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For the year I give up pretending I can always start again 🙂

I am shockingly bad at keeping this blog updated.

It’s August! We’re well and truly heading towards the end of the year. I’ve (un)officially completed 4 years of tertiary education; the dissertation is in, and graduation’s at the end of the year; my application for a work visa is ‘being processed’; the REAL JOB starts in three weeks; and in a couple of days (fingers crossed), Dranko, Sam, and I are signing the 12-month contract for a flat. It’s all quite exciting. And not a little scary. Hey-ho.

It’s also beginning to look a lot less like summer, and a lot more like autumn. London’s been fairly consistently grey for the last couple of days, and it’s drizzling as I type. The temperature has come down from being in the heavenly range of 23 to 28 degrees, to being mostly below 21, and occasionally as low as 13. The tights and jackets have reappeared. I still can’t get into a bikini.

Since my last update, I’ve made a quick trip home for the baby’s 21st, been to Ireland and the Aran Islands, surfed for the first time, and discovered Red Dwarf. My French has improved, I’ve started to keep a diary in Chinese, and Sam’s DVDs are slightly less accessible than they used to be. It’s amazing how much space a decent set of theology books can take.

I’ve also gotten a lot better at cooking, washing up, doing the laundry, ironing, vacuuming/mopping the floors, and cleaning a bathroom. Which, it turns out, are fairly useful skills to have. Despite my mum’s mortified ‘we didn’t send you to university to be someone else’s slave’, this has little to do with pre-feminist oppression, and much to do with basic necessity. The boys will do their fair share too (if not more, given respective likelihoods of amount of time spent in flat), before anyone asks. Besides, making things sparkly is surprisingly fulfilling.

This week, though, has been impressively unproductive. I blame the turn in weather. All I want to do is curl up under a blanket and read. Which isn’t that bad really, and, as I keep pointing out to Sam, it is my last summer holiday ever. I would happily be out in a park reading, but blue skies and warm days are now but a distant memory.

Still, there are plenty of things I want to do before the next couple of weeks are up: go for a Prom, visit the National Gallery, sign up to be a reader at the BL, finish Frank Sheen’s Introduction to Theology, get a set of UNO cards, go to Borough Market, beat Dranko’s score at WordUp…

And really, it’s going to be quite a busy couple of weeks. Sam’s parents are coming this Saturday to watch Burn the Floor with us, I’ve got to be in Derby at some point next week for work visa stuff, my parents are in London on the 24th enroute to NY, and Sam and I are in Derby again for some Alton Tower fun. In between all of that I need to sort out my wardrobe for work, chase up the flat contract, and pray my work visa comes back in time.

Not a quality update, but I promise more regular ones in the future! Though for all I know this blog has a readership of moi. I’m off to the gym for a run and a swim – and maybe dinner afterwards, if I can sweet-talk the boy into an evening out :p

xxx

I intend to blog about lots of things. The current situation in the Church, for one. The volcanic ashes. My time in London (poetry slams! open mics! ballroom dance!). But having completed the last post I’ve run out of blogging energy, and should really get started on work, too. I just wanted to put up, for posterity, this list of books I found while blog surfing:

Best Asian Books of the Decade:

1. The Gift of Rain – Tan Twan Eng
2. Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond – Pankaj Mishra
3. Silk Road – Colin Thubron
4. Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found – Suketu Mehta
5. Beijing Coma – Ma Jian
6. The Wasted Vigil – Nadeem Aslam
7. Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie
8. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders – Daniyal Mueenuddin
9. The Temple-Goers – Aatish Taseer
10. The Harmony Silk Factory – Tash Aw
11. The Last Song of Dusk – Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
12. The Inspector Chen Series – Qiu Xiaolong
13. The Glass Palace – Amitav Ghosh
14. Sacred Games – Vikram Chandra
15. Family Matters – Rohinton Mistry
16. The Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai
17. The Golden Age – Tahmima Anam
18. Butcher and Bolt – David Loyn
19. Greetings from Bury Park: Race Religion and Rock and Roll – Sarfraz Mansoor
20. Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
21. Snow – Orhan Pamuk
22. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Dai Sijie
23. The White Moghuls – William Dalrymple
24. Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
25. White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
26. Descent into Chaos – Ahmed Rashid
27. Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi
28. China Road – Rob Gifford
29. Writing on the Wall: China and the West in the 21st Century – Will Hutton
30. God’s Terrorists – Charles Allen
31. Holy Warriors: A Journey into the Heart of Indian Fundamentalism – Edna Fernandes
32. Khandahar Cockney – James Fergusson
33. Brick Lane – Monica Ali
34. Persepolis: The Story of an Iranian Childhood – Marjane Satrapi
35. The Kite Runner – Khalid Hosseini
36. The Places in Between – Rory Stewart
37. The Vagrants – Yiyun Li
38. The Boat – Nam Le
39. Madwoman on the Bridge – Su Tong
40. Evening is the Whole Day – Preeta Samarasan
41. Once on the Shore – Paul Yoon
42. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim
43. The Assassin’s Song – MG Vassanji
44. Imperial Life in The Emerald City – Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Taken from here.

I’d add

1. Chinese Cinderella – Adeline Yen Mah

2. Sing to the Dawn – Mingfong Ho

3. The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy

I’ve not read most of the stuff there – will add them to the list!

First though, we had to get changed. We’d rinsed off the mud from socks and trousers the day before, and had left them on the radiators overnight – dry and warm. Except…’Samuel?’ ‘Yes?’ ‘What did we do with our shoes?’ ‘Oh.’ The shoes, which we’d left (and forgotten) in the cupboard were not dry. Or warm. Still shiny with rain. There are few things less pleasant than putting warm, dry, socked feet, into squelchy wet and cold shoes. Putting them on in the room would result in wet shoe prints all over the carpeted floor, so it was back outside for fumbling with wet and hardened shoelaces.

The sky was grey now, but still calm. We headed over the road and onto the beach for our first proper glimpse of St Michael’s Mount. Mist-topped, it loomed out of the blue-grey waves, the causeway connecting it to the mainland still submerged. Two thousand years ago trading ships were sailing into its harbour and exporting Cornish tin to the rest of Europe.

Religion followed the traders: an apparition of the Archangel St Michael is said to have been witnessed by fisherman in 495 and by the sixth century AD it is thought that the Mount was a thriving religious centre. After the Norman Conquest, the abbey was granted to the Benedictine monks of Mont St Michel in France. The church on the island’s summit was built by the French Abbot, Bernard le Bec, and through the Middle Ages the Mount became a major pilgrimage destination. Four miracles, said to have happened here between 1262 and 1263 would have only added to its religious magnetism.

(from the St Michael’s Mount website)

As we headed down the beach we heard a motor start. The amphibious ferry runs from the beach to the harbour fairly frequently in season, but we were just outside it so had no idea when the next one would be. The waves were hurling themselves across the stone causeway, but the tide was beginning to recede, so we decided to wait for whichever came first: the next ferry, or low tide.

Next to the causeway was a rather irresistible large pile of rocks. I was up on them first (yes I’ve come a long way), though I stopped at the top. Sam, typically, hopped to the next pile, and clambered to where they were jutting out over the (angry-looking, swirling, menacing) sea. A raven settled about two feet from where I was, glanced at him, then gave me a sympathetic look before taking off again. Having satisfactorily conquered the rocks we went back down to the causeway. The sea was definitely drawing back, and a good half of the causeway had become visible. A group of Chinese tourists had turned up, and followed us onto the stones. Walking out as far as we dared, we stopped to take pictures – then legged it from a high wave. Squeals from the tour group told us they hadn’t been so lucky. Legging it was probably slightly more difficult for them too, given their footwear – heeled suede boots, on the large part. Each time we’d inch a little further forward, and each time a wave would drive us back. The dry socks in wet shoes effect had long gone, since we were now wave-sprayed anyway.

The little ferry turned out of the harbour. ‘C’mon Sam…’ ‘In a minute!’ I leave the boy to his photography, and head back over the causeway. The ferry moves faster than I expect, and is back on the sand by the time I reach the beach, so I run for it. Sam notices, and begins to run too, but sand isn’t conducive to speed if you don’t have massive tires, and by the time we near the ferry, it’s heading away towards the sea again. Peeved, we trudge back towards the causeway.

Patience isn’t a strong point for both of us, and standing at the halfway point on the stones, we decide we’ve had enough with waiting for the sea. The causeway isn’t completely level, so our strategy is this: wait for the waves to flow back. run to the highest visible point. wait for the next wave to swirl (hopefully) around you. run to the next. It works, until a rogue wave came from behind a rock, and drenched us both. Giving up for strategy, we decide to charge it. Less than a minute later we’re on St Michael’s Mount, watching as other tourists give it a go.

The Castle and grounds are closed to visitors at this time of the year, so other than the views it gives over the sea, there isn’t much to see on the Mount. It’s still a thrill, though, and I can imagine how beautiful it must be in the summer, though the thousands of others who feel the same way might make it a lot less peaceful. We explore what we can, peeping into the gardens, and wandering down a row of houses. Rounding a corner we are surprised by three small boys sailing plastic boats in the pools that had formed on the ground overnight.

The Mount explored we head back over the now dry causeway. We plan to be in Penzance for lunch, so start walking. According to the map there’s an unbroken stretch of beach from Marazion, so we decide to ignore the coastal path and stay on the sand. The rain’s held up so far, and the grey skies are cracking hints of blue. Every thirty feet or so there’s a narrow stream we hop across. The walk to Penzance looks like it’s going to be uneventful, until we reach this:

It’s too wide to jump over, too fast flowing to walk through, and the rocks are either too slippery or too far apart to walk across. The buildings you see in the background, by the way, are in Penzance. We’re THERE. We just can’t seem to get to it. I propose walking back to where I saw a nice, climb-able pile of rocks that’ll lead up to the path. Sam points out that the path is really just next to us, and starts climbing up the first pile of rocks he sees.

THESE:

They may not look all that bad to you, but they were HUGE, EVIL ROCKS. It took about twenty minutes for Sam to coax me up them, and I still hadn’t forgiven him for it twenty minutes later. Still, we were at Penzance. The sun was finally shining, and the sky was a ridiculous blue. It was early Saturday afternoon, the town was full of happy people, and I’d found a fish and chips cafe. All was good in the world. Valentine’s Day present 2010: a massive success 🙂

Um, says Samuel, maybe we can walk its perimeter. 5 minutes of sticky, deep, freshly ploughed mud later though, we’ve had enough. The buildings we were heading for were diagonally across the field, so that’s exactly how we’re going to do it.

It’s funny how difficult a basic thing like putting one foot in front of the other can be when walking in the deep furrows of clay-like, surprisingly heavy mud, whilst being buffeted by wind. I made it to the end without falling over, but had managed to get mud all the way up the inner sides of my trousers, to Sam’s horrified amusement. Now came the easy part. Walking through 3 more fields, all of which had footpaths along the sides of them. Field one, check. Field two, check. Field three…and we lost the path. After walking down the length of it looking for signs of a stile, we came back up and decided to clamber into the wood – and stumbled back onto the path.

Aside from the relentless rain, numb blue hands, and the water theme parks (complete with slides and lifeguards) that had opened in all four of our shoes, the rest of the walk to Marazion was pretty uneventful. We came across a gaggle of geese in one of the farms we wandered through; they were looking with optimism up at a door which, we assumed, usually opened to let them in out of the rain. Rounding a corner we were accosted by a lone goose, earnestly enquiring after her friends. We pointed her in the right direction and moved on, though she followed us for a bit, squawking her excitement. As we headed up the last hill, mist began to settle again. There was no chance of the spectacular sunset scene Sam was hoping we’d walk into as we came down into Marazion, but at that point just the idea of being warm and dry in less than half an hour was sending us both into raptures, so complaints were minimal. Heading downhill into the town we stopped by a gate to let a car go by, and were joined by an old lady with her dog who asked us where we’d come from. ‘St Ives’, we said. ‘Utter nutcases’, she declared.

The room was warm, and dry, and huge besides. St Michael’s Mount, or what we could see of it through the mist, was clearly visible out of all of the four windows. I, however, was dripping wet and covered in mud (somehow Sam had managed to avoid the latter), and not allowed on the carpet till I’d showered. Which, I suppose, was fair enough. Dinner at the pub next door was excellent, and we headed back to the room full, exhausted, warm, dry, and very, very happy.

The next morning we awoke to still misty skies, though not as ominously threatening as the day before. A full English cooked breakfast was included, so it was with less reluctance than usual that I rolled out of bed. An egg, a sausage, and some very yummy bacon later we set off to see if we could conquer the causeway to St Michael’s Mount.

…to be continued.

This has, all things considered, been a Very Good Week. Naughty but Nice was great fun – not so good on the first night, spectacular on the second, the Boy came for the show and liked it, we had an amazing weekend trekking from St Ives to Penzance (more about that in a bit), and an issue which has been bugging me for a while has been pretty satisfactorily (and slightly unexpectedly) resolved.

The St Ives to Penzance trip was Sam’s Valentine’s day present to me. It involved exploding envelopes filled with confetti hearts, and a detailed plan made up of OS grid references (all very cryptic, particularly for the failure at map reading that is yours truly), and we’ve both been looking forward to it for a while. When the 19th finally arrived, we awoke after 2 weeks of pretty reasonable sunshine to a morning that could optimistically best be described as ‘grey’. The mist lay low in the sky, and by the time we got out at St Ives station it was ‘lightly spitting’, in Samuel’s words. We wandered around the town for a couple of hours – it being just after 9.30am, not much was open, but we managed to walk past at least six cafes/pubs/tea rooms advertising cream teas before even getting to the coast. The overcast skies gave weight to Sam’s open mockery of my longing looks at the ice cream shops, and we made it to the end of the pier without succumbing to tourist-bait. The sea was, as ever, compellingly attractive, and there were some irresistible rocks Sam just had to clamber over, so it was a while before we decided we should start on the actual walk. It was, however, cold, dreary, and I was hinting less-than-subtly about a mid-morning snack, so the Boy decided a cream tea might be in order first. Now, remember how many advertisements for cream tea we walked past earlier? After 15 minutes of back-tracking we couldn’t find a single one! Sam sniggers that it’s the world telling me I can’t have cream tea*, I spot an open tea-shop, we’re seated with me grinning behind a huge mug of hot chocolate within 30 seconds. Win.

*Cornish cream tea is amazing. Why I’d never discovered it before is beyond me, and a small tragedy. However. Henceforth, I plan to Make Up For It. Goodbye, bikini plan.

The Walk (Part 1)

Starting at OS grid ref 5193 4012, more easily identified as the train station (yes, the Boy’s a nerd), we took the coast path heading East. The gradient of said coast path is rapidly discovered, to Sam’s glee at my misery. It heads sharply (that is, almost vertically) upwards, before levelling for about 200m, then downward, then up again…for at least an hour. By this point, it is pouring cats, dogs, and lizards, and we both agree that we are at least a little damp. The rain leaves off as we reach a high point on a sand dune, and we briefly consider settling for lunch. The cream tea had only just begun to digest, however, and so we decided we weren’t that hungry, and stopped only to swig some ribena*. 10 minutes later we were made fully aware of how wise that decision was as the heavens opened, and the temperature leaped out of an aeroplane without a parachute. Walking at a slightly brisker pace we arrive at Porth Kidney Sands (a sandy bit of bay that looks quite a lot like…a kidney), where Sam had planned for lunch. Though the rain had abated, we weren’t confident of a dry stop, so decided to keep going. Another wise decision, as it soon got, to our amazement, even wetter. Stopping again for more ribena (for the astuteness of that particular drink-buying decision, see below), we agreed that our best bet was to plow on to St. Erth station (covered, with seats) and hunker down to lunch there. By the time we got to St. Erth, around a golf course, through a cemetery, past Lelant, we were dripping, and slightly blue. The shelter and stop that was lunch, combined with the fact that Lunch was sandwiches filled with mushrooms, rocket leaves, and goat’s cheese – Sam’s first attempt at a vegetarian meal (he’s not best pleased with my choice of Lenten resolutions) – was, therefore, amazing. That, and the fact that I had had, by that point, almost half of a 1 litre carton of ribena (which translates to roughly 50g of sugar). Maybe.

Anyway, I at least was bouncy and raring to get on with the next half of the walk. Fortunately, Sam has enough sense for the both of us, and he proposed an alteration to our route. He’d initially planned for us to walk along the river, hoping for a sunny, clear day, and pretty pictures. The rain it rain-eth without mercy, though, and it wasn’t quite the sudden bursts of showers that could be tolerated for the intermittent dryness – more like a steady, incessant onslaught of patter. We decided to make straight for Marazion, where we would be staying the night, cutting across several fields and 2 hours off walking time in the process.

*Sam bought food and drink rations on Thursday before the show, getting lost on his way to ASDA in the process. They were: a HUGE carton of Ribena, apple and blackberry snack bars, sweet chilli flavoured crisps, jelly snakes, marshmallows, a small bottle of white wine, and 2 pots of yoghurt. The Boy has learnt to manipulate my susceptibility to sugar highs/rushes in order to keep me on the march to a cynically high degree. I would be worried, but I’m still reeling from the Rocky Road tray bake he bought for me before he left for London and so am not wholly capable of coherent thought.

I don’t remember exactly where this was, but at some point we had a choice between walking along a massive A road, and a small one that seemed a lot less intimidating. I voted for the small one, and up we went. Within about 5 minutes of walking through the small stream that had sprung up along the side of the road to avoid traffic, my right foot had opened individual swimming pools for my toes. After 10 minutes, my left foot followed suit. Sam tried to be sympathetic. Crossing onto a bridleway we headed with some optimism towards the first (or maybe second?) of the few fields we’d have to cut through – and discovered that not only had it been freshly ploughed, but the farmer, bless his socks, had ploughed straight across the footpath, rendering it…invisible.

…to be continued.

I attribute it to a post-Boy slump. The downside to having spent most of the last 7 days with the Boy is that his absence is a lot more keenly felt.

Bed.