Sleepy Devon

One good thing came out of my car breaking down today. This has been just the second occasion that I have spent any time with my daughter’s boyfriend and I have decided that he is a love. Why? The way he reacted to our plans going awry. We left home at 10.30 and should have been at Hound Tor in less than an hour, but my car broke three miles from home. While I waited for the mending man they took the dogs off for a walk, got a taxi home to pick up girlies car, came back to take the dogs off my hands again while the mending man followed me limping to Halfords. We went to browse a motorbike dealership while a new battery was sorted and I began to understand his passion and just how knowledgeable he is about bikes. I felt thoroughly out of place there though – never seen so much power and shine under one roof.

We got my car back, headed home for a quick snackette and situation re-appraisal and around 2pm set off for the moor again. This was supposed to be a treat for him, his first trip to one of Nina’s and my favourite places. I thought how sweet of him to squidge his six foot three into the back of my tiny Sadie, leaving Nina and I to chunter on, as the glory of the south Dartmoor hills opened up on the horizon. Dido and Daisy his new best friends gazed adoringly at him as he slipped off to sleep and only woke as we thundered over the cattle grid and got our first view of the lovely granite outcrop that is Haytor.

‘Wow’, Nina and I in stereo, just as we have a hundred times. ‘What do you think Steve, isn’t it stunning?

‘Uhhh’, he’s awake but not as we know it.

He recovered in time to scramble up Houndtor ten minutes further on,

and was a very happy puppy with his ice cream, camera and a focus worth of scruffy sheep in need of threading. Down the other side of the hill with views clear back to East Devon

lies the ruins of a mediaeval village where Steve and Nina made ‘Grand Designs’ that even included a granny annexe (on the edge of said village way beyond the cowshed), although he wouldn’t commit to which granny!

I should probably take it as a compliment that he managed to fall asleep again while I barrelled through the back track to Ashburton; if I had been the passenger I’d have been clinging to the dashboard muttering to any goddess I could think of. I think he then managed a few miles of wakefulness but was gone again through Totnes and until we parked in Dartmouth.

Coffee and chips by the waterfront kept him going as did the crossing on Higher Ferry but quelle surprise, we lost him again until Paignton, which is perhaps best slept through.

I’m fairly sure that Steve enjoyed Devon; he did get to sleep his way through countryside quite different from flat, overbuilt Portsmouth. Our rolling hills and picture skew villages giving way to azure sea are clearly soporific and I’m looking forward to sending him to the land of Nod again soon. It was great having such an easy guy around when the car was poorly; I know a few who wouldn’t have been so laid back.

So who has heard of threading?

Apparently it originated in the Indian sub-continent. Picture this: – Five women in a hotel room in Ankara, strangers just five days earlier. One American, one Indian, one Australian, one English-Nigerian and one Pakistani; two are sharing the room, the others are invited.

‘I’m going to deal with India’s whiskers’ says Pakistan.

‘You’re what???’

‘I’m going to thread her.’

‘What on earth?’

‘Come and see, I did Australia last night’

‘Yes look at me it’s amazing, let’s get some wine, you can watch her’

‘I’ll do you too’

‘Sounds painful, America, shall we go and watch?’

India lies on the bed; Pakistan takes two feet of white cotton, ties a knot to make a circle, a few deft movements and aims it at India’s top lip. They watch amazed as a mass of black hair is whisked away leaving a totally smooth finish. The process took just a few minutes.

‘Didn’t that hurt?’

‘No, I had it done before I came on holiday, it just pulls a little, no problem’

‘Where do you get this done? Pakistan are you a beauty therapist?’

‘No we learn from our mothers at home.’

‘You talk about it? How embarrassing.’

‘Why? It’s part of life, especially once you’re a certain age.’

Before she knew it America is on the bed lying on her side.

‘Owwww’, a squeal like murder, hope the room is sound proof.

‘Get her ice quick’

‘Ice, where from?’

‘The mini bar, quick a beer can, throw it here’ hisssss, it hits something hard on its journey across the room oozing brown lager bubbles onto the pristine five star bed linen.

‘Ow ow ow’ another half dozen whiskers hit the knots.

‘Uh . . . no need to worry about me, I immacced before I left home, I won’t have any long enough for you to grab.’

‘Bet you have, I’ll find some.’

‘Uh no, but I’d really like to learn how to do that, is it difficult?’

‘Just takes practise, here try it on your own legs.’ England-Nigeria takes a piece of thread and tries it on her hairless calves, nothing happens.

‘Here try it on America’s leg, she has plenty’

‘Ow ow ow aghhhh, noooo I need them to keep warm’

‘Oh how can I learn? This would be so useful, it can’t hurt that much’

‘Your turn now, over here, no you have to lie down I can’t reach you’

‘It’s too dark isn’t it? How can you see what you’re doing?’

‘Aha no problem, you have many, many fine hairs, it will take much longer on you, and you thought you didn’t need it, wouldn’t you rather be nice and smooth?’

‘Yes but…’

‘America, drink the wine it will stop the pain, now England-Nigeria you’re used to plucking your eyebrows so it won’t hurt, another beer can please!’

‘Put your tongue under your cheek to make your face stretch out’

‘This is crazy I never . . .’

‘Shush, you need to keep still stop giggling’

‘Ah’, England-Nigeria drew her breath quickly.

‘Watch America, you need to learn how to do it for me’. Four pairs of eyes looked down as a dozen hairs at a time were lifted from her skin. ‘Can you do this with bikini lines too?’ Five continents collided in a giggling heap.

Anzac Cove

A single satin poppy like a drop of blood on innocent sand.

As far as the eye can see, empty turquoise, peacefulness,

In the loveliest burial ground in the world

For the thousands of ghosts of lost boys

Who were sent here to die.

Stones pierce the green like rows of shark’s teeth

Stones that name Anzacs in their teens and twenties

Few old enough to be dads, all young enough to be sons.

Antipodean voices whisper as they search

Emotion choked as names are uncovered

And Rosemary battles for remembrance

Against the fennel scorched air.

The thing that’s not called writers block

I’m back. From two weeks and two thousand miles in Turkey where I have seen things fit to make even my hair curlier. I started with well meaning intentions of keeping my travel journal (thank god I resisted buying a sexy new one). Within twenty four hours the intentions had become ‘As long as I keep some notes my photos will help to fill the gaps’. Within seventy two hours I was thirty six behind. Hot, thirty eight degrees (where does that tiny round symbol hide on the keyboard?), getting tired from not sleeping on board hard beds and rising too early. Because we need to get moving ahead of the traffic, because we have to get there before the cruise ship spillage, because we have three hundred kilometres today, making me crabby, I’m on holiday right? Right but you didn’t want to lie on a beach G.

The damn bus was not conducive to writing legibly. That’s not true; San managed it because she can form beautifully neat words. I’ve seen opium fields, Troy, the Blue Mosque, temple cats, those hideous cruise ships sail into port like floating mounds stuffed with three thousand termites. I’ve met an Aspergic American, a beautiful young woman from Pakistan who had fled a ten month abusive arranged marriage and I have forced a smile from the grumpiest Istanbullu Maitre D’ imaginable. I went to the house where the Virgin Mary is reputed to have ended her days on this earth and shamefully touched immeasurably old artefacts with ‘Do not touch’ signs beside them. Emeralds the size of my fist dazzled me when rain fall like the Sunderbans trapped me inside Topkapi. So why am I not writing these stories? There is enough material to keep me occupied for months. Writers block doesn’t exist does it? If I was dedicated, I would be writing at any spare moment, anyplace. So maybe I’m just lazy, maybe I’m just not a writer. Not true, I am and I just have to do it – to write on through the dribble and find the discipline.