From snow to sunburn…

After 4 months adrift, me & my blog are reunited and I don’t even know where to begin to fill in the story.  What follows is the best I can do with the time, energy and selective memory I have at this moment and then let’s put it behind us and crack on with the future…

I went to the UK in January to save children’s lives.  Well, OK, I worked for Save the Children UK in their head office as Interim Training Manager but we all connected to the ‘higher purpose’ .  It was hugely satisfying work – often frustrating, but ultimately I made a big impact in a short space of time and it felt really good.  What didn’t feel so good was enduring the UK’s coldest winter for 40 years, living out of a suitcase for 2 and a half months and being beholden to the goodwill of kind friends for all that time.

Thank God for dear friends Ditsch & Vince who shared their (conveniently located) home with me and made it all possible.  The journey was such a doddle from Walthamstow to Farringdon that I would get up at 7.00 am and be at my desk by 8.00 am.  V & I alternated the food shopping and cooking and I learnt to cook in a sliver of a kitchen with blunt knives, without grumbling aloud or severing any digits.

My weekly routine went like this: Monday to Wednesday was ‘the daily grind’ (commute, followed by an 8.00 am to 4.30 pm shift eating breakfast and lunch at my desk, back in Walthamstow by 5.30 pm ish, either cook or wash up, watch an episode of Breaking Bad, go to sleep).  Thursday morning I’d take a rucksack into work with clothes for the weekend and take a train out of London Thursday evening, usually arriving at Stoke Mandeville station around 6.30 pm where John would pick me up and take me back to Mill House Farm.  There I unfolded into the welcoming warmth of a blazing fire, hugs and banter and fusses from the dogs.  I visited friends and family most weekends so I didn’t clutter up the farm or abuse the generosity of the Applegarths.  Friday after lunch I’d jump in the trusty Nissan and pootle off round the country ahead of rush hour.  I’d return to MHF on Sunday afternoon and either return to London that evening for a roast dinner with D&V, or Monday morning & straight to work.

Memorable experiences include (in no particular order): meeting up with local friends in London & seeing Alena 6 months pregnant; fun times in Warks getting blasted & savouring delicious food and company; a spa weekend, with swimming, pampering and gourmet cuisine during which time my exhaust fell off and I tied it back on with a pair of tights; visiting Sue’s grave; a great night out in a ‘proper’ Northern English pub with ex-wwoofers of Camp Full Monte: Nina, Stefan and Hattie; tasty grub in the Derbyshire peaks and the best bath EVER at Lawson Cottage; puking my guts up in Princes Risborough High St after having inexplicably developed an allergy to lentils; and a visit to the William Morris museum in Walthamstow, followed by a top night out with mates in Islington.

It snowed on & off and was bloody freezing for most of January, February and March.  When all was said and done I was mostly chilly and a long way from home.  I missed Steve, Daisy and all things Monte badly and found the only way to cope was to immerse myself in work during the week and pack the weekends with places to go, people to see – generally not giving myself too much head space to be melancholy.  The skype chats with Steve were both wonderful and horribly painful – the agony was relieved somewhat by a surprise visit from him on Valentine’s Day…

London-living was bizarre.  I joined the throngs of focused people, packed into trains and tubes, reading the Metro in the morning and the Evening Standard on the way home, resolutely trying not to touch people or stare or let one’s guard down for a moment.  Adorned with bobble hat, scarf & gloves I trudged to & fro St James’ Street station, past the Halal shop and the greasy fast food dive, past the row of houses that reek of cannabis and the silent woman in her Burkha.  At night I watched the news, even though it depressed & angered me and once I watched a car explode outside my window – another unwanted car gets torched and V says: “Oh no, not again…”.

Meanwhile, back in Monte Steve sowed seeds and  made kiwi chutney, lemon marmalade, lemon syrup & lemon pickle and tried not to lose the plot whilst the rain fell and his ache for my company deepened.

Mid March I wrapped up my work at STC and headed home.  I had more work commitments to fulfill in April but we had 3 weeks together before I had to leave again.  I got back in time to say goodbye to the inimitable Lane family.  Matt had a job in the US and they were all headed there for 5 months before ending up in Spain to start a new life proper.  It was the right decision for them but we were sad to see them go.  We spent as much time with them as we could, hosting a meal one night, baby-sitting for the kids, helping to pull off the biggest leaving do for them…

I flew back to the UK the day Thatcher died.  I made it to Scotland (just), with my Mum in tow, as they partied on the streets of Glasgow.  I stayed in Edinburgh with the Dunlops and met wee Donald for the first time.  It was a joy to experience the finished house and to soak in the enormous bath.  And of course to do some jolly good work for Duncan…

Back in England, I returned Mum safe and sound and headed for MHF.  The 2 x 2-day workshops I ran the following week in Milton Keynes for Carrie’s clients were challenging.  I had sleepless nights followed by early mornings and evenings re-gigging my timetable and planning strategies.  But I survived, took a cab at 3.30 am on Saturday morning to Gatwick and was back in Monte by 10.00 am.

It’s a joy to be home: to join my husband’s brown face on the pillow; to run with Daisy on the beach and smile at her tail-wagging happiness; to watch in awe as the locals go the wrong way round a roundabout to avoid a queue; to prepare salad with fresh greens from the garden; to gaze in wonder at the stunning scenery that surrounds me, to be free of clothes and fears and feel my skin turn pink in the sun.  I’m sunburned and happy…

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