Tag Archives: friends

Sometimes… On writing, mostly, but also life in general

I’ve had some of the best days of my life in the last few months.
Although there are times when I feel selfish and self-indulgent, I try to remember that I lived in a state of auto-pilot for so long, doing without thinking, that I need (deserve?) this time to do it the other way round.
There are times I feel indecisive and confused and as if I’m wasting my time and not being productive and then I zip back round full circle and get back to being absolutely in love with what I’m doing and why..

I came here because I love sunshine and the sea and I love the Portuguese language, people and food (not in order of preference).
I came here because I believed it would suit me and it does; it feels like home.
I came here so I could empty my head of everything but the stories in it, and focus on writing a book, which I’ve always wanted to do.

I’m not doing very well with that. Or at least I don’t feel I am.
One of the worst questions people can ask me is ‘How are you getting on with the book?’

I can’t quite hang on to my mojo.
I only need the slightest distraction or niggly thought and all creativity and inspiration vanishes.
I had a moment on Monday, while lying on the beach after a snorkel, when pages and lines and wonderful stuff appeared in my head and I couldn’t wait to get it all typed so I drove home being ridiculously excited, planning to sit at my desk and bash them out onto my laptop.. then someone asked me a question and away it all went. Whoosh.
What’s the answer?
I can’t stick a post-it on my head saying ‘Not now!’ – there are times when people need to speak to me, and they can’t be expected to know whether I’m in another universe and they’re going to drag me back down to earth and bury me under a pile of boulders for a month by asking me a very simple question.
Do I need to completely isolate myself and have absolutely nothing else to do but eat sleep and write in order to focus on this [insert swearwords of choice] book?!

Yesterday I spent some time looking for helpful tips; I found an abundance of webpages with useful advice on them – one suggested setting a goal of 300 words a day, so I checked my book’s word count and was excited to see that I’ve written 11,939 words.
Sounds like a lot, huh?
Well, it’s not.
Divide it and it breaks down to approx 40 days (of writing 300 words a day, which I probably never have).

Ok so I’ve probably written at least twice that and rewritten, edited, deleted, rewritten, edited again, revised.. but still, let’s say 80 days of productive writing..
I’ve been here almost a year! Shouldn’t I have finished it by now?!

I can’t write when I’m not feeling it.
So how do I get into the zone?

And what on earth have I been doing with my time?!
Apart from horses and dogs and cleaning and cooking, which only amounts to between 20 and 30 hours of my week, I sleep quite a lot.
I daydream a whole lot.
I read a fair amount and I surf, snorkel, swim, drive about admiring this wonderful place.. all of which are the right things for my writing brain. So I’m doing something right.

But then I stress.
I stress so much.
I worry and I try to make decisions and I get all in a spin about all sorts of silly little things and I try to make plans and be organised while trying to be flexible and ‘live in the moment’ and ‘go with the flow’ and when I get all whizzy about silly little things, I berate myself and start frowning and chewing my cheek and I send ranty long emails to my friends about how much I struggle with deciding how/when/whether/how long to pop back to Jersey for, and boys (they’re confusing aren’t they) and living in a house with other people (something I swore I’d never do again) and (I haven’t written a post on this blog for months so this is gonna be a great big long gusty one) I dwell on stuff.
Oh my, I am so so good at dwelling on stuff. And changing my mind about how to deal with it.
And then dwelling on how much I change my mind.

I feel like I need routine, but deep down I actually hate routine.. I need balance, I know, but I’m so fickle and changeable and prone to ear infections that I wobble about and lose it and walk into things all the time.

Sometimes I miss my favourite people, sometimes I feel like I should be there to give them a hug or cheer them up, sometimes I wish they were here, but if they were.. honestly?
I’d probably see or speak to them less than I do now; as much as they’re my favourite people and I’m trying to keep in touch because I love them, I really need this space and solitary time and I’m doing what I need to do.

Mikey sent me a photo of her baby, Eva, who’s just turned one.
Aimee sent me a photo of my son on his 21st birthday, looking handsome and happy and gorgeous.
My mum sends me photos of shoes and dog’s feet and flowers and all sorts of weird things cos she’s a bit mental, but most importantly she sends me photos of my niece, who’s growing up without me there to be a bad influence – how am I going to get my own back on my brother for all the naughty things he taught Sam if I’m not there.
My friend Nicki started a pie business and I haven’t been able to go along to one of her market stalls and sniff her pies.

But I am having some of the best days of my life.
That’s what I remember when I get sad or confused about anything.

I’ve made new friends, who are way more fun than all the old Jersey ones (kidding, obviously) and I live with The Wonderfully Funny Family, most of whom appear to like me, most of the time (either that or they’re good at pretending), and when they don’t I can totally understand. And sympathise. As would my real family. And most of my friends.
Hands up anyone who’s ever spent more than 24hrs in my company and not felt like beating me over the head with a cast iron skillet*.
I can imagine everyone nodding while sitting on their hands right now.
Even Bom couldn’t honestly wave a paw in the air.

So, sometimes I struggle with my world, no matter how wonderful it is.
And when I’m struggling, there are two things to remember that can make all the difference to my day.
Maybe they can make a difference to somebody else’s day somewhere too.

Two things.


*Skillet – I know. Who the hell uses a word like ‘skillet’ these days? But it popped into my head this morning and I had to find a way to use it. Goal achieved. Blogpost complete. It’s a roaring success of a day already.

The Wonderfully Funny Family Part 2 – Lovely Edwina

I was thinking the other night about how incredibly tolerant this Wonderfully Funny Family are.
They deserve a medal each, for putting up with me for the last 6 months, and it constantly astounds me that they want me to stay*.
They do and say all the right things – nobody’s told me off even once, despite the fact that I can be so awfully clumsy, noisy, grumpy, and that I don’t talk to people in the mornings (they simply don’t speak to me either – it’s bliss.)
Occasionally SheWhoDoesNotWishToBeNamed creeps up quietly and says ‘Am I allowed to talk to you yet?’ and very occasionally the answer is yes.

LovelyEdwina is the elder daughter.
She lives in the apartment above the house and is only 25 but is much much much more grown-up and sensible than me**. She’s also really very lovely (hence the name), has a huge heart and appears to have a super-sense for whether I’m feeling approachable.

One of the things I like best about LovelyEdwina (apart from the fact that she lets me borrow her amazing bum-sculpting jeans) is that she’s a slightly obsessive clean-freak just like me; we make a kickass ninja cleaning-up team in the kitchen and she doesn’t ever get under my feet.
So, on Friday, after being grumpy at her for no reason whatsoever, I scurried off to my room, ate my very late breakfast/lunch and gave myself a good talking to. Then I went to apologise and discovered that not only does LovelyEdwina have the best cross-face*** ever, she’s also very forgiving and went back to being typically lovely in a flash.
All was well in the horseyhouse again.


* they want me to stay? – I think they want me to stay. They did want me to stay and they haven’t asked me to leave since asking me to stay so I’m pretty confident they still want me to stay. I hope so.
** more grown up and sensible than me – it’s not terribly hard to be more grown-up and sensible than me, but she’s got a great combination of emotional intelligence, assertiveness skills and empathy, which all fell out of my brain one day.
*** cross face – the kind of face that makes for a brilliant mum – it stops naughty kids in their tracks without a word and should be taught at prenatal classes. My friend Miss Bobby Marmite does an exceptionally good cross face too, very rarely seen, but definitely worthy of being listed as a superpower. I’m going to do some practising.. I think it’s all in the eyebrows..

Learning the Language #1

The British are well-known for all manner of tourist/ex-pat crimes – the most common complaint I’ve heard from people here is that so many simply take it for granted that everyone speaks English and subsequently make no effort. At all.

As I’ve always felt deeply ashamed visiting a country in which I’m unable to speak the language, when I came to Portugal last winter I was determined to reach at least an intermediate level of Portuguese while I was here.

I had 3 months to do nothing but learn the language. No problem!

Except I was surfing and writing and climbing and looking after horses and running and swimming and reading and emailing friends and then I was on a course for 2 weeks and all of a sudden it was time to go home and I hadn’t improved my Portuguese much at all.

Oooh I forgot the best excuse – everyone here speaks English so I didn’t get the chance to practice!

There were occasions that I tried to speak to people, to begin with; then I went to the Intermarche to buy some stamps and the kind-face lady behind the counter answered me in English.
I was prepared for that so had been practising my reply
‘Fala comigo em portugues, por favor, estou aprendendo,’ I said (very slowly).

She responded in English ‘It takes too long. Let’s just speak in English, OK?’

I gave up a little bit after that.
I figured it was worse to feel stupid than to appear ignorant.

So, since I arrived for this trip I’ve been making much more of an effort.

Fortunately for me, and thanks to my dear friend ‘Da Luz’ (she lived round the corner from me when I was young and just HATES that nickname) I have quite a sound knowledge of the basics and structure of the language.
Da Luz devoted a fair amount of time to teaching me all kinds of useful words and phrases when we hung out after school.

She made me repeat these phrases time and time again, until I could eloquently (and in a near perfect Madeiran accent) tell her brother that he had an incredibly tiny penis* and to go and do rude things to himself, or one of his friends, or let someone perform said acts on him, in several different ways.

At the age of 12 I proudly informed Da Luz’s mum that I was pregnant, believing that I was telling her I was hungry.

I also learned how to tell someone to go and change their nappy.
How to say ‘wee-wee bed’ to a child.
The names for lots of foods and to count and the days of the week. Months. Seasons. Hello, good day, good afternoon, good evening, how are you, I’m good thank you, and you, happy christmas, happy birthday etc..

Da Luz was a great teacher. And I remember every word she taught me.
But there was one she missed out….

The Wonderfully Funny Family are incredibly tolerant and show great patience with me and my attempts to communicate in Portuguese.

Actually, that’s not strictly true – SheWhoDoesNotWishToBeNamed regularly tells me I sound ‘retarded’. (NB. Her word. Not mine.)

As most of our conversations are in the kitchen, they generally revolve around food, cooking, utensils etc.
Hence, I had no reason to distrust Norberto (despite the fact that his sense of humour’s quite similar to that of a teenager).

We made bacalhau (traditional salted cod dish) one evening and he taught me all the different types of bacalhau.
I wrote them down because I have a terrible memory.

I’m finally reaching the end of the story…

On Friday I was chatting with my friend (I have a friend! I know! I’m going to write about making new friends soon) at the beach and we got onto the subject of bacalhau.
I impressed him with my knowledge of all the different types of dish:
Bacalhau a Braz – boiled, then mixed with skinny chips, egg and onions before being cooked in the oven.
Bacalhau com natas (with cream)
Bacalhau com grao (with chickpeas)
Bacalhau no forno (with potatoes in the oven)
and then I couldn’t remember the other one.. the one that Norberto said was made without cooking it.. with just olive oil and garlic.. he told me that if you ate it that way it was a sure sign that you were starving.

Sergio had no idea what I was on about.
I quoted Norberto’s words ‘It means you’re so hungry you’ll eat any crap…’
He still had no clue.

I got my notepad.
I found it.

‘Punheta de bacalhau!’ I proudly exclaimed.

Sergio laughed and told me he’s going to find me a new house to live in.
Apparently I shouldn’t be learning words like that.

Click here if you’d like to know the translation

I love it here.
And I’m learning the language, with a little help from my friends.


* You have an incredibly tiny penis – This is a very useful phrase which could come in handy one day. You should memorise it, just in case.
Tu tens um caralinho pequeninho.

2014 wishes

This is maybe a poem, for my friends.

I must be nice
I used to think
because I have lots of
really nice friends
who love me. They do.
(You do, don’t you. I’m not putting a question mark on that one)

Today I wondered
I made my I wonder face
and I wondered

Are my really nice friends so wonderful
that they could still love me
if I were not nice?
They are. (You are.)

So, I concluded,
I’m not that nice
but that’s ok
cos it only makes my really nice friends
even more so
it makes them (you)
even more than

I feel very lucky
but I daren’t say blessed.
Pip – I added that especially for you. I knew you’d like it

Dear brilliant friends who are so tolerant, kind and well.. just really so very very nice,
you are super
and I wish you a year filled with marvel, magic, love (ruv) and wonder xxx