I am so emotionally compromised by having just watched this movie that I can’t form sentences.
I love being by the water. I genuinely own of those ‘sounds of the waves’ CD’s that no one should admit to owning. Nothing makes me feel more at home or calmer than a quick dip of my toes in the water or poking them under warm grains of sand. My idea of what constitutes a decent beach have somewhat skyrocketed since enjoying the beautiful beaches of Oz, but I can still appreciate a good old British beach as well. My love of the water stretches to oceans, rivers, streams, hell – if it’s a puddle big enough to jump in I’m happy. There’s something very calming about the ebb and flow of the tide, the melodic sound of the waves crashing against the shore and the seemingly endless horizon. Ironically I don’t do so well on the water if travelling on anything larger than a canoe, meaning that you’ll mostly find me on dry land. I also have a shark phobia (very sensibly, I think) which can make things interesting. But I’m ok with being left ashore. I can happily tolerate the stickiness of the factor four hundred sunscreen I have to slap on my pasty white skin or the grains of sand that somehow manage to find their way into ALL the wrong places. I don’t even mind the elderly gentlemen who still insist on rocking the speedos (a bit like an eclipse, just try not to look directly at it to avoid possible blindness…). It’s all part of the experience. I’m lucky to live in a part of the country that’s not further than an hour from the sea. I remember the butterflies of excitement in my tummy as we drove closer and closer to the seaside as a child and that feeling has never gone away. What a dream it would be to live right next to the water. I wonder if the novelty would ever wear off over the years or if I would continue to be mesmerised. Now that’s an experiment I’d be more than willing to be a part of.
I have this friend you see. She’s insanely pretty, ridiculously smart and incredibly kind. So I thought it was only right that she get her very own day of Joy on this journey. We met 4 years ago in Nowra, New South Wales, Australia. My first impressions of her were that I wished I had her confidence, envied the fact that she could seemingly talk to anyone with ease and that she had great taste in tea. She put the milk in first. We were going to be friends.
Lene is one of those people who would be so easy to dislike were they not so damn wonderful. She’s talented, funny, beautiful, generous. She’s creative and determined. There’s not a hateful bone in her yoga-stretched body and I mean that sincerely. I am yet to find something that she is not excellent at. It’s extremely annoying. Over the years she has become what I now refer to as my ‘voice of reason’. When I’m in the throws of a rant and can’t see clearly through the red mist (and let’s face it, this happens quite a lot) she is my anchor, my lighthouse in the storm of crap that is so often my brain on overdrive. We have had many little adventures together. Road trips, house-shares, gigs, weddings, good times, bad times. We’ve hung out on opposite sides of the world, sometimes together in the same place, other times via the magic of Skype.
At the time of going to press, it has been approximately 21 months since we were standing in the same spot, but to me it could have been yesterday. Distance means very little when you love people that much. I can think of no one I would rather have spent my time in Australia with. So, Lena – this is my little dedication to you. A teeny tiny thank you for being the person that you are. Don’t ever change. Not. One. Thing.
As I sit writing this I’m scoffing a cream slice. I love food. Eating is, in fact, one of my very favourite things to do, closely followed by drinking coffee. Had I not been gracefully blessed to inherit my mother’s skinny genes I am in no doubt whatsoever that I would be the size of a house, possibly starring in one of those terrifying late night Channel 4 documentaries showing firemen cutting me free from my house because I can no longer fit through my own front door. As it stands I’ll probably just lose all my toes from diabetes and drop dead at 45 from heart disease. So no need to worry prematurely. But – huzzah – I was born with the ability to eat whatever I want with minimal podge, and by golly do I take advantage of it. From time to time I do wonder if my bad eating habits will one day catch up with me, possibly overnight, and I’ll wake one day to find I have gained 200 pounds and can no longer see my bellybutton, but I also like to live by the rule that tomorrow I might get hit by a bus, and do I really want my final thought on this earth to be “Shit….I wish I’d eaten that second eclair….”?
I’m also sad to report that in 2014 being vegetarian is still met with a certain level of distain. You’d think people would’ve gotten over it by now (I mean, come on, there are much weirder dietary choices. Fruitarianism anyone?) but this admission at restaurants is still often met with a raised eyebrow. And I will never understand the presumption that all vegetarians like mushrooms. And goats cheese. And bloody nut roasts. Have you ever eaten a tasty nut roast? No. Because there is no such thing. I do wish I was a little more adventurous with food. I tend to stick to what I know I like and consume it in large quantities, though I’m quite sure this rule has saved me many a food poisoning incident so many there’s something to be said for being picky.
To some, having to eat to refuel our bodies is nothing more than an inconvenience, time that could be spent doing something more productive. To those people I say – you’ve clearly never eaten a pecan and maple pastry from Cafe Nero or you wouldn’t say such ghastly things. Off you go, discover, eat and be merry. And be a dear and pick one up for me while you’re there. Thanks.
Even before being struck down by ECFS (evil chronic fatigue syndrome) I was a huge fan of these, and now they’re even more enjoyable because I don’t have to feel guilty about taking them. Today was a prime example – wake up, discover you have a sore throat and feel like you went ten rounds with Mike Tyson, get pissed off about having to miss your planned coffee date with your bestest, roll over and go back to sleep. Rinse and repeat until grumpy. In the interest of optimism though what could have been a total write off of a day turned into an extremely pleasant day of rest (Jesus would’ve been proud). If I were in charge of the country duvet days would be a legitimate reason for not going into work, or shirking that party you didn’t want to go to anyway. Doesn’t America have mental health days? I say duvet days are an extension of that. Maybe I should join a union.
Anyway. There are certain essentials you will need to arm yourself with in order to completely enjoy your duvet day. You should probably first make sure that there isn’t anything circled in red on your calendar that you just cannot miss. Your wedding day would be a good example of a bad time for becoming one with your eiderdown. The day you’re supposed to be a pallbearer, perform brain surgery or collect someone from the airport, also not so convenient. Otherwise though you’re good to go. Next you will need to check that you have enough food and drink stocked in your kitchen to last you the day. Of course the invention of the phone and the internet mean that now there’s very little that you can’t call out for as long as you’re willing to spend the cash to get it delivered at short notice, but it’s easier and cheaper to have provisions to hand before you begin. You will need a comfortable bed (because bed sores are just not a good look) and plenty of fluffy pillows. You will probably want to put your phone on silent so as not to be disturbed. It might even be worth your while calling your nearest and dearest ahead of time with the threat of a good flogging should they interrupt your ‘me’ time.
If you’ve managed to sort all of the above, sit back (or more accurately, lay down) and enjoy a whole day of doing as little as humanly possible. I promise you’ll enjoy it.
As far as I’m concerned it’s not actually possible to have too many friends, though like so many things in life it’s probably better to go for quality over quantity. I am extremely lucky in this respect. Not only have I managed to hang onto the same group of friends since childhood, I’ve also made new friends over the years who are just as special to me (admittedly most of these friends are on the other side of the world). As I may have previously hinted at I’m not always the most sociable of people. To be honest a lot of the time people annoy the crap out of me, and I have never found it that easy to make new friends (perhaps they can sense the antisocial vibe…?), but when I found myself in a strange new country, alone and without knowing a single soul I was forced to make an effort. And I’m so glad that I did. “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?” said the great philosopher Confucius (just kidding, it was Winnie the Pooh). And damn right he was too. My friends whom I love from a distance (you know who you are – ST, MR, KC, CH, SC) mean just as much to me as those I grew up with. They are all entwined with beautiful memories of my time overseas and I find it impossible to think of them without wanting to both laugh and cry simultaneously. Maybe in some way the people who you choose to keep in your life as an adult have special significance because you did exactly that – you chose them. The friends of your youth have a different, but no more or less special, significance. They have grown up alongside you and stuck with you through school and puberty and terrible haircuts. Speaking of that unruly bunch (you know who you are, too) we’ve been through a lot together over the years. Between us we must have covered just about every possible eventuality that life can throw at you. Death of a parent, a sibling, a partner? Check. Unemployment, emigration, illness, mental breakdowns of various severities? Yep. We’ve now entered the baby-making stage of life, having gotten the marriage thing out of the way a little earlier than some. Presumably next on the agenda is parents evenings, early-onset dementia, hip replacements and mobility scooters. Things change, of course. Sometimes you’re closer than close, sometimes you can go for weeks or months with very little contact. Sometimes you’ll go through the same life-changing events together, at other times it might feel as if you’re living completely different lives. None of this stuff really matters though, and true friendship rides the ever changing waves of life with ease.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love kids. Scratch that, I love well behaved, cute kids. Does that make me a bad person? Hmm. Anyway. Back in 2010 I had the privilege of meeting a then 17 month old little boy who would change and enrich my life in a million ways. This little boy, with his beautiful long eyelashes and baby blue eyes stole my heart. To cut a very long story short, by the time I arrived on the my Australian surrogate family’s doorstep I was more than a little bruised and battered. Physically and emotionally. It took a good couple of weeks for me to feel safe again and Arthur was a big part of that. It’s very hard to feel miserable or overwhelmed when a little person wants to climb onto your lap for a cuddle or take a walk to the park. It’s also very hard to find time to feel sorry for yourself when you start work at 6.30am and your alarm clock is a tiny voice whispering “get up Katy…” in your ear. Children at this age are so refreshing to spend time with. They haven’t yet been tarnished by the worries of the world or weighed down by difficult decisions, or any of the other stuff that makes us hard. They still believe in the tooth fairy and that eating the crusts on your sandwiches will make your hair curly. With kids you have to go back to the basic fundamentals of life – being fed, watered, warm, loved, safe. These are the things that we as so-called grown ups so often let slide, but with children you just can’t. You have to be the strong one, the care-giver, the provider, the protector. I taught Arthur how to people watch in a coffee shop. He taught me so very much more.
Arthur has just turned five years old and is now approximately 7 feet tall*. He may live on the other side of the globe but he will always, always be one of my biggest and greatest Joys.
*I may be exaggerating
At the risk of sounding dramatic (because I would never do that) I can honestly say that my life has been saved by a simple act of kindness from a stranger, and I truly believe that the power of being kind should never be underestimated. My story is neither dramatic nor particularly interesting but quite simply involved a lovely lady in a bakery offering me an extra slice of pizza free of charge. Odd, yes, but true none the less. There’s no way she could have known that one simple gesture meant that I went home and had a good cry in front of a soppy film as opposed to my earlier plan of sticking my head in the oven. But that’s exactly how things turned out and it could so very easily have gone the other way. “A slice of margarita pizza saved your life?!” I hear you cry? Yup. Quite simply put, it did. So grateful was I to that random bakery worker that I desperately wanted to go back the following day to thank her for her kindness and tell her what she’d inadvertently done, but I couldn’t think of any possible way of wording this conversation without sounding COMPLETELY INSANE. So I didn’t. But I’ve never forgotten the way she made me feel or the effect of that simple gesture. My story is a good example of the fact that we never really know what’s going on in other peoples’ lives behind the facade. By this I don’t mean that it’s ok to be shitty to other people just because you’re having a rough time, but you really can’t ever be sure. Think of how many times you’ve been screaming on the inside but have had to slap a smile on your face and carry on. If you’re anything like me this is a fairly regular occurrence. It works the other way round too – you’re just managing to keep it together when someone snaps at you, or cuts you up on the road, or takes the last pint of milk in the supermarket and suddenly you want to cry. Or, in my case, punch them in the face (I have issues, ok?). All of that aside, I fully and wholeheartedly believe that the good people in this world outweigh the bad, and I hope and pray that this may always be the case. When they set off bombs at the finish line of the Boston marathon last year, most of the crowd ran towards the blast to help. Two sad individuals’ destructive minds against dozens upon dozens of selfless acts. Two against hundreds. I know who my money’s on if it really comes down to it. Long live kindness I say.
Day Eleven: old couples that still hold hands
I’m a sucker for romance anyway, but the sight of two people who have probably been married for decades and still love each other? Be still my heart. As a relatively antisocial person I spend a large proportion of my time trying to avoid people but this makes finding someone that I truly like spending all of my time with even more miraculous. I don’t hate everyone, obviously, but I’m pretty darn picky, so if we’re friends you should take comfort in the fact that you must be quite awesome. I’m also a big, big fan of hand holding. Were it up to me it would be socially acceptable to hold hands with many more groups of people than it is. I still hold my mum’s hand when we walk together even though I’m pretty sure she finds this a bit weird. If you’re under the age of 10 I will be holding your hand in mine. I don’t care if it makes you uncomfortable – it’s happening. So to get to old age and still want to be tactile with your partner is a beautiful thing. It gives me hope that relationships can last, that it is possible to find that one person you are meant to share the rest of your life with, and even years down the line you’ll still want to feel physically connected to them. That makes me happy. People need other people to survive (and I’m not just talking on a carnal, reproductive level). The universe runs on connections, whether it be the connection between lovers, friends or family. It would be nice to think that at certain points during your (hopefully long) life you have made these connections with other human beings, that you have left your mark. Because at the end of it all, isn’t that kind of the whole point?