A few days after my positively dramatic amble along the wild unadulterated coast line I will admit that it did hit me that we were not here for a bank holiday weekend (we’re the type to actually bring the kitchen sink) but we were to live here. I mean really. There is one shop. Even now when I say that in my head, “There is one shop,” my voice sounds high pitched and screechy. It sells bread, milk, pot noodles and wine which granted are all fairly relevant to my life, but still … ONE shop. There isn’t even a village pub, because Puddle* isn’t really a village, it is a long road of quaint stone built fishermen’s cottages with a field at the end of it. We live in the field. Why did I agree to this?! I’ll tell you why. It made my husband happy. That is what I do now. And after my last post, I will make me happy too. I will reinvent, I will seek and I will explore.
After I have ordered my nail polish online.
A month or two after the move Spring finally sprung. It felt like the lid had been lifted from the gloomy Tupperware box we had all been living in. I awoke one morning to see the sun (yes, the actual flipping sun!) large and round and orange rising majestically over the rippling bay and casting our crescent in a scarlet hue. As He dressed for work, ate his porridge and watched the news I slipped Baby into the pushchair as Dog skipped excitedly around my ankles singing my praises. The One Shop didn’t sell it so gosh darn we were popping out to bathe our faces in some vitamin D.
As the three of us toddled along the pavement, sticks in mouths – me not included, it was very apparent that winter had retreated. Overnight daffodil shoots had appeared along every kerb, every stone wall of every front garden, every bus stop (the only one) … short green stems with vague yellow tips. Everyone I met that morning smiled a little brighter, as if we all knew a secret but couldn’t say what it was unless we were to jinx it. A knowing glint in the eye, a tip of a hat. I was tempted to start a handshake. Too much?
The one person who did comment on how utterly glorious the mornings were becoming was Farmer Forsythe, however I hardly ever understood what he said just as I knew he couldn’t understand me. For me it was his thick, Northern accent, for him … I think he thought I was the village idiot – who may I add, wears very fashionable wellies and very pink lip stick. The winds up here are notoriously strong and had been incredibly so in our first few weeks, so strong that it would numb my entire face including my lips and gums making conversing rather difficult due to not actually being able to form words and not knowing that I was probably, definitely drooling (every time!). Still, as I passed through his farm yard every day we both would continue attempted courteous chat, mostly pointing at the sky, nodding and smiling inanely.
Within weeks the blue bells were emerging from the golden piles of stranded winter on the woodland floor. The daffodils, literally thousands of them, piled along the streams, the lawns, the roads, the hidden paths, the entire village wallowed in glorious golden yellows and plump oranges. The pungent smell of freshly cut grass wafted in on the sea breeze every evening, the tractors silhouetted against the plum coloured skies.
The hedgerows, once like thorny bird cages were now flush with shades of green and excited chirrups. Puddle was fizzing with life. Even The One Shop had managed a display of buckets and spades! Our morning treks along the farms and coast became lazy strolls along the beach, plopping onto the sand half way along so that Baby could splodge about and so that Dog could explore the rock pools at a leisurely pace. The tide was often out exposing mile upon mile of glistening rock until at some distant point the blues of the skies met the blues of the ocean again. Many times the only prints in the sand would be mine and Dogs and those of the sheep and the cows who lived for most of the year in the grassy dunes. Occasionally on the horizon you could spot someone on their horse galloping far out into the surf and back up again into the rolling meadows.
Baby, Dog and I were lolloping back up through the farm one late, breathless morning, all of us covered in sand, smiles and sandwich filling, when the farmer waved us over to a lopsided old shed, not daring to speak in case I even pretended to dribble in response, we went over and after putting a finger to his lips (he did that, I did not put my finger to his lips!) we peered around the shed door and as our eyes adjusted to the dim light Baby, Dog and I watched in hushed awe at the simple, magnificent birth of the first lamb of the season. We named him George.
That morning will stay with me forever. How your definition of perfection can change.
With the warmer months comes a heightened sense of spontaneity and it is the main ingredient for the creation of a fabulous life within the boundaries of the military. This week I am going to share with you some of my fondest memories of cementing friendships, courtships and relationships with the hope they will inspire you to throw your hands up and allow the river of life to bob you along in the right direction.
The Annual Summer Ball. Not spontaneous in the least. Happens every year. In the summer.
It is the day after the summer ball which matters and which can render that weekend successful or not. The day post ball you can either, and this is completely normal and an unwritten rule, cower in the silent darkness of your bedroom with the almightiest of hangovers, surfacing every few hours to imbibe water, medication and grease. Occasionally wondering if you have children and if you do assuming they are still alive. Unfurling from your self pitying foetal position from time to time to seek cooler climbs amongst your duvets and pillows. Finally reappearing around dusk to construct a make shift fort of comfort on the sofa to then gaze forlornly at the flickering television screen for a few hours before surrendering. Or!
Or you could wake up as I did a few years ago post ball and pre Baby and Dog, with a pounding head of back combed hair full of hairspray and glitter. There will always be glitter, even if you have never owned glitter. My mascara had sealed my eyes lashes together and my mouth tasted like a cow shed. Upon steadying myself enough to find a glass and water and some paracetamol I also happened to notice that it was an absolute blinder of a day. The sky was a deep corn flower blue and you could just tell that if I opened a window (which was a definite priority in the state we were in) it would smell like summer. You know, that warm smell pumping with excitement and possibilities?
Retreating back to bed, having paused in the bathroom to peel apart my eyes and scour my mouth with a chisel and copious amount of toothpaste, I managed to awaken Him enough to survey the possibilities. He had a pulse. Good enough.
We sent a message out to all of our friends who had attended the previous nights respectful debauchery completely expecting replies of horror and threats of harm, but amazingly their universes aligned themselves with ours. Within hours we all found ourselves in a parade of cars, windows wound down, pale faces tumbling forth, winding our way down sunny tree lined back roads, the crickets bantering from the hedges, waves of corn rippling in the late morning breeze, larks soaring high in the sky.
Shakily piling out of our wagons, sunglasses glued to many a forlorn face there seemed to be about twelve of us. Twelve of us standing outside of a village pub. We had come to a beer festival.
Within the hour bacon baps were devoured, pints of orange and lemonade were slurped and as we all lay there dozing in the midday sun life began to seep back into these weary vessels.
Us ladies arranged ourselves in a circle, hand bags in the middle of course, comparing states of undress and head aches, attempting to compile a menagerie of memories from the ball that didn’t make us blush with embarrassment. No memories then!
The men folk went off in search of supplies, returning beaming with pride at having found a local farmer selling his own sparkling wine. A cork popped, cascading bubbles, a few stomaches turned at the sight of the foamy spray, but once the crisp rosy gold liquid passed your lips, combined with the warmth of the sunshine and the sounds of the folk band starting up, a heady glow descended upon a circle of friends who had not a care in the world. That afternoon hangovers were forgotten as were the formalities of the military social occasion and were replaced with heads on laps, burgers in brioche, sticky meat juices running down chins. Guitars strumming out soft, sweet country melodies. Lying in the long, yellow grasses of the pub acreage, a balmy breeze cooling the condensation on the small heap of sparkling wine bottles that had gathered as the hours meandered on by. Laughter and stories. Ice lollies and snoozes. Picnic tables crammed with families young and old, children and dogs scampering and shrieking with delight, the smell of barbecues drifting under our noses. The hot sun crawling lazily towards the horizon.
As the skies dimmed to slate and the band turned it up a notch, our bare feet with a hundred others began tapping in time with the beat. We were all crazy happy in the middle of the countryside, in the middle of an English summer and as we all looked at each other we silently agreed this was perfection. Spontaneous perfection.
My second memory of significant spontaneity was once again whilst child and pet free, what a coincidence! However with the right amount of support it is definitely still possible.
It was a chilly, damp Wednesday morning and He and I were squashed into the corner of a dinky patisserie in St Pancras’s bustling train station. Him sipping a latte, me a hot chocolate … with cream and standard marshmallow. I had come to wish Him bon voyage as he was off to Paris on the Eurostar and then flying forth on to a secret mission in the darkest depths of west Africa. Draining the last from our soup bowl style mugs, we hugged for a long time, swapped “I love you.”s and then he was gone. For how long, I wasn’t sure, but it would be long enough to justify watching Bridget Jones many, many times. As I mooched through the murky streets of London that morning on my way to the office I kind of wished it was me heading out to delve into a dangerous mission, flying across oceans to shores dotted with pirates and corruption. Catching my reflection in a shop window I remembered that I didn’t actually own a shoe without a towering heel attached. It would be highly impractical.
The following day He rang to tell me he was being delayed by a few days and had to remain in Paris while the necessary visas were compiled. Pause. Crackling phone line. Did I want to come to Paris for the weekend? Errr. Yes. I mean… oui!
After a quick phone call to the boss, and by that I mean a brief chat about how short life is with a smidgen of pity and a dabble of empty promises, I was off out of that office quicker than you can say omelette du frommage. Which, if you know how to say it, is pretty quick.
By the next morning I was tottering through the Eurostar check – in having batted my lashes into an upgrade to first class and three hours later I was arriving into Paris’ Garde du Nord Station. Albeit a little worse for wear due to the unlimited goes the crew had let me have on the complimentary wine and cheese trolley. Falling romantically into His arms he whisked me off in the back of a taxi, the Eiffel Tower, twinkling delicately, whilst looming out of an orange haze as the sun set over the city of infatuated lust. A quick shower and change of clothes and we bounced out of our hotel as quickly as we could, ready for our first Parisian adventure together, we bundled into the first french bistro we found. A Spanish tapas bar. So giddy with excitement and frivolity were we that it didn’t matter. An hour, and many small dishes of food, later we rounded a corner and found ourselves amongst a deluge of Parisian bars and restaurants. A chill had risen from the Seine but every where had plenty of gas heaters dotted about so we sat at a wonky little table on the pavement, sipping wine, smoking long, elegant French cigarettes and chatting animatedly, to each other, to the waiters and to anyone who dared to mutter a greeting to us. It was a long night filled with an excessive amount of glorious food, drink and tres bon conversation. It ended in the early hours of the morning at a smoky little bar within walking distance of the hotel where we gave something back to French culture. We taught them how to make a Jaegerbomb. Because people, that is how we roll.
It was late Saturday morning by the time He went out to collect our breakfast crepes and coffee. That day we walked aimlessly around Paris, arm in arm, taking in all of the sights and scenes whilst the sky drenched us with unseasonable sleet and snow. Actually we spent a lot of time taking in all the sights and scenes whilst sheltering in various cafes and bistros. We drank a record number of hot chocolates that day. All with cream and standard marshmallow… But it was So. Much. Fun. There are no rules when it comes to spontaneity, we didn’t have to do anything. We mulled and meandered across parks, down cobbled avenues, through galleries and boutiques, huddled into each other, our own little world of discovery. Once we had had our fill we hopped on to the subway back to our hotel stopping at a bustling street market to dash through the pouring rain to pick up a rotisserie chicken, a bucket of creamy dauphinois potatoes, steaming hot french baguettes and a stinking pile of cheese. Arriving back at our hotel we stripped from our sodden clothes, blasted the heating and crawled into our bed for an evening of pure decadence. We feasted upon our market finds with wine in tea cups while a french radio station soaked us in classic French ambiance, eventually lulled to sleep by the sound of the rain on the windows.
It was spontaneous perfection.
After we had settled into Puddle, the spring flowers were blossoming just as our friendships with our new neighbours were about to. We had been graced with a bank holiday weekend. It was Sunday and from the moment the sun had stretched its rays over the cliff tops it was clear that it was going to be a perfect day. After lunch He, Baby, Dog and I spread ourselves out over the front garden. It was drenched in a balmy heat while the breeze off the motionless sea offered up occasional relief. He and I were indulging in glasses of ice cold white wine, almost celebrating and acknowledging that the one day of guaranteed English summer had occurred in the first week of Spring. That and because no one had to go to work the next day. The afternoon plodded along as we played and chatted and snoozed. As our glasses emptied, the shadows drawn long across our drive way and as ideas were tossed about in regards to dinner plans we began to head back into our darkening home. Lazily rolling up our woollen picnic blanket and gathering up bits and bobs I glanced up to see our neighbours appear with two deck chairs, their own baby, a bottle of wine and an invitation to join them. Shrugging our shoulders we retaliated with two more chairs, a high chair and empty glasses. Faces turned skyward to appreciate the evening sun we listened to the Babies chattering away and the cows moo-ing in the distance as they were being ferried back to their sheds. Not long after that another set of neighbours returned from an outing, with rucksacks and smiles (you can tell they were a childless couple with their wonderful lack of luggage – rucksacks!) they clambered past us promising to pop out and join us for a quick drink. Sure enough out they came with a chair and a cold bottle of beer each and flopped down with a happy sigh. As the sun disappeared into the shadowy hills leaving us cast in a pale pink light more of our neighbours trickled down to our patch either having heard us from their own back gardens or through an anonymous round robin text. We all lounged in the warm evening air swapping stories, feeding babies, throwing sticks, batting balls, filling glasses and chasing children. As the evening passed and darkness began to filter down through the trees, little ones were carried home and tucked up with kisses and cuddles. The jokey rule being that if you were to return to the ‘neighbourly circle of trust and wine’ you were to bring with you an item from your own house to make it a more homely affair. Drinks had been drunk. In the sun. This was a good and responsible rule.
Soon people were making their way back to our communal patch of grass dragging lamps and coffee tables, candles and canapés, house plants and bar fridges. Extension cables were found and hooked up and all of a sudden a quick drink with our grown up, respectable neighbours in the afternoon sun had become our first full blown house party that was not in a house.
As a chilly wind was swept in from the sea sleeping bags were commandeered as were blankets and slippers. If you had been a person who was lost and you had stumbled upon this scene you would have turned around and marched straight back in the opposite direction. Smart move. Although if we had seen you we would have invited you over.
The moon soon rose from the inky waters edge, blood red and shimmering giving our outside living an eery glow. An incredibly smart person, probably me, put in a call for pizza delivery and as the young, spotty teenager pulled up with our order we shouted to him to pop on a little music … which he gallantly did, turning up his car radio and flicking his hazards on we all had a little boogey before dinner. Some one produced some glow sticks. We are parents for goodness sake!
Lying in bed a few hours later, our sleeping bag dumped at the front door soaked with dew, a lamp on the draining board and pizza in the fridge for breakfast I smiled sleepily to myself. Puddle was quite perfect.
If being spontaneous is a scary word to you for whatever reason; kids, work, knackered, need to hoover, start small.
For example, how about…
A virtual holiday, either with your husband or some fellow wives, spin the globe and wherever your finger lands Google Earth it and plan your ‘Virtual Vacation’ for the following night or the next week. Did you land on Italy? Make some Bellini’s (peach juice and Prosecco – YUM!), create your own pizza’s –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCAPjIVOdJw, eat lots of cheese and don’t forget to say, “ciao!” and, “bellissima” a lot!
Get physical, Grab the dog, get out into the fresh air and get your heart beating. No dog? Some earphones with some great music or a captivating audio book (I find listening to Abraham Hicks inspiring and exciting –http://www.abraham-hicks.com/lawofattractionsource/mp3downloads.php) Feel happy. Speak to the sky about your hopes, your dreams, your fears, just chat, let it all go. Breathe. No, breathe properly … as you inhale let your stomach expand and your lungs fill. How lucky are you to be able to do that?!
Breathe out obviously.
Smile. At a stranger
Until next time,
*Puddle – not it’s real name.