June 2010


When I was 5 years old, we moved to Shipley, where my father was born and brought up. My parents bought a house in Saltaire, a model village built in the mid to late 1800’s by Sir Titus Salt. Sir Titus was a rich mill owner in Bradford (an affluent and thriving town at the time) who, having happened across some alpaca wool, mixed it with some cotton and made a great success of the resulting fabric. Already having several mills in the Bradford area, he branched out into Shipley and built Saltaire, a complete self-contained village where his workers could work, live, socialize, shop, go to church, pretty much everything except consume alcoholic beverages. Sir Titus was teetotal and expected his workers to remain sober too.

When I lived there, it was just another village, probably much the same as it was 100 years ago, but with more electricery and less mill workers. It was a community with everything you needed, butchers, bakers, laundry, library, school, college and even an off license selling those terrible alcoholic beverages.

Now, having become a World Heritage Site, it is a haven for tourists and the shops have changed accordingly. There’s even a pub these days, amusingly named “Don’t Tell Titus”. Though it is still a lovely place to visit, for me it has lost that sense of self-contained community it was built to be. I walked through there today and called into a nostalgic cafe that calls itself The Victoria Tea rooms. It’s dressed up as the owners perceive a Victorian Tea Shop to be (and to be fair, it looked pretty authentic to me) and has some fascinating photographs of the village in the late 19th and early 20th century. While there I purchased some post cards and this replica of the original “Rules for Living in Saltaire” that I thought I would share with you.

Rules for Living in Saltaire

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I don’t believe in fate or “everything happens for a reason”, but I do believe that often, barring the death of a loved one, when bad things happen, good things can come from it. Although sometimes the death of a loved one can lead to a nice inheritance, so…

Case in point for me, when my husband lost his job just as I was starting a new one, it was simply the worst thing we could imagine happening at the time. However, he was working in a job that he hated but was too well-paid to leave. Losing that job forced him to make the move, and he ended up becoming a police officer, something he had dreamed of as a child but thought was beyond him.

Okay, the time he was ‘between jobs’ was hard but in retrospect, losing his job was the best thing that could have happened to him.

Throughout the five years of my illness one of the things that kept me going was the thought that, at some point, I would recover and look back and say, “wow, that was a shit period of time, but you know what, if I hadn’t have gone through that then X wouldn’t have happened. It was really the best thing that could have happened to me.”

It’s now two years since I first started to feel better. I recently looked back at some photos from two years ago and realised how ill I still was at that point, but at the time it felt like I was better. I still haven’t found that thing that will make it all seem not so bad. I’m still living through the repercussions of that time, and they still suck. My life, though substantially better than it was, is in no way better because of the experience. The most I can claim to have learned from it, is that I am a whiny, grumpy, depressed person when I am sick, which to be honest I knew anyway, just not to such a large degree, and maybe a better appreciation of what it is like to live with a disability. I haven’t even become a better person because of it, in fact, if anything I have become a worse one. As of now, there is no way that my life or way of life has significantly improved because of it, though I still hope that one day it will.

I have lots and lots of plans in my head as to what my future might hold, but right now, I don’t actually see any clear way of achieving any of those plans. Maybe one of them will come to fruition and I will say “I couldn’t/wouldn’t have done this had I not spent five years of my life in something of a daze, and it’s awesome”; maybe. I had a very happy, healthy life with lots of prospects and plans for my future when I became ill, most of which I was well on my way to achieving and most of which are now on permanent hold. I have no savings and a nice amount of gathering debt.

I can’t honestly say that anything I achieve now, will be better or more fulfilling than what I would have achieved had I continued on the path I was on 7 years ago. Different? definitely. Awesome? maybe. Better? probably not.

I have my appraisal at work today, a question that has now become mandatory is “what are your career plans?” Is “getting the fuck out of dodge” a viable answer do you think? Because to be brutal, my career in the job that I actually do love, despite my rantings about it, has been bottomed by this period of time in my life, and quite often I feel pretty kind of shitty about that.

I’ll continue searching for that thing that will make it all seem not so bad though, and hope that I get the chance at a second go at life, which does begin at TwentyTwice, after all.

24 – 25 May 2010

We landed a half hour early and made it through customs and passport control with much queueing but little fuss and were directed to the nicely air-conditioned coach which would take us to our hotel.

Driving in Egypt is a whole different experience to driving in England, that’s for sure. Although the roads have improved since I was here last they still appear to operate on a ‘he who honks loudest goes first’ system.
No TrumpetingTrumpeting is also strictly forbidden and apparently you need to be aware of yellow submarines crossing (according the road signs), but aside from that Sharm does lack the assortment of goats, donkeys, horses and bicycles that crowded the roads when I was in Luxor.

We were greeted at the hotel with welcome drinks, a fruit juice cocktail which was actually very welcome indeed. There were only two other people who got of the coach at our hotel. A mother and daughter ensemble, the daughter of which was also celebrating her 40th birthday. On that very day. Once we had finished our drinks and filled in various forms, we were shown to our room, quickly followed by our suitcases.

Our hotel is a budget hotel, courtesy of me going part-time earlier this year. Sacrifices had to be made and one of them was luxury 5 star holiday. The room is basic but clean, which is all I really need, and we found supper laid out for us, which, also very welcome. Especially as we hadn’t been expecting it and had arrived after the restaurant shut.

Investigation of the TV channels lead us to discover both Castle and Bones were showing, but no Bold and the Beautiful. On my first trip to Egypt, some 17 years ago, my friend and I had become fascinated with the Bold and the Beautiful. Neither of us had witnessed American soaps before and we watched nightly with a slightly puzzled and bemused expression on our faces. I was hoping to recreate the experience.

By the time we had perused the TV channels, devoured supper and poked our noses into every corner of the room, it was one midnight. I don’t love a late arrival on the first day of my holiday, no matter how long or tiring the journey, my mind is buzzing with holiday plans and wants to go exploring. When I finally did sleep it was fitfully. I was woken at some point by what I thought was the sound of running water, investigation proved it was just my imagination, but of course I needed the toilet then anyway. Just as I was about to fall back to sleep, the early morning call to prayer kicked in. Thankfully, I have been to muslim countries before so didn’t mistake it for someone being repeatedly stabbed in the eye with a hot poker as I had the first time I heard this particularly painful wail.

When morning started for realsies we sauntered sleepily down to breakfast, which was pretty much the standard fayre of scribbled eggs, mashed potato and cleverly carved fruit (which I completely failed to ever take a picture of). Then we set off for an adventure in search of a bank clutching our travelers’ cheques.

We soon found a Thomas Cook bank that gladly accepted our cheques and changed them into useable Egyptian paper money, and also a row of shops which included a Starbucks and a Body Shop. We hurried back to the safety of the pool bar in horror and grabbed ourselves a couple of sunbeds before it was time to meet the Thomson rep and book some trips, more of which in due course.

The rest of the day was spent touring the hotel to find the places our lovely all-inclusive arm bands could get us free food and drink and then settled in by the pool to start our holiday for real.

No TrumpetingFor now, I am ensconced by the pool, 20 lengths done, just to pretend I’m keeping up some kind of exercise regime, rum and cokes in my belly book and notepad (yes actual pen and paper notepad) nearby, lathered in factor 25 and enjoying the delicious feel of a real sun on my skin. No doubt this evening will find us in the bar or exploring the Naama nightlife.

It’s just hit lunch time on my first full day back in the UK and already it has turned into A Bad Day ™. As I am back galavanting in London Village tomorrow I set my alarm for early o’clock in preparation for a full day. I awoke with the familiar heating hangover that I had managed to forget existed in just two weeks in a country where sometimes the temperature will drop to 18 degrees at night, if you’re lucky. I shook it off, grabbed my wake up coffee and gym kit and sauntered off into the miserable for a work out.

Despite my fave treadmill, the one by the window that opens, being broken, my first workout for two weeks went surprisingly well, swimming is much underrated it would appear.

Next stop was to the Post Office to cash in my remaining Traveller’s Cheques and bit of Egyptian money. No. Nope. Not so fucking simple. Did I buy the Cheques at the post office, the cashier enquired. Why, yes. Yes I did. Do I have my receipt? Being the prepared type, yes I had that too. Oh, you didnt buy your cheques at THIS post office. No. No you got me there, I did not buy my Traveller’s Cheques at this particular post office. Pesky thing about it being no where near my bank where I could draw out the money and you not accepting my bank card to pay with. Oh, well, you have to go change them at the Post Office you bought them at. What? What. The. Fuck. What difference could one branch of a Post Office possibly make? Seriously.

OK then, well can I at least change my money since I’m here and I queued up and all. No. You have to change your money where you bought it. Seriously? I bought it in fucking Egypt, where the Egyptian money lives. Well, if I’m changing my Travellers Cheques where I bought them they might possibly change the money as well if I’m incredibly lucky and the cashier got laid the night before. By Jonny Depp.

Brilliant. The infamous Post Office Where I Bought The Cheques is in town, and no, of course I didn’t bring my bus pass out with me, because, no, I did not think I would need to get on a bus, and no, of course I don’t have any money on me because I thought I would be changing my travellers cheques, and no, I don’t have time to go home and get those things because I have to go shopping and start packing and catch up with all the TV I missed so I don’t get spoiled at the weekend, and finally, no, I can’t get money at the Post Office cos they don’t accept my fucking bank card.

Shopping. Oh yes shopping. The shopping where I totally forgot to bring my Nectar card or shopping bags with me. Bollocks. Oh well, I’ll treat myself to Alice in Wonderland on Blu Ray while I’m there to make for my incredibly shite morning so far. Except, no I won’t, because despite all the placards around the store, and the annoying sticker on the DVDs announcing “Why not treat yourself to the Blu Ray edition”, there is no Blu Ray edition anywhere in the shop, or any of those spotty shop assistants you usually find lurking in dark corners anywhere to be found, the best to be had is Annoying Guy, so desperate to sell me some financial product or another he asked me twice, on separate occasions during the 20 minutes I was in the store.

Then the rain started and my day was complete. Or so I thought, but more was to come. I arrived home to discover that postie had been, and managed to leave one of those nice cards announcing that I was out when he called with a package at 10.20. 10.20? When does postie arrive at 10.20? Never, ever, bloody bleeding ever before 12.00 unless I am out. Tosser.

Clutching my lovely new tea pot I thought I would try some of that calming Bedouin tea I bought in Egypt and sweated over all the way home because it looks alarmingly like weed. Yes, you guessed it, the bag burst open and tipped half of the stuff over the floor. Of course it did, I mean what possible other outcome could there have been?

When I sat down to write this, it had just gone noon. I’m not entirely sure how the day can possibly get worse, but I’m quite sure that life is ingenious enough to find a way. I will no doubt find that the 24 or Glee finale hasn’t recorded fully, or is as disappointing as Lost.

Here I am back from my holiday, looking slightly bronzed and marveling at the lovely English weather. What is this strange wet stuff coming from the sky?

Whilst I was away, I wrote something of a travel journal so I could share all my wonderful adventures with you. Unfortunately, on the very last day, something leaked in my bag destroying half my notebook. Darn pen and paper, so fragile. Give me papyrus any day, some of that stuff has lasted millenia. Hopefully I will be able to decipher enough of what remains to make some kind of sense of it. If not, then I will just post some hieroglyphics and pictures.

I had the foresight to write my first blog on my iPhone on the plane, which was then safely stashed away in a safe deposit box for the remainder of the holiday. The iPhone, not the plane. Clearly.

So here it is.

24/05/2010

On the day that we were to leave for our holiday to Egypt, what I believe to be a televisual first occurred. The series finale of Lost aired simultaneously in the US, Canada and the UK. I rarely watch TV in real time, preferring to watch in my own time and skip the adverts, but this I would have loved to be a part of. Rising at or staying up until 5am, however, was not gonna happen when I had to be on the road to the airport at 9.30, so we decided to watch later.

Unfortunately, we didn’t realise just how long an episode it would be and so didn’t leave enough time for a full viewing. We have maybe the last 20 minutes still to watch. Gosh darn it if anyone spoils me before I get to see it I’ll Egyptian curse them so hard. (Note: no one has – don’t start now.)

cocktail
After a little duty free shopping we had plenty of time for a cocktail in the bar before boarding and everything went smoothly and to time. We’d snagged extra leg room seats and hired PSPs to entertain us, but boy it’s been a long time since I flew economy. What no individual TV’s and choice of movies. Pish. How do the lower classes survive.

It was a beautiful clear day meaning spectacular views of the world from my 37,000 feet vantage point. Glancing out of the window just before lunch I was fortunate to catch this most stunning view of the alps, alpsI believe the Italian side of them, and a little later some lovely coastal views, later still the most brilliant sunset I have ever seen.

Lunch though, really, it’s bad enough being cooped up on a plane without being served bread and pasta. Vegetarians can eat other things you know.. Way to make one’s journey bloated and uncomfortable. I eat about half of it and will no doubt be starving when we arrive late at the hotel with everything shut. (Note: they laid us on a late dinner, the darlings).

So that’s my trip so far. Still in the air, a couple of hours from landing, scheduled to arrive a half hour early, listening to The Killers, sipping wine and Baileys and typing this into my iPhone. Kind of wish I could blog as I go, but I am determined to stick with my no outside world contact rule whilst on holiday.

Back to the crazier by the minute adventures of Sookie Stackhouse it is then.

Views from the top of the world.

sunset sunset sunset