Thursday, 28 July 2011

Holidays and the art of transformation

I'm back! The holiday was, as expected, deliciously indulgent and relaxing, think evenings on the balcony sipping wine and wandering along the sea front as the sun went down, bliss! While I was away I picked up some design inspiration and have since transformed my dining room into a mellow blue paradise, a bit like the one below, by painting an old dresser, having some holiday snaps blown up onto canvases and giving my new lantern, that I purchased in Greece, pride of place on the sideboard where I keep my cookbook library. But my house is not the only thing transformed from having a good break.

Getting away from your life is simply amazing for seeing things with fresh eyes and with a bit of perspective, particularly if the biggest demands on you are to reach for water from your sun lounger or decide which one of the, all delicious sounding, dishes you will sample that night. So much so that I have decided I need to holiday much more for my own mental health! Having uninterrupted thinking time is a real luxury that we never really seem to have much of at home, dashing from one place to another and always inundated with information. It was blissful to be out of the reaches of news, where you feel like the whole world is no father than what you can see around you.

For me being away has made me realise that I am generally on the right path so that's a good thing. I've made some tweaks to my work load and have decided to be firmer with myself on my hours so as not to over work too much (the freelancers peril!). With this fresh mindset I have decided to make a note of the things that came to mind as important while I was away. It is so easy to let those things slip away as other, more noisy, demands come to the fore. But it's these little moments where you grab what is important to you that really make a difference. They build up to form a life. I have realised that by taking days for writing and doing more in church, by making my work work for me, that I have really discovered that fact. I'm not giving that time back if I can help it! I've now taken a permanent part time job as a long term move towards that and a vote of confidence in the decisions I've made this year. I just hope now that I have such happy reflections when I'm next on the sun lounger!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

I love you but...

Picture from the fabulous Natalie Dee at

  I'm off on holiday! See you in a week! xx

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Writers Brain

When I was writing my Masters thesis many moons ago I spent 99% of my time holed up in my room hunched over a laptop attempting to force words out onto the page and trying not throw myself out of the nearest window (which would have been especially dangerous as I lived in the roof of a rather sizeable church back then).

So desperate was I for personal contact with other humans that I went to Starbucks every afternoon and ended up having many wide and varied conversations with an eighty year old lady who I suspect was out for much the same thing. Now that I have dedicated writing days (hurrah!) I am remembering why I needed my afternoon outings and am suffering again with what I call 'Writers Brain'.

The symptoms, besides speaking to randoms in coffee shops, are a fuzzy head, an inability to form coherent thoughts, an alarming amount of time on Twitter/Facebook and much vacant staring into space. You will be able to spot someone with writers brain by the presence of pyjamas at midday and the inordinately large amount of caffeine they can consume.

When I was doing my thesis I actually began to think there might be something wrong with my brain altogether. It is a very strange and disconcerting feeling to be trying to force thoughts to form and coming up with such great innovations as 'Is that a bird outside? Cool.' I started eating brain enhancing foods like eggs and nuts but to little avail. I tried a brisk walk but that just made me want to nap. I tried working in coffee shops but that just lead to the aforementioned chatting with old ladies. Chocolate chunk shortbread helped for a while but did bring an afternoon sugar lull which also led to napping. All roads seemed to lead to napping and very few to a completed thesis.

I am now suffering from the same condition, pyjamas/vacant staring and all. I haven't yet started accosting people in Starbucks but I fear it is not far off. So this, dear blog readers, is where you come in - any one have any brain power boosting techniques that don't involve giving up and watching Gilmore Girls? My sanity thanks you.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Back to greece (I hope!)

I don’t know about you but I am glad summer is here. If you happen to be reading this from a part of the globe featuring wintery weather then I have also waxed lyrical about the joys of winter in a previous post so you can just hop on over there. What can I say, I’m a giver!  Winter or summer what I am very much looking forward to soon is a holiday. As a fully signed up member of the sun worshippers club I absolutely love the opportunity to escape to more predictably sunny climes (sorry UK….!) and this year (financial crisis/riots permitting) I am off to Greece.

Greece is, without a doubt, one of my most favourite places. Yes, for the glorious sunshine, great food and warm hospitality but also for the memories it brings back for me. When I was 18 I went off to Athens for six weeks during my first university holidays. When I look back on it now, as I guess most people who have had gap year travels do, it seems very bold to have headed off to a country where I didn’t speak the language to sleep in a train carriage on the beach for six weeks!
Sitting in a turtle tank to survive the heatwave - reading Jane Austen. Because some things don't change!
The purpose of the trip was to work with Archelon, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, at their Sea Turtle Recue Centre in Gyfada, a suburb of Athens. Glyfada is quite a nice area with boutiques and upmarket restaurants and we used to wander around in shorts and baggy t-shirts covered in liquidized fish that had missed the turtles’ mouths and ended up all over us. I’m not sure how popular we were with the locals!

At the end of a busy and defining year at university it was just what I needed to spend my time leaping off rocks into the sea and letting it all soak in by the calm of the coast and with all the amazing sights Athens has to offer. The group of us who worked there together had a little ritual that in the early evening as the sun started to go down we all went our separate ways and had some alone time before coming together for dinner and some late night Ouzo drinking. I vividly remember sitting on the rocks looking out to the sea each evening and contemplating everything that had passed that year, how I had gone from a child in my parents’ home to an adult here in Greece on my own.

At the Acroplois with Athens sprawling out behind me
I don’t think I was always the best person to live with back then, I was a shocking cook and good for not much more than watering the garden but I felt like we knew how to live there together. When I think of living in community I always think back to the Rescue Centre, it was tolerant, kind and supportive. It makes me so sad about everything that is going on in Greece just now, the people there are so welcoming and hardworking.

So I’m very looking forward to going back this summer, to the Peloponnese this time where I was implored to go by the Greek friends I made as they claim it is a truly beautiful, unspoilt place. My aim there will be to do just what I did on my first trip to Greece, to sit on the rocks, mull over my year and be thankful. I can’t wait.