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.

Circles.

Amazing.

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.

Ahahahahahaha.

 

 

Four Seasons

Everywhere we go we are watched. I feel furtive. As if a hand is about to fall on my shoulder and ask me please to come this way. I feel as if I’ve got a piece of priceless art stashed in my bikini (some might say I do, but you know I like to be modest).

I try to look like I belong. I lift my chin, roll my shoulders back, walk purposely, but still I feel their eyes on the back of my head, even following me into the ladies’ changing room, ostensibly to wipe the pristine marble surfaces but I know it’s just a ruse, that it’s leading to this….

‘You stay here long?’

‘Two nights.’

‘Oh yes?’  (fixed grin but the eyes are roaming to my flip flops thick with dust).

‘You like?’

‘Urhuh,’ I do like, other than feeling like I’m being trailed around Primark by an over-zealous security guard every time I step foot outside of my room.

And then, the final question in every conversation, ‘What room you stay in?’

At which point I think about saying, ‘Oh, I need to stay here to use the sauna / steam room / Jacuzzi / pool? Really?’

Instead I mumble, villa 9, then grab my things and slink back to my villa feeling their eyes on me still, even the gardeners. I don’t think they’re gardeners, I think they’re trained SAS operatives, put in amongst the rhododendrons to jump on anyone who isn’t a bonafide guest.

I wonder if they do this to Robert de Niro when he stays here.

Or Posh and Becks.

Bet they don’t.

They just do it to me. And to John.

I kind of wish they’d just take mugshots of me and circulate amongst the staff.

I get that it is because I don’t look chi chi rich. Or like Robert de Niro.

In the lobby I spot the wealthy Americans in their big hats, with their protractor arched eyebrows, Hermes bags (and not the fake ones) and gold bracelets as big as halos. I’m in my tatty old gap sundress, $1 flip flops, with my hair tied in a knot (forgot my brush), and holding a carrier bag. I can see why they feel the need to follow me into the bathroom. But still…

My friend Leila showed up for the afternoon to play. If I look like I don’t belong here, well, then Leila who usually dresses as if every day is Burning Man and she’s just arrived there from her sell out show supporting Lady Gaga in Vegas, really doesn’t look like she belongs here. But the joy of Leila and being with Leila is she doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks of her. And it rubs off. Everyone should be more like Leila.

We sauna, we Jacuzzi, we use every lotion, potion, cotton bud, implement they have been foolish enough to leave out  and about five hundred and twelve towels during our one hour in the spa. Then we come back and watch the Matrix on the supersize tv, whilst ordering French fries from room service and a brownie which costs $18 and which we send back after eating half (and all the ice-cream) because it really tastes like rubber and we know we can get better ones from Bali Buddha for just a dollar.

Under the stars we sit on the deck and Leila turns to me and says, ‘Woah, remember we said that our intention was by next new year we’d be super rich and celebrating new year at the Four Seasons?’

I stare at her and we have one of those moments where we realize our intention has come true six months early and ten times more impressively than we had even hoped for.

Ok, not the super rich part….YET. But we haven’t paid for this. I won a two night stay here on a raffle for which we were selling the tickets (shhhhh). There was no corruption involved.

Honest.

remember when we were raffle girls?!

We are a bit off our faces but we quickly make new intentions realizing that clearly we are magical beings who possess a direct line to the universe.  A universe who wants to bestow wonderful things on us.

‘Quick,’ I say, ‘Let’s make more intentions. Because anything we want will clearly come true.’

This time I’m not going to wish for stuff I think I want. This time I know exactly what I want.

And it doesn’t involve being followed by beady eyed staff through lobbies of burnished wood.

Celebrating my 1st year anniversary of unemployment

As I was lying on the massage table I started musing on a conversation I had today when I mentioned to someone that I used to be on a senior management team.

I had to pause at the time and try to remember the words in the right order. Then I had to shake my head and blink a few times to check whether I wasn’t remembering something from a past life or from a film I watched a few years ago.

Then I had a sudden flash back to senior management team meetings – the image contained a still life of lots of biscuits, a lot of eyeball rolling, snickering and grinding of teeth – but not much on the detail of the actual job. It’s all so fuzzy. A bit like memories of childbirth become after time. Except about a year after giving birth you start forgetting the fact you almost split open and died whilst half the world looked up your jacksie and think what a marvelous idea it would be go through it all again.

But let me tell you now, with employment the memories don’t fade, you don’t start getting sentimental over excel spreadsheets, funding applications and performance reviews and start thinking what a great idea it would be to have just one more job, just the one, because it isn’t very fair on your first job if it doesn’t get to have someone to play with and because your first job was a girl and you’d really like the second one to be a boy because one of each would be lovely. No none of that.

I’ve now calculated that it was almost a year ago to the day that I left my job. I feel like this deserves celebrating. I’m sure everyone I used to manage thinks it deserves celebrating as well.

Ok, so I’m not really unemployed. I do write everyday. But that’s not really a job. It’s never a chore. I can do it when I want. I can, if I choose decide that for a week all I’m going to do is watch Buffy, surf the net for pictures of male models aged 19, read Lainey Gossip and bury my nose in young adult books. And I can call it research. And most importantly I can’t get fired for it.

My office is my desk next to the balcony. I can play on facebook as much as I want without having to do a quick ‘control+N’ every time someone walks by. I can work in my bikini. I can play music until the house shakes and I can dance around every time I get bored. Or just download the latest episode of Misfits and watch that.

So if you’re out there and you’re wondering whether working in an office for the rest of your life is it,  or you have an inkling that you could move to somewhere hot and figure out a way of making money that doesn’t require sitting in a management team meeting trying to look like you care about spending reviews, then remember the power of saying Fuck it.

That’s all I did. And somehow I ended up here.

So go say it to your boss. And see where you end up.

But if where you end up happens to be unemployed, penniless with no reference from your ex-boss then err, don’t blame me.

 

I am a sagittarius you know – that sort of explains it.

I’m not ready to hang up my travelling boots.

I have started discussing with John a plan I am hatching for some time in the mid 2020s when Alula no longer needs stationary parents  (or nearby parents for that matter) when we will buy an old airstream and drive across and around the Americas for say, maybe, ten years.

We will own a husky dog which I think we will call Lobo and a gazebo we can put up outside for evening dining possibly draped with fairy lights, and by then everything will be electronicafied so I’ll have an ipad for books and I won’t need to yell at John for navigating us to Canada instead of Mexico because the GPS will be driving the car for us and we’ll have Netflix set up too that we can watch movies from our fold-down double bed with Egyptian cotton sheets and an antique quilt (cos you need some luxuries on the road). I even started looking at posh plastic melamine plates and wondering about things like authentic matching salt and pepper shakers for the era airstream we’d own and how we could place a white sheet off the end of the airstream and rig up a projector for on the road entertainment with the cool people we’d park up next to in the RV park when I realized I was perhaps planning ahead too far. And really I should re-engage my planning brain on trying to pack half a thriftstore into one suitcase and re-focus my imagination on my third book (going well thanks for asking).

So am I ready to return to London? What do you think? Does it sound like it?Would I ever be though?

No. I have tasted sunshine and ecstatic dancing and canoed with dolphins and eaten grapes off the vines in the Napa valley and faced down a bear and written two books and found that there is a whole world of amazing opportunity and potential and incredible adventures out there so no, there’s frankly no going back. Especially not to a Tory run country in the midst of a recession. Plus I’d have to get a job because being a writer only pays well enough if you live somewhere like Indonesia or you’re Stephanie Meyer (working on that plan). And then there’s the little issue of laundry too.

So I have an idea, why don’t you come join us out here instead? You could be the cool people in the airstream next door.

Oh come on, you know you want to. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s just me. I’m sagittarius and I don’t like doing laundry.

Things I wish I had known before leaving the UK; part 2

I think I did part 1 back in India and I probably talked about wishing that I’d packed an extra suitcase rammed with Percy Pig fizzy pig tails. Also I think I probably talked about wishing I hadn’t wasted valuable baggage weight by packing three shades of nail polish. My friend Cynthia was right. Even though I have bog all to do and have long since given up laundry/cooking/map reading I still can’t find the time to redo my chipping nail varnish.

So herewith, other things I wish I had known before setting off on this crazy round the world jaunt.

1. When choosing locations for your round the world trip factoring in countries that make wine should come top. Factoring in countries where wine is overtaxed, overpriced and / or illegal should also come top.

2. Seven months (and counting) of near 24/7 (let’s just ignore the full time nanny detail in Bali) parenting is harder than I thought possible. It’s relentless. I wish I had known to pack valium and I wish I had ignored John and bought that portable dvd player. I wish also that I hadn’t bought so many Starbuck’s frapaccino’s and had been able to afford an au pair.

3. I wish I had known that the pat myself on the back extra 20% I added onto my round the world budget was a joke. I should have added an extra nought.

4. I wished I’d packed more underwear to replace the pants lost in the Balinese laundry ether.

Things I am glad about however…

1. I am glad we’ve come this way around the globe – East to West. It’s enabled us to appreciate the contrast in cultures much more. Fat to thin (India) to Fat (Australia) and then Fatter (USA). It’s also enabled me to grow spiritually.

Oh who am I trying to kid? Not you guys, you know me better, rather it’s enabled me to follow the sun and get a really good tan.

2. I am oh so very glad to have left the UK at the height of the recession, to have said FUCK IT. To have taken the leap and to have wound up here (well not here here, here being a skank motel on route 91 just outside LA) but here, with a whole new life about to begin as a bohemian writer living in Bali with my own pool and a nanny (that last not for me). And if this blog has inspired just one of you readers to do the same then I am glad.

The view from over here is amazing

As a super social ape I am starting my own shrewdness

Two days ago I was walking along the street, slipped on some cobbles and reaching out to steady myself, grabbed hold of a man’s penis. It’s been two days and I can still feel the giggle bubbles of hysteria breaking over me every time I think about it. It gets better though. After grabbing his penis I then had to spend two hours in a meeting with him – he wasn’t a stranger. I knew him. I had to sit and eat lemon tart and discuss NHS commissioning with him whilst trying not to laugh or look him in the eye without thinking, ‘I just groped your penis.’ No matter how long I live, no matter how many Frankie Boyle podcasts I listen to, this will forever remain the funniest thing that has ever happened to me.

I met Mark Earls too – the author of Herd. He was really nice, I say that even though he got a gift hamper and I didn’t and even though his 8 minute session was better than mine and my work husband’s. He got me thinking about social behaviour and how we humans like to follow the herd. Mark says it’s because we’re ‘super social apes’. My penis grabbing is surely evidence of that very fact. He should use that as an example in his next book.

So we’ve proved I’m a super social ape but I think it’s really clear that I’m not following the herd. Or the shrewdness – because that’s the collective term for a group of apes. Bet you didn’t know that. I didn’t either until I looked it up. Resigning is not an example of mass behaviour.

The book Herd actually has this as a subtitle: How to change mass behavior by harnessing our true nature.  So I’ve just ordered the book because I want to know how to create a mass movement of people who  say Fuck it and jump off cliffs. Not real cliffs. I mean the metaphorical cliff called working 9-5 for someone else.  I’m going to create this movement by figuring out how to harness our true nature. I think that my penis grabbing might be the first step on this path. But I also think that to do this properly I need to read the book. Then I might ask Mark for some help because he’s cleverer than me. Then I’ll get back to you when I’m ready to launch the movement. Until then buy Herd and Fuck It.

Why? Why? Why?

A lot of people keep asking us why – what inspired us to do this trip?

About six months ago I wrote my reasons on some Post-Its and stuck them on our bedroom wall next to a pinboard that I covered in pictures of white beaches, turreted chateaux, hammocks and clippings from the guardian travel section. Oh and this postcard.

La Majorite c'est vous

Here are my reasons:
Reasons for a new life (in the sun)

There were several things that poked me along the way. It took ten months from niggling half-formed ‘got to do something’ thoughts, to resignation letters and flight bookings. Here are my main prodders.

1. We are sitting on a plane flying back from Mexico. It is early Feb 2009. There is a man behind me whose naked, tattooed gut is pressing against the back of my chair. I look around the plane and think of jumping out the emergency exit. And this is not a response to ten hours on a flight with a toddler. This is more to do with the horror of coming back to Britain after two sun drenched weeks road tripping up the Mayan coast. That was when I first had thoughts along the lines of ‘why are we living this life in London that allows us a couple of exotic holidays a year when we could be doing it full time?’

The idea parked for a while until…

2. We speak to Rich, John’s brother. He runs several social enterprises from Mumbai and is generally inspiring. He tells us to just do it. I feel like I’m in a Nike ad.

3. I read Tim Ferriss’ The 4-hour Work Week and fall in love with the concept of not working ever again.

4. I realise that Lula, our baby, is no longer a baby and will be starting school in 15 months’ time (Sep 2010). A quick scan of the local Ofsted reports puts me into a panic. We have ‘that’ private vs state debate and I realise that neither really works for me. I am just not sure that our education system is providing what children need for the 21st century in either sector. Add to this my horror of facing the prospect of being tied into working in London in stressful jobs for the rest of our lives (at this stage I had parked Tim Ferris and was getting realistic).

5. I manage to convince John on steak night Wednesday that this is what we need to do. Absolutely and completely. And totally.

5. I read Fuck it: The ultimate spiritual way and decide to say Fuck It to everything. Job? Fuck it. Scared of not having an income? Fuck it. Possibility of getting amoebic dysentary in India with a child in tow? Fuck it.

6. One of my best project managers at work tells me she is leaving. I say Fuck it. I am too.

7. I resign and they make plans for my succession. It is like a bridge is burning behind me and I can’t turn back.

8. Ex-housemate comes around to discuss renting house off of us. She looks out window, sees a robin and says, ‘but won’t you miss things like English birds?’ I look at John then back to Lizzie and say, ‘Er, no. When I’m lying on my sunbed by the pool in Bali, I don’t think I’m going to be thinking about how much I miss English birds.’

9. Every single person I tell our plan to turns around and says ‘That’s so inspiring’ except for my father in law who thinks we are mad. I feel like Gandhi. No one has ever told me I’m inspiring before and now I feel like I’ve been told it 384 times in the last week alone. I could get used to this. I might not be a Head of Projects anymore but I am inspiring.

by Sarah