Polaroids

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Exactly one month ago today, I smushed my nose up against the window of my Air New Zealand LA > LDN flight and burst into tears, whilst also giddily jumping around in my seat, as the rolling green hills of England peeked up through the marshmallow clouds. I would never have predicted that the sight of a few fields would evoke this reaction in me; but having spent nearly 7 months out of the country and travelling hundreds of thousands of kilometres (whilst getting in all manner of scrapes) it was the feeling of finally being home. I won’t recap the whole trip here, as hopefully you were glued to Twentysomething Burnouts and know all about the time we shared a bed with the world’s most deadly scorpion or accidentally ended up in a teeny tiny 8-seater tin-can aeroplane with a 17 year old pilot, who spent the whole flight rummaging on the floor for a biro. No? No! Then you better head over there instead of reading these slightly melancholy post-travel-trauma ramblings! Those stories are far more fun!

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Despite spending the last 3 weeks of our adventure in California, and therefore slowly returning to civilised behaviour such as showering regularly, the culture-shock I have had since returning to the UK has been mammoth. Absolutely normal things that I’ve grown up my whole life with such as; flushing toilets, hot water, slippers, CHEESE, public transport with loos on them, PJs, tap water you can drink without dying etc. have been denied of me for so long, that it’s like they are shiny and new. It was absolutely surreal to return to Nick’s parents and unpack my handbag that had been left gathering dust in their attic for the duration of our trip. I opened my wallet and it had a vaguely fuzzy de-ja-vu familiarity, but it looked like it belonged to an entirely different person. Why on earth did I have SO many coffee shop loyalty cards?! At what point had I earnt enough salary to justify having a Liberty storecard? There was also a distractedly half read book of short stories, The Returned boxset that we had watched all but 2 episodes of before leaving and a tick-list of chores for our “Last day in the UK”! All my hopes and fears and excitement about the unknown trip of a lifetime were festering in that handbag, and now I was back. And it was totally over.

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Although it was back to earth with a bump, our first week was at least buffered with a dreamy jet-lag haze. We toured the country visiting our parents and immediate family, getting spoilt rotten and being treated like royalty. I enjoyed eating everything I saw; all the food we’d obsessed about being reunited with whilst tucking into South American delicacies such as a broth complete with floating chicken claw, the thing that directly translated as “soup of the beast” or the myriad of mystery meats we consumed. And then… the victory lap was over, and we found ourselves back in London. I was outraged. Where the hell was my hammock? Why wasn’t I drinking a pina colada at 2pm? We were both having trouble sleeping. I’d wake up on an hourly basis, sweaty and bemused in the pitch blackness, my mind buzzing with anxiety over what country was next on the itinerary and where the bus station was… only to slowly realise I was in Golders Green, not Guatemala. Mornings rolled around, and instead of excitedly questioning each other on what rainforest we could scramble through today or where the Rough Guide reckons we could find a decent breakfast for under a dollar… the sinking realisation crept in that we needed jobs, we needed money and we needed to find a home. These things are way less fun.

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I would be lying if I said it was easy. Heck this is my little corner of the internet and why lie? It’s been absolutely horrid. We’ve spent 7 months in some of the most dangerous and pressured situations in the world, and been cool cucumbers. Back in same-old-same-old familiar London, we were fraying at the edges. The fact is, we have seen things and experienced things that have made us different people to the ones that left London last. I guess that means slotting right back in as if nothing happened, isn’t an option! We caught a train to Brighton, in the hope of flat hunting, only for me to be waylaid by a stomach bug, realise I have a phobia of those mutant massive seagulls, and to be messed around something chronic by estate agents. We skulked back to London with our priorities shifted; how about trying to get jobs before we house hunt. Let’s cope with one mega-dega life thing at a time… and let’s try the one that gives us money, rather than takes it away.

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After living out of 35litre backpacks forever, I seem to now have an aversion to stuff. We’ve both only unpacked about two outfits each, which hang forlornly in an empty wardrobe probably thinking hey where are all my dress-pals? Why do they have to live in a bin liner now! As this blog is testament to, I used to dress with obsessive precision in twin-sets and accessories, but now I just can’t face the amount of choice required to dress myself in the morning if there isn’t just a choice of this OR that. Maybe I’ll become one of those freaky aspirational capsule wardrobe types you read about in women’s magazine? (I’m saying this as someone who hasn’t stepped foot into H&M, Zara or Topshop yet. Who am I kidding.) I’m sure anyone who has ever moved house can empathise how rough life is when everything is in storage / boxes. I momentarily forgot this when I went for my first post-travel haircut (there were actual dreadlocks forming) and had a super chic snazzy do that needs daily blow drying and an hour with the straighteners. If only I could find the box that contains my hair dryer… or straighteners!

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Weeks in, and we’re appreciating some parts of being back in the big smoke. Our friends have been incredible, rallying round and doing nice things like cooking us dinner, buying us coffees and letting us watch Game of Thrones at their house. Yknow, the life essentials! We also had a much needed London-tourist day on Wednesday. We both had first interviews for jobs we really want in the morning. I had left before Nick, so when we met up on The Strand later we cracked up upon realising that we had dressed identically for our interviews! We were both wearing his-n-hers beige macs with black shiny brogues.

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In our uniform; we marched over the Thames, stopped for a Wahaca burrito on the South Bank, checked out the skate park demo, saw some nice new street art and then tottered over the bridge to the British Museum for an afternoon of Ancient Egyptians and Medieval British bits. There is something so soothing about the museum. One of the things Nick and I bonded over when we first met, is that when we both moved to London penniless and brand new, we would both come to the museum after work (separately, we were still 5 years off meeting!) and spend hours roaming around in the last hour of the opening, as the gallery staff start to politely shoo you out. I’d come to the museum and sit surrounded by these incredible artefacts and give myself pep talks. Seven years on and it still has that welcoming, everythings-going-to-be-ok… ok? vibe for me when I visit!

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And this weekend I did the thing to make you appreciate London the most… leaving it! Nick was in Berlin on a stag do (a four day one, which I think is a little intense!) so I came to my most precious Norfolk getaway, and timed it to catch my Gran and Mum at the same time. On the Saturday my aunt drove us out to Overstrand, a coastal village about 20 minutes from Cromer. We picked up fresh dressed crab which we devoured for picnic lunch, and then marched out onto the beach. Despite the blistering winds and chilly temperatures, I felt so proudly British to join the families who were stubbornly paddling, sitting in deck chairs or attempting Frisbee regardless. A family favourite tradition of ours is to hunt out balemites amongst the flint and the pebbles. They are rare little fossils, but there is a treasure trove of them to be found if you peek hard enough. We clambered up past the coastal path where, during the bad winter storms, every beach hut between Overstrand and Cromer was whisked into the sea!

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I’m not sure if it was the sea air, the brisk wind or being surrounded by my family, but by the time we got home and I crawled into bed (all toasty because my gran still remembers to put an electric blanket on for me a few hours before bedtime!) I then slept for eleven hours and when I woke up I felt settled for the first time since we got back.

Oh yeah! In other bee-life news you may have missed if you haven’t followed the travel tales, I am now engaged! It happened like this and I am very lucky indeed. On Sunday morning I woke up and my mum had bought me my first Bridal magazine instead of an Easter egg. Does this mean I am officially a grown up?!

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I am not sure what will happen next. Where we’ll live, where I’ll work or what gallivanting I will be blogging about here. But please bear with me, and in the meantime I turn 30 in two weeks (agh!) so I will be sure to be getting up to a few antics to celebrate this most grand of old ages. Over on Twentysomething Burnouts we will also be finishing up the last of our California exploration, and a few other behind the scenes bits, so that blog is far from over!

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I’m going to end the post with some lyrics from a song that has meant a lot to me recently. Whilst travelling I just had an iPod shuffle that had to entertain and occupy me on every 10, 20 and 30 hour bus journey, every sleepless night, every long flight. I kept it permanently on the shuffle function and despite it getting drenched on our dramatic Colombia > Panama boat-mare, it is still going strong. On the penultimate day of our travels, I turned the shuffle function off, and decided to play the ipod from start to finish (we had a long Megabus ride from San Fran to Los Angeles). The first song that came on was one I had NO idea was on there, and that the shuffle function hadn’t played once in the whole seven months! It was like winning the lottery. A whole new song out of 331 that I had heard hundreds of times each! It is by a very talented man who releases under the name Adem, and it’s called Everything You Need. The lyrics really felt appropriate at the time I discovered it, driving through the California dust bowl, and have been really comforting since we got home.

You severed your ties
Left us all behind
You said all your goodbyes
To everything you need

You severed your ties
Re-forge them… make it right
Come back with open eyes
To everything you need

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Woah nelly!

(Have you read part i? If not click here, or this won’t make much sense. All stories need a beginning after all.)

On Valentines Day we drove into Agadir. We were excited to see the local city, and take in a different kind of culture than the village life we’d adapted to. Agadir itself was a mixed experience. Our first port of call was the Kasbah that overlooks the city, perched atop of a huge hill and visible from everywhere in Agadir. The view from there was breath-taking. I also saw my first EVER camel. The panoramic perspective clearly shows the shift caused by the disastrous earthquake that hit Agadir in 1960, killing half the population and completely destroying the old town. The Agadir we visited is apparently unrecognisable to it’s previous state, having been entirely rebuilt and so it’s fair to judge it bearing in mind that it’s a city still recovering from a devastating natural disaster.

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We spent alot of the day on the beach; which was clean and pleasant. The town however didn’t really have much to offer. Sadly (well not if you like that kind of thing) Agadir is dominated by resorts. Tourists flock for the cheap flights and guaranteed heat, but then stay in these Club-Med style resorts with huge walls and gated access. Actually I think I only need to say one thing to describe Agadir; there’s an English Pub. And for me, that’s exactly what I was trying to escape! We tried to make the most of the day by visiting the Valley of the Birds; a free nature attraction. However, as I excitedly scampered in and ran up to the first cage of blue parrots… I recoiled in horror. All the birds were balding. Some had almost no feathers. Some had actual bits of them missing, obviously having been gnawed off by their cage-mates. The ‘valley’ was an unfortunate one-way system so we were forced to carry on through what Nick coined the gauntlet of horror and we were very relieved to escape, if a little traumatised. One good thing about Agadir was that we could visit the huge Uniprix (supermarket). Morocco is a totally dry country = no booze for sale! So if you want a few drinks on an evening, you have to bring them yourself. Our Kasbah were very accommodating – and would happily put drinks in the fridge for us, open them to serve with dinner etc. They just don’t have the license (or inclination…) to serve it. The Uniprix is the only place in Agadir to legally sell alcohol, so we picked up a bottle of bubbles and also 4 bottles of the local Casablanca beer. I’m absolutely gutted we just had hand-luggage allowance as otherwise we would have bought a crate of this back! It was a beautiful beer, and a steal at just over £1 a bottle. The highlight of Agadir, and reason I would still recommend a visit, was twilight. As the sun sets, you can sit on one of the beach front bars drinking mint tea (obvs) watching the birds swarm around the port and then the motif on the Kasbah hill that says God, Country, King lights up and sparkles in the distance. It was a really tranquil moment and a favourite memory of the trip.

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Our big adventure day saw us drive the 2 hours down to Souss-Massa National Park. There were endless options of big day trips we could have done – Marrakesh, the oasis of Ait Baha, sampling fresh honey and waterfalls of Imouzzer or the imperial city of Taroudant. We chose the national park because it was close to the city of Tiznit so we felt we could have a perfect day of wilderness and then taking in a traditional souk. At Souss-Massa we were met by a local villager Ahmed (another Ahmed!) and his trusty binoculars. He took us on a 3 hour trek which trailed the river Massa to the beach, the sahara sands and a small fishing village where homes were carved caves into the sand cliffs. We knew before we visited that Souss Massa was home to the near-extinct Bald Ibis bird. Half of the worlds population (of which there are only 800) reside there and there’s a huge local push to preserve and protect this critically endangered species. Our guide suddenly whooped for joy, and a V of bald ibis swooped over our heads! As we stood stunned on the sand, we saw about 3 different flocks of these incredible creatures and I even managed to get photograph that shows their amazing baldheads. This has to be the highlight of our trip, seeing one of the rarest birds in the world. Ahmed kept saying bon chance, bon chance as it’s so unexpected to see them. We also tracked wild foxes, found a wild boar skeleton, flocks of yellow billed herons in the trees and of course… sea gulls aplenty.

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As we crossed the sandy planes to the fisherman’s village, I made Ahmed laugh with a crocodile impression (the international language of signing coming in handy again) and in return he gave me his Berber headscarf which I wore for the rest of the day. On another baking hot day, it was sorely appreciated. As Ahmed took his headscarf off, a big curly mop of sun-bleached hair appeared, and we realised that he was a cool surf dude undernearth the traditional dress. He also had an amazing ironic teeshirt, considering he is a guide at a national park, he was wearing a Yellowstone national park T! We took mint tea with his brother in his beautiful painted cave house. The language barrier was easily overcome by Ahmed showing us photographs of a giant dead whale that washed up on the coastline last May, with men stood around it looking the size of ants. Again I was struck by how little you need to be content, and how simple his life was looking out on the ocean. On the way home Ahmed encouraged us to climb up some stairs built into the sand cliff, which then turned into… just sand. The ground gave away (imagine how slippery vertical sand is!) as we scrambled our way up the cliff. Ahmed of course remained cool as a cucumber, whilst I imagined just how much damage landing on those spiny, sharp rockpools would do to my face… Another near-death scrape but as he tugged me over the final cliff-lip, the views were almost worth it.

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Sandy and sun-kissed, we drove an hour to Tiznit. On the way we didn’t see another car, only ragged rudded plains as far as the eye could see, peppered with the occasional nomad’s tent. Tiznit was a delight, and I’d definitely recommend you visit. We were the only tourists and that always reassures me that you are seeing a city in its natural state rather than putting on a show for visitors. Tiznit is the capital of silver, and we got to see a local man creating silver that looked like delicate spun sugar. I bought an ebony bracelet with silver etchings, which has shot to the top of my most favourite and precious jewellery items and would definitely get saved in a fire! Tiznit is split in two, with an old terracotta town with huge towering walls and staircases that lead to nowhere. This was where the souk was, and it was a wonder to walk around – heaps of tagine pots, Moroccan slippers, jewels, oils and our new guide Saeed kept encouraging me to eat random bits of what looked like twig that he plucked from the market stalls that were apparently good for women (he didnt say how, and they tasted like tree. I even got a tongue splinter.)

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From Tiznet we drove out into the proper heights of the Atlas Mountains to the Ben Tachfine dam. As we wound narrow roads I had no idea what to expect, and as we stepped out of the car I couldn’t catch my breath. No photo or words or describing will do justice to how beautiful the view was, and how silent and peaceful and just mind-blowing this moment was. I couldn’t have felt further from home. An 86 year old nomad lived at the top of the mountain and invited us for mint tea… and offered Nick to swap me for his donkey. It was quite a nice donkey.

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So, days merged into days, and a lot of dips in the pools, hours reading in the dusky sun, exploring the high Atlas and sleeping (we averaged around ten hours a night) and for our final trip we drove out to a surf town near Essaouira which is fondly referred to locally as banana beach. Weirdly enough Nick & I had never tried surfing before, despite me having holidayed at Fistral Beach in Newquay and Nick having er.. lived in Australia! I can’t remember at what point we agreed to try in Morocco, but we thought it would be nice to try something entirely new for the first time together. We went with Surf Town who we were reassured were experts with beginners, and they lived up to the claims. We paid £54 for half a day surfing and that included a very hands-on tutor, equipment and wet-suits. We joined a group of 5 friendly Russians and together embarked our efforts to take on the sea.

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I couldn’t believe how MASSIVE the surf board was. I am a weakling, and could barely lift the thing let alone contemplate riding it! But actually once in the water (and attached to my foot) it was a little easier to control. We learnt the basics of surfing on the sand, and then hit the (huge) waves. I have to say, I absolutely loved it. Surfing requires intense concentration, a good sense of timing (to know when to paddle, when to attempt to stand etc) but once you get up on the board it’s the most satisfying, free feeling. Although every moment of exhilaration is matched with an hour of face-planting into crashing waves, sand and (for me) rocks. Woops. I definitely caught the surf bug though, and it helped to be doing it in a glorious exotic location with camels roaming the beach and herons swooping overhead. I managed to stand up once, whereas Nick was basically Beach-Boys level surf star within hours. What I didn’t expect was the world of pain that followed the next day. Every muscle in my body was screaming, so being squished into a full-capacity Easyjet flight for nearly 4 hours wasn’t the best treatment. We both agreed that it’s something we can’t wait to try again. I can’t see us getting his n hers boards and spending the days at the beach, but I reckon we’ll definitely go again this year. It’s quite nice to have started on one of the coastlines that worldclass surfers long to surf on!

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So that’s the end of my first ever trip to Morocco. You have probably gathered that it stole a piece of my heart, and I am desperately blue at being back in -5 degree London, which currently is snowing constantly at that level that makes me feel like I’m walking around in Silent Hill. Morocco has been my best ever holiday, and I would recommend everyone and anyone to visit. You can pick and choose absolutely anything you could wish for from a holiday, and be as adventurous or as lazy as you like. I also can’t recommend Atlas Kasbah enough. Every member of staff seemed so personally invested in us having a good time, and were patient, welcoming and endlessly friendly. Nothing was too much trouble, and they made our holiday so much more special because they were from the local area so were endless sources of knowledge and tips and information.

If you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into a travel blogging version of me, then don’t worry, my feet are barely on the ground because in two weeks time I’ll be in Los Angeles and New York for work so expect a bit more of the same.

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Rubbishtober

Today I was lazily browsing my inbox when I spotted a boring looking wordpress admin email creeping around under nice messages from friends and Amazon. I’m glad I opened it because it was a massively overdue reminder to cough up the $ to own my little slice of the internet, my likeaskeletonkey domain. Having paid up, it was a harsh reminder that perhaps I should add something a little shiny and new over here and get my moneys worth!

I guess I have never really settled myself on what my blog is exactly. It started off as a fashion blog until I got camera shy. Then it turned into a higgeldypiggely list of film & bookworm reviews. Then it just turned into a mix of all of these things with a few rants about Yorkshire Tea, Grandparents & Kindles vs Books chucked in. Funnily enough, my most viewed post EVER is this little nugget about The Tragic Demise of the Point Horror as it still racks up a good 100 hits a week; maybe I should accept my niche? The one thing I haven’t ever done is get particularly personal on here, despite the fact every element of my life has changed unrecognisably since I started writing here and now. So forgive me for skirting over the gory details but I do have to get a little bit personal to get past the last month… and onto writing about cheeseburgers and ghost stories and big collars again.

In mid September London had a day of fake-summer. I trotted into town and got my hair done, happily reuniting myself with my fringezille before Autumn crept in. I came home, and my boyfriend took this photograph of me in his garden, and at the time I had no idea I’d look back after a month of  lost-life and think it was the last time I was truly happy and healthy. The following Monday I went to the doctors for a standard check-up, and made an off-the-cuff comment about some pain that had been niggling me, which I followed up with but I’ve googled it and I know its absolutely normal and nothing to worry about. It turns out, it was something to worry about after all. I had a week of blood tests, other tests and aLOT of people using the C word that no one ever wants to be told is what they are beetling around looking for in your previously pretty healthy body. Fortunately it wasn’t that, but I was eventually diagnosed with a cyst that had been quietly growing inside me for long enough to be the size of a satsuma, caused by endometriosis.

And then it ruptured (make a promise to me right now, NEVER google ruptured cyst however curious you may be, as I can never unsee the horror) causing internal bleeding and me to be unable to do anything for 3 weeks except stay as still & horizontal as possible until my surgery date. I’d never had surgery or anaesthetic before, in fact all my knowledge of that area came purely from the boardgame Operation (I honestly occasionally ponder whether humans actually have a breadbox?) so it was pretty scary. The operation itself went smoothly, but everything else didn’t. From lost notes, to lost scans, to general confusion, to crumbling falling down hospitals, to low blood pressure, to blood clots, I collected quite a lot of harrowing medical memories… but all that matters really is that I’m feeling healthier now than I have for years, which makes them all worthwhile.

I think the reason I wanted to record something about this here, is that I have learnt a huge lesson which I think it’s important enough to share on the internet. Listen to your BODY. If I’m honest I had known something wasn’t quite right for ages, and if I hadn’t had a very thorough doctor it’s unlikely I’d have been diagnosed yet. Spending 6 weeks incapable of going into work, socialising, and my only trips out being to the hospital… it’s made me have such a new perspective on what is important in life and your health is something that you should be prepared to do anything to protect. My body may now be a little franken-girl-y but I’m determined to appreciate it every day and be far more attentive to any questionable goings-on in future.

I also need to use the most public place I can to thank my world-greatest boyfriend (who deserves an entire blog post in itself), parents, family and amazing friends; who barely gave me opportunity to feel glum as they ensured I was constantly bombarded with reassurance, cards, love and best wishes. Oh and even a homemade pork pie!

I had my operation in St Bart’s hospital, which it the oldest hospital in London. It was founded in 1123 and is also the oldest hospital in the whole of the United Kingdom to still exist on it’s original site, having survived the Great Fire of London and the Blitz. St Bart’s also has a museum, which I’m very much looking forward to visiting in order to spend time in the grounds as a curious guest and not a squirming-in-pain patient. A final fact that heartened me to the hospital is that Bart’s is  the location for the first ever meeting of Sherlock Holmes & Dr Watson in A Study in Scarlet. Given it’s rich historical and cultural offerings, I can’t resist sharing my own personal addition! Following my surgery, I was taking my sweet time recovering from the whole ordeal, so was admitted to a cardiac ward overnight. The ward was in one of the oldest sections of the hospital with vast windows, church bell chimes every hour and trees tapping the walls with bony autumn fingers. I’d already slept for 5 hours when I woke up at midnight and could tell the anaesthetic had mostly left my system as I could now easily snaffle two shortbreads and a cup of sugary tea, that the nurse stealth-snuck to my bed whilst the rest of the ward slept. When I fell back to ‘sleep’ I had the most paranormal experience of my entire life!

For the rest of the night various medical staff came to visit me in my bed, it felt relentless. Constantly checking my pulse, temperature, tucking me in, bringing blankets, and most frequently – gathering at the end of my bed and staring at me, occasionally whispering to each other. But these were no ordinary modern-day doctors and nurses. They were all dressed in old fashioned medical dress from various eras. I wouldn’t bet that I had the imagination or knowledge to invent these in my (at the time) drug-addled mind, and there were so many different faces and uniforms and hats and even the equipment had transformed into archaic looking items. Make of it what you will, but I was so relieved for my night in the past to be over once the sun came up. I’m looking forward to scouring the portraits that cover the museum walls and seeing if I recognise any familiar faces…

During my time in my ‘bedroom prison’ I did sneak out occasionally to breathe in a bit of Autumn, and to be honest I probably saw more than if I’d been crouched over my desk in the office. Safe to say I can’t wait to get back out there and into the world again, and enjoy what November has to offer (and hopefully blog a little more about it), as October 2012 will forever be written off as rubbishtober.                                                            .

  

  

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If you were wondering what I’ve been doing all summer…

I have a serious case of instagramatitus. I’m no longer interested in any element of life that I can’t apply a sun-dappled nostalgic filter to and swoon at it’s beauty!  Although, just as I got into the addict spectrum, my iPhone broke. Overheated and apparently it’s terminal! I wonder if there was a connection between discovering Instagram and this…?

So for now I am stuck with a £12.99 brick that doesn’t even have predictive text! In fact the only thing I have worked out how to do is set the ‘Greeting Message’ (remember them!) to “I’m a stupid hunk of junk”. Yup.

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Normal service will resume shortly I promise. I went home, and had lots of adventures including seeing The Decemberists (definitely up there with one of the best gigs of my LIFE, and I hate audience participation!), saw my friends beautiful baby and didn’t make it cry once, sleepovers and sleeptalks with old friends, being faux French with Kerry, witnessing an 8 year old order a cappucino in Starbucks (!), dancing to Rhianna in 4 inch heels (something I do not do on any sort of regular basis), eating ice cream with a spoon in my friends car whilst spotting stars in the middle of a moor, pink wine and pink cupcakes and lots of fresh Yorkshire air.

I headed out on a countryside stroll with my mum, who ended up dragging me through tunnels, wading into rivers and teetering down cliff faces (ok, steep hills). She will now be forever known as action-mum…

Since I got back to London I’ve been feeling homesick. There’s something so soothing about walking walks you’ve done since you were a child and so many of my very best friends are there, that it’s hard not to do a bit of pining when I’m back hundreds of miles away from all that again. Then my grown up job exploded into chaos and I have worked so hard and so many hours this week I’ve burst a bloodvessel in my eye.

Hot stuff!

 

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Lately…

01-03: Camden crawling. Had to pick up a small treat so got this waist long camera on a chain from one of the stable stalls.

04-05. Thinking pink. So not impressed that after neatly packing all my winter woollens away (I know, so premature!) that I’ve had to dig them all back out.

06-09: Street art on the warren of roads behind Brick Lane. The Antiantiantianti piece goes on for an entire street!

9-10. I went to see Pains Of Being Pure At Heart at Kings College. I appreciate the stamp detailing. Don’t be put off by the name, this band are amazing!

11. I recreated the holy Counter Cafe french toast! at home this weekend. It was actually really simple and cheap. I just dunked some bread in egg, fried it and served up with raspberries (99p for a bag of frozen ones at Tesco) and two sliced bananas which I also fried until caramelly. CC use brioche in their version so might try that next time!

12. Agent Cooper posing. I haven’t featured her on here for ages. Monday was my ONE YEAR anniversary of having her. One whole year and I haven’t broken her, phewf… I must be a real grown up.

There may be a little blog lul now (expect for a super special scheduled Sunday announcement) as I am packing my bags and speeding up to the north to be northern for a bit and see my friends & family & The Decemberists.

It’s forecast to snow – great welcome home!

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I Am A Tourist

I think I’m a little bit, a little bit, a little bit in love with you.

London has been extraordinarily pretty lately. I think February suits it.

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It’s been over 6 months since I last went to see my grandparents but it feels like I just blinked and the time vanished. Since I last saw them I’ve bought a flat, flown half way around the world and back, spent hours exploring London sites and secrets and become a qualified first aider. So it was high time I crept onto the train that takes me to their countryside hideaway. Getting an East Coast train from Liverpool Street is a really good way of getting a sneaky view into the 2012 Olympic build. The train slows to a crawl as it passes through Stratford and you get long, open views of the stadium, the new train station and most impressively; the bare bones of what will be the Aquatics Centre. The thousands of seats towering over the empty ground look so strange and isolated at the moment but it’s easy to colour in the crowds and water and chaos with your imagination.

The surrounding of my grandparents house look so different compared to the last time I visited, when everything was sprouting green with Spring luciousness! I love visiting any time of year though, and even though the trees were mostly bare or bowing with rotten fruit, and the air was freezing cold and the ground was muddy, it still felt a million miles from work and tubes and crowds and Oxford Street Christmas shoppers which was what I needed for my tired brain!

My gran looked quite tired this visit, although at 91 she is certainly entitled to look a little weary. However she still chatted non stop and told me a few stories I had never heard before, as well as teaching me how to make brussel sprout soup (don’t make that face, it has to be tried to be believed, it has a really tasty smokey flavour and is delicious!) (and no, I don’t like brussel sprouts with my Christmas dinner either!) and when my aunt, uncle and cousins pitched up for a game of our family invented card game Racing Demon (it’s rawcous, rowdy and involves lots of shouting and distraction techniques) she still beat us all. Twice. My Pa was in good spirits and less confused this visit, although he has started talking about death more. On Saturday morning he looked distracted and I thought he’s misplaced something so I asked him are you looking for something Pa? And he said yes, to die. d. i. e. (nice of him to spell it out for me!) I sound like I’m making light of it, when obviously it’s not nice to hear your grandfather speak that way, but it’s the sullen attitude he does it with and then the fact that in the next breath he is right as rain again and talking about his old car or his favourite holiday to Ireland or asking for Yorkshire Pudding with golden syrup for his pudding. I think it’s probably quite normal for elderly people to talk about dying so that they feel more in control and accustomed to the idea? Either way I’ve told him he is absolutely not to go anywhere, and then I distracted him with the iPad which I think completely blew his mind and he enjoyed playing and typing on it and looking at photos of his feline great grandaughter for a good 30 minutes.

I felt extra sad to leave them this time, because next Easter seems like forever away to go visit again. As soon as I go I miss my Pa’s papery skin on his hands, and my grans smells and her perfectly set white hair and just how insanely happy sitting with them for hours on end just chatting and questioning and reading and eating makes me.

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There are many things I love about London, but one of them is escaping it.

My grandparents like in Norfolk, in a converted barn in the middle of meadows and countryside as far as the eye can see. My granny is called Lesley, she is 91, and she can still move faster than me. She refers to 70 years olds as ‘ancient’! She refuses to eat anything that isn’t homecooked (mostly by her – she says  the key ingredient to any cooking is love. Ah.), she survived bowel cancer in her 80s when everyone was busy clucking and talking about her ‘good innings’, she has the most incredible stories and she is still head over heels in love with my Pa despite being together since they were 13 and 15. My Pa is called Pat. He likes to wear a flat cap, his favourite colour is purple and he can still completely destroy me at cards. He has Parkinsons disease, which causes him to shake. It also makes him sleepy and confused. Conversations can quickly go off on a tangent, snippets of something he has read or seen on the tv or ancient memories suddenly bulldozing in and making no sense to anyone else. We can be sat in silence and he’ll suddenly grab my hand and say How many people does it take to look after that lion do you think? and I’ll say Oh I’d imagine two or three and then he is happy, and falls asleep again. I have no idea which lion he is talking about.

I love them both ferociously and I know that it’s so precious to have living granparents when you are an adult, that I do try to visit as often as possible. Not that it’s a hardship for me mind; nonstop homemade soup, clambering around fields and gardens in my wellies looking for bugs and treasure, swimming in their ramshackle old pool, reading lots, sleeping lot and ODing on good, clean country air.

I can’t wait to go back again, it already feels just like a nice dream with work and the central line and Starbucks and smog looming tomorrow.

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