Excuse the recent silence, but

the view

How come I forgot that moving countries took up so much time and energy? Here I am six weeks post that idyllic retreat and have still not managed to write another blog. Not because nothing has happened. Not because I had nothing to write about. I’ve just been busy.

However, we have now moved into our second transit flat. It’s cute. It’s sweet. It’s charming. It overlooks a canal. It’s tiny. I was recently reading an article in The Times about the current trend for living in micro-apartments. In the article the writer bemoaned the fact that there is always washing all over the place. Piles of it ready to go into the washer. Racks of it drying. Baskets ready for ironing. Heaps of folded clothes to be claimed by the recipients. With three men in our micro-flat I can never remember whose boxers are whose, nor whose socks.

Shoes, too. There is nowhere to put shoes. No space for a shoe rack. No hall or porch to litter with discarded footwear and worse, no floor space in the bedroom for them either. Yesterday, my major achievement was finding a way to place the kitchen table bench beneath the coat rack and thereby create the ‘dumping ground’ I cannot live without.

my beloved dumping ground

I long to be more minimalist and to get rid of stuff. To live like my friend Robin, who seriously survives with two pairs of black trousers and two black tee-shirts. I tell myself it’s because black doesn’t suit me but actually, I like a varied wardrobe. The trouble is that I need my ‘stuff’. I like my ‘stuff’. I notice a hole in the bag of oats in our single store cupboard and yearn for my Tupperware. I want to serve a salad on my pottery platter from Brittany not in a washing up bowl. I don’t want to live like a student and collect old carrier bags overflowing with paper, plastic and bottles next to the bin in the tiny kitchen. I don’t want my pot of coriander to fall off the sill and tumble to the street when I open the window.

the bin scene

Am I spoiled? I guess these are luxury issues. We have a roof over our heads and food on the table. But living on the top floor (the Dutch are renowned for steep staircases) yesterday I barely managed to carry two bags of shopping to our top floor flat without giving myself a hernia. Then, at the top a cauliflower fell out of the bag and I watched it tumble all the way to the bottom leaving a confetti of creamy florets in its wake. Too frustrated to head back down with a dustpan and brush I had a cup of tea and two biscuits instead. Creating a home for the second time in three months and rebuilding my precious store cupboard of ingredients takes time.

Then, I also have a life to build. I need to reconnect with friends, make time for proper conversation with people who mean a lot and were important to me when we lived here before Malaysia. Any hole my departure had left in their lives had inevitably closed up and filled with new things and people and so trying to worm my way back into their lives is something I prioritise. I’m about to start another Writers’ Circle of course, which is my major source of soulfood and soulmates.

Kombucha cooking!

And I want to do things for me NOW. Not later. Time marches on and no longer can I appease myself with thoughts of one day having the farmhouse kitchen with an island that I long for in order to make bread, jam and pickle vegetables. I may have less cupboard-space than at any time in our marriage but I am determined to forge ahead with my dreams regardless. I have made elderflower cordial and pizza dough, learned to make kombucha, kefir and fermented vegetables and now make them all the time. I have gooseberries ready for jam-making and will buy rhubarb today now it’s in season for my favourite chutney. More importantly, though I have dreamed for two decades of having a place of our own large enough to run my own writing retreats I have decided that I am just going to have to do it anyway – I can use other people’s venues.

Therefore, in the spaces between domesticity, moving, trips back to the UK, rekindling friendships, being a family, rebuilding my contacts and helping my clients to write their books I have booked, priced and planned five writing retreats for the coming year. Let me give myself a quick High Five!

a writing task at Dartington

Want the lowdown? Here goes…

  • 21-25 November we’ll focus on Writing for Travel at Campbell House in Penang – includes the George Town Literary Festival
  • mid-March directly after FIGT, we’ll focus on Finding Stories in The Hague – includes art and yoga
  • 13-18 May we’ll Feed the Writing Soul at Praana Wellness in France – includes yoga and ayurvedic food
  • 7-12 July we’ll Feed the Writing Soul at Watermill Cottages in Devon – includes yoga and Ways With Words Festival, Dartington
  • 22-29 September, we’ll Learn How to Write Life Stories at The Watermill in Tuscany

Details and prices to follow on the website. Maximum of 10. Book early for discount etc etc.

So, I’m sorry I haven’t written a blog lately, but as you can see, I’ve been a bit busy!



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