Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Massage in the monsoon

My daughters eyes looked at me searchingly, not wanting to offend the masseuse but also wanting to protect her 8 year old modesty.

She would like to keep her knickers on please, I told the beautiful woman dressed in a red, gold and green sari. The masseuse nodded the circular nod of Indian people.

A lay down nervously on the Ayurverdic massage table, wooden and worn, unsure of what was about to happen. I had already had a back massage with herby smelling oils and incense burning, I thought my daughter would like it too.

You can close your eyes, I told A, but she kept them open and fixed on me for trust. The woman started pouring warm oils on my daughters pale body, her brown hands contrasted beautifully with A's pearly-white skin. I smiled, loving seeing my child enjoy this completely new sensation but also a little envious as I hadn't touched my own daughter like this since she was a baby. The masseuses hands glided, stroked and gently kneaded every area of her little body, her limited English had me translating to A who could not understand the Malayalam accent. She massaged her way down to my daughters feet when a crack of thunder so loud made the lights pass out and we were in darkness. A few candles were lit, adding to the atmosphere, as the rain pelted on the wooden shutters of the small room we were in. I could hear the mosquitoes and we could see the flashes of lightening getting closer, illuminating the room.

"You OK, sweetheart?" I asked A, she assured me she was, and we grinned together, wide-eyed at the foreign situation. I felt emotional there in the thunderstorm, as my baby lay in front of me. I wanted to reach out and stroke her oily hair and tell her I loved her so very much.

"See this here?" the masseuse pointed to the brown birth mark on my daughters foot. "This is very good. Very auspicious. Very good, she will travel a lot your daughter. She will leave home and travel, travel, travel. She will work travelling away, helping people. Very good mark. Very auspicious!" she assured me.

I've always loved that little mark on my first-born's foot. I've loved watching it grow with her. I felt proud that it was a good omen and imagined her saving the world. A smiled wide again, extremely happy with her foot and her massage.

"How old you? How many babies you get?"  the masseuse demanded of me, I told her the truth.

"Why you take so long getting babies?" she queried. The spell was broken as I mumbled something about our culture and she gestured towards the tips tin.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Elephant's breath

We entered the water gingerly for Meena was huge and the sludge between our toes perturbing. The river was warm, as warm as bath water, as the morning sun beat relentlessly on our skin. The mahouts beckoned us forward for the morning ritual of scrubbing yesterdays dust from the elephants body, they passed us coconut shells and invited us to imitate their movements, shouting in Malayalam which Meena clearly understood. Her hulk lay motionless in the river as she enjoyed her morning pampering, the mahouts left no area unclean, taking great pride in their work. Their dotis were soaked through so that their sinewy frames were clearly visible, their brown skin shining in the morning light, smiling wide, sparkly, white smiles to encourage us to feel and touch every area of the beautiful beast.

I was completely overwhelmed, the familiar lump stuck hard in my throat and tears sneaked out from my eyes as I looked into hers. Thank you Meena I whispered, thank you for letting me touch you I spoke, trying to connect with her small yellow eye. Her trunk followed us round in the river, exploring our foreign smells and engulfing the children's bodies completely and gently. She exhaled long warm breaths, elephant breaths, through her incredible and sensitive trunk, gently probing at our clothes and enquiring our origin. I have never been so humbled.

' Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened ' - Anatole France

Friday, 4 April 2014

One more sleep

I can hardly believe it is here. That's the funny thing about time, it comes, it goes, in the way it always has. Tomorrow we are going to India. We have hardly had time to discuss it and imagine what it will be like, India has just sort of crept up on us and this weekend we will be there. I've read a little in the Lonely Planet guide, checked out the accommodation on Trip Advisor, asked the agent if there are any horses I can ride (there aren't) and I am nearly there with the organisation and packing.

He is looking forward to a rest, some time away from the rigours and pressures of his work. And then I reminded him about India and quoted to him what someone said to me this week, worried there might not be too much time chilling.

"Ah, yes, India. You are never alone in India!"

Well, best get right in there then and soak up every last minute.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Challenges and accomplishments

I walked around the fences not taking any of them in, a sweet girl was chatting to me but I could only hear my nerves and feel my fear. I had already nearly fallen off twice in the warm up arena and now I was trying to remember the order of the fences - as well as the advice that I had been given in the last year.

Fletch and I went show jumping at the weekend. I had been looking forward to this for so long but now the time had arrived, my adrenaline was getting the better of me. I just needed to focus, to shut everything out around me, and to try and remember the god-damn order of jumps.

"And next in the ring we have number 133, riding Fletch"

I waited for the bell to ring while we trotted in. I told Fletch he could do it, I told him that I would love him forever if he didn't dump me in front of all these people and more importantly, I told him I had polo's - lots of them - if we got a clear round. I asked for canter and looked for the first fence, Fletch pricked his ears and we were off. Over the first, second fence, next the combination and then he wobbled at the fourth and nearly ran out at the fifth - suddenly my 16 year old self kicked in, and I growled at him to get himself over the fence and not around it. He leapt like ungainly giraffe and understood that I now meant business - we had a little uncertainty at fence nine, but that was my fault as I temporarily lost my way - and then we got it back to together to get a clear round.

Woop woop. A double clear....yeeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

My grin was enormous, I might have just cried a wee tear, the relief was palpable and the feeling of accomplishment insane. I did it, faced my demons and at the grand old age of 40 I was flying fences and feeling fabulous.

Cross-country next. Gulp.

Thank you Fletch - you amazing horse you - and thank you to his owners for letting me have the privilege of climbing aboard His Royal Gingerness!