Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Comfort Zone

Photo by Nina Leen, 1954

As I sit here watching it piddle down outside, I'm thinking about why I'm feeling so restless. Why am I not either relaxing properly or getting on with things like writing some poetry, working on unfinished pieces or continuing to read that book I started ages ago?

Those of you who work, long for a day like this; when it's raining outside, you don't really have to go anywhere and you can truly indulge in anything or nothing. For me right now, it's absolutely tedious; hence why inspiration has flown from me and I can't get into my projects. Until I start working, I'll be sat around twiddling my thumbs some more..."just relax and enjoy your time" you say? Not easy when you run out of things to do by 11am and it's too hot to want to do anthing else. You see, my usual creature comforts don't apply here in Bali.

Image from We Heart it

The things that make me feel fuzzy and content are:

*Wearing a baggy woollen jumper
*Laying on the sofa with the cat and rubbing his belly
*Baking a cake while listening to old music
*Eating said cake with a cup of tea (usually with someone to have a good natter with)
*Having a long hot shower, using all my best soaps and scrubs
*Watching movies that I've loved since I was a child like Elvis' G.I Blues, Please Sir!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, or Airplane! (usually with my favourite blanket wrapped around me)

Scene from G.I Blues

*Do I sound like an old lady?!*

*Rediscovering albums that I haven't listened to in ages, then dancing to them while tidying up
*Flipping through a copy of Spirit & Destiny Magazine and then researching online all the awesome workshops and books it recommends
*Watching a marathon of Location, Location, Location (again, a cup of tea must accompany this)
*Quoting Alan Partridge, IT Crowd and other favourite comedy shows through text and down the phone with mates
*Ordering Chinese for dinner then eating it while watching a DVD
*Getting into my pyjamas (providing I changed out of them in the first place), putting my slippers on and having a pre-bedtime chat with my sister over that last cup of tea.


Not my own living room obviously, image from Country Living

Now, none of those things are possible apart from the tea (until I run out of the PG Tips I brought with me) but let's face it, it's not really something you can drink all day long when you're sat there lethargic and sweaty from the blazing heat. And night time is reserved for ensuring that you've covered all mosquito repellent methods so that you don't get mauled in your sleep and there is certainly no place for pyjamas and fuzzy socks; it's more like skimpy vest and underwear, barefoot and no covers. So I have to find some new comforts if I'm going to enjoy all this 'spare time'...suggestions are welcome.

So enjoy Spring guys, 'cos it's coming your way and it's my favourite season of the year. Because, aside from those days when I'm dossing about in my comfy clothes while it's cold and raining outside, I just adore those other days when I look out the window and notice that the blossom trees are coming into bloom and that soft cosy living room where I drink my tea and watch my old movies, is lit up with the fresh sunshine of Spring. The other thing that makes me warm and fuzzy is seeing that my cat has noticed it too and is rolling around on the carpet, bathing himself in the rays.

Friday, 17 February 2012


This morning I've been thinking about what keeps us from feeling alone in the world and the obvious answer is communication. But what happens when we feel comforted by a pet? We suddenly feel more relaxed, more at home if there's a dog whimpering at us or wagging its tail or when a cat comes sauntering into the room and purrs. Usually when we think we're bored or lonely, we assume that we need someone to talk to. But animals cannot verbally communicate but aren't we soothed by them because on some level we really are having an exchange?


I miss Rocky, my cat of nearly ten years. So much so, that I feel guilty for leaving him in the UK. He's with my sister and her family and I couldn't trust more that he's being well looked after and loved, but I feel like I owe him an explanation for why I won't be in his life for a year. Some people may say "that's silly, he's just a cat" but cat lovers, animal lovers, petowners, whatever, will understand that we share an unseen, unspoken bond. And those who believe that animals are purely biological and have no emotion ought to be slapped for such ignorance and absolute arrogance to think that humans are somehow superior - why? because we have the functional abilities to voice our neuroses and victimised emotions?! Animals know love and that is a more powerful tool for personal progression than being able to vocalise complaints, pettiness, jealousy, fear and all the other emotions that stunt our growth. We can certainly learn a hell of a lot from animals. They can teach us the difference between idleness and peace, hunger and desire, fear and discernment, personal choices that continue to work for us and facilitate our prime state.

I read this article on Facebook, it's moved me so much that not only did I 'like' it and repost it, I am going to talk about it here because this is the manifestation of grace and Oneness between animal and human being. A family took their baby girl to a zoo and while she gazed in fascination at the 'predators' on the otherside of the glass, this one tiger took a particular interest in this child and walked towards her. The article suggested that her parents and the spectators were 'certain that she would need therapy after this' (how disempowering!) that he'd snarl in her face and she'd be scarred or terrified of cats for the rest of her life. Instead, the little girl placed her hand on the glass and the tiger put his paw up to meet her palm and bowed gently before walking away calmly.

Posted by 'Earth. We are One.'

What's the description of this moment, please? All that comes to my mind is beauty. Evidence of an unspoken exchange, feeling, communion, spirituality. Do we ask, what was so special about this little child that the tiger singled her out and approached her with respect and kindness? No, this little girl isn't the 'chosen one' but I believe she must have projected the truth in her heart - completely free of fear. There are many possibilities and one has to believe in the unknown in order to consider these options as viable. Even the idea that (and some of you may think I'm crazy here but those who understand will agree wholeheartedly) that there was some kind of knowing between them. Some sentient understanding and in that moment, they shared this mutual thought. This baby may not be aware of it (on a conscious level) but somewhere in her eternally operative consciousness -the parts that allow us to dream or to feel recognition without information - must have.

Disagree? Why?

I watched a film called Waking Life, recommended to me by a very dear friend and there was so much in the script that pretty much mimics a thought process that I've been operating on for most of my life and have shared with very special friends of mine because we feel that unspoken knowing between us. It is ever present and it acts as a blueprint for how our lives progress and although we may all have different circumstances and be different people, we never fail to see the synchronicity that binds us together - it is the sense of Oneness. Go ahead, make fun of this 'hippy fluff', but I know what I'm feeling when I look at that picture of the tiger and the baby, I know what I'm feeling when my cat wraps his arm around mine while looking deeply yet softly into my eyes and I know what I'm feeling when I'm in a room full of spiritually aware people who feel nourished and empowered by a shared view of openness and sentient connection - in turn making us incredibly enlightened and positive.

But back to this film I watched, it's about Lucid Dreaming (being aware that you're dreaming and therefore being able to direct it) and there are just so many discussions in this film that got those thought processes going again. Which of course, proves to me that the friend who recommended it to me, knows on some level that I'd appreciate it because I'm tapping into the same realm of possibilties that she is. And so, this one piece of dialogue, is so important to think about:

"It might be true that there are six billion people in the world and counting.

Nevertheless, what you do makes a difference.

It makes a difference, first of all, in material terms.

Makes a difference to other people and it sets an example.

In short, I think the message here is...

that we should never simply write ourselves off...

and see ourselves as the victim of various forces.

It's always our decision who we are.

Creation seems to come out of imperfection.

It seems to come out of a striving and a frustration.

And this is where I think language came from.

I mean, it came from our desire to transcend our isolation...

and have some sort of connection with one another.

And it had to be easy when it was just simple survival.

Like, you know, "water." We came up with a sound for that.

Or, "Saber-toothed tiger right behind you." We came up with a sound for that.

But when it gets really interesting, I think,

is when we use that same system of symbols to communicate...

all the abstract and intangible things that we're experiencing.

What is, like, frustration? Or what is anger or love?

When I say "love,"

the sound comes out of my mouth...

and it hits the other person's ear,

travels through this Byzantine conduit in their brain,

you know, through their memories of love or lack of love,

and they register what I'm saying and say yes, they understand.

But how do I know they understand? Because words are inert.

They're just symbols. They're dead, you know?

And so much of our experience is intangible.

So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed. It's unspeakable.

And yet, you know, when we communicate with one another,

and we--

we feel that we have connected,

and we think that we're understood,

I think we have a feeling of almost spiritual communion."

I'm thinking all of this because the house is quiet and empty during the day when Lo is at work and I fancy a chat. But that's not to say I want to go out and find people to talk to either, I'm missing those that I have that unspoken feeling of Oneness with, even though we still talk for hours whenever we're together. But they understand that for now we can only send our thoughts and love to each other.

But just like the tiger and the baby, you sometimes just have to see it.

And I guess what I want to say about Rocky is that, even though I long for him to come running into the room if I called his name right now, I can only be appeased by the thought that on some level, he and I have an understanding and he knows that I love him, miss him and will most certainly come back to him.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


It was Valentine's yesterday and had someone hadn't reminded me, I wouldn't have remembered and I think that's the way I like it. For me, there shouldn't be one designated day to make an effort to show someone you love should be apparent in the relationship everyday. And there are so many little things that happen in my world to know that I am loved and not just by my partner but by my friends and family too.

The past couple of weeks Lo and I have been trying to build up our home. It's old and has some querks but we're slowly starting to work with them - there are times of course when I long for that Victorian with the wooden floors, original fireplaces and high ceilings - I think I always will until I have it (it will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine...) but I am lucky and count myself so every day. I have a space now to fill with small things to keep me feeling like I'm at home for the next year. It's been tough, I must say, things aren't easy to get in Bali, not in the slightest! Something pretty is always out of budget and if you really want something unique, you have to haggle your arse off for it and everything else, the simple things like a butter knife or a colander just don't seem to exist...they are seriously two things on my mission list to find.

And when you do find what you want and cannot carry it home, the delivery charge is the same price as the item. But through blood, sweat and tears, Lo and I have managed to find just a few simple pieces to get our place feeling like home and one thing in particular, that I loved the minute I saw it, is this painting that we found in Ubud (nic-nac heaven for artsy/hippy/New Age people)

And how I knew I was truly loved in that moment? Loic spotted it first, said nothing out loud but thought to himself 'that painting is so my Stephanie and she's going to love it when she sees it' - and I really did! He saw my eyes light up and then haggled the artist for it. And when we got it home and hung it up and put the other little bits and pieces together we'd bought in Ubud, we stood back and looked at the room, it's now looking a bit more us.

Loic knows how much I love property and interior design and trusts me completely to pick things out for the house, I put as much love into putting together a room as I do into my relationships - every little thoughtful detail matters. And although this is just a temporary home, it's a project I've been longing for, for absolute years. I've moved house way too many times and have painfully watched my stuff get packed into people's attics and garages far too often, all I ever wanted was to nest. I get giddy when a new series of Location, Location, Location comes on, Kirstie Allsop is my domestic idol and I think I squealed through most of her C4 series Kirstie's Homemade Home. I used to get kicks out of walking around Habitat, Next Home, Ikea and anywhere else that sells homewares and Ideal Homes magazine is my porn. I've mentally decorated so many times that my fantasy world isn't a Disney fairytale or a snapshot of a peaceful tropical beach, it's a room of bespoke furniture, colours, fabrics, art, wooden pieces, handmade rugs, stained glass, bookcases, antique lamps and handmade crafts. The only thing missing is some beautiful cake recipes for me to try out (another way I nest and present my love to others is to bake) but we don't have an oven - another item that is a rarity in Bali. But we have to make sacrifices, of course.

And so, aside from trying to create a cheap domestic Nirvana, I have been adoring my time with Lo. And when my heart aches a little from missing my family, my friends and my dearest, dearest Rocky boy, he soothes it with the palm of his hand and tells me that he knows how hard this all is for me. Another reason why I'm so lucky. And although I can't invite any of you around for a cup of tea and a chat, I know that this is a building block to our next home back in Europe where I sometimes long to be again to receive that love that you all send my way, in person and not just through email, Facebook or Skype. But I'm sending it to you and I hope you can feel that as you are always in my thoughts, everyday, and not just one. I don't need St. Valentine to remind me what love is.

Friday, 3 February 2012

I've Become a Sleepy House Cat

Yawwwwwn. The past few days, I haven't seemed to break out of the habit of having daytime naps. Although these naps have turned into three to four hour long sleeps. And I'm sleeping again at night too! I expressed this guilty habit to my boyfriend and I suggested that it's either due to extreme tiredness (clocked up over the last few very busy months), laziness (I'm more reluctant to admit this one) or boredom. Lo put it down to boredom. Our new house is still missing some furniture and I really do think it'll make a difference once there's a living room set up so that I'm not horizontal for most the day. The living room gets the best light in the house too so I think I'd feel a lot more energised if I was being soaked in sunshine while sat upright to write and read and get the other things done that my brain is nagging me to do.

Lo has been working late lots this week and worries that I'm feeling a bit imprisoned. I'm not, I have just succumbed to the stagnant energy in the house. It needs brightening up a bit and so do I. No more of this flopping about hazily on the bed.

The other solution is a bike to go out on. I wanna be a girl about town, riding to the bakery, the beach or just out having a bit of a cruise. I don't think I'll really feel like I'm living in Bali until I'm independently going about my day so this evening, my beau Lo and I are going out to get one. I'm a little anxious though, I haven't ridden a bike properly since I was about 13 so it's going to take a while before I venture far and confidently.

But at least I've had plenty of net time to stay connected, do research and get inspired. I've come across a few blogs to keep me ticking over like Retrogasm where awesome retro pictures like this are posted:

And The Final Sentence, a blog dedicated to compiling final sentences of great literature which I think is a fantastic idea and sometimes I'll read one and think 'wow what a bloomin' good ending to a book!' you'd think it would spoil wanting to read the rest of the novel, but for me, if it's a beautiful ending then the rest of the book must be beautiful too...

This Amazing Planet does what it says on the tin. It's a blog that posts breathtaking photos by various photographers of the most stunning locations on Earth (like these below) really is visual joy.

For more silly entertainment I've been following Nightmares and Boners, a blog written by a twenty-something chic who lives in East London and writes (quite openly and comically) about the mishaps of her relationships and sex life. It's just good for a chuckle and some light anecdotal amusement.

And while I was looking for pictures of sleeping cats (and there are thousands - each so bloody adorable) I came across one of the most hilarious blogs I've ever seen: Barely Feral. Someone has posed themselves the question: "what if there was a porn site designed by cats for cats?" and has come up with this gem. Just...take a's brilliant.

Ah, the things I do with my spare time...

Thursday, 2 February 2012

New Digs and Crazy Dreams

image from We Heart it

I am now an expat. A weird thought indeed; and before I left the UK in September, I don't think that was a word I ever used before. But I'm in Bali now, after a stint around the world and a month at home, I've got me a new place and a box full of exciting opportunities.

London, I love you and I miss you for a few things: you've got my best friends and my family and you've got those favourite spots I sometimes went to whenever I wanted to leave the house. All I needed was the Oyster fare and I could immerse myself in history, art and esoterism - and if I had extra change for a coffee well then that would just make my day.

But I had to leave you, you see there was more for me out there - there is more for me. And to not miss you at all, I have to think of the things that annoy me the most about you: the biting cold, the shoulder-barges and tuts on a crowded and uncomfortable tube journey; the outrageous prices of decent food in the supermarket and the shoebox flats that you insist people should pay most a months' wages on. But one day I'll come back and it won't be too far off - even if it is just to go back in time and sit in The Bedford in Balham, my family kitchen in Polards Hill, the mini-haven in The Cloisters, The Penderals Oak in Holborn and The Starbucks in Victoria Station because it is these places where I find time again and spend love on my favourite people.

But things will be different for a year and I've been given time and love to spend with one very special person in this tropical territory and a house to get my itchy, decorator hands on. These delicious, brand new things in my life have seemed like a dream and I never want to wake up from it when I'm looking into green/amber eyes on the pillow next to mine. And although bedtime for me has been the stuff of lullabies, when I've slipped into sleep, I've had crazy and awful dreams.

Reality and dreams flipped? Or a need to clear some unwanted energy?

The first day in our new house, I wafted a Banishing incense stick around every room in the house and swept but I can't help but feel that it needs more to transmute the energy - oh to have a singing bowl and my Goddesses to help raise the vibration. But I'm going to have to come up with something because, either there are some deeper issues in my psyche that are showing themselves in my slumber or there are influences coming through the veil from times past in this place. I love my new home and I'm never uncomfortable but last night I woke up after what felt like hours of anxiety dreams. A narrated (and very vividly so) thriller story that at first felt like fiction but then had me throw my eyes open with an intense case of goosebumps and then a panicked dream about getting to my cat whom I'd left with a friend but could never seem to catch the bus I needed to get on to reach him - ok, so the last one maybe a little closer to home.

So tonight I ask the Moon to bring me a dreamless sleep because I don't need them in the night. The morning brings me the most wonderful vision of a glorious future reflected back at me by those green/amber eyes on the pillow next to mine.