Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Elderflower Fields

"This is the worst idea ever - I hate festivals, I hate this country. We should be in a festival in India!" wailed P. I had to agree with her, this was a bit shit as we all huddled under the tiny roof of the main stage for shelter.

The rain started dramatically just as we were contemplating lunch, a quick scrabble to put everything into a bag, collect the picnic rugs and chairs and run.

"I hate falafel. I don't like that sauce. It's raining. I'm coooooold!" whined P with mud all over her second pair of jeans of the day and her hair matted in a 24 hour old dreadlocks. She looked a right festi-kid and I felt a tinge of pride.

"Just eat your falafel," I said through gritted teeth as the rain continued its downpour and the next band was setting up to play.

A festival weekend in May will always be a challenge - a weekend to round up his birthday, a three day family extravaganza of music, face painting, henna tattoo's, festival food and warm tins of beer. And once the rain had passed and the mojito's had kicked in I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Girls who watch boys

Bacon and bell tents

And the sun shone

Thursday, 22 May 2014

His 40th

Cor blimey does he know how to have a birthday. Not one but three celebrations, I'm pooped and the last one is not yet done...a three day festival probably in the rain. Oooh yay!

To be fair, approaching 40 is no easy feat. I did my share of mind-searching, soul-searching and had plenty of might-as-well-do-it-now-before-I-die moments. A big birthday makes you assess your life and for some, celebrate it lots.

We had an evening of comedy with old friends and new, at the Banana Cabaret in Balham, always a laugh with pints of lager and a bit of leery jeering when you can. As soon as the last comedian had walked off the stage an 80's disco ensues complete with a glitter ball and 'Love Shack' by the B52's. And a bit of Michael Jackson. I think I danced to that on Saturday night. And did some karaoke to Elton John, ate a burger and drank our mates cocktail cabinet dry. Panic set in at 5am, the kids were to be up in an hour - it's funny how the last men standing didn't have kids or Sunday lunch with Grandparents arranged. Ouch. But we did it, pulled an all-nighter at 40.

On his actual actual birthday we went up to Lahndan Town, drank takeaway coffees and sat in deck chairs in Hyde Park. We watched the ducks and discussed peoples outfits waiting for our lunch appointment. Lunch at Dinner. Very nice it was too, champagne to start and a gourmet delight. I tried not to keep thinking that the lunch cost more than our weeks food shopping but once I had thought that pesky little thought it kept popping into my brain reminding me all through lunch - I tried to squash it with the tastes, flavours and the celebration of the day. More than a weeks shopping, good grief.

We took the number 9 to Covent Garden and did some pissed shopping.

And then drank an organic detoxifying juice to sober up.

Then I was hungry so we went to Yo! Sushi - all class - and watched some C List Clebs get papped while smoking fags outside a club.

We watched The Book of Mormon and laughed a bit, and clapped and cheered to the campest musical in town. And then watched the opera on a huge screen in Trafalgar Square before catching the last train home to the countryside - all shattered from his big and wonderful day out. I lay my head to rest on his shoulder on the journey home, reliving the day and feeling very pleased about my choice of life long partner - I love you very much my Babs and am very much looking forward to the next 40 years adventuring together.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Jinny at Finmory

I love reading to the girls before they go to sleep. A has always enjoyed her bedtime story right from 12 weeks old when we bought her 'Oscar et ses amis' on our first holiday to France as a family. P on the other hand uses story time to get to sleep and rarely hears the end of a chapter. She must have a very potted version of Enid Blyton in her head.

I have to admit I am always slightly disappointed by the kids books, only a very few get the thumbs-up from me although I have never heard A say she didn't enjoy a story. The Famous Five always have adventures in caves, with treasure, a baddie and some sliding panels. Roald Dahls stories are always so wonderful at the beginning, the middle enchanting and then I'm left feeling flat at the end. Some I just can't read out, those fairy stories or ones about kittens - as much as I like kittens. But the Jinny at Finmory series is something else, yes it is essentially about a girl and her horse but so much more than that.

I remember reading these stories as a child, I was perhaps about eleven, imagining I was the protagonist, galloping over the wild moors and feeling the horses breath in the morning mist. When I am reading the stories to the girls they are enthralled, P doesn't fall asleep and they are both at the edge of their beds. They want to be Jinny too and the magical language - certainly not dumbed down for children - takes them right out of their sleepy selves. I find it difficult to read out for that familiar lump in my throat and tears pricking at the emotional parts, the house at Finmory is just as I imagined it as a child, but now I understand it so much more. Maybe Jinny at Finmory had a real influence on my life and I am only just finding that out now.

You see, the stories are about a family who ditch the rat race. A family who give up city living to buy a crumbling farm house in the Scottish Highlands beacause the dad is so disillusioned with his role as a probation officer. He decides to make pots instead, grow vegetables and write a book. They have three children, Jinny being the red-haired wild child who loses herself in her drawings and horse fantasies. The children ride their shaggy highland ponies to school  - a school they hate - but Jinny really wants to save Shantih, a wild chestnut Arab mare who has escaped the circus and is running free on the moors. Determination, adventure, magic, Celtic powers and alternative living provide a fantastic story.  A story about bucking the system and questioning opinions, of attainable dreams and pure childhood as free as it should be.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Travel bore

We've been back nearly three weeks now. India seems like a long, distant and happy memory, washing elephants a dream, the wild Arabian Sea a figment of my imagination and the vivid colours of the sari's and tropical flowers fading as I write.

P is actually glad to be home, very much preferring Cheerios for breakfast over a chickpea curry and deep fried puri. A is asking where we are going next and is living up to the auspicious travelling mole on her foot. Life has returned to its busy routine, the weeks speeding by so much faster than when we travel. Cramming so many new and exciting experiences into our lives when we are away gives the illusion of time slowing to a much more manageable pace.

We are always wobbled by travel, him and I, always scheming of ways we can live abroad again. Sussex, as nice as it is in summer, has very rarely felt like home, it feels like a place we are passing through - albeit very slowly.

It is time to write about the everyday again, finding the magic in the small things and penning accomplishments and disappointments, because I am sure that travel bores people.

"They didn't ask many questions when I read out my India diary!" A told me, disappointed that her 'show and tell' wasn't as exciting as Lily's guinea pigs.

So I explained that writing a diary was to record her own feelings and experiences and that it was for her to look back on and remember. A good lesson was learned I think, picking up on her class's inertia, she closed the chapter on India while we all look forward to the next foreign adventure.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Jungle boogie

Five o'clock we had to be up to start our jungle safari, five o'clock on holiday! Glad of the fleeces and kagools I had packed, we tumbled into the back of a jeep and negotiated our way out of the town and into the hills. Rain challenged the weak windscreen wipers, the driver was struggling to see out of the window for a montage of election stickers, misty drizzle and poor headlights. India is still busy at 5 o'clock in the morning and we all hung on as the jeep beeped its way past juggernauts, having us flying out of our seats on the hairpin bends - no seat belts for the kids let alone car seats.

"Tea stop!" the driver pronounced an hour into the journey and he leapt out of the vehicle, we all followed into a dark tea stall on the side of the road. A thin, gaunt man was busily making parathas at the back of the dingy shack, layers of flaky bread being deep fried as the morning arose. We were ushered to the only table were we huddled for warmth and nodded to offers of sweet tea and coffee. I loved that tea stop, it was a highlight of our trip to India, sipping brown liquid out of unwashed glasses watching the mist rise to reveal the tea plantations opposite.

The day was an adventure through the tiger reserve, and although we were prepared to see no tigers, there was joy in seeing jungle fowl and langurs and huge flying squirrels, chameleons, a mongoose and stunning, colourful butterflies as big as our hands. We spotted kingfishers azure and nippy, gorgeous green beetles, a deer's bottom and thankfully no tigers.

We did however, see lots of leeches.

On getting closer to nature we were advised to pull our socks over our trousers to avoid leeches when walking through the forests. And to avoid the bamboo where vipers might be lurking inside. After calming the kids down a little we set off on a walk, spotting frogs and birds and admiring far-reaching views imagining where the tigers roam. Looking down I could see a 5 inch 'thing', actually lots of 5 inch 'things' pointing vertically towards the sky and then leaping onto my trainers as I walked past. I screamed, the kids screamed, the guide picked them off his flip-flopped feet and calves nonchalantly, letting the blood run down his legs, grinning at our inability with a leech.

Oh my goodness they were everywhere, our guide had kindly brought a bag of salt and sprinkled the leeches to their deaths if we could cope no longer with them trying to invade our socks, or creep through the eye holes of our Converse. The only way to avoid them was to keep moving in a high stepping dance through the jungle.

Our own jungle boogie. Oh how we all laughed when it was all over.

Recounting our stories to an older Aussie couple after our adventure she poo-pooed the leeches. "We get leeches all the time in Austraya," and leaning the children in closer she continued "they sometimes even get up yer vagina!"

With which I had to resist running to the loo to check.