Coconut Conspiracies

It feels like we are just cycling North. North north north. Does this island ever end? I thought it was only 3km long but it feels more like 30km in this intense heat with the bicycle wheels burying themselves every five metres into Saharan sized sand dunes.

And then somehow we are back where we started.



Islands are round it turns out.

My sense of direction is bad it turns out.

By the time we stagger senseless from the bicycle seats (there had been a looooong stop at a bar shack on the way) and find our way into the sea we find we cannot find our way out of the sea. I wish we could order cake and coconuts. Maybe they could bring them to us right here. Where we float like star fish near the shore.

But this it turns out is just a daydream.

On shore we ask if there are coconuts.

No coconuts we are informed.

We’re on a desert island coated in palm trees and there are no coconuts. We ponder the strangeness of this. Maybe it is a coconut conspiracy. Lindsay tries to get the waiter to find us a coconut and bring it to us.

I think to myself Lindsay was clearly a queen or a pharoah’s wife in a past life. Or else she’s seen that scene from Withnail and I too many times – the one in the cake shop – WE DEMAND CAKE!

We demand coconuts. And despite the fact Lindsay is so effortlessly beautiful and gracious and doesn’t really demand but asks so sweetly that I’m surprised all the men on the island aren’t slathering to find the nearest tree and shimmy up it to sate her demand for coconuts – tidak ada. There are no coconuts.

It’s Monday, I say to Lindsay. M-ON-D-AY – I roll the word around as though it is foreign on my tongue. Once upon a time Mondays heralded commuter hell and the start of the working week. Now they herald leaving the kids with the husbands whilst we hop a boat to the gilis, hire bicycles, eat croissants with our feet dipped in the sand and get baked in the sun.




Admiring the view

We’ve had friends staying the last week. Sorry to neglect you. Here’s a quick catch up. I have started and written 30,000 words of my new book. I’ve been dragged rafting along the Ayung River – about as much fun as being shoved inside a carrier bag and thrown repeatedly against rocks. I’ve butterfly stitched Alula’s chin (not from the rafting, she was pretending to be a dog), I’ve had two massages and a pedicure and been to the beach for the weekend. I’ve turned down an offer of climbing mount Batur at 2.30am. I’ve ecstatic danced.

Anyway, friends staying is always quite amusing because it let’s me see my life through their eyes. It reminds me all over again how amazing the place I live is. It reminds me to not be complacent. Their gasps when they walk into our garden and catch the view, then the second gasp when they come onto the balcony make me smile every time.

One friend arrived from Mumbai and in twenty four hours I showed him everything I loved most about living in Ubud. I took him to Clear for a chocolate Matrix, we ordered enough Sushi to feed the five thousand, we drank frozen margaritas, we danced ecstatically, we went to Sang Spa for a massage, we ordered salad from Sari Organic delivered to the door and drank coconuts. Yes, it’s true most of my favourite experiences involve food and drink and dancing.

My bro in law arrived for a holiday last week too. He was our biggest supporter when we first decided to pack up and leave London. He runs Careershifters so he’s driven by the aim to help people find the career and life they love. He says we’re one of their best stories.  We broke out of the routine and found a way of making our life work.

And when I look out my window, lying on my bed, watching an episode of Buffy (he’d never seen Buffy before so I had to rectify this issue), and drinking a g&t because 2.54pm counts as g&t o’clock in the tropics, I realize how right he is. This is a better story than one I could ever have written.

On a Monday morning in London we’d be crawling out of bed, running frantically to get Alula to the childminder and make it into work. And yet here I am (see paragraph above).

‘It’s pretty amazing,’ Rich says sipping his g&t.

‘Yeah,’ I agree, and we go back to admiring the view.

What to do for christmas

‘So for xmas we have two options. If the weather is nice we can go to the beach. And if it’s not we can stay in Ubud and do what xmas is about. Namely eating.’

‘Actually Christmas is about Jesus,’ John reminds me.

I raise an eyebrow at the heathen grinning at me across the table. ‘We can eat all day, touring restaurants, then have a two hour massage,’ I say.

‘What about Alula?’ John asks.

‘We can get a babysitter for the day.’

John pauses to look at me, fork half way to his mouth.

‘Oh, yeah, right’, I say, ‘Christmas. Family. Babysitter bad.’

We agree that there will be no turkey. And instead of presents we will buy a family drum. Because what this family needs is a drum.

‘Actually I need a bookcase more than a drum,’ I say.

‘Ok, we’ll get a bookcase.’

John and I have taken to prioritizing what we’re going to buy in January when we have finally been paid and have money flowing in. Top of the list was a drum. Now relegated to second behind a bookcase. John wanted to buy a car so we don’t have to drive around in a smashed up tin can anymore but I like our jeep and if we have $10,000 I’d rather spend that $10,000 on these things:

Speakers. A projector. Outdoor furniture. A sofa. A sofabed. Oh, and a swimming pool.

‘But a car’, John says, ‘will hold its value over here.’

‘Not once I’ve totaled it, it won’t.’

I move on and John doesn’t argue.

‘I think we should do something like volunteering in an orphanage on christmas day.’


(guess who said which sentence).

‘Why not?’ John asks, ‘It’s the kind of thing I want to do more of.’

‘Well I worked for a volunteering charity for 8 years. I’ve done my bit. I’ve earned my karma, I never have to volunteer ever again.’

‘You just fired people and hired people, that’s not exactly volunteering.’

‘That’s not true. I set up projects and um – yeah, whatever. So which beach shall we go to?’

John just shook his head. Sometimes I really think he wonders why he married me.



Top 10 things to do on a round the world trip: part 1

We have seven days before we head back to London. I can’t believe we’ve been away 7 months. It’s been easily the best 7 months of my life so I’m kind of reeling with premature holiday blues whilst also enjoying the best time of the trip so far. Not that it’s over. On the one hand it feels like London will be a brief hiatus before our return to Bali in October when the next chapter of the adventure begins. As in ‘no, really, can we actually live here? (aren’t we broke?)’

Anyway, on one of our endless and endlessly beautiful car journeys through California, John and I debated the highlights of the trip. So herewith a list, for any of you out there following in our footsteps, of things not be missed on a round the world journey.

1. Californian Hot Springs

Only I’m not telling you where these are because they are too, too special. The most exquisite shrangri-la on the West Coast of America. Buried in a delve of a river canyon, bubbling from beneath the earth, slanting sunshine, cool river flowing by. Utter heaven. Maybe if you email me and ask – nay beg –nicely I’ll let you in on the secret.

I like this picture, because it looks like I have abs.

2. Thrifting

Starting Lula early. The girl has an eye for a bargain.

The unsung joy of our American trip has been the thrifting. Like shopping at Ikea it allows you to think you’re not spending anything and then your card gets declined. At a Thrift store. That’s embarrassing. Best thrifting – Mission Beach San Diego, Monterey & Santa Barbara (rich pickings).

3. Sideways wine country.

take a picnic. Don’t take a child.

4. Chai & Samosas in Patnem Beach, Goa.

Life was perfect in India. My day consisted of tripping out of our pink house, taking Alula to school via the cows munching up the rubbish dump, stopping by for 4p samosas and then heading to the beach to sip chai as the sun warmed my face. Then some writing, some swimming, some eating. BLISS.

Family Planning my style

‘Are you hearing this boys? Now always wear a condom.’

The boys laugh but I see their fear. I see it hovering at the back of their eyes like kids who don’t want to be chosen for PE.  The fear – it is being generated by none other than my 3 almost 4 year old daughter. Who should know by now that  3 follows 2 follows 1 follows ‘You have three seconds to stop screaming and apologise before I take away your Barbie.’ She should know the outcome to this conundrum is always the same.

We had been on the beach until twenty seconds ago, now I am dragging her back to the car past scared/ bemused / horrified people because her howls were disturbing the beach, and the dolphins and migratory whales. John offered to take her for a walk to calm her down but the beach was crowded and I had the thought he might get lynched by people thinking he was abducting a child.

I drag the still screaming Lula past two teenage boys who stare at me and her (I imagine them thinking – but she’s so young how does she have a child? But probably they’re thinking God stop her making that noise. what kind of a mother are you?’). I give them a free family planning lecture.

So now I’m stuck with a child screaming for her barbies. I can keep the barbies and turn up the radio or I can give her the barbies and forever be the mother that gives in. I turn up the radio. I hope the boys are listening.

Malaysia – can we live here?

We have twenty four hours left Malaysia before we get back to Bali. Home. As I’m tentatively starting to think of it. We’re going back for 6 weeks to make sure the honeymoon isn’t over.  I haven’t loved Malaysia. Just in case you missed that. But maybe, after Bali, nowhere was going to impress. I’ve been trying to rationalise it, though rationalisation isn’t one of my strong points.

So herewith my for and against list for Malaysia – can we live here?


Handrolls. It sounds like I’m bigging up something off a brothel’s menu when in fact it’s just something off a Chinatown menu. Like springrolls except nicer.

Er – let me keep thinking.


The beaches are pretty dirty and the dress code is jeans, long sleeved shirt and a head covering. In the same way that I won’t go into a bar with a ‘no trainers’ policy I won’t go on a beach with a (albeit unspoken) cover all limbs policy.

When buying alcohol in a supermarket you are made to feel like you are buying hard core porn.

The Fashion. I just can’t. Go. There.

This list lacks lustre. I turn to John, ‘I’m writing a list of reasons for and against living in Malaysia. What are your thoughts?’

He pulls a face. ‘There’s only one reason we can’t live here as far as I’m concerned. It’s not Bali.’

it's just not Bali