Pushkar Part One

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I loved Pushkar, home to Babasgorgeous looking cows, and fun monkeys.

Chapter extract about our time in Pushkar, Rajasthan, India, Oct-Nov 2018:

The Varanasi guesthouse had a rooftop area with amazing views, but here the rooftop was a restaurant and they had also done it up.  Indian parasols and quirky light shades hung down from the ceiling, the walls were decorated with Indian print bedspreads and round fabric rings in different colours like chunky padded bracelets, used to put between the head and the basket when carrying things on the head.

At the rooftop restaurant there were wicker tables and chairs and also day beds to sit or lounge comfortably on.  These doubled as beds for the kitchen staff.  During the day heavy blinds were lowered to keep the sun out, it came in through gaps at the edges and was anyway still too hot to hang around for too long up there in the middle of the day.  We’d go up and eat or have a drink, at least once most days:  Sprite, aloo jeera (perfectly done spiced potato), dal and rice; mushroom, olive and tomato toasted sandwiches; home made finger chips, and banana pancakes.

As in Varanassi, Bhang Lassis (a kind of weed milkshake) were legal and available everywhere, it was fun watching stoned people lounging on the beds and eating banana and Nutella pancakes one after the other…

The owner wasn’t there all the time, but most days he’d come up and talk to us for a bit.  We had an open and surprisingly easy conversation about periods, him talking about cooking, and explaining how in his house he cooks, as for five days the women don’t do any cooking.  ‘You know, on period,’ he said, in case I hadn’t understood.  ‘Good idea, I said, we should do that.’  He said to me and my husband, ‘Yes you should do in the UK in your home!’.

One evening he cooked for all the guests who were around, huge pots of food and round balls of bread cooked in tin foil in a cow dung fire, all of us sitting on floor outside, eating with our fingers, ‘My first time,’ a young Western man said, ‘I just did my best.’

One day the owner pointed out across to a small temple.  It was hard for me to see at first, there was a red shiny temple, a Hare Krishna temple nearby, two mountains with temples, and other decorative buildings all around amongst the houses.  This was a small peachy orange and white temple.  He told us that his late father had built that temple; at the time his wife and children were not happy, especially his wife, as it cost a lot of money.  But the father went ahead and did it anyway.  On his deathbed he called his son to him and said, ‘You wanted to know why I built that temple, I shall tell you.  When I die and you have the guesthouse, you are going to make a lot of money.  You may be tempted to spend it on women, gambling…  If you get tempted, you look out there and see the temple that your father built.’

The owner told us how to reach it and we went one evening.  Along the way we passed several camels pulling carts with lots of people.  I felt bad for the camels, I didn’t want to look and turned away.  ‘Don’t turn your back on them,’ my husband said, ‘They need your support.  You can give them some love, show them that you acknowledge their pain.’

Up close the temple was much bigger than we’d expected, and was painted in a similar style to the guesthouse; multi coloured, some of the paint was slightly faded which had turned the colours into delicate pastels, with arches and small shrines with Gods. It was almost completely dark by the time we got there, and the crescent moon was beautifully framed by the outside arches.

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The staff were not supposed to smoke marijuana at work, one day the owner appeared, like many bosses, quiet, like cat.  I tried to distract him by asking what he’d got in his bag; he’d arrived with bag of what looked like baby lemons.  I described what I’d seen in Varanasi; a tiny lemon and green beans hung from a doorway of a house.  ‘How to explain,’ he said, ‘Say someone jealous of you and Anthony’s relationship…’  ‘Like evil eye,’ I said, ‘Yes!’ he said, high-fiving me.  In Kerala we had seen black masks with scary faces for sale in shops and hung outside properties.  We had asked the man we bought lungis and bananas from what they were for, he said, ‘Someone break in, they break leg.’

One of the guesthouse staff said that in his village they still grind their own oil from seed using a bull, they grow the seed themselves and they give the residue of the oil to the bull.  People give seed to the pigeons; he described how each day one hundred pigeons go to his house to eat, then the next house, then the next.  ‘If you get God’s gifts, extra grain, seed, you give a big percentage to birds, pigeons, cows.’

In his village, if someone commits a crime or ‘makes a mistake,’ the police are not involved, instead everyone talks, together with both families.  They decide which family is in the wrong and they make restitution, offering x kilos of grass for cows, seed for pigeons.  ‘Pigeons are not very clever,’ he said, ‘If a cat comes, they shut their eyes and think the cat has gone away.’  ‘Pigeons are loved in India.  Not cats.  But I know tourists like cats, especially British, love cats, love animals.’  The pigeon as well as the cow are holy- hence the pigeon feeding station on Chennai beach, I realised.

April 2019, Northamptonshire:  About a week ago we went to our local town to pick up some shopping (and go to Greggs for vegan sausage rolls, of course).  In the town car park was a sign forbidding people to feed the birds.  I felt sad, and momentarily confused.  It’s all conditioning; This is acceptable here, This isn’t.  I get it, but still, I’d rather be somewhere where all the animals are fed.   

Thank you very much for reading

About the author

Sold house left job decluttered almost everything else.  With husband went travelling for a year, mostly in India.   Here are my India highlights.  Recently arrived back in the UK and now living on a narrowboat.  Writing a book about everything…

For more photographs of the trip see Instagram travelswithanthony

Rebalancing my chakras

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20200829_093603The Guru I followed for a few months a few years back told us that ‘all chakras have been removed,’ which I went along with, even though going over people’s chakras, including my own, was one of my own personal favourite ways of giving healing. After almost losing my mind for a few moments over her predicted zombie apocalypse (probably best not to ask) and my husband unsubscribing from the channel- I have since come to think, well, maybe I could go back to thinking about chakras now and again. I mean it’s not like anyone can really prove whether they exist or not and if I think they’re helpful then they are. Giving love to me or others by thinking about specific areas of the body in specific ways even if all in my imagination, what’s the harm?*

So I just had a rather wild weekend, and spent the following week limping along in a queasy state of ravenous gnawing hunger and not feeling at all like myself (zombie apocalypse anyone?) My husband was off too, and we binge watched Indian Matchmakers on Netflix- the only thing we felt able to watch. I got tearful seeing Indian cities and streets and hearing the Astrologer speak about Vyasar ‘He makes everyone laugh, even a crying person is laughing… He feels no shame even when sweeping the floor. He has a golden heart.’ Single ladies, I understand Vyasar is on Twitter.

Towards the end of the week, I restarted a bit of yoga, even though I felt sick bending over, and the day before my husband went back to work we went shopping, to the launderette and for a walk.

But it wasn’t until I was on my own this (Saturday) morning, for the first of three days in a row of time on my own to write, that I was able to bring my own unique understanding to my situation. During party times rules get a bit slack, and a cat sneaked onto the bed before my husband went to work. Then another one.

I’d been ‘going through my chakras’ and been alarmed to find nothing there at my solar plexus, like all my emotions had just been hollowed out. At my sacral chakra an orange shape flipped like the tail of a dying fish or a boat propeller clogged up with weeds. Too much emphasis on pleasure drives, maybe? Onwards #NoSextember! And as for my root chakra- the red seat of all security- I’d spent one afternoon in a frenzy of thinking of buying to let or even just buying and living- I even found a job there- falling in love with solidly built old dear little one bedroom stone cottages in Yorkshire. ‘For security!’ I said.

I am an overthinker, comes free with the imagination, and I’d been debating to myself even as I was doing it about the whole chakra thing, should I be doing it, do they exist, etc etc, when I remembered that at some point over the weekend I had done a healing session for the first time in ages. No boundaries, no protection, and not with a clear head. I focused on areas the person had mentioned, but otherwise announced them to have nothing wrong with them, ‘Everything seems to be whirling away beautifully!’ In popular imagination, chakras are often visualised like little coloured windmills, whirring away if they are healthy. Or vortexes of light, if that’s more your thing. *Ahh, maybe I just gave away all my energy, I thought. That explains a lot.

But maybe, as Alfie the cat gently batted my face so that I lifted up the duvet and let him into the bed, to lay stretched out all along my belly and chakras, all I need to do is cuddle a cat. Our cats don’t have toddlers pulling them about or anything, so they lead life largely on their own terms and remain as I see them perfectly balanced and enlightened in their own way. Therefore, they may come to me for warmth and find it no trouble to rebalance my energies at the same time. As they snuggle in to get warm and settle down for a nap, they may feel a slight whirring or sicky feeling coming off me as I am rebalanced by their calm presence, but they are so calm that it’s not enough to upset their equilibrium, or at least, it’s a fair trade.  And all I have to do is cuddle a cat and go back to sleep for a bit longer…

I did get back to editing yesterday- Friday, a sickly lacklustre session but a session nonetheless, and now today- Saturday begins three days of editing work before I go back to paid work on Tuesday. Maybe I’ll even send something off?

As well as finishing the book, the other thing is to get back to India asap. My aim is for us to go December-March, if the borders open to tourists then of course. I need 1. someone to take in the cats and look after them at their house or 2. someone to live on the boat and take care of the cats on there. Your chakras will be in tip top condition!

Join me if you like for a September of detox, healthy food and frequency raising! See earlier post

PS On checking the spelling of his name I came up with this lovely picture of Vyasar- cuddling a cat- in a beautiful bit of blogging synchronicity! Twitter, ladies, Twitter!

 

The opener of my book!

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I fell in love with you and I cried

Rachel Hill

‘We look down on people who choose themselves first, people who make the most of the lives they’ve been given.’ Natalie Swift, The Darkest Tunnel, WordPress

“The coop is guarded from the inside.” Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

 

Chapter One Following the white rabbit

April 2017, Harleston, Norfolk, UK

It was a weekend morning, I was standing in the hallway between the bedroom and the bathroom, John, my husband was in bed. He said, ‘What kind of people would we have to be to sell the house and just leave everything and everyone and go off on an adventure?’

‘Strong’, I said, ‘We’d have to be so strong’. Electricity ran up the length of my spine.
‘Wow,’ John said, ‘I just felt a tingle go right through my body.’

I was forty-seven years old. In terms of career and property, I had gone as far as I could and as far as I wanted to. Head of Occupational Therapy at a specialist secure hospital and living in a three bedroom semi detached house in a pleasant little town on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. But now what? Was I just going to keep on working and living there until I retired, grew old and died (and that was if I was lucky/the best case scenario)?

The house was perfect, a solidly built three bedroom 1950s ex council house with a huge garden. It was near my job, near my mother. We were happy there, and with me no longer having a long drive to work I began to relax, to be happy, and we both began to dream. Just over a year after we had moved in and supposedly settled for life, we began to roll around the idea of dismantling it all, selling the house, buying a camper van and travelling the world or going to live in a healing centre in Mexico run by an old friend of John’s.

Work had got the point where I was bored and looking for progression or development that never materialised whilst simultaneously feeling exhausted from the pressures of modern healthcare and emotionally burned out from the heart breaking and shocking stories of abuse and sexual offending. I couldn’t face the idea of doing it for another twenty years. Funnily enough I got a new manager who actually asked me, apropos of nothing, if I were planning to carry on working until I retired, ‘Or was I going to go off to India or something?’

I began to ask myself, what would I do if I didn’t have to do anything? What would I do if anything was possible? What would I do if I could do whatever I wanted?

When we first had the conversation and I experienced the glittering thrill of possibility, it was the first time in recent memory that I had allowed myself to think about what I actually might want. Since becoming pregnant at the age of eighteen my life had revolved around my son in one way or another. Even though he was now twenty-seven years old, I hadn’t seriously thought about leaving Norfolk until very recently, when an advertisement had jumped out at me for a job in Guernsey.

We went to Guernsey for two nights, the job sounded amazing, the interview went perfectly, but we didn’t want to move to Guernsey. Looking back, this was practical action that shifted us. It got us both wondering if we could live away from our kids. The initial weekend morning conversation was in April, the Guernsey trip was in June and in September my manager, realising I was burning out, allowed me to drop down to four days week. So really, those two nights in Guernsey marked the start of a shift in mental attitude that ultimately was to propel us all the way to India.

Ironically, for the first time in years, John had a job he loved, caring for people with learning disabilities as part of a lovely team, several of whom became friends. His two children lived with their mother in London and were now teenagers and rarely came to stay with us anymore. Both our mums had downsized and we had ended up having the biggest house in both families, yet no one came up, hardly anyone came to visit, and anyway we never were huge entertainers.

Our previous house had been a small two bedroom house in the same village as John’s mum and sister and when the kids were younger we’d had a lot of fun there. The new house was bigger and his daughter had her own room at last but she never even put a picture up. It became really obvious that it wasn’t their home, much more so than the previous house. That house, although smaller was about everyone, this one, although bigger, was just us. Like most parents, we misjudged how fast the kids grew up.

We had bought the house in Harleston from a widow who had lived in it with her husband from when it was first built in 1952, with many of the original features and it hadn’t been decorated since he last did it in the 1980s. I was besotted with the original glass lampshades, small chandeliers and old garden ornaments. John and I talked about getting old and dying there; the conveniences of the shops, doctors, dentists etc were much better than where we’d lived previously, all within easy walking distance or range of a mobility scooter.

On evening just after we’d moved in, sitting by the fireplace we had a premonition of sitting there as old people and at the same time felt as if we’d always been there through all the time of the house. I saw us sitting by the fireplace through the 1980s, and then later John old and with a beard. We realised that if we didn’t do anything we’d get old and die there.

I thought about old people whose homes haven’t been decorated for years and who have had the same things around them for decades. As they do less outside the home and spend more time inside, maybe the wallpaper, the furniture, the ornaments all loom larger because those things are given more attention and are tied with the memories they hold. People say that possessions and objects are important because they hold our memories. When people customise their homes they say they put something of themselves into it.

It was at this time that we began to discuss what we needed, something big enough and no bigger, a one bedroom flat, a caravan, a boat. To have a solid shelter, with heat that comes on with the flick of a switch, clean drinking water and hot running water with the turn of a tap, comfortable seating and sleeping areas, plenty of bedding and warm clothes, a washing machine. These things are denied to many. Even one thing off this list would represent enormous progress, even luxury, to some. Many of us who have these things do not fully appreciate them.

Not only that, the progress and comfort they represent and provide becomes grossly extended, with people changing their furniture before it has even worn out, and painting the inside of their homes a different colour according to what is deemed fashionable that season. ‘Needs updating,’ such a spurious phrase that has helped give rise to the largely unnecessary industries of producing new ‘kitchens’ and ‘bathrooms’ and the mind boggling array of paint colours on offer.

Of course, we need to have shelter but there’s probably an optimum level of comfort. If things are too hard, that takes so much time and energy that there’s no space for creativity. If things get too comfortable, one can be lulled into a false sense of security. Somehow by being too comfortable we become less aware: in our centrally heated comfort zones it’s easy to fall back to sleep.

Everything is arranged so that our biggest and best experiences are early in our lives and this, plus the emphasis on youth in film, television shows and advertising means that people spend most of their lives looking back to ‘the good old days,’ and taking their power and energy away from the present. You can see this in young people’s gap year travels before they ‘settle down’ to work, marry, have children… and in big event weddings, ‘the best day of your life’ with just the photographs on the mantelpiece to sustain you for the rest of your ‘less good’ life.

We had met eight years previously. Meeting John and falling in love had triggered a full on tripped out spiritual awakening for me. Because his children were still young and my son still needed quite a bit of support, we explored ideas of spirituality, personal growth etc from the comfort of our living room. We were lucky, that we both had the same ideas.

At the start it wasn’t even about selling the house and leaving the kids (that was too scary at first) it was just about getting to a position where we could. The decluttering came first, before the travelling was a solid plan and caused the mental shifts required in order for the travel to become a solid plan. I had to declutter in order to go and the decluttering helped me to go.

I was petrified of the idea of doing something so unthinkable, of giving up the security of property. Yet at the same time I was really excited about the idea of letting go of possessions and leaving with just a backpack each and no keys. I wrote: ‘For me it’s not really about travelling per se, it’s about testing my long felt urge to trust-fall into the universe, to let my fingertips peel from the cliff face and slip into the unknown. Mainly, it is about freedom; about realising where I am, what I have and therefore what I am able to do, with a bit of guts and imagination. The thought of just going off for a while with no plan other than to go travelling and keep writing is thrilling.’

In the UK, there’s such a drive towards home ownership as a goal that selling a property goes so much against the grain; family and home owning friends were dead against the idea. We had to sell up to liquidate capital, to have sufficient money for the trip. Not only that, we wanted to simplify, practise minimalism. Renting out the house and returning wasn’t what I had in mind, even if we could have afforded to do that. I didn’t want to have, as an acquaintance at work had had, a life changing experience in South East Asia for a year only to return to the same life. I might not have known what I wanted, but I was very sure about what I didn’t want.

Because you are choosing to have less, and no matter what all the memes etc. say you are going completely against the herd, who are all focused on getting more, so it feels weird and hard. You are going against the conditioning of the society you have been brought up in. That was why, during the several months of thinking, planning and putting the house on market, I was mentally quite aggressive. I said to myself, ‘I need to smash this down with a sledgehammer; I need to tear it up by the roots.’

I ruthlessly decluttered sentimental items. The bigger the action, the stronger I felt. It took a lot more energy than I had anticipated. I found that I did a splurge on something then had to stop for a bit. It was like going up steps or stages. We got tired. At other times, decluttering would seem to release a spurt of energy that propelled us forward. It was a balance between theory and practical steps, between wrapping our minds around it and then taking the necessary steps, interspersed with rest. And of course all the time we were going to work and doing the normal stuff of life.

The more I got rid of the lighter I felt, the more energy I had and the more I began to feel like a traveller. As the objects from my old life were left behind, I felt that I could become someone new, the kind of person who can do this.

What do you think?  Would you keep on reading?

Thank you very much for visiting

Rachel

#NoSextember Year 2

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A woman at work was talking about going out to eat with her friend, to be sociable, rather than about the food, and about how it was hard to get a table, and then super cheap because of the Government’s Eat out to help out scheme (where they pay half the bill Mon-Wed, I believe, to help the hospitality industry recover from lockdown.) The woman, a beautiful slim woman in her early thirties said: “My friend, she is this big (miming very overweight person), “She LOVES food; it’s like she lives only for food. Me I can take it or leave it, one toast two days, no problem.”

I felt a little envious. I am not like that, unfortunately…. I am a Taurean, a lover of food, with a lack of discipline, and sometimes hedonistic. My husband talks about how important it is to have control and not be addicted to anything, to be able to pick things up and put them down again. This only works if you can put them down again, which is why we are doing this programme. It’s as much to prove to ourselves that we can do it as well as to get a bit healthier physically.

It’s about attachment, practising what we preach and ultimately, it’s all part of the lifelong preparation for death, can you pick it up and put it down? Worldly pleasures, and ultimately, when the time comes, life itself? I’m misquoting George Harrison, but he said something like, You don’t want to have to come back because you left the cat out, or whatever. Or haven’t finished your book. The moment it comes, all that ceases to matter, and the focus is on letting go. When he was attacked by an intruder in his home he realised ‘This is it’ and had started letting go when Olivia hit the guy over the head with a lamp stand and saved him.

The programme:

No cigarettes, no alcohol.

No pointless food- crisps, biscuits, cake, teacakes, etc

We did this last year, a made up month of purification/self improvement, prompted in large part to my terrible addiction to Greggs Vegan Sausage Rolls. Regular readers may be surprised to know that I have completely conquered said addiction. Just before everywhere locked down, I was in my home town of Diss, Norfolk, UK, buying GVSRs with my husband, having first been to Grapetree to stock up on nuts, seeds, dried fruit, maca powder, cacao powder, hemp protein powder (like all people I am a mix of apparent contradictions.) The young lad at the counter and us were bemusedly talking about Corona virus, and the lad mentioned Greggs might close down. I was disbelieving, “Close down Greggs?” I said, “Never!”

Of course I was wrong, and spent much of the first part of lockdown grieving for my occasional trips to Daventry (my current home town) and Greggs for an Americano and a VSR (or two), or same on the way to Norfolk for our regular three- four hour drives to see friends and family. But when we did try them again, they tasted horribly salty and we ended up throwing them away! We overheard meat eaters saying the same about the meat ones. Was it a change of recipe? Or had our palettes just changed over lockdown? Anyway, for my body it’s a blessing.

However, we’ve managed to put on weight via plenty of other means: crisps, teacakes, and for me, alcohol, starting with my lockdown birthday and sliding into regular G&T or beer on the deck after work.  And cigarettes. I love being outside, but what to do with myself? The last couple of days after work I sat on the deck and had a glass of lemon water and a bowl of trail mix or a banana, and it really was okay.

Walk/yoga daily

I really slacked re exercise during this big period of writing/editing.

Increase cooking from scratch and Avoid eating so much processed food

With the boom in ready made vegan food it’s tempting to go to Aldi or Tesco and pick up something ready made, new potatoes and a pack of salad for ease, rather than, what can I make out of what we have, and the more fiddly things/things that require going out of the way to shop for get sidelined or forgotten.

No caffeine- no coffee, no fizzy drinks, decaf tea, herbal/fruit tea, lemon water, water only. (from around 10 Aug I went to just caffeine tea first thing then no more tea or coffee or fizzy drinks, to help with the headache of abrupt coffee/caffeine stopping.

“Can I do it if I drink decaff coffee?” Someone at work asked me. “Yes of course, it’s just a made up thing,” I said. No real rules, other than what you make up yourself.  We’ve focused on our biggest weaknesses- last year, GVSRs, this year, crisps, smoking, and lack of exercise. Some things are fixed for us- no cigarettes, no alcohol- some are more general not 100% e.g. I’m sure we’ll have the odd processed meal, and processed is a definition that can be strict or loose- we’re reasonably loose- but we know where we need to make improvements.

So if you want to join me, I’m giving you some notice- particularly useful for caffeine as if you go from four cups of coffee to none in my experience you get a banging headache for a half a day- just make up your own programme but we could do it together, and share a blog about it? Do I need to tell you I am not a doctor? And that stopping excessive alcohol consumption abruptly can be dangerous and you need to seek proper advice re coming off that.

Talking about sharing the blog- if anyone would like to write a guest post for this blog do get in touch via the contact box. Promote your blog/ book/ music; tell us your story, about the detail of your daily life, comment on something on the blog that interests you…

No sex- this is the one I don’t tell people at work when I’m telling them about my September purification month, and the one people find most weird. But I refer you back to the intro re attachment.

Thank you very much for reading!

Rachel

How to Write a Book Part 2

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Photo of me from a couple of weeks ago
Since I last posted I have discovered bright colours! (Thank you to Julie for my beautiful birthday top!)

Turns out, editing is harder than I thought, total focus is required, hence my absence. Plus in March I started work, part time, at a lower level but back to Occupational Therapy. Stepping down, and into a new clinical area, albeit just up the road and with a lovely team, is actually harder than I thought. I’m even wondering about stepping up again into a senior role and back into a more-hardcore-yet-familiar clinical setting.

As far as the book goes, there’s only so much writing I can do without my hand, wrist, arm and shoulder hurting. So there’s that. One or two evenings after work I do an hour or so, then on my days off I do around two hours. John my husband works 3-4 days per week in a shift pattern, giving us every Friday together and every other weekend, and time alone on the boat for each of us.

Book update: I’m giving myself a long weekend off, which feels like coming up for air, between the last pass through and the next, which will be editorial advice, mainly cutting here and there and working on strengthening the endings of each chapter, and adding a little personal background as needed.

I’ve been helping a friend with some editing and as I had hoped, have discovered a talent for this. I am very gentle, supportive and responsive and I have a sharp critical eye I can access to help you. If you want help I am available for editing work, use the contact box and I’ll get straight back to you.

More big news: We are in the process of putting a website together to collate all the information and knowledge we have about the nature of reality, the conditioning we are all a victim of etc etc; an online community for exchanging ideas and asking questions about our own experiences… Watch this space, as they say!

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The cats came back at the start of lockdown!

Follow me on Instagram thisisrachelhill (mainly writing stuff and photos of everyday boat life)

Thank you for visiting

Rachel xxx

Further… A post about my husband’s ‘spiritual journey.’

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My husband Anthony John Hill ‘became enlightened’* in 1985 in his mid twenties and the fact that he’s stuck around so long I sometimes take for granted.  Remembering explains why I cried so much when I watched the end of The Good Place on Netflix. (*my words not his)

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They Live 1988 film

His words:

‘I became aware, or more aware, and began to question things, to question the world I lived in, and to see through the facade.  It was in 1985 that I realised I was here to ‘bear witness.”

How it started:

‘My girlfriend at the time,** her mother liked me a lot and lent me books; On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Jung.  Later I found The Electric Kool-Aid Acid test by Tom Wolfe, about Ken Kesey; Fear and loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson, The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, and, most important of all, Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse’ (which we both regularly mention whenever we feel as if we’ve ‘fallen off the path.’) (**who he remains in contact with to this day)

‘Becoming vegetarian was the big thing.  You can read as much as you want but it’s the actual doing something that makes a difference.  That was the first thing I actually did in terms of self improvement.  From that moment I started questioning things more; I moved away, and started doing courses in personal growth.’

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The Merry Pranksters were cohorts and followers of American author Ken Kesey in 1964.

‘Once you wake up the veil is lifted.  It’s like being on a hill looking down.  You have the opportunity to step out of it and look back and see it as it is.  Of course that could be all part of the illusion too, you can’t know.  All you can do is be as genuine as you can.  I still get angry, I still make mistakes.  I can still be unaware at times, a lot of the time, not be full of love to my fellow humans.’

Anthony John Hill at 25

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My anchor and my guide

 

Throwback Thursday: On Writing

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First published in July 2017

On Writing

Named after the really great book by Stephen King On Writing (I can’t actually read any of his books because I don’t like reading anything scary, but I love this book about the writing process.

The last time my mood got really low was during a period of stress at work, a minor distance from my husband, and loneliness in my female friendships.  On top of that, I had stopped writing.  At the time, I didn’t care, I didn’t even put it down as a hobby when I filled out an application form.  Instead I put singing!*  I spent the day alone watching Boyhood (real time film about families and growing up that shows just how fast it all goes).  It showed the good bits and the mistakes and got me thinking of all the things I could have done differently.  I called a few friends, they were all busy or unavailable.  I panicked:  should I go back to counselling?  Was I depressed?  Or was I, as I suddenly realised, just a writer who had stopped writing?  My fingers tingled, and I began to write…

*I moved and had to find a new yoga class.  The yoga teacher introduced me to someone who lived in my new town.  That person invited me to join a pop up singing group.  I was blissed out after yoga and agreed.  I thought maybe it was about me getting rid of my inhibitions.  It did do that, but it led onto something much more important.  The singing group woman also invited me to a book club and gave me the names of the two books they were reading.  I went to the library, it was closed, I went to the book shop, it only had one of the two books in- Orlando.  I made my excuses about the book club but I read Orlando.  It was better, much better for me than the singing; seeming to unlock my writing, focus and structure, and if I had to pay my dues in advance by wearing a silly hat and singing out of tune in public then it was a fair price.

The fact that I got so low over a film shows how fragile my state of being was and how sensitive I was that a film could put me in that place, and how this new found neutrality is quite literally a life saver, that now I can run over a baby rabbit on the way to work and barely give it a second thought.**

**If you are like I was, and find even reading that upsetting, let me ease you by saying:  It ran out in front of me as I was driving along a main road, hurtling across the middle.  I put on my brakes- I didn’t slam them, but nor did I check in my rear view mirror either, so that evens out the me-rabbit balance, but I felt it go under the front driver wheel.  I wondered afterwards, would it have been better not to have braked?  If I had been going slightly faster, would I have gone past it, or at least would the front wheels have gone past it?  An old boyfriend of mine told me that animals have better instincts than us and it is best not to brake as they will have judged it.  So are all the dead animals and birds at the side of the roads not as I always thought, due to people driving too fast, or animals and birds walking, running or flying unavoidably out in front of you, but are actually the result of caring drivers slamming on their brakes?  Probably not.  I think he was mainly referring to deer, as he had hit one a few years previously, driving through Thetford Forest.  It had run out, no way to stop it.  He said they made eye contact as it hit the windscreen.  That was my Vietnam, he used to say.  I don’t know if baby rabbits are as capable as grown deer of judging speeds and distances of traffic on main roads.  Apparently they don’t even know what to eat, they just eat anything and everything and it’s just luck or trial and error if they survive.  So it’s not that I didn’t give running over a baby rabbit a second thought, it’s just that I decided not to get upset about it.

The songs of our lockdown

My husband bought the Kasabian album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum from a charity shop while I was away in India.  He put it on in the car after picking me up from the airport on my return to the UK a few weeks before lockdown.

The album became the soundtrack to our lockdown.  Track one, Underdog, below, for driving to work when most people were at home, the roads were quiet and everything felt slightly surreal:

This, Take Aim, for dancing in the boat.  In spite of everything, we’ve danced and sang and laughed so much throughout the lockdown:

Oh, and this, Happiness, is my driving home from work love everyone sing along song.  Altogether now!

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Throwback Thursday: The Fairytale Past

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First published in July 2017

The Fairytale Past

Maybe it wasn’t that bad after all.  Maybe I had a lot more agency that I have previously admitted:  because to be honest, a bit of me had realised, realised even at the time, that I did.  I knew I was different, and even in the midst of being humiliated by their I-bet-you-get-all-your-clothes-from-jumble-sales taunts, I felt superior.  I made no effort to fit in.  I remember that time as friendless, and yet it turns out I did have a friend after all:  Miranda, who also went on to become a healer and a yoga person.  I met her again recently at a yoga class, she recognised me and said we used to sit beside the tennis courts and talk, and when we went up to high school and I went to boarding school she was devastated.  ‘I didn’t think I had any friends,’ I said.  ‘Well you did,’ she said, ‘You had me.’

And then I remembered that at junior school I used to stay in at break times with a boy called Keith and work on our stories that we’d been doing in class because we didn’t want to stop writing.  I used to choose to stay indoors and write, instead of going out to play.  So nothing’s changed then, in forty years.

I lived through all that, experienced it all and so I can travel back there to that 1970’s school play ground and take a fresh look.  No time machine required, because my body was there, wasn’t it?  Its imprints are in my body, passed from cell to cell like batons in a relay race.

And later, now I return to my past, to myself with illumination

I sometimes wonder if we as we are now make up our pasts- because they don’t really exist do they, except in our minds.  Why is it that we talk about them?  To make ourselves seem more substantial?   Like John telling people he’s been to India, or me telling people I’ve lived in New Zealand for a year- except last time I met new people I didn’t and just presented myself as I am right now.  As my friend Jane said, it is feelings and how you are that are important.

Wouldn’t we look at ourselves as we are now and make up our pasts exactly as they are?  Me with the Albion Fayres, John with the hard drinking family that made him teetotal and the craziness that made him such a survivor.  Do we look at what we are now and make up a back story that explains it, that offers us an explanation?  (Me:  Sexual appetite and promiscuity= sexual abuse.  Social awkwardness= bullied at school)

What if you were brave enough to offer yourself up (to others and to yourself) without explanation or apology?   What if you were brave enough to live with yourself as you are now- no back story, no past, just living right now in this now moment, this now place?

 

Thank you very much for reading

Life Update: Lockdown in the UK countryside

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Sitting outside after work or on days off the canal has been busy with ducks, ducklings, a moorhen and swans and new babies, way, way better than tv! I am working three days a week, my husband three or four days per week, as we both work in care. There have been some adjustments to working practices but I’ve really enjoyed the way people at work have come together.

There are a lot more walkers, cyclists and joggers both on the towpath on the opposite side of the canal, and also on ‘my’ walk. Living quietly on a narrowboat our day to day lives haven’t really changed, it’s the monthly social/family trips to London and overnights with family in Norfolk which have stopped, although we’ve been to Norfolk to get prescriptions and seen my mum in her garden, wearing masks and keeping a distance.

We do not watch tv and I limit the amount of news media or commentary I absorb. I have taken a light interest in and listened to anyone I know sharing conspiracy theories but I avoid totally believing in anything that will scare me (whether conspiracy or on the ordinary news.) Aside from a few moments right at the start neither of us have felt anxious. I could be accused of being a Pollyanna or an ostrich but that is the same as usual.

I was interested to hear some of the news from the US, parts of mainland Europe and Ireland, about protests against the lockdown. And also news about how countries such as Sweden and The Netherlands have done things differently. In the UK we have seen very little in the way of protests. I sometimes question if it is really as bad as we are being told and is the lockdown proportionate, but I do go along with it all because I don’t think we’ll know until afterwards, and maybe not even then.

I like that care workers and supermarket staff are being valued. I am not a fan of the patriotic sentimentality of the clapping, although I go along with doing it, or the fact that some people on Facebook shamed someone for not joining in! This duality, the good (appreciating the NHS) and the bad (shaming people publicly) of people, is the same as always.

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Extroverts in the UK are having Skype dinner parties and nights watching live lockdown performances etc. For us, a few extra phone calls made and received, that’s it. But then we are both still seeing lots of people at work, living together, in an idyllic setting, with a place to walk on site and a footpath right across the road. I feel for those in cities and in flats with no gardens, and those who live alone. I think it’s harsh not to be able to meet a friend at a distance.

Duality again, a sense of us being one world, vs casual racism, which I have been disappointed to hear. I have enjoyed reading blogs from Japan, Cambodia and India. WordPress is great for connecting all of us.

The newspapers report daily deaths and pay tribute to individuals who have died of Corona, which is nice in one way, although it induces a lot of fear, but what about all the other people who have died and will continue to die, of suicide, road deaths, and cancer?

Already people are noting the costs of the UK lockdown: a doubling in domestic violence killings; several instances of whole families being killed in murder-suicides due to worries about money as a result of the lockdown; people suffering and even dying due to all non urgent appointments and surgeries being cancelled; a rise in suicides as people are isolated and mental health support systems taken away; and children at risk or just really missing their friends and extended family.

There has been some confusion amongst both the general public and different police forces about what things are actually part of the new Coronovirus law and what are just things the Prime Minister has said in briefings. Me too so I won’t go into too much detail but for example according to the law we shouldn’t be out without ‘reasonable excuse,’ eg food and essentials shopping, caring for relatives etc, exercise, going to work if you can’t work from home. Non essential shops closed, although some more shops are beginning to re open. As my husband said, the list of what is essential begins to expand as time goes on eg items for repair around the home etc, rather than just food and medicines.

Police forces have differed in their approach. One police chief said the powers they have been given are normally only seen in a dictatorship, and that they were mindful to police by consent and that particular force had only issued one fine at that time. Other police forces have been much more heavy handed, threatening to search people’s shopping trolleys for non essential items such as Easter Eggs; The Government had to step in and say that if a shop is open you can buy anything in it. One police chief said a few days ago that some of the rules don’t make sense to police let alone the public, such as, why can’t people sunbathe in a park at a safe distance but they can queue for an hour outside DIY stores?

Some local councils shut parks, later the government told them they had to open them, but I don’t know if they all did. Some benches in parks had tape over them for people not to sit down, what about old people who need a rest when out for a walk?

Most people myself included shop for necessaries and then add the non essentials with them (for us, some chocolate or alcohol on top of necessary food items.) Shops limit the number of customers and often have queues outside with people spaced out. I have made one trip to Superdrug and bought things I needed such as moisturiser and some nice things such as face packs. I really enjoyed that nice, quiet shopping session, and I was glad to support them as they are treating their staff well and also have lots of vegan items.

I’ve managed to get some potting compost and some onions, bought at the same time as buying logs, and have planted one lot which are coming up, the second lot had to wait until I was able to get another bag of compost.

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There are new, adorable Easter card worthy lambs in the field right by us. Last year I struggled with this, knowing what lay ahead for them. This year I seem to have managed to switch off more. This week we have both struggled with watching wild birds trapped in cages; the sheep man traps crows and magpies and kills them later. We have checked and he is allowed to do it so there’s nothing else we can do. We considered leaving but have decided to stay. He’s moved the cages slightly so they are not right by where we sit. I cope by reminding myself this type of horror is everywhere, we just don’t always see it. Other neighbours are not upset by it but they love the swans and ducks. My mother in law has pet chickens but eats other chickens. But I have not always been vegan, and I use a car and fly, against some people’s ethical code; as my husband said, we’re all of us responsible for everything.

My book is almost all at the stage of being ready to be read, and then it will be a finer edit to do, as well as submitting to agents.

We still hope to go to India a few days after Christmas and return around 18th March. Flights are still cheap and oh so tempting to book as they might go up but we know that would probably be unwise, as India may not let us in, or may not be open, depending on a second wave, etc.

Wherever you are, I hope you are doing okay and I wish you all the best

Thank you very much for reading

Rachel

Throwback Thursday: Don’t do it Di

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Eleven years old.  In the back of my mum’s Morris traveller on our way to school, via picking up two children my mum got paid to do the school run for.   My school had given out Charles and Diana Royal Wedding bookmarks.  I had written ‘Don’t do it Di’ on all of mine.  My mum and her friends, i.e. all the people I socialised with in my home life as I mainly hung around with adults, all thought Diana was a vulnerable young woman who was being taken as a breeder, and that it was sick, not romantic in any way.

However, this was not a view shared by most of the population of England in 1981 and when the two children my mum took to school were about to get into the car, my mum said ‘don’t let them see those’ (the written on bookmarks).  There was no sense of any shame or it being a dirty little secret of ours; it was simply that these naive, brainwashed children wouldn’t be able to cope.

I inhabited a different world to that of my peers.  At boarding school in 1982, me telling my disbelieving, ridiculing dorm about female circumcision (FGM used to be called that), them saying ‘girls can’t be circumcised Rachel’.  They didn’t even know about nuclear weapons, The Bomb.  ‘What, is there just one bomb Rachel?’  Oblivious, their parents obviously told them nothing, while I was getting out at weekends on false pretences to go on CND demonstrations, getting a coach from Norfolk, eating sandwiches, marching to Hyde Park.

Having surreal calm nightmares of being out in the garden, holding hands in a circle, waiting to be evaporated, hoping the end would be quick.  Thinking of, even though I knew the government advice of the Protect and Survive pamphlet which was delivered to every home was pointless (CND did their own version, Protest and Survive), I still wondered late at night, should we stockpile, should we make a shelter in the cellar? But how long would it last, and what about all our friends?  Wouldn’t it be better to all go together?  We were so close to the American airbases- prime targets.

Thirteen years old.  Walking to Greenham Common as part of the Star March, a women’s march, one of many from all round the country.  In Luton the locals drove round and round in between our tents whilst were in bed inside them.  There’s still a photo on my mum’s wall of me and a young punk woman called Rosie sitting in front of the Greenham Common fence.

At boarding school, lots of RAF children there.  The headmaster used to call us after breakfast if we had any post, one day a fat packet of Animal Aid leaflets came for me.  He said, ‘What’s that confounded girl up to now?!’  I gave out graphic photos of monkey head transplants to my peers.

Nothing’s changed really, I just pretend to fit in, that’s all.

 

Thank you very much for reading