Road Trip!

Where do you go when teased with the lure of the white sands and balmy climes of the Bahamas, Cuba or the British Virgin Islands being only a mere hop, skip and a jump of a plane journey away?

Well, you pack up a tent and go on a road trip instead. Err, of course.

America is big. Vast. However, in a week we covered well over 1000 miles and popped into 7 different states. I say popped because at times it was somewhat unintentional what with the Colonel’s driving and perhaps more relevantly, my map reading. We popped in, and with a little oops, popped out again.

In truth, his driving is irritatingly good; I am simply a poor passenger with a habit of yelping and clutching white-knuckled onto the door handle if I think we’re either going too fast or are going to crash. For me, the two go hand-in-hand. So, this being a regular occurrence led at times to a fairly high stress journey (more so when driving in Manhattan where my fears were completely validated looking at the number of dents in the cars. Did you know, they actually have bumpers over their bumpers for protection here?)

However, and back to the road trip … We wiggled our way along the smaller roads, avoiding the pot holes, cracks, lumps and bumps which in the U.K. we appear to have considerably less of and I consequently shall never complain of again. We googled some road signs, delighted to find that sometimes one can actually turn right on a red light. It does leave a rather large margin for error which is perhaps not entirely sensible, but I didn’t make the rules. And rules they like. Oooh they are strict. But it keeps things in order, mostly; and we like order.

And then we drooled.

Fresh, bright white clapboard houses stood proudly, their slatted shutters painted varying shades of greens and blues framing the huge Georgian-style windows; colonial pillars supported the grey roofs covering verandas which themselves were filled with pots of flowers and plants and tables and chairs, offering a peaceful place to sit and watch the world go by. Wide wooden steps led down to the gardens and with no hedges or fences indicating where one plot started and another ended, they seemingly merged into one another allowing for clear uninterrupted views.

The gardens themselves were simple but perfectly neat. Manicured lawns with flowerbeds planted up close to the houses. Hydrangeas with their huge pom pom flower heads, hibiscus, hostas without a slug to be seen, box balls in abundance and lots and lots of trees. Nothing too taxing for the gardeners, but everything colourful and wonderfully healthy. With a hot climate and plenty of rain, everything flourishes there and yet surprisingly very few grow their own vegetables and fruit. Not an apple espalier or raised bed in sight.

There were no overgrown jungles of front gardens there. No black, brown and blue overstuffed bins spilling out their contents onto the weeds on the driveways. It was perfection and it was beautiful. I suspect I would struggle to keep up with the Jones’.

Towns with names like Great Barrington and Lennox offered shops for the wealthy where a cushion would cost well over a hundred pounds, but always the service was impeccable as if that should take the sting out of the tail. We looked, we touched, but rarely bought.

The campsites were clean and quiet and only once were plagued by mosquitoes, but the local pharmacy offered more anti-mozzie sprays and more importantly, soothing anaesthetic creams than you could shake a stick at (at a cost of course).

The beaches were litter-free and the sun shone. What more could we have asked for? So whilst the glamour and glitz of the Bahamas will no doubt beckon again another time, this time we have saved our pennies and enjoyed the beauty of another little world for a short while.

And, as I type and watch my sunburn begin to peel and scratch madly at the line of bites from some little blighter of a bug which starts at my ankle and heads towards my bottom, I do wonder if there are mozzies in the Caribbean …

Katie x

Food Glorious Food!

As I typed the title of this post, the song from ‘Oliver’ burst from my lips making the Colonel leap up from his slumber in bewilderment. It was, after all only six o’clock in the morning.

“Sorry darling. Got a bit carried away.”

He made a harrumphing, grumbling noise to make his displeasure known and then settled back under the bedcovers.

Back to the original point … Food.

Food in Manhattan is monumentally expensive. For my lovely British friends let me tell you that a can of baked beans is $3.49 which in today’s exchange rate equates to £2.87 … two pounds and eighty seven pence for a can of sodding baked beans. We no longer eat baked beans.

Meanwhile, a loaf of bread last week was priced at the equivalent of two of those cans of baked beans! We don’t eat bread now either.

However, whilst I scrabble around in my purse for the last few pennies, there is a little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Or should I say, a Costco. Indeed, it is at the end of the tunnel because the nearest one means taking two subways, or to get the biggest and best Costco, a subway, a boat and a walk. Take your pick.

Costco means buying in bulk. Costco means buying in bulk but extremely cheaply.

Now, each and every cupboard in our apartment is filled to the gunnels with vast vats of gloopy washing liquid, a bin bag full of pineapples, enough loo rolls to keep every Andrex puppy in England happy for months, and more tin foil than you can wrap a dozen turkeys in. I shan’t bore you with more detail, but you get the picture.

The Colonel however, is happy. Always one to enjoy a good deal, he smiles at our over-filled cupboards, content and dare I say, a little smug in the knowledge that should Manhattan ever have a power cut again and we are stranded, we shall at least be able to get a grip on the washing … oh, except last time all the water cut out too.

Nevertheless, the sun in streaming in through the windows and although I won’t be having toast for breakfast, we do still have four rather large pineapples in the bathroom cupboard that need eating up …

Katie xx

The Audio Book

I am now a modern woman. I have an App and it is called Audible.

I have precisely one book in my Audible library and of the twelve hours of listening that is required before I can pronounce I have finished it, I have completed just one hour, thirty-five minutes and a smattering of seconds.

Presumably, I can only imagine that because the book is about various women, it is therefore being read by a number of women, one of whom has a rather irritating voice. Nasal, whiny, like a cat in a fight. I don’t enjoy her chapters very much and thus far she has read a lot of them.

The issue I have is one of multi-tasking. I had imagined that I could walk around New York listening to my book whilst running a few errands, window shopping, picking up the groceries. No. It simply doesn’t work like that.

I find myself walking aimlessly in the wrong direction clutching at my ears trying to stop the earplugs from falling out, yet again; I stand, endlessly staring into shop windows, seeing nothing, just listening to the story; I gaze at displays of fruit for so long that I am asked by random strangers if I need help; and all the while I am trying to concentrate on a book, a plot, numerous different characters and all delivered by a nasal, whiny voice.

Perhaps I should persevere. Perhaps I should revert to a physical book with lovely pages to touch and feel. Perhaps I am simply too long in the tooth for this audiobook malarkey. And yet, when I heard of people who by June had already read fifty books that year (were they showing off?) I question how on earth they managed this. Do they too have audiobooks and spend their days plugged into their phones, whilst simultaneously running their multinational conglomerates? Or do they read through the night with a torch under the duvet?

I shall, for the time being, persevere. And if I reach the stage whereby I want to bludgeon the nasal voice to death, I shall revert to a proper book with proper paper pages. I shall hide with it late at night under the bedcovers, with a torch and its undoubtedly dying battery, just like I used to as a child. After all, isn’t that what normal people do?

Katie x

Do you use audiobooks? How? When? Where?

The Joy of the Theatre!

Yesterday morning I stood in a queue with dozens of others, waiting to see if I could get any ‘rush’ tickets for that evening’s performance of King Kong.

I did, we went, I cried, it was wonderful.

Many years ago I went to see West Side Story at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. I went ten times, partly because it was utterly magical and partly because I rather fancied the leading man. As it turned out, said leading man sadly preferred men to women, however on a positive note, I did learn all the words to every song. Happy days.

I’m a bit stuffy these days and rather preferred it when in the past we used to dress up to go to the theatre. Yes, I know, times change and bah-blasted-humbug I need to move with them. But still, despite a change in attire and the request for mobile phones to be switched off, nothing has remotely altered the pure magic of the theatre. The red plush velvet seats, the high ceilings, the glittery chandeliers, the excited chatter before the lights dim and the curtain rises … heaven! The applause, the standing ovations, the squeals of terror, the laughter … bliss!

In truth I also enjoy the cinema, but am too easily distracted by crisp packets being incessantly rustled, people getting up and down to go to the loo, the smell of tacos and hot dogs being eaten, the crunching, the slurping, the rustling, and finally having to wade my way through the spilt popcorn and half empty drinks littering the floors. Somehow it’s not quite the same, but, I grant you, a fraction of the price.

So I shall save my pennies and be prepared to stand once again on the steaming hot street corners of New York. Not to earn money for those of the more smutty mind, but in the hope of securing more cheap tickets to the theatre. Yes, a two hour slice of utter heaven without a crisp packet, carton of popcorn or slurpy drink to be seen or heard. Bliss.

Katie xx

P.s. Any recommendations for shows gratefully received, and apologies to any noisy popcorn eaters.

Is Being Happy a Choice?

Some would say categorically not. They have a disease, it’s a part of their makeup (genetic or otherwise) and they have no control over it.

Others might argue that yes, how we feel is our choice. We have a mind of our own and we can control it (using various methods).

It is also often debated whether depressive thoughts are addictive, in the same way that substances like alcohol, or behaviours like gambling are addictive. And when we are not using these substances or behaviours we feel out of control largely because in a (self-destructive) way the familiarity gives us an element of comfort. In a similar vein, it is often noted that women (and men for that matter) in unhealthy relationships are mimicking those they had with their parents in childhood. It might not be healthy, but it is familiar.

So, if using by these theories, we fight the urge to believe that we have no control over our minds and we fight the urge to fall back into the dark, warm but comfortable well of depression, ( Read my post on Depression – A Multi-Pronged Attack ) can we overcome it?

My view, for what it’s worth, is yes. But it’s no walk in the park.

It’s curious how whilst I was cycling through France last summer, I had never been so happy or so at peace. Perhaps it was something to do with … the daily exercise (ok it was a brutal 60 – 90 kms a day); being in the sunshine (yup, it hit 41 degrees); a challenge each and every moment (wait til the book comes out, then you’ll understand); social interaction (albeit mostly in a different language apart from on meeting one couple who when I exclaimed how delighted I was that they were English, they replied, “Nah! We’re from Birmingham.” Right; No alcohol, but gallons of water and my weight in croissants; No toxic people to be around and no social media …. And so on and so forth.

Yes, all those things that we’re supposed to do daily to help ourselves (granted, perhaps not in quite such an extreme form), nevertheless, whilst I’m not suggesting that anyone heads off for a 1200 km cycle ride, it’s funny how happy one can be with just a bicycle a tent and the winding road ahead.

So what do you think? Depending of course on the severity of the anxiety or depression, do you believe we actually have a choice to be happy?

Katie xx

Men and Shopping …

Should those words even be permitted in the same sentence together? Some might think not.

Yesterday I took my (almost) 21 year old son to three shops. He coped admirably in Sephora (a beauty emporium to any understandably baffled male or otherwise readers). In a nutshell, when asked at the entrance if we needed assistance, I whipped out my phone, showed a screenshot of what I wanted and boom! We were in and out in less than four minutes. Now that’s a good shopping experience according to him.

Second shop – J Crew for women … even I was bored; uninspiring and rather ordinary clothes with disproportionate price tags. There was also a sale consisting of a couple of rails of crumpled, make-up stained unwanted items, many of which were on the floor being trampled on. I love a bargain like the best of us, but .. So with my son ambling behind me and despite trying to make the occasional positive remark, we lasted rather less than four minutes.

Final shop – J Crew for men … ‘Jacob’ came to our assistance with a friendly manner and a rather natty scarf tied around his neck. Good looking shirts, shorts, trousers all laid out neatly, no fuss, no noise, no mess and and yes, even a sale. And with Jacob folding and refolding everything within his sight, there was order. What more could we ask for? In less than ten minutes we left with a fab pair of shoes, big smiles all round and a joyous Jacob.

How does this happen?

It has been known to take me weeks to find the perfect pair of shoes. And yet, perhaps therein lies the problem. Am I seeking a form of perfection that most probably doesn’t exist?

Should the thrill of a bargain override this need for perfection? Does order and presentation really matter that much?

Dare I suggest that we, the fairer sex, can spend days trawling the shops, searching endlessly with a picture in our minds of a particular article of clothing? Will we ever find it? Or do we actually enjoy the trawling process?

And finally, if we believe that perfectly beautiful clothes will make us equally perfectly beautiful, do men have that same perfectionist gene? Or do they have more realistic expectations?

Shopping is, I find, a frustrating but occasionally necessary pastime. I have no answers except that I clearly need a Jacob to iron out the creases in my life and clothes, and perhaps occasionally I can borrow his rather natty little scarf. It’s really rather perfectly lovely.

Katie

If you have any, please give me some solutions … I have too many unanswered questions here!

”Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

(The last book by Dr Seuss)

To travel and to explore surely encourages one’s mind to expand and to stretch out the personal boundaries of one’s self. I’d like to think so.

It has been several weeks since I moved to New York and I fear I have neglected any writing both on WordPress but also on the book. So after a metaphorical whipping I am back on the sofa tap, tapping my fingers and urging the grey matter to shake off the cobwebs. Ah, but I sit here and there is such a view, so I simply gaze and gaze.

We are high up in a building where light floods in through floor to ceiling windows giving views to the west and north. The Hudson River is a constant moving body of water with boats and cruise ships travelling up and down. Beyond the river, cars and trucks can be seen in miniature over in New Jersey and below, people rush around doing their daily business; all busy, all with purpose. Fire trucks and ambulances scream their sirens every few minutes; horns are blaring, there is shouting, laughing, arguing. A glimpse of the green trees of Central Park gives a little respite to the hard angular surroundings. The buildings, the glass, the steel, the concrete, the brick; the beautiful, the ugly, the noise, the chaos. And I gaze and gaze ….

I explore daily and osmosis is forcing an absorption of the sights, sounds and smells. It is inescapable and dirty, exhausting and so very noisy. But it is also exhilarating and liberating. Anonymity is freeing and here nobody pays any attention. Anything goes.

So I shall continue to explore and absorb, but will now find a little balance in my day and write and tell you all about it (if you can bear it!). The book also is toddling along but now with renewed vigour and the desire to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, the river is an absolute mill pond today and there are three small sailing boats barely moving across the water and the sun is just catching their sails in the light …

Katie xx