Bird song Cool air South east accents (lots of fucking this fucking that) Pints of beer Kettle chips Roast lamb Strawberries and raspberries Croquet Beer bellies Bad fashion (I’m in the provinces) It’s light still at 7pm! Aggression Wine wine wine Goat’s cheese An English country garden complete with roses and um, I don’t know the name of any flowers but is there anything more beautiful than an English country garden? Other than possibly Ubud Botanical Garden after a pizza. A stack of shiny new books A duvet Carpet The Sunday papers Charity shopping Pavements you can scooter down (and not have to call sidewalks so people understand what you’re talking about) Smooth roads Hello magazine royal wedding supplement Washing up (sucks) Fish & Chips Grazia Magazine The proliferation of floral playsuits and soft white flesh
I do like being back in the UK. It’s a bit like living in a Larkin poem.
I am starting to wonder if there’s anyone in Ubud who believes in the theory of evolution.
It’s not that Ubud is home to Christian fundamentalists all preaching creationism, hating on gays and believing we’re descended from Adam and Eve. Oh no, nothing like that. It’s that Ubud’s full of people who think we’re light beings descended from another planet.
Being English, when I’m confronted by crazy talk (of either the Christian fundamentalist or the thetan / light being variety) I feel an overwhelming urge to take the fucking piss. My friends’ voices will pop into my head at these moments and say something that will make me giggle out loud. I have to physically restrain my eyeballs from rolling into the back of my head. Unfortunately I have no one normal to turn to at these times (other than John) but he’s not one for taking the fucking piss. He’s too nice for that. So I’m all alone thinking of snappy comebacks and have no one to turn to, clutch and screech with laughter. I miss British people.
I miss our self-deprecation. I miss people who say everything with their tongue in their cheek. I miss people who know that a conversation involves two way questioning and not one way yaddering about themselves mostly or about authenfuckingticity. I miss people who think it’s totally acceptable behaviour to talk about everyone behind their backs and take the piss out of everything but that it’s unacceptable to show off. I miss people who eat pickled onion crisps and marmite and think of raw food as the state of being of a vegetable before it achieves its natural state of boiled or fried. I miss being around people who ingested a healthy dose of cynicism along with their mother’s (or Nestle’s) milk and who now have a permanently raised eyebrow as opposed to intensely irritating yogi bug eyes.
I miss people who know what ‘suis-je bovvered? regardez ma visage,’ means. I miss people who say ‘yeah, whatever,’ when confronted with idiocy and who call a spade a spade or a tool a tool rather than smiling sweetly, acknowledging the other person’s authentic expression and honouring them as a fellow light being as opposed to the total tosspot they really are.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m missing normal. Any Ubud inhabitants / believers in the theory of light beings as opposed to Darwinism will no doubt see me as a non-light being who needs to meditate my way to spiritual enlightenment and niceness.
I have just one thing to say ‘Regardez ma visage – suis je bovvered?’
I figured out that in the last two weeks we’ve travelled far more than we ever did in 6 months travelling. I’m not sure how that is possible.
What I do know is that 4000 miles of California’s highways and country lanes are infinitely more alluring than the M1, that the only thing left in my cooking repertoire is shepherd’s pie and even that I can now only be bothered to make with a packet of Coleman’s shepherd’s pie seasoning and that it was easier with one bag of clothes for 6 months than a carload of clothes for 1 week in the north of England because whilst travelling I only needed a vest and a pair of shorts and here I need about ten layers to feel even remotely lukewarm.
It went like this – Buckinghamshire, South East London, London, Croydon, Chester, Manchester, Cumbria, Buckinghamshire (for an hour’s pit stop so John could pick up his running shoes which do you think he’s used? What do you reckon people?) then Sussex. In the space of 10 days. I feel like I need to take to my bed with a lavender heated pillow, some wool slippers and a mountain of books to recover. Oh, actually that’s what I have just done (I read the final two books in the Hunger Games series in little over 48 hours and am now fully emotionally spent).
Have there been highlights (other than the lazing in a bed with slippers, hot water bottles and books)? Well let’s see. I’ve drunk a lot of wine. In fact I’ve drunk wine like a camel hoping it will swell my cells and tide me over the dry wine months ahead in Indonesia. I’ve eaten a fair few fizzy pig tails and a really good roast chicken. I’ve walked along a sunny canal path in Chester with my brother and our families and sat in a pub garden drinking a pint. I’ve hugged a lot of friends and danced at the loft. I’ve taken the tube and remembered how much I loathe tourists who stand on the left on escalators. I’ve realized yet again that no matter how good it looks on the hanger I really am too old for Topshop and I’ve found a really good shade of lipstick that really helps grab the attention of barmen in crowded bars. I’ve been to a wedding and actually danced to Justin Timberlake. I’ve bought a can opener (though why I don’t know, it’s not like I actually plan on cooking ever again, but maybe John will find a use for it). And tonight – tonight I get to watch spooks. Though I expect to be fully disappointed yet again when they fail to bring Adam back from the dead.
Welcome Home, the helium balloon that welcomes us says.
Except it’s not really home. Or it doesn’t feel it. But then after a day it does. Having had an emotional breakdown at the baggage carousel where I almost climbed on it, rotated through to the runway strip and tried to stow away on the next flight to anywhere (so long as it wasn’t BA), England is slowly working itself back into my affections. Not enough to make me stay let me add.
The things I am excited about:
- Being reunited with my shoes and my wardrobe and my handbag. Ahh Chloe skirt how I have missed you. Oh Topshop shoes that I cannot wear because the heels have been worn to stumps, how I have missed you, oh harper jeans from Topshop that I bought on ebay just before I left how I have longed to be with you again and scissor you into shorts.
- Karine Jackson – short hair long hair short hair long hair. My hair, which started short, is now long because I trust no man to cut my hair (or woman) except for Karine Jackson. But now I’m thinking long hair? Should I just keep long hair? I have until Thursday to decide. Help me people.
- Mark Archer Physio – the only man on the planet I would trust with my body (though not my hair) and not in a dodgy way but in a ‘can he fix three years of sciatica when dozens of doctors, surgeons, osteopaths, masseurs have failed?‘ way. Why yes he can. I have a hand injury and a neck injury (from writing) and I need fixing before John has to divorce me citing my moaning as the reason.
- Friends and Family – obviously top of the list. My blurgh mood on Friday shifted dynamically after spending three hours with three bottles of red wine and three of my best friends. It ended at 2am with tears, some more tears, a bit of slurring, some hugs, a pint of water, a chunk of cheese and a gossip magazine dissection (reminding me that Jordan is alone a good enough reason to leave the UK, that celebrity has a short life cycle and that all the English really seem to care about is how fat or thin their celebs are). Apart from that the night was a big reminder that moving to other side of world will only work if a) I commit to using skype out every day and b) make enough millions by selling my book for film rights that I’m able to fly back every month.
- Marks & Spencer knickers. And percy pigs of course.
It’s because I’m English and from nowhere comes a surge of national pride. I cannot let the side down. And that is the reason that I find myself diving off a boat a mile from shore. Into open water where I most definitely cannot see to the bottom. I want to add here that I’ve never had a surge of national anything before, least of all pride.
And it isn’t the thought of the fathoms below filled with fins and tentacles that gets me moving, a sort of sideways breaststroke towards the beach, or the fact that the boat is now about a hundred metres away so I’m stranded and drifting slowly to Madagascar, it’s the sound of jet skiis that makes me think of Kirsty McColl. Blood in the water will attract sharks. Even though I’ve been reassured there are none in these parts of the Indian Ocean.
I have a theory that I’ll be safe from sharks so long as I always make sure that there is someone fatter than me further out in the water so I look over my shoulder at the boat and factor in where the swiss yoga couple are, and where the Venezuelan film maker, the Italian, the Indian swarmi and his partner are and then I up my pace till I have pushed past all of them.
No matter how fast I seem to be swimming however the shore doesn’t seem to be getting any nearer. At some point I am thinking I might just have to drown. Then I look up and I see a sign on the beach. It says, I shit you not, ‘Pub.’ I can hear celestial voices singing ‘Swing low sweet chariot.’
You can take the English girl out of the pub but you can’t take the pub out of the English girl. I swallow several pints of salt water just laughing.
I stagger to the shore feeling victorious. I have conquered my fear of deep dark water, sharks and jet skiis, and in doing so I have found a part of myself I never even knew existed.
if you look to the far far left you'll see the beach. that's where I swam to. from just here. be impressed.