Monday, 24 March 2014

Post-holiday blues

I've been on holiday. Not a long holiday, just a week. It doesn't explain my absence, I know. 

My first thoughts this morning as I stepped into my cold, dark office, was that I didn't know what I was doing here. The feeling weighed down in my stomach like I'd swallowed some rocks. This isn't me right now. 'Me' is someone else - somewhere else - tasting life and doing things that are fascinating and, quite frankly, cool. Work does not make me feel alive and buzzing like my holiday in Sicily made me feel. Instead, I feel like I've hugged a block of ice gone numb. 

Sicily is hot sunshine, opposed to the cold rain in Cornwall. The food there leaves explosions of taste in your mouth, the streets are full of people and food markets, even the language is poetic and flamboyant. Here, the food is served soggy or part-cold, there's no attention to it...it is 'fast food', and lacking in nutrition.  

I have the post-holiday blues. I know I do, but I've never missed a place as much as this. 

We went to Sicily for Mount Etna; or, rather, I went to Sicily to fulfil my life-long dream to go up a live volcano, S came for the holiday and the food. Why it took until my mid thirties to fulfil this dream, I don't know, but finally I did it...I have walked on a volcano and seen real, molten lava. 


When I was young, all I dreamt about was being a volcanologist and a writer. I read Geology at university but soon discovered that volcanology was not all adventure and excitement, there was physics involved. A lot of physics. Even my Physics A-Level could not prepare me for that, so I switched to palaeontology and dinosaurs. Interesting, and easier. I don't regret it. Life takes you down many different paths, usually for a reason. 

Going up Mount Etna was fascinating. Sicily was fascinating too. I've learnt so much out there, including the more laid-back attitude. I have a lot to think about now, ideas to follow up and perhaps new dreams to be made. In the mean time, I will just keep plodding on while I silently plot my next escape. 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Engagement

The late afternoon sun was warming the hills of Cornwall with a golden light. We were parked up on the edge of Dartmoor, sitting in the car waiting to watch the sunset. We'd had a long drive, not just because we were going home to Cornwall from Aldershot but because I'd managed to get lost on the moors and missed heading to the waterfalls I had in mind. I figured it was quite romantic, though: the two of us, relaxing on the moors with a beautiful view and what looked to set to be a beautiful sunset.

'Is this romantic?' I thought I had better check, but I left the 'enough' unsaid.

'Yes...why?'

She sounded suspicious, so I changed the subject. For ten minutes, we chatted about random things. I knew I was delaying the question, but there had to be a perfect moment, right?

The sun was steadily disappearing over the horizon when she asked if we should get going as it would still be two hours before we got back home. I felt deflated, not like a burst balloon, more like a slow puncture on a tyre. Had my moment been missed?

It wasn't my first attempt. I'd planned the perfect moment to ask 'the question' only a couple of weeks ago. I took her on a starlit visit to the beach which would have been perfect, except I hadn't checked the tide times. When we got there, there was  no beach (just rocks). The stars were perfect that night, however we were both frozen the moment we got out of the car. Notes were made hastily to self: stay in a warm place next time.

The stars really were perfect that night, the moon was just starting to rise behind us. I took a photograph, not a great one as photographs go, but it was so beautiful.
2

Back on Dartmoor, I didn't want to wait for another attempt. Two missed opportunities would not sit well with me. What if it was raining the next time I got the courage up? No, it had to be done then and there. I was holding her in my arms, her head resting on my shoulder, when I whispered: 'but I wanted to ask you a question'.

Her whole body stiffened. I think mine probably did too, like a frightened animal not knowing if I should stay or flee. I asked her, then, I just let the words escape my lips like they were the most natural things in the world. 'Will you marry me?'

It would have been an awkward drive home had she said no, but thankfully she said yes! Afterwards, I got to drive home with my fiancée. :-)

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Abseil


As I trembled at the top of the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, wearing a climbing helmet and harness, the man asked if I had abseiled before. I replied no, to which he said 'bloody good time to start, huh?'. I trembled some more. 

It was Friday 15 November and we were raising money for Children in Need. My Mum, a 70 year old, had agreed to do the abseil a few weeks before. After some though, I decided that I would do it as well (if my Mum can do it...). The thing is, I'm terrified of heights but pride was not going to get in my way (or is it the other way around? Pride got in my way so that, despite being afraid, I agreed to do it). 

As I walked around the outside of the 95ft high tower, I wondered if I had just made a terrible mistake. In fact, I wondered if I should just walk back the way I had come. The only problem was that people had sponsored me; I had no choice. 

I reached the end of the walkway, and was attached to the ropes, shown how to let myself down and then told to climb over the railings. 

'What?', I said. Now I felt queasy. Climb over the bloody railings? You have to be joking. My body, however, was not listening to me. Before I knew it, one leg was over the other side and the other one was following it. What am I doing? I thought, though my body carried on following orders. 

'Now lower yourself down'. 

I started to lower myself down, eyes closed (I'm not that brave) until I realised that I wasn't going to fall. I was about 20ft down when I stopped and waved to my Dad who was taking photographs at ground level. I tried not to think about anything at all, but I knew that I was almost finding it fun. It helped that S, who was not afraid in the slightest (rude!), was right beside me for the whole way down.

Me and S about to let go and lower ourselves down.
We waited at the bottom for my Mum who looked grey with terror, and who had to go through the middle of the railings rather than over because she couldn't climb (she said she was too old). She did it though, and raised over £700. Although I battled with my fear to do the abseil, my Mum was the one who really achieved something. It took her nearly an hour to calm down afterwards.

It goes to show that if you don't do something because you are afraid, how do you know you won't enjoy it? 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A writer who can't write is like a sword fighter who is afraid to pick up a sword: not a lot of good when someone comes at him with a broadsword.

I have written articles and short stories in the past. My last article was published last December in Cornwall Today magazine but I haven't written anything since. I can't...I won't. I even have an interview to write about but it has been sat recorded on my phone for months (fyi My Samsung galaxy S2 has a better voice recorder than my dedicated dictaphone!). I also need to write letters for my boss to send out to people but it can take me so long (too long) to write one. It is frustrating, but it is also something I want to work on next.

I have always suffered from writer's block. Sometimes I find myself free from it, sometimes it is so crippling that I can stare at a blank page in horror,my guts an agony of twisted knots. It is a confidence thing, I am sure.

Being able to write the occasional blog post is helping but I think I need to do more. If I had remembered nanowrimo (novel writing month which is November) I would have prepared characters and the basic storyline for a short novel, but I found out as it was starting. I feel I need to challenge myself more.

I have been writing a bucket list and steadily working my way through it. I have milked a cow (because it was random), I have done a voiceover job, I have slept in a car (that was on S's list not mine) and I am gradually walking the cornish coast 13-15 miles at a time. A short story is on my list, my worst nightmare in terms of writing: creativity, length, completion. It feels like one of my biggest challenges yet!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

I hate that feeling when you drive into work and think it's going to be a shit day. Tired, suffering from another restless night and an early morning (needing a holiday), the drive in is slow because of lorries. And then, you get into work, set up the laptop and make a cup of tea, you look out of the window and see a rainbow. Physics on the grand scale.


Perhaps it won't be such a bad day after all. :-)



Monday, 28 October 2013

Floor skating and other things


Try this when you're bored in the supermarket, an evening shop with the aisles empty of people and, most importantly, the floor has just been freshly polished: floor skating. A fantastic new sport that is not just designed for children.

I was not in the mood for shopping tonight but, other than a dodgy looking bag of salad and some cauliflower, we had no food in the house. I can be ingenious when it comes to creating meals from random food - admittedly the kale omelette was a mistake that time - but there really was nothing I could make. So, off to the local supermarket we went. To make myself feel better, I went to the stationery section as soon as I got there.

I decided to find my partner who was prowling the homeware section, presumably for the same reason, (this can be dangerous. If I don't watch her, she would fill this flat with fluffy cushions and pink towels...), when I found myself sliding around the corner as if on ice. The soft soles of my Dr Martins (I am such a stereotype at times) helped on that freshly polished floor. That was it: I raced up and down the aisle and went into full skids up and down. How exciting. It was then I saw myself on the tv screen: caught mid slide.

But who cares? I have spent so much of my life caring about what other people think, tonight I decided to break that record. I came up with a cunning plan to make the shop go faster with fun. The rule was you had to pretend you were iceskating through the store. It was fun. OK so people looked at us oddly but I didn't care. If you can't laugh at yourself and let your hair down, then what's the point?

45 minutes later, we were bloody knackered and breathing heavily but the shopping was done and we had fun doing it. As a treat, we bought some giant sparklers to play with.

I suffer from stress quite a bit but it is moments like this (and with a forgiving girlfriend) that help me unwind. And now to relax. :-)