Tuesday 26 April 2011


Sluice wheel by Tony Martin
Images are important to me. Like music, they can strike straight to the heart, to the soul, bypassing mind. When I did my week at Arvon with the wonderful Philip Hensher (where I met the even more wonderful Milla) we used images a lot to kickstart writing. So I get a huge kick out of following links, wandering down new corridors and finding beautiful pictures right out there on the walls or hiding in dark corners. I have been stingy over the years with sharing my artwork discoveries and that is going to change. 

Out of the darkness

So today is just the first of what I hope will be many. I came across Tony Martin on Twitter – not sure how – one of those serendipitous links. I like his writing. I don’t always agree with him but then wouldn’t life be boring if we always agreed? Somehow I’d missed that he was a photographer too. But a chance conversation about the Dropkick Murphys this morning led me to his pages on deviantART (I do love this site).... So here’s a taster of his work...
I don’t know about you but I feel stories leaking out of so many of these, just waiting to be told...

The Eye

The City
Alien seed

Bones of the Moon

I’m not sure how I came to miss Jonathan Carroll as a writer before now. He was recommended to me a few months back partly because I had written a book called Walkerabout shamanism in which a central character is a wolf spirit guide. The main character in Carroll’s book Sleeping in Flameis called Walker Easterling while a giant wolf features strongly in the first book of his novel cycle,Bones of the Moon. Then, of course, the shaman Venasque dances through all the novels. Venasque can teach people what they most need to know (be it swimming or playing a musical instrument or flying).
“I can teach you to fly. That’s the first step....It’s not such a hard thing to do.”
He can juggle time and space and death. Ah, truly a magician. But you have to learn for yourself; he won’t do it for you.

I stalled though. I didn’t like the cover of Bones of the Moon; I didn’t like the blurb. It sounded like silly fantasy. But then I laid aside my prejudices, started reading and was beyond captivated. I am now in the process of inhaling everything else Carroll has written. People label his books "horror" or "fantasy" - I suppose the nearest tag would be "magic realism" – but I’d rather not pigeon-hole them.  I hate the way books have to be crammed into little boxes.  One thing that is for sure and certain - they are magic, pure magic. I am reading them with my notebook and pen at hand, scribbling down quotes, nodding furiously; shaking my head quizzically. Smiling often; often feeling sad.  Then again punching the air and going 'YESSS!' the way you do when someone is saying in black and white what you have always thought in shades of grey.

“You’ve got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.” You have, haven’t you? Yet the darkness is also beautiful in its own way, no?

“Life has a very bad case of acne which it has no desire to lose, because that would mean it couldn’t look in the mirror fifty times a day and feel sorry for itself.” Hmm. There’s something in that, let’s be honest. We all like to feel sorry for ourselves; we can all revel in 'poor me' syndrome. Many of us clutch tight onto our pain and sickness for the strangest of reasons.

“How far was a dream allowed to trespass into real life, before it was caught and sent back to its proper place?” Ah, but what is dreaming and what is ‘real life’?

“It’s hard convincing yourself that where you are at the moment is your home, and it’s not always where your heart is.” Where is home? When is home? What is home?

Carroll is made for quoting but also loves quoting other people. His blog posts are often just long quotes, like this one from Osho.
“The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it is not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of the other person - without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other.”

Is that true? I absolutely agree with the first part.  One cannot be with another until one is unafraid of loneliness.  But to be happy at loss?  It is logical and my mind balances the equation but still my heart baulks.

On a lighter note he also says, quoting purely himself:
“Dogs are minor angels, and I don't mean that facetiously. They love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy, etcetera. If we attributed some of those qualities to a person we would say they are special. If they had ALL of them, we would call them angelic. But because it's "only" a dog, we dismiss them as sweet or funny but little more.”

Ah, and you know how I feel about that. :-)

Sunday 24 April 2011

The path up through the woods

We are all on journeys. I had paused on mine and made camp for around twenty years or so. Then, about five months ago, everything shifted. It was time to pick up my knapsack again and start up the narrow track once again. I’ll write about it properly one day; from the very beginning. Not right now though.

When you’re ready (or maybe when you’re really not ready) the path will shine. People, animals, things appear like beautiful gifts. I was blessed. I am blessed. Then, sometimes, these angels and gifts vanish – unexpectedly, blindsidingly – and it’s as if you’ve been abandoned in the desert, without a map, without food or water.

But then. Just as you feel you can’t go on. That you really are alone. That there are no messages; no miracles; no magic. That the sweet companions of the road have abandoned you. That really there is only oblivion. Then. Then. Then.

Something happens. And you pick up your knapsack again. Sad but resolved.

She emailed me. ‘I knew you’d post,’ She said. ‘This is the next stage of the journey and this time, you should share it.’ And She reminded me that I’d signed the Pact. So I’ll try. I’ll try, try, try again.

And last night I dreamed that I knew the way. That there was a path and it was narrow and it was steep and it went up through the woods. But it was signposted, clear as day, and people were meandering up towards it. But I knew, suddenly, that it was easy, so easy. I knew I could do it and I started to run, laughing, knowing I could run the whole way up at an easy lope. Run up that hill and not lose breath, not once.

And then, this morning, a friend messaged me and said. ‘I dreamed about you last night and it was the strangest thing – a light hovering above me, all around me, and it changed from blue to orange and it smiled and it was you.’ But of course it did. Of course it was.

I’m not entirely sure where the path will lead along its way but it’s going to be interesting. And, if you’d like to come along, you are very very welcome. I can’t tell you about the Pact. Not yet. You have to wait – and trust – just like me.

Miracles and Magic

I wrote another blog post this morning in bed. A long one. I started to type it out and then, for some reason, I clicked on Twitter. No idea why. RTd a few tweets, followed a link, cried a bit. Switched off.
The phone rang and I was so far away I didn’t know who it was even when she said who she was.
‘I don’t know why I rang you,’ she said. ‘I saw you on Twitter and I just had to ring.’
So strange. We haven’t actually spoken in years. We email - but it’s strictly business.

Yet here we were, on Easter Sunday, talking about souls. Actually I didn’t talk much after a while. I listened. A lot. I cried. Again. She threw a proposal at me and I fumbled it. She threw it again and I caught it. I swore. A lot.  And then laughed and laughed and laughed
‘Is it a deal?’
‘It’s a deal.’
‘I’m giving you a deadline,’ she said sternly.
‘You mean a lifeline,’ I replied.
‘It’s a deal: I benefit too, you know. Fill up the black hole with diamonds and dance. Everything is guided; everything has a reason. It’s why we’re talking on Easter Sunday. But keep it under your hat.’

So I took the SP for a long leisurely walk in the woods.  I thought about her proposal and wondered as I wandered.  It was so so mad.  It might not work.  But it would be huge fun to try.  And, really, what do I have to lose? 

So, I didn't post what I was going to post after all - because, really, it was no longer valid.  But, one thing.  In my not-posted non-post, I'd talked about Jonathan Carroll and miracles and magic and I'd said that I didn't think they existed (the M&M, not Jonathan Carroll).  I was wrong.  They do. 

And I was playing this music which, when I first heard, I didn't love but now, having played it more and more, I do. Love. So this stays too.

Saturday 23 April 2011


I have gone beyond, I really have. I keep trying to write blogs and then deleting them. I just don’t think I have anything worth saying.
Basically I have overdone everything. I am wiped. I have completely, utterly, totally, absolutely (add own extreme adverbs) trashed myself. I have discovered the point at which my body says, ‘Enough. Stop. FFS just stop. Please.’

A three-hour charity Zumba bash last night was the last straw.  Four of us went and we were tired before we started.  I just wasn't really in the mood, after a week of total introspection, to handle wild exuberance and neon pink tutus. We drove back, shell-shocked, and when Susie pulled up outside my door we just looked at one another and collapsed into ever so slightly hysterical laughter.
'I don't think I can get out,' I said.  'I think I may have to stay here.'  Susie gave me as much of a shove as she could manage and I yelped. 

It's not just my body.  I have also found another point at which my mind just quivers and goes blank. Once again I’ve tried to go beyond nothing and been turned back.

So here I am. On a beautiful spring day. Knowing nothing at all. Again. Totally worn out. Head spinning so fast I'm in danger of falling over. So I am going to collapse in the garden, hopefully with a puppy stretched along one hip, and sleep.

Normal service will soon be resumed.  I assume.  Hmmm.  What's a sume?  :-) 

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Revealing the real "me"?

I haven’t been tagged in a meme for positively years. But my dear mucker Laura has done the dirty. Apparently this originated in The Guardian Weekend mag and the answers have the power to reveal the ‘real you’. I’m always trying to discover/uncover/whatever the real me so I figured – why not? – and merrily ignored my inrushing deadline to pay it some thought.

When were you happiest? Oh God, question one and I’m struggling already. I don’t really do long periods of happiness. I think it has to be those rare ‘flow’ moments that come, unexpectedly, out of nowhere and set your entire body and brain tingling. For some bizarre reason the one that sticks in my mind was driving across London Bridge in my VW Beetle as the sun was setting. I had a sudden feeling of ‘YESSSS!!!’ I was about 23. Jumping off a mountain in Austria was pretty cool too.

What was your most embarrassing moment? Hmm. There are many candidates and I’ve confessed plenty in the past. Being told to ‘fuck off’ by Bob Geldof made me wince at the time but, on reflection, I don’t think it was personal. Discussing the ELLE sex survey on live TV was pretty cringe-worthy – I spoke in an unstoppable torrent of totally inadvertent innuendo.

Aside from property, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought? Boring answer – car. Not even a good car either...crappy Toyota RAV4.

What is your most treasured possession? I don’t really go a bundle on stuff. I love things James makes for me and I'm superglued to my iPod. I’d hate to live without my PC – does that count?

Where would you like to live? I’m happy where I am but would love to travel for part of the year. I’d definitely like to bale out of the UK for January and February. Love the US, adore Greece and Egypt. So much of the world I don’t know but would love to meet. Would it be greedy to have a crash-pad in London too?

What’s your favourite smell? Woodsmoke.

Who would play you in the film of your life? Tilda Swinton, please.

What is your favourite book? Sorry – gotta cheat and have three and all spiritual, not novels. The I Ching; A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism;  Symphonic Bridges.

What is your most unappealing habit? Readjusting shop displays and pointing out abuse of apostrophes.

What would be your fancy dress costume of choice? Trinity from The Matrix. Worked that look pretty well a few years back with boot polish in my hair.

What is your earliest memory? Lying in my pram looking up at a hedge and seeing hundreds of caterpillars.

What is your guiltiest pleasure? Chatting on the Internet.

What do you owe your parents? Genetic gloom, existential angst, long legs, big tits and a broad mind.

To whom would you like to say sorry, and why? Terry Waite (for saying he was smelly) and (oh God) the smelly girl in my girl guide patrol.  Note to self: sweat isn't a sin.
What does love feel like? Depends on the love. Warm sun on bare skin, melon sorbet on the tongue or jump leads to the heart.

What was the best kiss of your life? North London. Mid 80s. Random party. Random guy. Sheesh.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? ‘Shit yeah’; ‘to be honest’; ‘Oh FFS’; ‘Sorry’.

What is the worst job you have ever done? Filing for the Immigration Office. I won’t tell you what I did to pass the time.

If you could edit your past, what would you change? I would love to have had a daughter (as well as a son). And I said no a few times when maybe I should have said yes...but then again...

What is the closest you have come to death? Blow-out at 90mph on the middle lane of a US highway. Time really did slow.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? My son. Simples.

When did you last cry and why? A few weeks ago. But I cry at anything. Music usually sets me off – I have been known to sob at adverts if they include the right minor chord.

How do you relax? Seriously tough aerobic exercise. Or seriously tough hard massage. Or seriously tough hard... never mind.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life? Enough money to follow my heart rather than chase bills.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you? I know nothing. Be kind. Okay, so that's two but they're linked. 

Now then....time to tag?  Okay, here are the people to whom I say - 'reveal, reveal'....


Monday 11 April 2011

The soundtrack of your soul

What was the soundtrack of your early childhood? I’ve been thinking about this lately, hunting back through the mists of memory. Back to a very young me in a house with no television, no car, no washing machine, no heating but with a large ungainly record player. I’d thumb through the album sleeves, even then choosing by image, not name (I still buy some books purely because the cover flirts with me).
Firstly I remember a lot of classical music. Nothing to scare the horses, very traditional tastes: Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Grieg. My favourite was Rachmaninov – with a cover of pebbles in a fast-running stream.  Years later I heard it out of the blue and found myself dissolved into tears. Why? I have no idea. What limbic memory did it recall? I have no idea.

My brother and sister were a lot older than me. Yet my sister and I shared a room and, as a very small child, I would love to listen to her playing her singles, sharing secrets of her teenage love life. Sandie Shaw, Petula Clark, Lulu, The Beatles, Dusty Springfield. She played this one for years - over every lost love.

My brother was of a deeply esoteric bent. We sat and tried to get our ears round this kind of thing a fair bit.

But then one day he brought home an album with a gloomy-looking bloke on the cover – and we all fell head over heels in love.

My mother loved to dance. She should never have been snared in suburbia. She adored this...and turned it up loud, despite shocked looks from the neighbours. Funny eh?  It was considered pretty risque then.

My father banned it. She laughed. He broke the record. So she played this instead...

How does it shape us, the music of our childhood? The sounds we hear in our formative, most suggestible years? Does it seep into our souls by osmosis? Does it set a seal? What are we setting in motion in our own children by our current music choices?

Music chimes deep, so deep.  In one of my all-time favourite books, The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse said: 'Music arises from Measure and is rooted in the great Oneness. The great Oneness begets the two poles; the two poles beget the power of Darkness and of Light....
Music is founded on the harmony between heaven and earth, on the concord of obscurity and brightness.'

But anyway.  Tell me: what were your childhood sounds? What made up the soundtrack of your youth and do you think it affected you in any way? Feel free to take this and write up your own – but do link back to me and let me know, so I can sneak a peak into your soul too.. :-)

Pointy tits and bullet bras

I had an accident at Zumba the other night. There I was doing my best reggaeton moves when something sharp and pointy nearly poked my eye out.
Ouch. Shit. The wire from my decrepit bra had worked its way out and was poking up through my vest. I tell ya, it’s tough trying to dance and stuff a wire back down your top.
‘What the hell are you doing?’ hissed Ellie.
‘Loose bra wire,’ I hissed back. What did she think I was doing? Feeling myself up? In the front row of class?

So I got home and darned my bra. Yup, it really is that sad. And then, today, on Twitter @englishmum was going on about the lovely new lingerie she’d been sent by Lingerie Please - which made me kinda wistful. I’ve never really gone in for gorgeous underwear but, hmm, maybe I’m missing a trick here. Maybe this is the next step in my total body makeover.

It must be in the air as, the next thing I know, I’m talking bras again – this time with writer Pat Black on Facebook. Well, actually he was talking about stormy nights and horror movies but I misread it as ‘stormy nighties’ and so he said, ‘Stormy nighties! The nighties in Hammer Horror movies are best, I think, as there are usually pointy boobs hiding in there.’

Pointy boobs? Shit, yes. And it got me thinking, why were boobs so damn pointy back in the day? It can’t have been that the boobs themselves were more triangular, so it had to be the bras. But how, and why? So I did what I usually do when I'm in doubt about something: I asked on Twitter. And was inundated within seconds.

@VincentAbnett: Circle stitched bras (said firmly and decisively)
@Zoe_Lynch: now if my grandma were alive she would tell u – she owned a Spirella dealership
@Spritzdeko: OMG ROFPMSL my mum, god bless her, was one of the pointy tit brigade.

Some of them obviously gave it practical consideration.
@Whyjay99: Fabric used? With less stretchy fabric the cups would have been made of segments sewn together.
@TABITarot: maybe they couldn’t sew round seams easily on the machines.

But not all.
@Fordkantaford1: Probably to cover up any sign of an erect nipple...  (yeah, right - incoming sexbot alert)

And even Ali had a rethink too.
@TABITarot: Pointy ensures maximum frontage.

I was then directed to this very informative page .....

Seems we’d been talking about ‘bullet bras’.  As the site explained: “The bullet bra is a vintage hallmark. It defined the silhouette of an era and represents a golden moment in American fashion when exaggerated femininity reigned supreme and breasts defied the laws of gravity.”

Okaaay. But it’s one thing wearing pointy bras if you’re a pert A cup; quite something else if you’re, let’s say, more amply endowed. If I wore a bullet bra I’d need an entire row to myself at Zumba or I’d be giving black eyes left, right and centre.

Then I remembered. About fifteen years ago my best mate gave me a Rigby and Peller voucher. I never quite worked up the nerve to go in and get fitted so it’s still sitting, quietly, in my desk drawer. Should I? Mind you, with inflation, it’s probably only one cup’s worth nowadays. Ah well, I’ll just have to enter English Mum’s competition to win a Lingerie Please voucher instead...you can too....just click here. 

Sunday 10 April 2011

Who's Jane Alexander?

the real Jane Alexander
Someone online recently described me as a ‘60-something Tibetan nun with a 36-year old son and an arthritic hip.’ Kinda interesting. Where on earth did he get that from? So I Googled myself. Absolutely fascinating. Who knew how many weird and wonderful Jane Alexanders there were out there. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to some of my many and various alter egos.

I’m an actress. Well, I knew this already. When I was young I went to see the bloody gloomy movie Kramer v Kramer with a bunch of friends and, as the titles came up, so did my name. ‘Hey, I didn’t know you were in this, Jane,’ quipped one pal, rather loudly. Within five minutes the buzz had gone round the cinema and everyone was looking round. Apparently I am “Angular in features, reserved in demeanor and more-or-less plaintive in appearance.” Good fit?
I’m a bishop. Wow, I didn’t know that. Cool. A bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada. Get those robes.  Actually, I love the idea of being some kind of prelate. In another life, mebbe.

I’m a South African sculptor and an artist. Oh, God, I LOVE this Jane Alexander. Her work is amazing. She is SO damn cool. She is also, apparently, infamous for her silence.
I could learn a lesson or two from this me.
I’m a wedding photographer based in Surrey. I’d show you my images but apparently I don’t allow reproduction.  So this is a generic pic.

I’m a brave woman who was institutionalised for mental illness and treated against my will. This Jane Alexander has written a book called Possessing Me: a memoir of healing, detailing a seventeen year battle with mental illness. Well, well. That one brought me up short. I wondered for a moment if I really had written that book. If you know me (me me) you’ll know that I am a fervent believer in outing the shame around mental illness. So, bravo, Jane Alexander – bravo. You can read more here.

I’m an illustrator and a marketing officer who loves 8th century Irish balads.  Oh good choice, marketing me....  here's a snippet...

"You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!"

I think that’s enough. A few other clicks gave my anti-virus program several jolts of adrenalin and firewalls came hurtling up at the speed of light. So I obviously have a fair few skeletons in my cupboard too. But there you have it. The many faces and skillsets of my online alter egos. Will the real Jane Alexander please stand up?  Sadly, not a Tibetan nun to be found.

How about you?  Ever Googled yourself?  Who are you - as well as being you?  And then again, who is 'you' anyhow?

Friday 8 April 2011

Maybe I need to shoot zombies

Ah, how can one feel sad on such a beautiful day? How is it possible to feel so low when nature is so high on life? My mood ricochets so fast I go dizzy; my heart expands and then tightens; my soul soars and then plummets, in freefall.
Is this the price one pays for being a writer; for living in one’s mind, in the imagination, so much? Does it leave dissatisfaction with the mundane world of everyday, of dust and dinner, of routine and responsibility?

I am struggling right now. I’ve had the contract for a project sitting on my desk now for the last five days. Last night I made myself sign it and felt a chill breeze of despond flutter the pages. What is the matter with me? Why does it feel such a big deal? It’s just a book. It’s just a job. It won’t even bear my name; nobody will know. Since when did I become so precious? It’s not even as though I have any great literature in me yearning to push itself into the world. Ah, maybe that is it. Maybe it’s the futility of it all. The nonsense of ego that craves attention. The foolishness of middle age. The sense that time is hurtling by and I’m being swept along with it.

Maybe, as I said yesterday, the sticking plaster over this festering sore is to get out the mind and into the body. Yesterday I punished myself with an hour of kettlebell class. It was tough; my muscles whimpered but it felt good. I slept for once. But still I couldn’t dream.

This morning it was yoga. Out in the air, on the grass, the sun beating down. I opened my eyes and gazed at the sky, so clear, so blue. Felt the earth under my body. Felt so strange, an insect Velcroed to the planet by gravity, a speck on a speck spinning in space. As we fell into pranayama, I fell into the sky, dropped away. Normally it feels good; normally the universe feels like a comforting place. Today it felt like I was spinning into a void.

‘Are you alright, Mum?’ said James later as I stood at the sink, washing up in a daze.
‘Of course I am, love,’ I replied.
‘You don’t seem it,’ he countered.
Oh hell. I try to keep my mood dips away from him, I really do. I guess I don’t always succeed.
‘When I feel low, I lose myself in a game,’ he said, patting my back as if I were the child, he the parent. ‘Black Ops is pretty good for that.’

Ah so. Maybe we all do it in different ways. Some with television or games; some with food and alcohol; some with pulp fiction; some with sport and exercise, with adrenalin or endorphins.

Maybe I just need to shoot me some zombies.

Thursday 7 April 2011


I think I may be developing a bit of an exercise addiction. Since my boot camp experience, I’ve found I become a little ‘twitchy’ if I sit still too long. I’ve discovered that getting a serious sweat on is a pretty effective way of banishing my natural tendency to gothic gloom and over-thinking.

Meditation is good, it really is – but it tends to encourage my inner dippiness. Whereas seriously tough aerobic exercise puts me into clear ‘no thought’ territory which, in my head, is a seriously good place to be.

I walk the dog, I’m a regular at the gym; I do yoga. I go to Zumba class on Friday night and shimmy and shake. Last Friday I was talking to Nicky, who really does have a hardcore exercise habit.
'If you think this is wild, you oughta come to the Wednesday class in Tiverton,’ said Nicky. She raised her eyebrows meaningfully.
I’d heard about that class: it was legendary. 80 wild women crammed into one small hall; sweat dripping down the walls; more tattoos than a ship-full of sailors; 90 minutes of wild abandon.

‘Anyhow,’ she continued. ‘There’s space in the car if you wanna come.’ Hellfire. It was a challenge.
‘Okay,’ I said with a shrug.
‘Don’t wear too much,’ she added. Oh shit.

Way-hay! The hall was heaving and, as the music started up, off we went – one huge rhythmic surge of abandoned female energy. I’m not a huge team-player; I don’t usually like being one of the crowd, but there’s something weirdly mesmeric about moving in perfect sync with the shoal. A wild whoop rose up from behind me; followed by a chorus of cat-calls and wild whistles. Bloody hell, it was turning into a Bacchanalia. Were they really only swigging water?  As the sweat started to pour between my shoulder-blades, as my feet salsaed and merengued and calypsoed all by themselves, I found myself fighting the urge to click my teeth and shout ‘Ayyyyeeeeee’ and even ‘Ole Ole!’

‘C’mon, into a large circle,’ yelled the instructor, Debbie, who has to have the most mobile hips I’ve ever seen on a skinny woman. She was going for it something mental, tugging women in to dance with her.

‘Hey girls, we have a man in the house,’ she yelled. Holy shit! One guy amidst 80 women? He had some balls. A roar of approval went up from the rank and file. Jeez, they were going to tear him limb from limb. But Debbie pulled him into the middle and, fair play, he got down and dirty with his hip thrusts to shrieks of approval.

‘Well, that was fun,’ I said, as we got back into the car and tried to clear the steam from the windows.
‘That was insane,’ said Ellie.
‘I tell ya, that’s gotta improve your sex life,’ said Nicky.
We burst out laughing and then, grinning broadly, retreated into our own private reveries for a bit.

As we spun off the valley road, Nicky broke the silence.  'Hey,' she said. 'There's a four hour charity Zumbathon coming up.  With alcohol.  Anybody game?'

Holy cow.

Why is Zumba SO good?  Cos you get to dance to stuff like this....


Friday 1 April 2011

Adrian does yoga

I can’t remember when I didn't do yoga. My mother was really into it and so I think I was able to do a lotus position before I could even crawl. But I’ve rarely done classes – mainly because it’s so damn tough to find a really good teacher.

I’ve usually given up after one or two attempts. One teacher was so off with the fairies that she had to ask the class which asana we were in, halfway through. Another (Iyengar-style) pushed me so over-enthusiastically that I ended up with a frozen shoulder.

No such worries with Paul Cartwright. When my pal Trish asked if I wanted to join a group of runners for a private yoga class, I jumped at the chance. Paul is a simply fabulous teacher – he’s studied a whole range of types of yoga and incorporates elements from several styles into his classes. But the teaching is very pure – no fancy gimmicks. I’d never been able to get to his standard classes so this was fate giving me a helpful nudge again.

Last week we were blessed with a perfect sunny day. We met up on the cricket ground and laid out our mats on the grass; saluted the sun which shone on our upturned faces. It was pure total heaven.

Today it was overcast and gloomy so we were squashed (ho ho) into one of the squash courts. But, as a friend pointed out, you can be anywhere you choose in your mind. So I closed my eyes and visualised the warm soft grass under my back and the gentle sunlight on my face – and I was off. Except for the fact that someone was huffing and puffing next to me like an asthmatic train. Adrian had decided he would come along.

Now Adrian has never done yoga. He runs and cycles and is very fit in a typically blokeish way but he sure as hell ain’t stretchy. He refuses to breathe through his nose and has zero tolerance for anything remotely holistic or spiritual (‘I’m an atheist; I don’t hold with weird stuff’). Sooo....

‘What do I wear?’ he asked. Crikey, I thought only women asked that question. I suggested tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt – he pitched up in shorts and several sweatshirts. And trainers.

‘You won’t need those. You do yoga with bare feet.’
‘What?’ He looked horrified. ‘I can’t do it then.’
WTF? Transpired he was worried about the state of his toenails (or lack thereof).
‘Don’t be a numpty. Nobody will look at your toenails. You keep your eyes closed most of the time anyway.’
A look of total unabridged terror passed over his face.

I confess that, halfway through I was getting a tad worried. I can go into pretty deep meditation doing yoga but his gasps and sighs and crashes were so loud I had to open the odd eye to make sure he hadn’t died mid-stretch.
‘Are you alright?’ I hissed, as we paused in Crocodile. He just shook his head, wild-eyed, limbs shaking.

I honestly thought he’d get up and walk out but no. Aftewards as we pulled on our shoes outside, I turned to him. ‘You hated it, didn’t you? You won’t be coming back.’
But he shook his head. ‘Nah. It was really tough but really good. I think I need it.’

Well, stone the crows. And, as he cooked lunch (for him); breakfast (for me) he was high as a kite. ‘This energy thing? Is that normal with yoga?’
I nodded, smiling. ‘Sure is.’
‘I can’t get the mind stuff though.’
‘It’ll come. It’s hard when you don’t know the asanas. But, once you do, your breathing will take you into the mind stuff. Or rather the non-mind stuff.’
I thought he’d sniff and pooh-pooh it but no. Bloody hell, whatever next?

‘That bit at the end? Was that a prayer?’ he said suspiciously.
‘No, dear. Just a nice stretch for the upper arms.’
Namaste. ;)