This weekend, I sat with HWSNBN watching the sun set on the longest day. It feels like summer has barely begun but soon enough it will be autumn. And unless I remind myself to get outside and enjoy myself I’ll spend all summer inside working. Besides it’s been far too long since I’ve written a list post.
This summer I will mostly be:
1. Go swimming outdoors once a week until September
Considering my lifelong commitment to disavowing aerobic activities in favour of lying on the sofa reading books; it’s a wonder I love swimming as much as I do. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t feel like exercise to me but flying through the water. And there is nothing better than swimming outdoors and feeling the wind making wavelets in the water and the sun kissing your skin. Between now and September I’m going to swim outdoors at least once at week. Pinkie swear.
2. Perfect a summer cocktail
It’s fair to say I’m not a ‘mixologist’. All of the alcoholic drinks I make taste like petrol, true fact. Our friends have given up asking me to make them drinks and instead head straight for HWSNBN. But this year I’ve decided I’m going overcome my considerable handicaps (lack of alcohol palette, and impatience to get a blotto as quickly as possible) to perfect a summer cocktail. Now shall it be Dragoons Punch or a Blueberry and Lavender Vodka Spritzer?
BTW Dragoons Punch is my new drag queen name.
3. Go to a drive in movie
JAWS on the big screen! I’ll be Danny to HSWNBN’s Sandy.
4. Build a sandcastle
My granddad was brilliant at building sandcastles. Elaborate palaces with long sweeping staircases that I still sometimes dream of. Damn Brighton’s pebbly beaches for the lack of sandcastle opportunities. I may have to make a day trip along the coast to West Wittering to tick of this item.
5. Explore a maize maze
And try not to imagine I’m being stalked by a serial killer…
6. Go stargazing
One of my favourite memories of last year was lying with a group of friends on Devil’s Dyke watching the Perseids. They shots across the sky leaving trails in their wake. I don’t have a truck *sadface* but I do have blankets. Stars, I will be gazing at you soon.
7. Pick your own
I love ‘Pick your own’ places. There’s something so fun about wandering round a giant field picking stuff you would never normally ate. Five variety of plums? Why not? Last time I ate too many strawberries and had to lie down.
8. Crazy golf
Even though last time I played crazy golf five years old were lapping me I still love it and the holiday by the sea vibe it evokes.
Ah camping. I’ve written before of my reluctant camper status. I’m chooser to ignore the lack of indoor toilets and instead focus on communing with the great outdoors, toasting marshmallows on the fire and getting wankered with friends. In which I will try and fail to convince them to make this tent city. How awesome is this?
10. Water ballon fight
You bring the pistols, I’ll bring the balloons. You in?
I wrote this last night in a little under a hour. It was the first time in ages I had written something fresh and new each sentence building on the other, the words pouring out almost too fast to type. I’d forgotten how lovely it is to write without a destination. I have no idea who this character is and what will happen to her. But it was such a fun diversion from my interminable work-in-progress subtitled the novel will not die.
I’ve never done this before but I thought I would post it here. I’d be really grateful for any feedback but please be kind and constructive. Anyway here it is unedited.
The hungry ghosts
When dawn comes, I will die. The sound of the celebration drifts across the river through the bars of my cell window. All the tribes united, as they have never been before, with the single desire to see my blood soak into the sand. The only matter for dissent is how the deed shall be accomplished. The K’are would like to stake me out in the desert for the ants to eat me, inside out. The Rezir would prefer I was hung drawn and quartered my steaming guts shown to me as my eyes dim. They have been tutored well in the ways of civilisation. The Ferang just want me to die quickly in the name of the old gods. And so the arguments continue.
The only thing that stops the terror clogging my throat and prevents my heart from pounding so fast it would break my ribs is to categorise them as my father would have done, coolly weighing up the pro and the cons. But its harder when its your body they are arguing over, when the wave of hatred is so intense it almost suffocates you.
He, who valued intellect above all else, would be disappointed. I can see him now leaning forward, a sardonic smile playing on his lips as he coolly lists my mistakes as if talking about a historical figure in one of his scrolls. Not a living breathing girl, his daughter. A man of few words, my father. Even fewer since I cut his throat.
I can almost see him in the corner of the cell a hungry ghost waiting with the others for me to join them.
The thought makes me shudder, the metal jangling. Instead of necklaces strung with pearls as big as a nightingale’s egg, my body is strung with chains of iron the links larger than my fingers. The chains are too tight, scabs braceletting my wrists where they rub. The too sweet smell tells me my flesh has already begun to fester.
You’re too early, I tell my body. Wait a couple of hours and you can rot to your hearts content.
There’s a soft pad of sandals slapping against the sandy flagstones.
I brush my matted hair away from my face. Licking my crusty lips wasting moisture I can barely afford to loose. Will my husband come to me now? I don’t know if it’s dread or excitement I feel. Do I want to spit in his face or kiss him goodbye?
As I see the guard through the bars my heart skitters. Have they come to get me early? To do the deed under the cover of darkness and avoid a riot as the crowds jostle each other for the best position to watch the traitorous witch die.
But he’s alone, his frightened bony face painted silver in the moonlight that floods through the narrow bars of the window. His energy a distant hum tickling the edge of my consciousness. The others must have left him to join the celebrations. The town full to bursting with people come to watch me die. The guards will crawl in with the dawn reeking of hashish and sweat.
‘Get back.’ He squeaks his pubescent voice as thin and reedy as a flute. I scuttle back pressing myself against the stone wall, still warm from the suns kiss.
With shaking hands he unlocks the hatch and pushes the jug and plate of dates through.
It closes with a slam and I scurry forward picking up the jug with both hands my arm muscles protesting. Carefully, very carefully, I take a sip. It’s barely enough to wet the inside of my mouth, and my parched throat screams for more. But this has to last me –
The thought strikes me with a hammer blow. No need to savour the water, measuring out the mouthfuls by the passage of the baking sun across the floor. There won’t be a tomorrow, not for me. I take a gulp, letting the water trickle down my dry throat, pleasure curling through my body.
The guard hovers in the doorway, curiousity overrides his fear. Talking to me is forbidden. But this may be his last chance.
I straighten placing the jug on the floor. It’s heavy enough to be used as weapon if only he would step nearer to the bars.
‘Yes.’ My voice is cracked, unrecognisable from disuse. It has been so long since I have talked to anybody but the ghosts.
I drag myself to my feet swaying slightly, keeping an eye on the guard. He stays planted in the corridor torn between coming closer and fleeing back to the guard station. I take pity on him.
‘What do you want?’
I can only imagine picture I present. My hair a snarled mess covering the pink blisters that dot my face. The coarsely woven stained dress rubbing the sand fly bites that dot my body. So he can’t be after that unless…
‘Did you kill them?’ He lowers his voice stepping closer to the bars his macabre need for information overriding his sense, ‘Did you kill your children?’
The old pain strikes and I wonder how I can breathe through it. There is a special hell reserved for mothers that kill their children. This is what he wants to bathe in their blood so he could say he talked to the witch. Earning himself a spot by the fire and a warm body or two for the celebrations tomorrow.
‘Do you really want to know boy? Aren’t you afraid.’
I step forward dropping my voice.
He leans in his eyes glittering with repulsed fascination, his spear forgotten by his side. But all I can see is the knife at his belt. It would sink into his side as easily as into butter, the blood running warm over my hands. Easy. Even easier to distract with the truth whispered in his ear as I fastened my fingers around the back of his neck. I am so weak I can hardly remember the sensation of stolen lifeforce coursing through my body like fine wine. But the guard shines with it like a candle in the dark. It would be enough to escape the prison and if I ran into the other guards on route so be it.
‘I held them down’ I whisper in his ear. My hand weaving its way through the bars, slow and careful as a snake. My gaze falls on his neck, his adams apple moving up and down.
‘Get out of here.’ I shove him, forcing myself back shuddering with need. I am ravenous, consumed with a deep hunger that will never be fully sated. I knew that if I looked in a mirror my eyes would be black, my hair swirling around me like ink in water.
With a horrified glance he runs his sandals slipping on the flagstones, and I am alone again. Good, maybe it will teach him a lesson I think sinking back down against the wall.
I can almost see my father shaking his head at me in the corner. Mercy, Anna, is a luxury you can scarce afford. Did the Castelli show the cowering tribes mercy? Where the K’are merciful to the Ferang?
With effort I tune him out. There will be time enough for lectures in the afterlife. Carefully I wrap the knife in the folds of my dress. By the time the guard notices it will be too late. And the feel of the steel at my side comforts me more than any doll ever has.
I don’t know if I have bought them enough time but these extra hours could make all of the difference. All I have to do is sit here running through my mistakes like memory beads.
So in July I drafted my life list : the ways in which I, Rowan January was going to fulfil my life’s ambitions, one step at a time. And then… Well life, namely university, started kicking my arse. I’ve been very lax in short. The one task I have made inroads is no 1: listen to 1,000 new songs. (I believe in starting at the top. Next stop New Zealand) As I said back in July:
A few caveats: by listen, I don’t mean have on in the background while I am doing something else. These are songs I’ve actually sat, listened to and formulated an opinion on. Mostly meh, but still an opinion. In the same line, although I can’t guarantee I’ve never heard all these songs before, I’ve never registered them. Also it would be easy for me to gobble up some artists back catalogues as a quick way of populating my list. In the interest of broadening my horizons, I’ve tried to avoid this.
My comments are italicised and recommendations are starred. If you want to listen along with me, you can subscribe to my Rowan listens playlist on Spotify. (NB some of the songs listed aren’t on Spotify so I’ve linked to youtube instead.)
I am pretty familiar with the genre of white-boy rock and angsty female singer songwriters. Classical, reggae, folk, funk, techno, pretty much every other genre not so much. Hit the comments and tell me what I’m missing.
This week I’ve been busy creating a bucket list, a list of 30 life ambitions I want to achieve before I go. If I only had a year left, what would I want to do, see or feel before I leave this earth. It sounds morbid but I’ve found creating my Mighty life list a very joyous process. First there was satisfaction when I realised I could tick some items of my list (night swimming in the pitch black Brighton sea in February, watching the sun rise over Uluru). Secondly it also reminded me of how much my bucket list had changed over the years (and I am sure will change radically in the future).
When I was five I wanted Majesty, the unicorn My Little Pony with every fibre of my being. But that never happened *sad face*. (Strangely enough none of the items on my bucket list are to do with possessions. Spoiler!)
When I was thirteen, I wanted to get sick (nothing serious but something good and contagious) so I never had to go to school ever, ever again. But that never happened, which was kind of a good thing.
When I was 17 I wanted was to get great A level results so I could get the hell out of my tiny hometown and go to Brighton. That happened and living in Brighton was as awesome as I thought it would be. But I’ve found it harder to leave my tiny hometown behind than I expected.
When I was 21 I wanted to go to Australia. That happened and I got to tick off many things from my bucket list. I’ve swam in a waterfall in the middle of the rainforest, I rode an elephant bareback, holding hands HWSNBN and I slept outside in the outback under a carpet of unfamiliar stars so bright they blinded us.
Now I’m in my late (*ahem* almost terminal) twenties I’m started thinking about what makes me happy and what makes me unhappy. Don’t get me wrong, life is really good for me at the moment. But lately I’ve felt like I’m in limbo. I’m not a student but come autumn I will be back at University (for the first time in eight years, eeek). After seven looooong years technically I’m no longer not a girlfriend but I’m not yet a *gulp* wife (don’t even get me started on the word ‘fiance’ . It just sounds weird. I like it not.) And I don’t have long to adjust because next year I’ll be a married (double eeek). In a year and two months I’ll be thirty, with all that entails . If I’m lucky in the not too distant future, I’ll graduate, possibly change career, buy a house and eventually have babies (triple eeek).
All good, all exciting but at the moment I feel like I’m stuck in this in between place. I’m somebody who is all about the destination and not the journey. I want to be there, yesterday and anything longer makes me grind my teeth. But there is an opposing voice that is telling me to appreciate what I have because soon everything will change. This push and pull between the future and the present enough to make anybody want to retreat to a fainting lounge with a battered copy of the sweet valley high books. But a more *ahem* adult reaction might be to take stock of what I want out of my life. So I made a list.
Yes, I’m a list-a-holic I need help! But seriously, lists are so helpful for me in boiling things down to the essentials. Inspired by Mighty Girl‘s Mighty Life List where she lists the 100 things she wants to do before she goes, I’ve created a list. Bear in mind this list is a work in progress. I’ve only listed 30 things to start, which I will add to as I come up with new ideas.
What this list isn’t is a list of things I should do (exercise, eat my greens, do my homework). It’s all the things I want to do some big (go to Cuba) some small (learn front crawl). I’ve tried to make this list as joyous as possible and fill it with ideas that make my heart sing. So here it is, forever preserved in the amber of the internets, my bucket list by Rowan aged 28 and three-quarters.
My Mighty Life List or 30 things to do before I go.
In 2004, after less than a year together HWSNBN and I travelled the world together. Our favourite place was Franz Josef in New Zealand, a tiny town on the south island famous for one thing: its glacier. To get to the ice so clear it’s blue it takes almost a whole day of hiking and then you have to turn and come right back down. Unless you’re lazy like we are and take a helicopter to the snow line and climb the glacier from there. Unfortunately when we were in Franz Josef the weather was bad, as in dinosaurs emerging from the fog bad. We spent days in Franz Josef with a friend where we gorged ourself on pizza and chocolate cake, venison rissotto (mine was with mushrooms) while we waited for the fog to clear. We waited and we waited and we waited but we never did climb that damn glacier. But one day I’m going back and I’m going to climb that glacier.
3. Do two lengths back to back in front crawl.
I love to swim, but really I’ve mastered variations on two strokes: breaststroke and backstroke. Which I rock by the way. However my front crawl is horrific and my butterfly stroke, shameful. My dad’s been teaching front crawl which I can do, I just haven’t mastered the breathing thing yet. My aim to swim two lengths of an Olympic sized swimming pool without stopping.
Have you ever seen the Cherry Orchard? If you haven’t it’s about three sisters living a dull provincial existence whose permanent refrain is ‘Next year we will go to Moscow.’ Well Cuba is HWSNBN and my equivalent of Moscow. But not next year but next, next year we will go to Cuba. Fact.
ETA: In June 2013 we went to Cuba on our honeymoon. And it was every bit as wonderful as we imagined.
6. Host a party when the cherry trees bloom.
The cherry blossoms blooming always brings me such joy. Partly because they are pretty. Partly because of what is symbolises, the end of winter and the bringing of spring. In Japan when the cherry blossoms bloom they hold parties where they drink lots of saké. I want to host a celebration party too.
7. Set foot on all 7 continents.
Just because. Four down, three to go (Africa,South America (yay Cuba two in one deal), and Antarctica, simple right?). ETA: only one now Antarctica as we visited Egypt in August 2012 for our minimoon and Cuba in June 2013 for our honeymoon.
8. Do two pull ups.
Don’t laugh, my arms are as strong as wet spaghetti.
9. Meditate every day for one week.
Once I’ve meditated I always feel better. It’s the actually doing it part I fall down at.
16. Take passport go to Gatwick go on the next flight I see.
Everytime my train passes through Gatwick I’ve wanted to do this. However it goes against all of my control freak instincts (and budgetary constraints)
17. Hike the Inca trail.
One of my friends trekked the Inca trail on her honeymoon and it looks incredible. I want to go.
18. View the northern lights.
19. Start a group.
I am undecided between whether I want to start a young adult reading book group or a happiness project group. But I know I want to start a group.
20. Go on a night dive with the Manta Rays in Hawaii.
I love the way they swoop and swirl in the water.
21. Grow a vegetable patch.
I have a black thumb, everything I try and grow dies. But over the last two years I’m slowly turning it around. Last year I grew from scratch a herb garden. This year I’m branching out to strawberries too, next year the world mwhahahaha
22. Attend a silent retreat.
I’ve attended many retreats (daughter of a yoga teacher), but never as an adult and never a silent one
23. Fly a kite.
HSWNB and I attended a kite festival and it was beautiful.
24. Go vegan for a month.
I don’t talk about it much on the blog, because I don’t want to preach to anybody, but I’m a lifelong vegetarian. I’ve never eaten meat and I gave up eating fish when I was ten. But although I’ve always toyed with the idea I’ve never tried veganism. As a vegetarian I’m finding it increasing hard to justify consuming milk and other animal products given the intensive and often cruel farming practises involved. I know this will be really difficult, particularly as HWSNBN is a coeliac (meat all the way), but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
ETA: done January 2014 for Veganuary. It was hard, I missed cheese.
25. Go star watching.
Just so I can talk like Patrick Moore from the Sky at Night.
ETA: Done, we went starwatching last autumn at the University and it was amazing.
26. Edit a video.
I am working on top secret project for a special event. All will be revealed soon.
27. Throw a surprise birthday party.
This may be difficult given I am very bad at keeping secrets but it sounds like fun
Exactly, if I wanted to feel inferior about my life I’d start reading glossy magazines again. All jokes aside, I’m fast becoming a Pinterest convert.
For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a social networking site where you can pin any image you find (or steal other people’s, much more fun and positively encouraged) organising them according to your interests into boards. My boards for example range from DIY and style tips to food and writing inspiration. For example, here is my craft projects pinboard:
See those comic book pumps in the top left hand corner, we wants them precious.
Pinterest is a great way to organise your visual interests, cut down on the your bookmarks, and see with a glance what you rate and what you hate! I’m finding it particularly useful to create wedding and writing boards to give me an overview of what inspires me.
For me the best part of Pinterest connecting with people I’ve never met over a mutual love of glitter, peacock feathers and Joan Collins 🙂 You can even browse what everybody is pinning which gives you a glimpse into the zeitgeist of the pin themes emerging mainly: gooey deserts, crafting and nail polish.
Yes, my craft project board would probably be more usefully titled projects I aspire to but am unlikely to ever have the time, money or talent to complete. I’m a realist, I can take photo’s of my friends gurning on a night out but I’ll never be a great photography. But I work with amazing images everyday and it’s so nice to have a place to collect all those visuals that spark something within me.