The wood burner is going- it’s not that cold, I’m sure when I eventually go out for a walk and get it together to fill up the water tank, it will be okay with a nice warm coat on- but sitting writing it feels a bit chilly.
#NoSextember Year Two (where my husband and I have a month of clean living including no sex) This was completed with no breaches; it was a lot easier having done it last year. This time we approached it more confidently and with more seriousness and it seemed to go better. That said, it wasn’t always easy. Week one we were both suffering from one last blow out in August. Week two we both seemed a little cranky with each other. That can be difficult when you can’t just make up with sex or flirting, or cheer yourself up with chocolate or a drink. The second half seemed better, and even more productive. I got my book done, and even booked a day off work in early October to make sure it got sent off (I think that’s called ‘honouring my craft’)
My husband has been working on planning our new website: Further. As with all things tech related, this has been slower than we anticipated. However, we now have a new laptop, lots of ideas and my son on board to help with the technical side.
We are both increasingly distant from- and often dismayed by- the polarisation which people seem so involved with at the moment- people we know with otherwise quite lovely lives, who could be really happy, full of hate for politicians on the opposite side or lost in particular conspiracy theories and calling everyone else ‘sheeple’ and falling out with friends on social media about whether or not to wear a mask.
Further will be a place for anyone who feels similarly to us, who is able to look at it all without getting completely caught up in it, who values human connection and kindness over ideology. Best summed up by Rumi’s famous quote: ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’ ‘Seeing beyond boundaries and meeting heart to heart’
We’ve also found the ideal underpinning philosophy, to the Further site and to our lives: The teachings of Epicurus. In a stunning example of synchronicity, as we were discussing this, a boat went past called The Epicurean! Nowadays the term is used to describe a ‘foodie’ someone who enjoys good food and wine. But Epicurus himself lived on bread, olives and the occasional slice of cheese. He devoted himself to the search for what makes people happy, and his conclusion was, a simple life with few possessions, shared with friends, while also having plenty of time for alone time and quiet reflection, and really appreciating what you actually have.
As the videos explain, it can be used nowadays as an antidote to the relentless dissatisfaction human beings naturally seem to have (the craving, addressed in Buddhism) which is mercilessly exploited by advertising, marketing, and the forces of capitalism. People always want more, but material things don’t give you happiness.
So naturally I have abandoned my longing for a stone cottage in Yorkshire and have moved onto a house in Italy whereby to create an Epicurean community- we live there, and people on the same path/with the same outlook come and stay.
About the author
In 2018 in our forties and fifties my husband and I sold up, gave away most of our possessions, and went travelling for a year, mainly in India, and also to Thailand, Tokyo, Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam. My personal/spiritual/travel memoir of the year is completed and out with agents. I live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire UK with my husband and two cats.
I’m sharing here my recently submitted cover/query letter, my synopsis, and my chapter breakdown. Even though producing the actual book is the hardest bit, a lot of writers, me included, baulk at the thought of doing all the bits and pieces around the submission. Maybe having a look at some examples might help those in a similar position.
My main advice for writing a book (and for life) ‘You’ve got to keep going, and you’ve got to make it good.’
Good luck to anyone who is in the middle of any kind of creative endeavour
Thank you for visiting
I attach a synopsis and the first three chapters of my book I fell in love with you and I cried, a spiritual, personal and travel memoir of a year in India and South East Asia. Word count 147,500
(Something about why you chose them in particular ‘I see from your profile that you are looking for…. and that you enjoy food writing)
I fell in love with you and I cried relays my journey from deciding to pack up my three bedroom home and career at the age of forty-eight to embark on a year of travelling and writing. It details my outer and inner journey as I find myself in foreign lands, with time and perspective to reflect on my life up to now and to come.
I have a long running personal blog on WordPress thisisrachelhill.wordpress.com with readers who are supportive of me personally and have followed my travel journey with great interest, commenting that my travel writing makes them feel as if they are there too, admiring my honest vulnerability, and enjoying the descriptions of different foods.
I have been a dedicated writer for years, attending creative writing classes, self publishing small books and am a published writer of short stories of women’s erotica under the pen name Sadie Wolf.
I feel my book will appeal to people who enjoyed All the Way to the Tigers by Mary Morris, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Salt Path by Raynor Winn.
I live on a narrowboat on the Grand Union Canal, an hour and a half from London which I visit regularly.
Thank you very much for your time
I fell in love with you and I cried
In April 2017 my husband and I asked ourselves, what would we do if we could do anything? It was scary but we decided to sell up, leave our jobs and go travelling, along the way unpicking the conditioning of property, career and security and exploring what a life with less stuff would look like. We gave away most of our possessions and in March 2018 we went travelling for a year to India (where we spent seven months in all), Thailand, Tokyo, Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam.
My book documents the trip through the eyes of a relatively inexperienced traveller. The sights, sounds and colours of India and South East Asia, the physical and emotional ups and downs, my anxieties and my increasing confidence. I share the personal challenges, discussions, reflections and spiritual realisations of a year of travel and a mid life rebirth.
I write openly and honestly about the experience of being completely out of my comfort zone and then finding security living out of a small back pack and staying in forty different places. I describe the sensory and spiritual overload of India, the feeling of freedom in India to be oneself and the friends and connections we made.
At the same time, I describe my inner journey. Ever since I was eighteen my life had revolved around my son. I also had a mother with very strong opinions and I found it difficult to fully live my own life outside of her shadow. I had also struggled with suicidal feelings on and off since I was a teenager. The trip was me doing something completely for myself.
Towards the end of the trip, events with my son brought me back to the most difficult periods of his teenage years. More than a decade later, on the trip of a lifetime, I was forced to relive and confront my worst moments of pain, shame, guilt and regret; to return to that place which I had never really left, and find a way to accept it and move on.
My journey is about self acceptance and finding a way to forgive myself. It’s also about reclaiming the life I wanted before it’s too late and about trying and learning to be happy.
I fell in love with you and I cried
Chapter breakdown with word count
Chapter One Following the White Rabbit Harleston UK, Delhi- Goa India 10,000
Arriving in India, first impressions, culture shock, getting sick. Also the journey of dismantling our home and lives in the months prior to the trip.
Chapter Two Happy Hippies Hampi- Goa India 10,000
The sweet sensory overload and spirituality of Hampi, the moment I fell in love with India. Self esteem wobbles, and finding myself as a writer in Goa.
Chapter Three I stand by myself and I am not afraid Kerala India 10,000
A serendipitous meeting on a rooftop at Osho’s guesthouse in Varkala led to an evening of connection with others on the same path, discussing spirituality and our life purpose.
Chapter Four The Rains Kerala India 12,000
The monsoon. A big spider and a mental health wobble.
Chapter Five I fell in love with you and I cried Kochi- Chennai- Pondicherry India 14,000
Staying at the famous amongst backpackers Broadlands Guesthouse in Chennai, visiting a temple with our Indian friend for an unforgettable evening of spiritual bliss.
Chapter Six Yes to Everything Thailand 10,000
A necessary visa and R&R break from India, meeting a friend and my step daughter. ‘You can have a spiritual moment even in a party place,’ a friend said later.
Chapter Seven Not all those who wander are lost Tokyo 9,000
I went to Tokyo alone for two weeks to meet a friend and fellow blogger and writer I had met on WordPress. Descriptions of Tokyo and discussions about writing and the big questions of life.
Chapter Eight Mountains are meant to be quiet Kolkata- Varanasi- Delhi India 11,000
Being overwhelmed in Kolkata, plus train journeys, sickness and doubt in a hotel room in Delhi and the intense spirituality of Varanasi on the Ganga.
Chapter Nine Sab Kuch Milega Pushkar India 14,000
Spiritual reflections, life discussions and self acceptance in Pushkar, which along with Varanasi is one of the holiest places in India. Stories of other travellers we met; ordinary people doing extraordinary things. In the UK, my son had most of his teeth removed, after years of neglect due to him suffering from anxiety. I stayed up talking to my husband half the night, trying process and accept the mistakes of the past.
Chapter Ten Every day beautiful, Everyday shit Kathmandu- Nagarkot Nepal- Kerala India 9,000
Meeting and connecting with fellow travellers. Meditation. Low mood and toilet troubles. A trip into the mountains and a view of the Himalayas. Discussions on life and spirituality with the beautifully named Oasis, manager of the Hotel at the End of the Universe. Returning to Varkala in Kerala to press pause and reflect on what we’d done, what it meant, and how we were going to approach the future.
Chapter Eleven So many things to Love Bangalore- Hampi- Bangalore India 9,000
Returning to Hampi, one of our favourite places, for Christmas. Soaking up the beauty of the temples, the scenery, the monkeys, cows, the food and the people.
Chapter Twelve A string of epiphanies Phnom Penh- Koh Rong- Otres Village- Siem Reap Cambodia 10,000
After India, the fun relaxation of the city, then the paradise beach of Koh Rong, meeting a fellow traveller in Otres Village. Whilst I was on a paradise beach, my son did a television interview in the UK about his side of his teenage years, which was personally devastating, dragging me back through the years to one of the worst periods of my life.
Descriptions of Vietnam, interspersed with anxiety; my husband got very ill in Hanoi and did not fully recover until we were in Hue.
Chapter Fourteen Lord give me a song that I can sing Nha Trang- DaLat- Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam 10,000
Whilst we were in the modern Russian holiday resort of Nha Trang, another interview by my son in the UK brought me to the depths of suicidal despair. In DaLat, saved from bombing in the war by both sides, I experienced a spiritual high. In Ho Chi Minh City, spelling out my dreams for the future- to write and to travel- realising at last that I am responsible for my own happiness.
The 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
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!
The cats came back at the start of lockdown!
Follow me on Instagram thisisrachelhill (mainly writing stuff and photos of everyday boat life)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
I read Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s book Big Magic, about creativity. In it she mentions ‘those dreams where you dream you suddenly find another room or rooms in your house that you didn’t know you had’, and I thought, really, that’s a thing? I have those dreams regularly. I usually dream about the same flat, not one I have ever had in real life, but in my dreams I return to the same one over and over. It’s one of those old terraced houses divided into flats; messy, lots of other flats around. Each time I dream it, I rediscover a whole other set of rooms that are a bit neglected and that I have simply forgotten about. In the dream I wonder what to do with them, which room to sleep in, what to use the rooms for; I suddenly have all this extra space I don’t know what to do with.
I also have other dreams, where I open a bag of rubbish or I open a drawer and it’s filled with old cat food tins that haven’t been washed and have gone off and are filled with maggots. I have to somehow make myself quickly pick them up and get rid of them without looking at them otherwise I would be unable to do it. And I’ve let all the other rubbish pile up as well, I can’t understand it, the cat food tins or the rubbish, and I am appalled.
In real life I can let my car get very messy, tissues, wrappers, dust and stones. I am somewhat ashamed even though I still do it. So I thought the dream was about that, that I was ashamed of myself.
Worse still, I sometimes dream about caged animals that I have forgotten to look after, that I somehow inexplicably forgotten I had and that are mercifully still alive despite no food or water. I thought all these dreams were about shame, or at the very least, clattiness.
So when I continued reading and Elizabeth Gilbert went on to say that those dreams are all about ‘expansivenessand your life having more possibilities than you previously realised’, that was very pleasing to me. Especially as this was exactlywhat I had been feeling: the evening before I had gone out for dinner with two people that used to work in my team, young women on their first jobs, with me the manager of the team and their supervisor. I had the sweet and rare experience of hearing about what I was like (it had echoes of a child asking its mother what was I like tell me what I was like when I was little…) That was a few years ago so I have probably changed a lot but still, no one really tells you what you are like, you can only guess.
When I said that I thought that senior management preferred a man in my team to me because he’s always the same, always unemotional, always smartly dressed, and his car is neat and clean and mine is always messy they looked horrified. Your leadership, your direction, your care, you’re amazing how you get it all done, we were so lucky we had you for support, they both said. They reminded me of all the different tasks I do and the skills I have, and said that if I ever wanted or needed another job I’d have no problem getting one with the agency they work for. The agency pays more so I could work fewer hours. Listening to them, I felt all the possibilities, being able to do healing as well, expansiveness… When I used to just think about all the bad stuff- I am messy, senior management probably disapprove of me, without realising, I actually have skills! One of the women invited me to visit her in Sweden, a genuine invite, and hearing about her life there, how she’d moved there from Suffolk, was so interesting and inspiring and made it sound so easy.
It made it sound so easy to change your life.
On a more down to earth level, it took away my fear of redundancy, knowing there are plenty of jobs and the world is more than just my current workplace. It’s such an amazing gift, the gift of peace of mind, and a sign that I am in tune with the universe.
I realised I had it wrong: those dreams weren’t about my clattiness or my buried shames, they were about the hithererto unknown expansiveness and potential of my own life. I have nothing to be ashamed of. At worst, the unfed animals were a gentle chide or reminder about my sometimes neglected creative work…
Because although I am where I want to be writing wise anyway really, in terms of where I was this time last year and where I am now, undoubtedly I am an inconsistent and unfaithful bride to creativity. I certainly don’t have Liz Gilbert’s dedication and approach; I have other things, true, an absorbing career which is practically a vocation- can you have two vocations, can you have them at the same time? I suppose so, look at Nick Hornby and countless others.
This time last year (Christmas), I did a little review of life and I had an idea for something to write this year. Then I got waylaid in Buddhism and other seeking and beyond seeking, even considering that writing was behind me along with all the different religions I had burned through, because, I had decided: I am to cease all seeking behaviour, and writing is a seeking behaviour. And maybe it was, maybe it is, but isn’t talking, isn’t breathing, isn’t yoga, and who makes up the rules anyway?
The thing that got me writing again after I had abandoned it, was writing a spoken word piece for a friend’s 50th Birthday party, (a night of anything goes performance.) She said it could be about anything, so I wrote a‘my spiritual journey’ thing,the only thing I felt able to write about. I wrote it while listening to Rufus Wainright’s song Go or go aheadon repeat,which he wrote after a crystal meth binge.
Liz G says creative inspiration can either come in a skin tingling rush or it can be quiet and you just get there by following your curiosity and clues and it leads you there. Or it can be like this… I read a book, it mentioned a dream, I listen to a song at just the right moment, I recall a dream, I write it down. And now I am in such a clear eyed clear minded place, isn’t this the perfect place from which to write a book?
Thank you very much for reading
About the author
I am forty nine years old, married to John Hill, we live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire, UK.
In March 2018 after selling our house and giving away 95% of our possessions we embarked on a year of slow travel in India and South East Asia. I’m writing a personal/spiritual/travel memoir of that year.
The solitude felt exhilarating at first. Five weeks alone, no work, no responsibilities. I couldn’t sleep until the early hours and stayed up reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. Not only had I had my synchronicity on the train, the book contains a lot of magic. Also, I got my period just after arriving, The veil is thin, I said to myself (re magic, emotions, intuition and so on.) I’m in one of the holiest places in the world. I’m reading a magic book. I thought about all kinds of spells or rituals I could do, then realised of course, all I need to do is write the book.
At night there was the usual noise of dogs, a cacophony of howling which began around midnight. Temple chanting and bells began in the very early morning, and during the daytime there were sometimes loudspeakers outside the temple which felt deafening. A few nights there was the sound of different people being sick, or coughing badly. Once there were monkeys crashing about up and down the stairs and outside the room late at night; I got up and checked that my door was locked properly.
There were lots of monkeys around in the late afternoon, looking for food. I saw Ganesh from the hotel standing outside with his phone held up and wondered what he was doing; he was playing trance music to get them away. There seemed to be a lot more monkeys and they seemed bolder, Ganesh said they seemed extra hungry. Once one grabbed my food off my plate and grabbed at my clothes.
At first the evenings were long and cold, sometimes I put on music and did yoga, exercises and a bit of dancing in my room to warm up.
The guesthouse rooftop was just the same but at first I wasn’t very sociable, feeling shy probably, and I kept myself to myself writing. There were a lot of people in a group, drinking and getting stoned and another man alone playing guitar. But later when I spoke the people were really nice, and one came over and gave everyone Oreos, and after that we used to chat regularly.
One day I was working on the Nepal chapter, and re reading my blog about meditation and about how we heard some of our favourite music coming through from the room next door, Nick Cave, put on by Harrison, a twenty one year old Australian. At the same moment, The Pixies Where is my mind, one of my favourite songs, was playing in the rooftop restaurant, the music belonged to and had been put on by Lochie, an Australian, days away from his twenty-first birthday.
Everyday, get up, wash, dress, go out for breakfast. A full on experience just going out to get breakfast. I could chicken out and just go to the rooftop but the coffee wasn’t as good and I needed to walk before sitting and writing. I retreated there afterwards though to write and use the WiFi, which didn’t work in the rooms.
I mainly used the same shop nearby the guesthouse. There was another in the main street where I regularly bought bananas (for cows and monkeys.) One day they saw I had bought tissues from somewhere else. ‘Where from, how much, we have those here!’ ‘Next time,’ I said, feeling chastised. The other man said, ‘It’s okay.’ I remembered to take a bag out after that, fierce loyalty seemed to be expected.
As well as Ganesh and the rest of team at the guesthouse, there was also Shiva in the market to talk to. The staff at Raju restaurant remembered me from last time, we had spent Diwali there, and told me that if I needed any help, I could come to them. Sonu at the juice bar gave me advice about what to do about gifts for a wedding I had been invited to.
On holiday days especially there were lots of Indian tourists, many were dressed in jeans, and wearing clothes that were more Westernised than mine. But in general Rajasthan is a traditional area and there were many people in traditional dress, the women in colourful sarees and beautiful scarves.
People often asked what I was doing there, it was good to say I’m writing a book, even though it did seem a little extravagant.
I felt conscious of behaving correctly, both etiquette and decorum wise and ethically. I liked it when people said, Good Karma, etc, when I fed the animals, but I can’t really claim to believe properly in Karma.
The idea is appealing, of course and I couldn’t help building a hope around giving my book a good chance by maybe creating some good luck, but just being in Pushkar with the Pushkar energy and writing the book each day felt like magic and fortune enough.
Feeding the pigeons or cows or monkeys or giving a person some money was immediately and intrinsically rewarding; it gave me a warm glow, whether or not anyone was watching or whether I really thought it did anything else as well.
And Pushkar Lake provided some magical moments. One day I bought food from the little stall by the steps (Ghats) down to the lake. I fed some cows. I fed the pigeons, who swoop up and down in great clouds. I felt the wind of them. I looked at the water. From the steps two women walked down to the lake. Over their sarees they wore the traditional scarf like a veil which covered their heads and flowed over them to the ground. One woman’s veil was peachy orange, the other one’s a deep reddish pink. The shapes made by the beautiful gauze like fabric, the colours against the backdrop of the stone Ghats and the blue grey lake, it was almost too beautiful.
Later Shiva told me that he fed the animals every day, including throwing tiny pieces of chapati into the lake for the fish. ‘If I don’t do it I feel something not right inside, something missing here,’ he said, holding his chest. He told me that the wind from the pigeons flying was good. I’d felt that.
I met the poor nomadic man who lived in the desert and sold homemade instruments and CDs of his music in the street. Jonathan from Israel had bought him a goat last time we were there. He told me the goat was doing well and was now pregnant. We walked along beside the lake together, picking up string from the previous day’s kite festival as it harms birds and animals, he told me that earlier he’d picked out string from the lake using a long stick.
At the garden of a small temple near the lake I saw what looked like a monkey crèche in full swing, with baby monkeys swinging across the wires. Two trees nearby were often full of monkeys, including mothers with what looked like newborn babies.
I usually walked back the same way, and coming back to where I had started there was usually the sight of tens of pigeons sitting on a steep bank of steps as if they were at the theatre.
Opposite the steps on the other side of the street was a restaurant which served the best masala dosas in Pushkar. From the tables inside I could look out to the street and watch little birds raiding the fruit stalls and monkeys playing at the archway and steps of the Ghat. One day the restaurant was very busy and I had to sit right at the front. A very big cow came to the entrance, came right up the steps and nudged me for food. One of the staff came with a small dinner for the cow in a tin tray, made up properly with a neatly folded chapati on the top, and set it on the ground away from the entrance.
I ate at the falafel stall in the main street a few times. The meals were too big so I didn’t eat the chapatis and took them with me and gave them to cows. The second time the staff gave me a paper napkin to wrap them in. Walking away back towards the guesthouse I fed them to the first cow I saw and scrunched the napkin in my hand. I’m just too British to chuck rubbish on the floor, and the cow thought I was holding out on them and had more food. The cow was very big and wouldn’t leave me alone, determined to get the napkin which was scrunched in my hand. One of the stall holders told me, ‘Go inside,’ I went into the entrance to the temple, and they shooed the cow away with a stick. I’d tried to do a good deed and created a scene, but no one seemed to mind.
I managed to go to the Brahmin Temple without anyone speaking to me or offering to be my guide. Maybe it was because I arrived at the same time as a big group of European tourists and the guides all thought I was with them. I like to think it was because I was all prepared and strode through the crowds confidently. I’d asked Ganesh at the hotel what visitors need to do to be respectful, and arrived with flowers and sweets bought from a little stall, to hand to the Brahmin. There was a crowd of people and after waiting politely as people went in front of me eventually someone pushed me forwards. The Brahmin who was saying blessings, presumably, took people’s offerings, took some, handed some back, over and over as the people passed. His phone rang. I was surprised to see him pull out a smart phone and answer it and carry on with doing the offerings until I thought, This is India.
In the evenings many people go to the lake to watch the sunset. There were always lots of monkeys jossling around and getting ready to go to sleep. I watched baby monkeys swinging on wires outside guesthouses and thought, So that’s why the WiFi is often bad. Pigeons on the ledges of a tower flying off and on, fighting a little, sorting out where everyone was going to sleep. I met a few Indian families; lots of introductions and family photos.
Afterwards I sat at the top of the steps, near the big bell which Hindus ring as they come down towards the lake. The walls, faded colours with plaster peeling, were beautiful in the light. The monkeys were settling down to sleep. I watched a pale orange cat going about the eaves. It all looked and felt magical, and I welled up a little. A black and white dog, friendly with a smooth soft coat, came and put its nose under my arm and I stroked its head.
About the author
I am forty nine years old, married to John Hill, we live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire, UK.
In March 2018 after selling our house and giving away 95% of our possessions we embarked on a year of slow travel in India and South East Asia.
I’m writing a personal/spiritual/travel memoir of that year. This is my personal blog.
Thank you for visiting
Follow me on Instagram thisisrachelhill
My husband and I have spent the last month apart; this worried a couple of people but there’s no problems, it was just for him to have a break, for me to have time alone to write and for us both to have the experience of being in the world without each other. It turns out, two weeks was plenty.
I did lots of driving both big trips and just around the local area (usually we default to him doing the driving). I mostly ate Covent Garden soup and Wicked sandwiches from the little Tesco on the way back from work. Always also in my basket were vegan staples avocados and bananas, plus satsumas, and bread for the swans.
I bought fuel, managed the fire and kept warm (it got cold right after he left, then warmed up, then got cold, now warm, will get cold tomorrow, this is the UK!) I emptied the toilet and filled the water tank.
I managed life on the boat fine. I did lots of writing/editing and I went to work usually just a couple of long shifts each week.
A couple in their sixties, experienced boaters who have been continuous cruisers for two and a half years including in London, live in the same place and have provided nice regular chats as well as the warm security blanket of them knowing I’m on my own and saying that if I need anything I can go to them.
People at work have suddenly become astonishingly friendly, as if I reached a kind of tipping point. One day I had to fight the urge to look behind me, convinced that a member of staff must be greeting someone else, she looked so pleased to see me. Another hugged me, ‘I wondered when you’d next be here.’
I had the odd lonely moment but this was almost always quickly followed by loud noises outside the boat heralding the arrival of two hungry swans.
I had the highs of spiritual insights (see below), and I maintained awareness and acceptance of the natural highs, lows and plateaus.
I’ve been editing/polishing aiming to get the book all to the same stage. When I get to a place where the chapter is more or less done (small tweaks may still be needed but I know what to do and one session on it would do it), I move on. I’m probably between a third and half the way through, maybe more. I hope to have this phase done by the end of February. Then another final polish until it is all as good as I can make it on my own.
I write almost every day, for about an hour or two. If I overdo it or try to rush it it doesn’t go so well, I get fatigued, and I lose confidence. I had one brief dip/anxiety; I forced myself to just do a bit. Half an hour later, I was okay. I could see what I was doing and had confidence that I could do it. I stopped then, grateful for that, and mindful that just half an hour was enough to give me back my hope.
One night, driving home, listening to some spiritual music sent to me by friends this month, I thought about explaining how it is to write a whole book, ‘You have to keep going. And you have to make it good.’ And then I got goosebumps. ‘Oh my God, that’s just like life….’
Short films of people from different walks of life explaining the clichéd, irritating and insulting things people say to them.
Before the first week was out, all of Shameless US Season 7 (I adore it, it’s based on the original Shameless set in the UK. The US seems so much tougher, I would love to hear what my American and Canadian readers make of Shameless US Season 7, no spoilers so no details) and the new season of Atypical about a teen with Autism and his family and friends. I love this so much. So then I just went onto, as planned, re watching BoJack Horseman from the beginning. Depression, fame, nihilism, existentialism, barely unremitting sadness. Don’t let the fact that it’s a cartoon fool you.
The superpowers which come with the onset of the menopause, from mumsnet. I’m always looking for the deeper meaning and spiritual context, here it is: ‘Am I having a mid life awakening or a personality transplant?’ ‘I feel like I just woke up from the matrix.’ Reading this I thought, as I often did when my regular monthly period would arrive, ‘Ah, that explains a lot….’
The space apart, the space together
I read a blog post by someone who married someone with a different language and from such a vastly different culture that there’s things the other person can’t ever know or understand, and that means the writer has a space that’s private. As someone who likes a lot of time alone, I totally understand and relate to that as a concept. However, my marriage is not like that. It’s really important to me to feel really understood. My husband and I spend a lot of time talking about all sorts of ideas, and together it feels as if we create a new space together to live in, outside of ourselves and in addition to what we’d have individually. Even in the early days, I had this sense. I used to visualise our new relationship as one of those air plants, growing in a thin glass bowl, suspended in the air between us, growing separately from the both of us, yet something we were both growing.
Anyway, we’ve missed each other, and neither of us currently want to go on separate adventures in the near future.
And in case you need more convincing about Bojack: