Tag Archives: postaday2011

Back in the saddle…

… or trying to be.

So today’s post-a-day – if you could own one thing you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I guess nothing tangible or material. I’m perfectly happy with my material possessions. I’d always like to travel more, but it’s not ‘one thing I currently don’t have’ and I’ve hundreds of things I wish I owned, but know I’ll never have:

  • an ability to have my buttons pressed and say ‘meh’ rather than going off the handle
  • an ability to back down
  • an ability to stay away from other people’s battles
  • an ability to see an underdog and thing ‘that’s nothing to do with me’ and walk away
  • an ability not to get incensed by stuff
  • sanity
  • the ability to speak perfect French
  • a true grasp of the fact that life isn’t fair and therefore the ability to accept it and move on.
I’m sounding like I need a little Buddha in my life. To be honest, to say I don’t need anything material when I’m poor as a church mouse is evidence of my usual state of being. I have a few things I’m precious about and would be bothered if I didn’t have them, but by and large I think moving has removed many vestiges of consumer longing within me. Move to a foreign land and you’ll soon realise that you have to give stuff up. And the more you give up, the less painless it becomes. I can see how people end up giving everything away. The real stuff I value, relationships, things I’ve learned, people, memories – that’s the stuff you can’t buy and you can’t keep hold of even if you try.
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A little agitation

All the recent change has left me a little agitated. Driving home today from my dad’s at Charmé, I was just looking forward to getting home. I’m not sure what it is – the weather, my ankle, the animals dying, trying to keep going every day isn’t always easy.

Days like these, I dip into a post a day to give me a little inspiration and a little vacation away from my own self. I used to read avidly as a child – still do – and could lose myself in a book. A book for me was escape. Now writing is that too, but it’s also a little more soothing, a little more creative, a little more therapeutic.

So… the longest I was ever without sleep. That has to be another journey, I guess. I think it must have been going out to Brazil. 2003 was also an agitated time, and it was the first time in a while I’d been away on my own in a new place. I made my mind up in May and by August, I was jetting off.

I don’t even know WHY Brazil. It loosely had something to do with Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson – a tale about a girl who was taken to Manaus on the Amazon. Sometimes, there’s no rhyme or reason behind motivation. But Manaus was on my itinerary.

Although I was meeting up with friends in Rio, I flew alone. I know I flew from Paris – don’t know how I got there. It was a night flight, and I’d been travelling much of the day. I think I sat in CDG for a good couple of hours and I’d been up all day. So many of the people catching the flight were already larger than life – something you become accustomed to in Brazil. I was on an aisle seat of two, next to a young French guy.

I guess I was too excited to sleep. I watched a few films but mainly watched the flight monitor screen tracking our progress. We hit the North coast of Brazil around 4 in the morning, and we were still flying at 8. It’s immense to come from such a small country – probably an hour flight from top to bottom – and still be flying some hours later over something that is so vast it’s almost unimaginable. Vast is pretty much what sums up Brazil for me.

I landed at Sao Paulo at about 7, then had a transfer to Rio, where I was meeting up with Rachael, Catherine and Nicole. Nicole is a friend from Ghent in Belgium, and she’s fantastic – laid-back, insightful, everything you associated with Belgians.

I’d been awake probably twenty four hours by that time, not including time zone jumps. I was wired and Rio just fed it. Even walking out, it’s so… in your face. The taxi booths out in the foyer were manned by buxom women who were leaning over the counter with very ample cleavage. I smiled, went for my bus, amused.

Our apartment was a block back from the Copacabana, off the Avenida Princessa Isabella. I was the first there. Opening the door to that peaceful apartment, way above the traffic, I could just about see the Atlantic from the window. I didn’t even bother unpacking. I walked downstairs and out of the elaborate Art Deco foyer into the full-on heat and life of Rio. The little Mercado underneath the apartments was my first stop. A pair of flip flops, a bottle of Guarana, crisps. I walked down to the Copacabana. Daytime in the week, in the wet season, it was quiet and cloudy.

I was a little sad not to see Christ the Redeemer – he was shrouded in mist. But I stood alongside the water, thinking about it coming in from Africa, how far it was away from home. I walked almost all the way up to the Ipanema, taking it all in. It was quiet and I was fine with that.

By the time I got back to the apartment, Rachael and Catherine were there – we went for drinks in a bar on the front, sitting drinking out of coconuts, catching up, laughing. I really should have gone back for a nap, but Nicole arrived and the drinks started again.

It was great to be with my girls, all happy and skinny and sun-tanned, a whole adventure before us. We went for churrascuria (meat barbecue, where they keep bringing you meat upon meat upon meat for a set price. You pay 10 dollars and you eat until you sweat!) – we went to Marius Churrascuria – a very famous restaurant on the Avenida Atlantica. By 10 o’clock, we were all shattered. 30 hours without sleep and a full stomach. We went back to our apartment and slept. The beds were warm and it was the beginning of a new world.

Mr Fox and Mr Bird

First published on Anglo Info – but it’s my only news. Apologies if you read both!!

The naming of cats is a difficult matter…

It was as inevitable as karaoke at a Japanese bar…

Mr Basil passed away last Thursday. He was my child – my petulant, spoilt, lovely boy. I cried buckets. We buried him on Sunday underneath one of his favourite trees, complete with everything he’ll need for Cat Valhalla. He might not have died in combat, but he was a fierce warrior, and I like to think the Valkyries escorted him to sit outside Valhalla and there he sits.

Yesterday morning, I’d decided I needed new cats. Sure, I could do with a bit of time grieving. I keep looking over to the windowsill, seeing a reflection and thinking it’s my boy. But we have mice and a home for cats, so Sunday was as good as any day to place an ad on the wanted section of Anglo Info.

Within minutes, I had several offers. Some were a little older, or a little young, or a little far away. But a very kind lady was the first to reply and the deal was done. I’m a great believer in kismet.

“I’ve got two cats on offer.” I said to Steve.

“Hmmmm.” He smiled beatifically from the corner. I could read his thoughts. He thinks we have enough animals. He thinks we don’t have money going spare. He remembers Mr Basil’s spraying when we arrived here, and the way I pampered him. He remembers that animals can be hard work. He looks at Tilly, asleep in her basket and I can see him thinking ‘we have enough trouble’. But we don’t.

I showed him a picture.

“Hmmmm.” he said.

Not convinced.

But he loved The Basil, even though he hadn’t known him very long. He liked it when The Basil curled up on his pillow. He liked the whimsy and I’m inclined to think he felt a kinship with the petulant one. I think maybe he was more sensitive about Basil’s passing than I was. However, I’m accustomed to losing what you love. I’ve taught thousands of kids who I’ve loved dearly and let go on to college or work. In fact, on my first teacher placement in a primary school, I realised I could never spend full weeks with kids who I would grow to become too attached to. It would break my heart. I much prefer things that are brief and a little distant, because I know I’m going to find it hard to let go.

The Aged Parent arrived this morning. I’ve decided to call my dad this in honour of “Great Expectations”

“I’m picking up two cats later,” I said.

He smiled fixedly at The Man. The kind of smile that says: “Can’t you stop this madness or at least reign it in? You aren’t building an ark you know, or running a rescue centre, and could you not keep a tighter hand on this mad girl?”

The Man smiled fixedly back. The kind of smile that says: “Not a chance. You’re her father. You should have beaten this out of her as a child.”

Both of them smile fixedly at me. The kind of smile that says: “You’re several sandwiches and a pork pie short of a picnic.”

I smile. I’ve got cats to pick up at lunchtime.

Linda, their previous mum, had been ‘brought’ them by some other strays she feeds. Trouble is, like many of us, she’s a little short of cash when it comes to feeding the feline five thousand, though I could see she’d love to.

And when I saw them, I knew why. They’re beautiful!

I’d a conversation earlier in the day with a French client – a feline friendly guy. We talked about cats we’d loved and lost. I described the new ones to him.

“They’re ginger.” I said.

“Huh?”

“Hmmm. It’s a cat colour. We call it ginger. Red.”

He didn’t know what colour it was in French, but it’s decidedly not gingembre. He laughed as if it was the silliest thing I could have said. Turns out it’s cannelle or roux. Cinnamon. Not sure why it’s funny to call them gingembre but okay to call them cannelle, but there you go.  We went a whole conversational detour around The Spice Girls (Ginger Spice, of course!), why we think Posh Spice would be better to embrace an inner bitch and stop trying so hard, why kids in England are bullied for being red-haired. Turns out we both have red-haired mums. He was proud of his mum’s flamboyant hair colour. I have a friend who jokingly said if she had a child and it was ginger, she’d drown it.

Anyway, the two boys were asleep on the swing when I got there – and as soon as I approached them, they purred, licked my hands, nuzzled me… I was smitten.

Truthfully, I wanted the privilege of naming an animal, and I was kind of glad she’d held off naming them. It’s such a… personal thing. I had a couple of names in mind. Basil had been named before arrival, and he was definitely a Basil, not a Baz or anything else. I liked to stand outside shouting him like Sybil Fawlty. His name became a little like Oiseau – and I’d already decided one of them would be called Bird as a kind of loose namesake. Birdy. Good name for a cat. Plus, we’re watching re-runs of The Wire and I love some of the characters in that.

The trouble lay with the other name. I liked Bubbs to go with that, but neither cat was a Bubbs. I thought about Mac for a bit, like McVities Ginger Nuts, but it didn’t work either. Linda had mentioned something about calling one of them Fox or Foxy for his marmalade colouring and it seemed to work really well. Foxy would keep his name, and Birdy would be my other little cat. Foxy and Birdy. Fox and Bird.

It works.

And so I ask you to bid welcome to Foxy Loxy and the Birdman of Alcatraz, our new resident predators.

Please don’t smile fixedly at me. I’ve had enough of that for one day. Just indulge me a little like The Aged P and Steve

 

Roadtrips

Sometimes, I just need to write – just my way of creating a little something. And sometimes my head is full of other stuff, like Basil. So I like the postaday idea from WordPress – since it gets me thinking about things other than where my head is right now.

And today’s a good one – your favourite road trip. I have lots and lots, so it’s hard to pick one out that I liked the most, but I think it would be a toss-up between hitching from the Amazon to another boat post, or driving down to my dad’s with my sister. Maybe. I loved the drive up through Scotland into the highlands though… so it’s not an easy choice to make. And possibly my favourite ever journey was one by train, anyway.

The train journey was from St Malo down to St Hilaire de Riez – 7 trains in a day. Every single one of them was on an ancient old SNCF train with small compartments and deep seats with huge springs. The seats smelled musty, in a good way, and reminded me of the old train that used to run between Bury and Manchester, back in my early teens when I used to go to Affleck’s Palace when I was a very small, cute emo child to buy patchouli-scented clothes and second-hand levi 501s. It was overcast for much of the journey, and it all seemed so foreign. Dol de Bretagne. Rennes. Nantes. A hazy, warm and soothing journey.

I’d got off the ferry at St Malo, early in the morning after sleeping on the boat. I’d slept on the floor in the seating area – most people had cabins, but I was hard up. I had few cassettes and I’d picked ones I loved since I didn’t have much room (back in the days before you could get 10,000 albums onto something you can fit in your palm!) I had Depeche Mode and James.

It was Laid that I was mostly listening to – and the title track is brilliant, although the album is known more for this track:

which is great in itself because when I find bipolar disorder hard to live with, this song sums up much of it.

I’ll sing myself to sleep

A song from the darkest hour

Secrets I can’t keep

Inside of the day

Swing from high to deep

Extremes of sweet and sour

I hope that God exists

I hope, I pray

Drawn by the undertow

My life is out of control

I believe this wave will bear my weight

So let it flow

I’m relieved to hear

That you’ve been to some far out places

It’s hard to carry on

When you feel all alone

Now I’ve swung back down again

It’s worse than it was before

If I hadn’t seen such riches

I can live with being poor.

It’s soft and calm, hazy and gentle, then rousing at other times. I was reading a lot of Kerouac at the time, and I’d taken On the Road with me, clichéd as that might be. A 22 year old doesn’t care about being cheesy and clichéd. I watched the grey dawn rise as we came into St Malo, and when I went back in 2004, it was just as bleak. I guess that’s why I liked Essaouaira in Morocco so much – it reminded me of St Malo with its coastal fortifications. And I watched the ferry draw in, around six in the morning, and I knew I was getting closer to Phil, who I was travelling to see. He was my first love – the boy I fell in love with at 17 and I stayed with until after the summer.

I ate a pain aux raisins in a café in St Malo, before getting on the train. Seven connections and I would be there. It seemed like an eternity. Each train brought me closer to my one love – hard as it had been that summer to be separated. In fact, when he came back, when he said he was going again the next year, I broke up with him. I couldn’t bear to be apart from him.

Going down to Rennes, I was struck by how many trees there were – we seemed to go through miles and miles of forest, thick and damp. From there, it was down to Nantes, across plains of yellow corn, ripe in the fields, and the sun began to come out. I slept a little on the train, comforted by the gentle motion of the train and the comfy seats that bounced. I had an ancient old suitcase of my great-nan’s, and the whole journey seemed to be one from many, many years ago – not just 20 years ago. The train was quiet, the carriages empty. From there to Challans, then Challans to St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, getting warmer and warmer, sleepier and sleepier. It seemed a whole country away from the cold, damp St Malo I’d landed at in the morning. I felt like I was leaving England behind: it was the summer after I finished training as a teacher, so it was a holiday that marked the difference between being a child and being an adult. It was the first holiday I paid for myself. It was the first time I’d travelled alone. I felt on that trip as if I were leaving my childhood behind to become an adult. When I came back, I went straight into my teaching post, left my first love behind, began the stages of adulthood – working, buying a house, getting a pet, so that journey was like the journey out of youth into limbo, a place where I was free from being a child, a dependent, a responsibility, yet free from adult responsibility. I think it was the last time I really, truly, felt free. The hazy, lazy music of James coming through an ancient cassette player seems ever more appropriate now.

Part of that road trip was about seeing Phil when I got there – he was sun-tanned and lovely – and we had one of those kisses that last for hours, so sad and so happy to see each other once again. He was in shorts, his hair long and loose – the beautiful boy who was my first love. Journeys don’t get better than that.