relatively considerate and reasonable (compared to some of my less constrained peers). 
Of course, this was a good thing at the time, but I start to wonder now whether I sometimes lose the balance between being considerate of my parents' needs and being aware of my own. 
Sometimes I brush aside things I really want to do when I'm at home, because I imagine that I am needed there to help, to be a constant 'rock', to not impose any demands, to not express any desires. 
Recognising this (on the threshold of 30 - late-onset anyone!?) feels like the first step towards becoming more than just a support for my father's illness (though of course that is important to me too). Towards becoming a person outside of that, and not just at the margins. 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The light is doing that typically Essex dance between crystalline sunshine and fast-moving shadow.  There's a seagull calling.  It was raining a while ago, and the leaves of all the trees are damp, and there's a scent of wet earth.  I can feel this calling to me as I type this, and it's intoxicating.  

Yesterday, as we walked home, we stood by a fence we'd never looked over before (aside from fences which are obviously meant to shield people's homes, we are assiduous in peeping over to see what's on the other side).  Under the shade of a beautiful old conifer (which I could not identify, to my shame), there was an old, rambling terraced garden.  With old stone ornaments and a wood pigeon sitting in a young fruit tree and the scent of damp earth and growing things and the dappled light of sunset through leaves.  Essex is full of these tiny wonderlands, and I've found dozens of them when out for walks with the Man.  It's what I love best about walking with him.  Trips to the supermarket have often become rambles through Narnia. We've walked through all weathers, and encountered beautiful little patches of the 'wild' all over Colchester.  

Off to get dressed and take Lizzy out of her shed. 
Have a beautiful Saturday, wherever you are, and whatever the weather. 

Friday, 6 July 2012

On all fronts:
You know you've found a grain of the truth when a thought you've had can't be undone by any other thought, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, no matter how much time has gone by since you first thought it.
It's a long journey there, and then, in an instant, everything can change, if you let it. If you're wise. But that's a long journey too.  

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Remember I posted about something I saw on TV a while ago?  Where the man runs into his ex- and it takes the ground away from under his feet, even though he's in a happy marriage?
I want a name for that event.

I was reminded of it when I watched Sex and the City part deux on my laptop over my morning coffee (I need noise in the background when I check my email).  Carrie has the love of her life waiting for her in New York, but turns around in an Abu Dhabi spice souk and nearly faints when she sees Aidan (who throughout the series really irritated the crap out of me but for some reason has turned really dishy in his one and a half scenes). They meet for dinner and kiss and she wonders whhhhyyyyyyyy.

If there isn't a name already for this, there ought to be.  I am going to invent one. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Douglas Adams, and an update on Lizzy

“Well, I mean, yes idealism, yes the dignity of pure research, yes the pursuit of truth in all its forms, but there comes a point I'm afraid where you begin to suspect that the entire multidimensional infinity of the Universe is almost certainly being run by a bunch of maniacs. And if it comes to a choice between spending yet another ten million years finding that out, and on the other hand just taking the money and running, then I for one could do with the exercise.”

- Douglas Adams 


In other news: I've ridden Lizzy (does that sound slightly pornographic?) for hours between my last update and just now.  We've been to: the store to buy food, the University and back, and a field we love to visit just half an hour (by foot) away from our house.  Yesterday evening, tired from my day of cycling (by day I mean an hour. But it felt like years, going up the hill), I slithered into my pyjamas and crawled into bed at 7:30 pm.  The Man decided that the best cure for exercise-induced exhaustion was more exercise.  Oddly enough, I agreed with him!  We cycled slowly (to avoid slugs on the path) to said field. You approach it via a footpath that has river on one side and blocks of flats on the other.  You go through a small underpass, rejoin the footpath, and then there's a small tunnel.  You go through the tunnel, and on the other side is a field. The path just stops. Over the tunnel there's the road, on which cars are zooming at about a hundred miles an hour. The field has cows in it, and the river runs through it, and the sun sets on the horizon.  We sat on the slope overlooking the field, and watched the water and the cows and the sunset. Without meaning to create a simplistic division, we were in a completely different world from the one zooming to or from work just over our heads. I drew up my knees, and sat and stared, and the Man put his arm around my shoulders, and stared too. Then we raced home, ate our dinner, and I fell asleep 5 minutes after the last bite. Good stuff. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Two words which ought not to exist:
Loved (as in the past-tense)
Should (as in the imperative)

Predictably, after a very physical day yesterday, of walking in the sun and the rain, and cycling through the park, and kissing the Man and cooking a beautiful dinner, I've woken up feeling.  And it's not all comfortable.  But when you open up the doors, you should expect everything to come out that has been hidden.
They say exercise 'lifts your mood', and it does.  But I believe its healing effects go much deeper than a simple 'lift'. It opens you up, and cleans you out. 
I found this during my long evenings spent at karate.  Just after the euphoria and just before the calm, steady state I feel after sustained exercise, there's a period of restlessness and then catharsis. After a particularly heavy karate class, I remember going home and sitting in my mother's bathtub, ostensibly showering off before going out dancing, but really just sitting under the water and howling. For no reason and every reason.    
That doesn't always feel good, but at the moment it definitely feels necessary. So, alright. 
I've woken up feeling restless about my 'situation', apropos 'Here V. There, University V. Family-Home', and I've spent the better part of my coffee-time being teary-faced.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Introducing Lizzy

So today, the Man has finally convinced me to buy a bike.  
He cycles everywhere, for everything, and therefore has quadriceps in places where other people don't have places. 
I use either a bus or a cab, and therefore have places in places where one should not have places. 
The bike is his way of getting me moving and my way of falling onto the roadside gasping, narrowly missing oncoming traffic. 

Regular updates here.  I plan to view this as an adventure - in, you know, the sense of being handed the Red Pill and being unable to choose anything but taking it. Might as well do so gamely. 

In case this is important to you - my new contraption is white and very sleek, has gears and great brakes (enough to make me sail over the handlebars, I've been warned. THIS HAD BETTER NOT HAPPEN.) I used it to transport myself from cycle shop to house via park and now have jelly in places where I used to have places. 

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Choosing your community

Strangely, even though I grew up in India, the idea of 'community' didn't really enter my consciousness until I was in England. This may be because I grew up in a certain type of Indian household: liberal, nuclear, English-speaking? I don't know. I don't want to suggest that all such households grow more individualised children than is the Indian norm.  But I am certainly more individualised than the Indian norm.  

In India, the notion of 'community' was something that felt stifling.  It was invariably put to me in the context of rules and judgement. I felt like community meant being born into or choosing a bounded set of rules. The group who were bounded by these common rules were a 'community'.  Of course, I witnessed some of the positive elements as well: sharing, being able to help one another, laughing together, mourning together. But I always felt a bit 'outside' because I refused the 'rules'. Which led me to think that the essential element of community was that whole 'rules' bit. 

When I told people I was coming to England, those who knew me  often commented that they thought this 'society' would suit me better because I was so 'outside'. Their notion was that since I much preferred setting my own rules (or so I thought at the time - but that's another post) I would be happier in the 'West', where individual choices are thought to be weighted over community rules (again, this is only partially true, and that's another post too). 

I agreed at the time, and still kind of do.  But I have also started to see and appreciate a whole new idea of 'community'. Not as a bunch of rules binding people but as a bunch of shared values which can actually be quite flexible. Maybe that's because the 'communities' I am now starting to identify with are not constituted the same way as I thought communities in India are.  At home, I thought of 'communities' primarily as religious and caste-based groups. Because that is often what people mean by 'your community' in India. Over here, people say 'community' about a group of people living in the same area or sharing something they value. So the 'community' I am part of is my University. I see it as a group of people (thousands strong!) all living and working in a multicultural, multilingual 'community'. We are a community inasmuch as we are situated on the campus together, but also because no matter what our differences (and glory be to God for those!), we have a sense of a shared something. Of course, we are also bound by shared rules; violation of those rules can get us kicked out. But more visible than the rules (to me) is the sense of that 'shared something'. And that is what makes me feel like I am part of the community. That's what makes it a community I want to belong to. It makes me love it, and want to cherish it, and wish it well. The 'rules' are not even part of what I think about. And crucially, the rules do not infringe in any way with my ability to express myself. We are a 'community' of tens of thousands of individuals (and are free to express this individuality as much or as little as we like - or so it appears to me). 

I wonder if, should I choose to move back to India, I will be able to find that balance between a sense of belonging and a sense of individual freedom. When I'm on the University campus, I genuinely feel the power and magic of both, simultaneously, and one does not cancel the other out. I love that. It makes me bright-eyed and adventurous and open. Here's to more of the same please, Universe! 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The recurring P wasn't intentional!

In a break from the utterly maudlin reflections which have been peppering my blog! 
Here are some of the non-maudlin things I've been immersed in over the past few days.   

Pilates!  I've signed up for my first class.  You know how you know you'll like something before you even try it, and when you try it, you really know you knew?  I had/have something like that with Pilates.  I had my first 'taster' session today and oh wow.  If your local gym offers it, I strongly suggest booking yourself in!  I hope to post pictures of washboard abs and serene stretches presently. 

Postcrossing! I came across this utterly randomly (in the manner of all things great about the Internet). Within five minutes of first reading about it, I was signed up and turning my desk over feverishly, looking for the one postcard I knew was on there. Something I intended for a friend but never got around to sending.  A picture of the facade of the Anokhi Museum in Amber. I composed a message, addressed it, and it's sitting next to me now. I absolutely love this idea, for so many reasons!  There's so much magical about it. 

Persimmons.  I discovered these in the local weekday market.  I hadn't tasted them before. Oh my God.  Apparently, they're very, very good for you.  Who cares.  I'm still coasting on the taste. 

I've been luxuriating in all these things over the past few days. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

C.S. Lewis

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. 

C.S. Lewis 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

A man is sharing a beautiful, warm, loving night in bed with his wife, telling her how much he fancies her (this is important: he still fancies her. Stomach flip. Tingly spine. Sparks.) The next day, at a routine day at work, he gets a phonecall from the lobby.
His first love is here to see him, unexpectedly.
She's been in Canada for the last 13 years. No explanation as to why she's back, but she wanted to say hi while she was here.
When she leaves, he walks into the bathroom, thunderstruck, out of breath, calling on Jesus.

[Watch the rest of it here]

Know that feeling?
That little nudge, the sensation of the ground shifting ever so slightly (or not) beneath your feet just when you've hit a good stride on a smooth path?
That little push from the Universe, to remind you, you're not in control of much, puppy.

You know how cats preen and yawn and stretch? 
Did you know that bunnies do the same

The Man and I were completely entranced the other day when, standing by the window of my office, we saw a baby bunny stretching out its front paws, curving its back and yawning luxuriantly. He used his rear legs to scratch behind his ears, and fumbled around his face with his front paws, washing his mouth in between mouthfuls of grass. 
It was a completely enchanting, captivating spectacle and we christened him Cat-Bunny. Or, more succinctly, Cabbit

Saturday, 23 June 2012

They say smells are the most evocative of the senses.  A scent can transport someone quicker than a sound. I don't know about that, having never measured the speed of sensual transport. But I do know that a certain type of scent transports me completely.  It weaves into the fabric of the day, and tints it, washes over it and transforms the ache and feel of it. Totally.

When the weather tiptoes on the edges of a warm summer haze and impending rain.  Do you know what kind of day I'm talking about? I can't describe it any better than that. The breeze whispers through the trees, a constant sssshhhhhhhh.  A bird calls, punctuating the silence with an exclamation point. A dove weaves in its occasional, hypnotic melody. In my Grandmother's house, sitting on the verandah, when such a day is turning into dusk, a butler would come upstairs with an evening snack and light the evening lamps and they'd flicker across the faded green of the painted wicker sofa. An owlet would screech in the tree on the front of the lawn (now dead, but standing still, to provide a home for a later generation of the same owlet's family). A mosquito coil would add the slightest hint of smokiness to the scent of the air. I'm sitting next to my grandmother, and she's wearing Eau de Cologne and a silk shirt.  
And bam! That's the scent.  
That mix.  I can't remember them as a collection of individual smells. They're one, overwhelming sensation, and they feel like beauty and love and warmth and poetry and magic and a little bit of sadness.  And that was my Grandmother.

So when I feel that sensation again, when the air is dancing on the edge of rain after a warm summers day, and the light is magical and the birds are piercing the silence, and the air smells of summer tinged with smoke, I think of her, and I see those evenings in the back of my mind, and I feel their beauty and their magic, and her sadness, all rolled into one.

Friday, 22 June 2012

In this moment, things are as they are and cannot be any different. Ignorance of this simple and obvious fact is a principal source of suffering.
Robert Saltzman 

I read this, and re-read it, and re-read it. Again and again and again. 

I remembered that: 
  • My father is 82 years old, and has lived a long, eventful, productive, loving and blessed life.  Truly.  
  • My mother is 62, and knew long before I was around to help her that a long span of years separated her from her beloved, and that she and he would reach different points in their lives at different times. She was strong enough to go ahead, and is strong enough to keep going. 
  • I am 29. With all the rawness, and all the experience, that entails. It's probably completely within the order of things that I feel simultaneously capable and totally adrift when it comes to questions of life and death and health and happiness and love and loss. That I do not know the answers to how to deal with these things totally gracefully is not in itself a cause for frustration at myself, but an invitation to simply keep walking with my eyes open and that's all. 
  • I  have love in my life and have done, all my life. With all the power for healing that that entails. And my father is still here. My mother is here, and a beautiful sister and a beautiful lover and friends. Grieving in advance  - as I have been doing for years is likely to kill, first my relationships, and then me. So stop. 
  • It's okay to feel angry that this is how things have always been.  I have lived my life waiting for an axe to fall.  Everyone does, in a way. The knowledge of impending ends is a curse and a gift to everyone. But for me, and for others like me who live with people who are ill over a long time, the gift and the curse are an everyday event, not something brought into focus once in a while to 'get us to appreciate what matters' after we've been 'asleep' in the routines of our lives for years and years. It's every day, but never feels routine or comfortable. When I'm feeling tortured about this - and it doesn't feel self-indulgent to admit that it feels torturous (this is a blog, after all :) - I feel like saying: I feel like the Grim Reaper has been chasing us for 20 years and I can hear his footsteps. This makes me angry. As a defense. Angry that I feel driven to live as if every single moment matters because I know that it does.  Any moment the axe could fall, the sky could open. 
  • But: This is the way things are. I cannot wield anything but my reactions to them.  I can make things easier for myself and others by continuing to express the highest aspects of myself in this situation rather than fighting against the lowest. Reveling in the blessing, and forgiving the curse. Allowing myself to feel at peace when the axe is still raised, when the sky is still closed, and trusting that if things change, that is still in the order of things and so, ultimately, I will feel peaceful again. And so will everyone else.  With or without my help. 
When I remember these things - and I hope the word is remember, and not invent - I cry tears of relief rather than tears of despair. 

Today is a good day. 
Off to work.   

Monday, 18 June 2012

I've come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call 'The Physics of The Quest' -- a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum.  And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: 'If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared - most of all - to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself... then truth will not be withheld from you.'  Or so I've come to believe.  I can't help but believe it, given my experience. 

Elizabeth Gilbert 
Eat, Pray, Love

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A pale ginger cat - almost camel coloured - with topaz eyes, played with the Man and I today.
Doves, a pigeon and five starlings squeezed side by side on a half-broken television aerial. The only reason I can think of is that the view must be great from up there.
My office-plant has burst into glorious, glossy, emerald leaf. Thank you, C., for the passing mention of crushed eggshells.

It's now more than a week since my return from India. I'm slowly settling. But not quite. And I wonder if I ever will really settle.  So much of my life has now been spent split in two.

I feel alternately blessed and cursed by the fact of my having two lives. One here, full of tiny pleasures and hard work. And one thousands of miles away, full of big questions of life, death and everything in between. And I feel mostly cursed by the fact of my having to choose between them.  Not yet, not right now, but ultimately. And I struggle - I struggle - with this. With the choice and with the process of making one - every day. I decide one way, then the other. I feel calm, then tortured, then calm again.  I feel anxious, and scared that I'm leaving it too late (how much time does my father have?) I feel alternately full of courage and a total coward.  I feel like I could move forward if I knew what the challenge was - that's 90% of the battle. And through all this, I feel like if I just knew enough, I could make a choice. Move, one way or another.  Feel at peace.

And then yesterday, I thought: Maybe I do not have a choice. Whether this is the ultimate recourse the weak, the surrender to choicelessness, or not, is a different debate, and largely an irrelevant one for the moment. But I digress: Maybe I do not have a choice. Maybe I could reconcile myself to knowing just this: That I am here, because I am meant to be here, right now. Maybe that is the best thing for me and everyone around me. Even my Father.
Maybe when it is the best thing for everybody, a path will open up that leads me back home - to that home.
Right now, I do not see such a path.
And so, I should stop wondering which hypothetical fork to take, and just follow the road I'm on.

A feeling of immense relief washes over me when I think this.
But I only think it after torturing myself for days.
Then it lasts for a few days.
And then I go back to wondering about whether to turn right or left and what each turn means for me (and crushingly, about me).
And it's all downhill from there. Until the next tiny glimmer of insight. Until the next baby step.
On and on and on. Up and down, up and down, backwards and forwards and nowhere.

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Thoughts on the threshold of Thirty

I wondered:
If 'by now' you've not given serious thought to Buddhism, you've lived either an unconventional or an entirely unexamined life.

Or are better at living than me.

On a less Buddhist note: I've been coveting the whole High Street over the past few weeks, and thanks to climate change, have recently purchased a winter coat I'd been eyeing for a while (in June), and a pale blue chiffon blouse with pearls sewn onto a peter-pan collar (which I'll probably wear in December).

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Something I am learning, sometimes painfully, sometimes with great joy

The people we really, really, deeply, love are a non-negotiable, non-returnable, non-transferable, instantaneous gift from a mysterious place that wishes us well.

How well we carry that gift - how we carry the love, and make ourselves worthy of it - is up to us. Just about.
But the gift itself - the person, the place, the time, the manner of your meeting and the instantaneous soul-alchemy that happens with the first look, the first touch, the first smile, sometimes the first kiss - is not up to you. And that's fine.  These sort of people, the deep friends, sometimes hurt me (and it's only these sort of people who can hurt me - with few exceptions, others do not cross enough thresholds to do much damage). And I fight against the impossibility of simply cutting them out of my life. I fight against the lack of choice - I could never ring them again for as long as I live. I would still think about them for as long as I live.
But I'm learning, painfully at the moment, to see beyond this. I have to, because I couldn't do without these people, or the lessons they present me, or the healing that happens around them, or the love that just flows from me when they walk in, or call, or when I think of them.

I guess, in a nutshell, what I'm trying to say is that: People will hurt you.  The people who love you most, the 'there is something special between us' people will not hurt you less, they'll hurt you more. Not because they want to. But because for some reason we cannot understand, they live inside our hearts, where things feel deepest. And when they hurt you, there's usually a lesson there. An important lesson you both need to learn. And your love will allow you to learn it, and heal from the learning, and keep going.

Say thank you for the people who you've recognized from the first glance as friends.
And do what you can with them and for them, as often as you can.  

Mumbai and old friends

Crowded, hot, smelly, crowded, hot, smelly. Horrifying in many ways.  Beautiful in so many ways.
Difficult, in many ways too.
I used to come here as a child to spend time with an aunt. Driving down Marine Drive always infuses with me nostalgia for those days, and soursweet memories of when my Dad was younger, when I had my first kulfi, when we walked on the beach, when we stood on her verandha and watched the sea and the nearby skyscrapper, and the ships and boats and shadowy hills on the horizon. I was homesick during the weeks I spent with her. I was unable to enjoy any of it, really be there. There was something sad in the air and it infused me with a lingering, Sunday-evening ennui.

Now I rarely come here, even though, on my trips back to India, I'm three hours away and my sister lives here and there's so much to see and do that I haven't yet. I wonder whether I ever will.

The two times I've been here I've been happy just staring at the street and watching the people go by. There's so much buzzing energy on the street. Beautiful old trees, the sounds of traffic, the sounds of city birds: pigeons, crows, parakeets.

Yesterday evening was a departure from that routine though. My sister and I went to the Gateway of India, and took pictures, and shopped, and went for a boatride. We were joined by an old friend for dinner at home and then went out with him and some more people. We got dolled up and went drinking, danced. And took breaks from the clubbing to sneak in a couple of cigarettes outside, and in the dark, outside the club, after a few drinks and the exhilaration of the music, we finally talked. With some friends, even two minutes is enough: How are you really? Come here, let me hug you. On the way home, danced-out, drunk, we held hands in the dark in the cab, and I felt, for the first time in a long time, the familiar, intense, close, love that courses through deep, old friends, and flows between them with every touch, every smile, every gesture of care, support, togetherness. Such moments are so rare, and so precious, I can't overstate how beautiful they are. They keep me going. They come exactly when I need them, and they heal. Powerfully and for real. I wish I had more of that in my life. All my 'deep' friends are scattered across the world. And I guess a deeper logic than I can control or predict dictates when our paths will cross. When they do, few things are more important or beautiful. 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

I first heard the term 'Loving Kindness' during classes teaching Buddhist Meditation.
I have to confess that I didn't think much of it.  I've always been a 'you can't learn it, or even bring it out with practice' kind of person. And to some extent, this is still true.
But over the past few years, I've started to understand better what the term really might be trying to communicate.
Have you had a friend who you just instinctively feel nothing but genuine warmth, care and empathy for? I don't have many. I'm not going to disclose my number, of course, but I can count such friends on the fingers of one hand. The others I care about, sure. But when these Select Few tell me something happy, I feel immediate, spontaneous and genuine warmth. Inside.
Like physically. That is another thing I used to think was a stupid cliche: 'Warm Inside'.
It's not!
I've enjoyed discovering this.

And conversely, if they are going through a painful time, your insides feel concern and reach out to them. If just the flow of love could heal them completely, immediately, they'd be whole again immediately.

What strikes me is how much 'Loving Kindness' permeates these relationships.
They are really beautifully and consistently kind. Not soft-headed. Not cuddly even. But full of genuine loving. kindess. You can take that term at face-value.

Now it occurred to me that although I genuinely feel this way for only a few people, my meditation teacher used to talk as if this was a skill that could be learnt. Which makes me think about it differently. Maybe I do not already have loving-kindness for all the people in my life. Or everyone I meet. But maybe it's like a kid starting to use it's legs. It can move them, and sometimes, it can make walking-like steps. Off and on, it can stand up.
But with time, it can do this more often, and then more gracefully, and then it becomes a habit.
And after that, it becomes necessary for any further progress.

When I think of it like that I am in awe of the people who practice it a lot, rather than just relying on the spontaneous and relatively isolated bursts of it that come naturally to the rest of us Spiritual Infants.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Why 'settle down'?

This is a bit of a spontaneous rant. 

Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking about this: Why do people expect me to get married and 'settle down'? What does that mean and why is it supposed to be so important? Why is it important to the people who ask me to consider it, and do I think it's important for me?

What prompted this musing?  Big things and little.  I've attended a string of weddings over the past year, and I'm about to attend the wedding of a very dear friend when I go home for a month, starting next week. I've also been exposed to a bunch of tiresome questions: When is it your turn?!! What?! You have NO PLANS!? Why?  
I react badly to this. 
On the surface of it, I manage to maintain some poise, and just shrug.  I don't actually think the people who ask want a genuine answer.  I have one, and it feels right for me, but I sense they don't want to hear it. I've tried explaining. I used to think that the question stemmed from a genuine desire for my happiness. So I thought I'd explain that I am happy. 
This worked for about 2 of the dozens who've asked. 

I want to be able to share this answer of mine, and like everyone else alive, I'd like to be understood. I'd like to hear 'Yes! I guess that's a good way of looking at it! If you're comfortable, that's great!' (that old need for validation, again!) 

Here is my answer.  It makes sense to me. 

I'm in a long-term, relatively stable relationship with the Man.  
By 'relatively', I mean:  I know I want to be with him. But I also refrain from making sweeping statements about hypothetical 'forevers'. I know that I've woken up every day for the last six years wanting to be with him, or wanting to work at it when things are rough. I've known this even through doubt. If that makes sense? 
And I know that the reason I am with him is because we are moving along our path, day to day, following the course set by our instincts. Not habit. Not need. Not a piece of paper. Not joint assets. Not obligation to others. 
It's hillarious that some people think that this arrangement means that we're not serious about each other. That we could just throw in the towel whenever we feel like it, on a whim. 
Yes, we could throw in the towel. Just like married people get divorced sometimes. Like them, if we did decide to part ways, it would probably not be a whimsical decision. I imagine that it would be because at the time, one or both of us would genuinely think that this was the the best thing to do. I cannot imagine doing something like that to myself, or to him, or to us, lightly, just because I haven't signed a piece of paper. 

I know that every day is special, and magical.  I love waking up next to him, and I love falling asleep with my cheek against his shoulder. 
That is all I need to know.  A piece of paper would not make me know it more. And here's what I'm scared of, come to think of it: That the piece of paper might lull one or both of us into assuming that we know it. And forgetting to tread our path guided by instinct, just bumbling along via the force of habit. 

This way does not feel 'insecure' to me, or 'unsettled'. 
I've never understood the term 'settled' anyway. What does it mean? Does it mean you have a sense that things will be stable for a while? A contractual arrangement between two people cannot guarantee that. Hearts are wilder than that. Or so I think they should be. 

That's why, years into our relationship, I genuinely do not get butterflies thinking about diamond rings. I get butterflies thinking about him. And that's still all that feels important to me. 

I wish we could continue to have our shared adventure in the world, like this, without feeling judged because of these priorities. Not that it causes us any lasting harm. But it would be nicer to feel celebrated for a choice that is meaningful to me, knowing that I have the freedom to change my mind (as people do!), and that that's okay too. Just as others are celebrated for making the choices they make: wedding, kids, car, degree, whatever. 

Stream of consciousness

A walk with a friend. Wine. Full moon. The pale shimmer of faint stars.

Topshop's Nevada lipstick and River Island's tee-shirt with pale-grey palms.

Champagne-coloured nailpolish with a hard-candy glitter finish. Silver stiletto heels. Baby-pink stiletto mules, with a perfect, pointed toe and a beautiful, trim bow (I leave this to your imagination).
A feather headband.

I imagine this with a white slouchy vest and low rise jeans.

New leaves on my favourite, glimmering green houseplant. I fed her with crushed eggshells, something I either heard or read about in passing from my dear Miss C.'s blog.

New journals. With crisp pages. And smooth ink pens with which to fill them.

The simultaneous arrival of this month's Vogue and ASOS magazine.

Watching the neighbourhood cats. And the neighbourhood birds. And nestling in the crook of the Man's arm at night, watching a documentary about poets and falling asleep to a reading from Wordsworth.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Solo Adventures - Notes to myself

When was the last time you undertook something big and significant and personally meaningful and didn't share it with anyone?

I've been doing something that is incredibly meaningful and challenging and ultimately, rewarding for me over the past few weeks. And I don't want to disclose what it is.  But it did strike me that I'd like to underline that there is something wonderful about  having a secret adventure. There's something validating and rich about learning something new, or dealing with an old issue, or travelling, or crafting something, without sharing your progress and seeking the encouragement and validation of others. I found myself falling into a dangerous trap of believing I was making progress with some things because the people around me were full of praise. And conversely, their silence on other fronts filled me with doubt.

I suppose this is inevitable, to some extent, in our hyper-networked world. But for me it started to feel like an inevitable consequence was a complete divorce from myself. The constant facebooking of wordcounts with nearly-finished pieces of writing, the tweeting of reasons why I did not write one day, the whining about something I found in the newspaper or the dissections over phonecalls with friends on the 'state of things'.
Too much. 
I felt disembodied, almost, and alone. Which is strange, because I was sharing so much.

What is that old, lovely quote about loneliness?
That it is merely a longing for union with one's own lost self?

So for the past month or so, I've undertaken a Something that I do not share. And I have no intention, at the moment, or sharing what it is, or why I'm doing it, or whether I am doing well. In fact, I have no wish to evaluate my progress. That too, is something from, or for, the 'outer' world. Judgement.
No, thanks.

Even as I write this I find myself wanting you, whoever is reading, to mirror me a judgement. Tell me I'm doing well to live out an insight a lot of us are having these days about all this faux-sharing. Tell me I'm not that original after all. But tell me something. To the little child inside of me who wants that, I'd like to say, gently, No. Just have fun with it.
And I realise that I'm blogging this reflection. Not writing it out in my beautiful little pen-and-paper-journal. Yes, there is a bit of a contradiction there. But I don't think it invalidates what I'm trying to do or say. It just demonstrates how deeply ingrained is my need to put things out there.

I guess I sound like I'm on a super-highway to 30?
That magical age when magazines say you no longer care about what others think of you, and are beautifully happy in your own skin (which makes it sound like enlightenment. And therefore not, really, my experience of 30-somethings, lovely as they are.)

That's where my head is, at the moment: navigating an important adventure solo, and rediscovering that this is still actually possible, and thinking about how different it feels to what life has now become, with all the technology in our world.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Cabin fever

So I wanted to spend this weekend R&Ring from the conference. On my agenda was some brisk walking outdoors. No such luck:
In April, no less. 
Why why why?! 

Friday, 27 April 2012

This layout is confusing! But nevertheless...

I'm back after a week or two of complete conference-madness.
I spent the last week catatonic on my couch, unable to work, unable to rest, unable to do much except glide through the onslaught and then the rapid disappearance of caffeine, adrenaline, sugar, endorphins and the thousands of other chemically things which I was super-saturated with.
It sounds intense.
It knocked me sideways.
I'm still recovering.

The upside, though, was that the conference appears to have been a success!
I kept thinking: I'm seeing things with a golden glow around them because that's what I do. Or because I feel like this is 'my' conference, and so it's like when my Mum cries and says I look beautiful when I sit with her wearing track pants, acne-medicine and oiled hair. (Ghastly).
But no.
Apparently, it was golden-glowy.
And not that I NEED you to believe that, but quite literally, the evening of the conference dinner, the sun came through the clouds (this is England we're talking about), and the rain stopped, and a *double rainbow* arced across the sky RIGHT OUTSIDE the conference centre, for five minutes. Just as the delegates were stepping out of the last talk and towards dinner.
I redefine magical event management, yes?

We ate a dinner prepared with locally available wild foods, washed down with wine and local beers. We drank *hundreds* of cups of coffee (the delegates drank around 70. I drank 30 over about four days.) I found and wore the perfect black heels which KILLED my feet on the first day. I gave my first conference paper from the PhD (WHOOOOO!) I made a new friend. I found someone absolutely beautiful, with pale golden skin and black hair that fell gently against the back of his neck (God) who I stayed 10 feet away from at all times for health (mine) and safety (his) reasons. Except when he *held* me before leaving on the evening of the last day. Thud, thud, thud.

I stood by the door and listened to the delegates speaking about sustainability and resilience and global environmental change. Two delegates were community leaders from tribal / indigenous communities and when they spoke, the room fell silent and there was electricity in the air. A completely different world, somewhere in between what we know is possible and what we hope is possible. They talked it into our imaginations. I tiptoed outside the rooms during the talks, checking that the catering trolley had arrived and that the AV was working and that the delegate-packs were all neatly stacked on the registration table and that everyone was generally happy and productive and caffeinated and inspired.
I 'recovered' by going drinking with friends and people from the conference and then crashing, quite literally, into bed, with a blank mind and a happy heart. 

Monday, 9 April 2012

Once in a while when something lovely comes my way I feel grabbed by the collar and lifted off my feet.

I didn't know about The Last Unicorn. How could I not know! I saw a reference to it here (look at those clothes with the quotes on them. *Overflows with whimsy! Here's the full collection.)

Here's a still from the 1982 film adaptation, with some of the lines from the script.

... oh and p.s: Speaking of wrapping yourself in beauty - look at this!
I think I've found the perfect source of inspiration for conference-dressing!

Here's a look that I love. It gets casual but pulled-together but twisted but cute and feminine just right! It's generally okay to be at mid-sized academic conferences in jeans, and I'm actually tempted to attempt it. Depending on my mood I might substitute with dark skinny trousers instead though.


Pretty things heal. And they're fun. And I hog them.
Whenever I'm going through a rough, busy, or just plain challenging patch (and who isn't having one, in some respect, all. the. time?!), I always notice how I am more tuned in to beautiful things. I'll take anything that makes me smile, or makes me inspired, uplifted, connected. I'll squeeze it for every drop of glowing colour it is worth. And the more I do that, the more I notice that beautiful things (or books, or people, or drawings, or ideas) come my way.
It turns into a happy, upward thermal and I try to spread my wings and surf it past the clouds.

Here's some of the things that have come my way over the past few weeks:

New books: I used to have a passion for reading. I still do, but is often buried by the sheer volume of reading I need to do for my work. Over the past few weeks though, I've devoured From the Holy Mountain (for the fourth time. Travel books. Travel books about the Middle East. How can anyone resist?) and The Shadow of the Moon. M.M. Kaye writes about an India that is in my head. Dark palaces surrounded by emerald gardens and hazy sunsets. Princess laden with jewels and the scent of roses and adventures on horseback and a wild, dark beauty. There was a lot wrong with the India she described (as there is a lot wrong with any place, at any time). But she described it accurately and wonderfully, and saw the beauty in it. I've also started Roger Deakin's Wildwood. Every page is a jewel. I read it sitting outside, or by a window, and drink in the words, and let it connect me to the trees and the wind and the birdsong and the light. And I bought Chasing the Sun and can't wait to get started.

An old habit of mine was to underline in the books I read and re-read. Meaningful passages, witty quotes, the odd brilliant phrasing. I haven't done that in so long. I can't wait to make friends with each of these new books, and see which ones become good enough friends that I turn back to them a second, or even a third time.

Some of the other things that have me buzzing about what a pretty world it is we live in:

African violets. I bought a small pot of these the other day. Oh my god. The colour!
If you have some, and know how to keep these beautiful, fragile little jewels alive and happy, please tell me! In the meanwhile, I'm reading more about them here.

I don't know why I haven't thought of this before. Jam jars as vases, and candle-holders. I saw a picture of this at one of my new favourite blogs (seriously every post is so. beautiful!) and have now gone jar-mad. I cleaned out all the jam jars lying at the bottom of the kitchen storage (where they've been waiting to be recycled for about 5 years), made sure they looked sparkling new, and then filled them with beautiful flowers. I have about 6 of them all over the house. I can't wait to have them full of cherry blossom! At the moment it's simply too cold (and I am too lazy) to go out blossom-hunting.

And of course there's clothes. Is there a better way to literally wrap yourself up in beauty than to wear beautiful clothes that really, really do something for you? I've been eyeing this jacket from ASOS for a while, but haven't gotten around to it yet (my list is larger than my bank balance)... There's something about it... A beautiful playful whimsy balanced with a certain sophistication. I think it's beautiful.

And in the midst of all this prettiness, my April Vogue has arrived. I'll emerge in a couple of days :)

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Notes from a trainride

I take a train 'up' to London every so often, for work, for play.
And though I've seen it dozens of times before, the landscape always looks beautiful to me. There's nothing particularly dramatic. No high cliffsides or turquoise sea, no mountains or villages of stark white houses. Someone in the paper today wrote about "bog standard rural England" and capped it by saying, "...and it's wonderful". That's what this is like.

The train is called The Evening Star. I can't think of a more beautiful name. I can't think why it was used, but that it was used adds some beauty to the stained carpet and the overfull wastebins. I agree with whoever took the photo above and said " a warm smile spread over my whole body when I saw the name of the train".

Yesterday, standing by the door and peeping out of the open window (my favourite way to travel), I saw:
A ginger cat sitting in a field of young wheat. At least I think it was wheat.
A raptor gliding low over another field and landing in a tree.
Clouds of starlings.
And beautiful spring blossoms: cherry trees and plum trees. The oaks haven't got their foliage back yet, but here and there are wisps of green starting to cloud everything.

The platform at Shenfield station was empty except for a couple kissing on a bench and the railway officer who whistled the train off.
I bought a coffee from the cafe bar and pulled the window up against the slight chill and watched Essex race by.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

An idea from my mother, which I remembered after a reading a similar idea on Gala Darling's gorgeous blog:

If you can't face the outside world without makeup on, you need to practice doing so.

I'm in a pretty made-up place at the moment. I've been sleeping late, rising early. Stress-eating and starving by turns. It's not a pretty place.

The day before yesterday though, a cab driver who was driving me to University gave me a compliment. He said I had a lovely face. And my reaction surprised me. Without a pause, I said, "That's just makeup and dark glasses". He laughed. I did not.

I thought about going in to work today without any on. It turns out I can work from home today, so I'm cheating a bit and just nipping to the grocery store and back with a bare, clean face. I'm not sure why this is difficult. I'm sure it 'shouldn't' be hard at all though, so here's to freeing up my face, and showing it as it really is.

I'm helping to organise a conference in April, and playing around with what to wear

Shoes: ASOS / Dress: Topshop

Monday, 26 March 2012

Thoughts on the morning bus.

Time does not heal all wounds.

Time covers all wounds. Love heals them.

Saturday, 24 March 2012


I bought a concealer today. My first.

Sleep deprivation is

I love old places. Old stone, worn over time with sun and wind and rain. Colonised by lichen, sheltering tiny creatures far more transient than itself in its tiny cracks and crannies. I love how it looks, and how it feels on a warm day. I love imagining who else has touched it, or passed it by.
People just like me. People from many years ago. People from decades ago. Centuries, millenia. I feel strangely thrilled in old places, around old stone. And strangely at home.

The Man and I often walk past the Roman wall that once formed the perimeter of the town. It's still standing. The colours: rusty brick, sage-green scrub of the weeds that live between the stones, the slate grey of the stone and the bleached white of the mortar (is it mortar?). The flame-coloured flowers that peep out between the bricks in the springtime.
Every tiny crumbling thing here is special, alive, aglow.
I don't know why. But it has always felt that way to me.

Twice at sunset, I've stood in what I imagine was the guard's alcove at the old wall, now open to the sun and wind and rain. I've watched the decades and the years peel away, backwards. Opposite the road there's an old brick building from the early part of the last century. And beyond that, a line of apartment blocks from towards its end. I've kissed the Man, and imagined - or wanted to imagine - that we were here before. That somehow our love was here before. Or was meant to be here now, from the day these bricks and stone were laid, to the day we leant on them. His hand rough against my cheek after it's been pressed against the crumbling wall.

I browsed, I saw, I bought.

{To call this is a 'shopper' is insulting: Zara / Coral in Gold: Rimmel / Chocolate box eyeshadow: MUA / Peacock feather earrings: Claires / Salmon ballet pumps: Topshop / Gold sequin tee-shirt: H&M / Dip-hem Dress: ASOS / The best perfume I've ever bought.}

In other words, I ravaged the most typical places of the British high street.
And now I'm beautiful.
And broke.